Since Christopher Pyne announced his review to address the National Curriculum, I have fielded questions as to what this means for us (teachers) and what my opinion is of all this palava. Many teachers have taken to Facebook and twitter to express their anger, frustration or concern and I thought I would clarify my thoughts on here.
The review in itself I have no qualm with. I believe we should be in constant review of ourselves as a profession. I would rather regular checkins and adjustments as opposed to a dump and run strategy. Any argument as to the cost of such affairs should turn their gaze at other government spending atrocities first, I think money on education is a good thing.
My concern is regarding the motivation to include the “expertise” of two staunch critics (Professor Wiltshire and Dr Donnelly) to lead the review based on the criticism that not enough western civilisation history is addressed in the curriculum. Pyne assures that both Wiltshire and Donnelly will provide an “impartial” and “balanced” approach. This is where things get ugly.
This is not a review that will establish what is best for kids, this is purely an agenda that is based on the attitude of
‘If it was good enough for me, then it should be good enough for them’
Pyne has no interest in bringing education ‘back to the centre’ he just wants it based on his own ideology. Which by the way has not been influenced by data or research but only by his “expert experience”.
We all have romantic ideas about how school was for us (those of us who enjoyed school perhaps) others for whom school was mundane or worse still have their expectations. I have extremely fond memories of my own learning and I was very successful at school. At the same time, I don’t expect my children go through the same motions that I did, because I believe they need different skills to succeed in the future than I was expected to need when I graduated. Dr Donnelly’s own experiences have led to the following views;
”Multiculturalism is based on the mistaken belief that all cultures are of equal worth and that it is unfair to discriminate and argue that some practices are wrong” – 2011 for ABC
In 2004, he wrote that ”many parents” would consider homosexuality ”abnormal behaviour”, ”the reality is that gays, lesbians and same-sex couples with children are a very small minority and such groups do not represent the mainstream.”
Dr Donnelly is seeking to ensure the National Curriculum reflects “the fact that we are a western, liberal, democratic nation.” He is also a strong advocate for having the Bible taught in state schools.
These are strong personal beliefs from Donnelly and he is entitled to keep his opinion based on his private schooled, white middle class experiences. However, when he is in charge of being impartial in review of a curriculum that will be delivered to a “mainstream” community that include the following;
- under 16% in Catholic education
- only 37% of whose parents identify as Christian
- some of whom will have same sex parents with approximately 33,700 same-sex couples in Australia according to the 2011 census. The number of same-sex couples has risen significantly with a 32% increase since 2006.
- just over 30% of whom in 2011 were born overseas
I suggest he may not be the best person for the job. (See Australian Bureau of Statistics for further proof we are not all white, middle-class, heterosexual, Christian and male.)
So what I implore Mr Pyne and his merry men do, is always look at making schools better than we had it. Schools that prepare our kids for a future, not only dramatically different than the one our own education prepared us for, but one in which will be baldly different from the world we experience today.
For articles on Pyne et al see below.