Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Should Australian students study Australian history?

A history teacher (Bantick) argues below that it should only be taught as one part of global history.  While I can see the point of that, I see no reason why global events can not be referred to in outlining Australian history. 

So I would argue exactly the opposite.  Australian history is more likely to be interesting to Australian students than the  history of places they have never seen so world history should be introduced via Australian history.  Early Australian history was certainly much influenced by British politics and events -- so  explaining what happened in Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries as an outcome of what happened in Britain at that time  is far more likely to leave a strong impression of British  history than study of British history as a standalone subject  would do. 

Similarly, a well-taught explanation of Australia's involvement in Vietnam would lead to some understanding of U.S. politics then and since  -- JR

Australian history is set to lose its sacrosanct place in the national curriculum and might only be taught as part of global history. Should we care? Not really.

THE decision by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority to remove Australian history as a stand-alone subject in the national curriculum for history makes sense. It is long overdue.

Predictably, the Victorian History Teachers Association is rushing to the barricades over the demise of Australian history. It is too little, too late. Gone are the glory days when Australian history was a heavyweight subject. Last year just 1170 students were enrolled, out of more than 45,000 students statewide.

Still, this is not quite as dire as Renaissance history, which, as a boutique subject with fewer than 300 students, has reached critical mass and is unsustainable as a study at VCE level. Australian history is going the same way. Should we care? Not really.

The reality is that Australian history has suffered from two significantly deleterious movements. The first is the teaching through ideology and the second is repetition. The fact is that Australian history has become highly politicised. For example, you can no longer say that colonists were not all bad in their treatment of Aborigines and the environment. Settlement is now replaced with invasion. Meanwhile, Ned Kelly is a hero. His murder of police is explained away.

Then there is the repetition. The First Fleet pretty well runs aground by year 4. Still it moved down the sliprails year after year. So too with gold. Sovereign Hill is kept viable by school excursions; some are repeat visits. And Gallipoli is the annual national identity fix.

While there are many other examples, it makes sense to study Australian history as a component of global history. It is illogical to study Australian history as some kind of historical excrescence that existed in isolation in the Southern Ocean. Australian history is umbilically linked to 19th-century British history specifically, but also to European and, to some extent, post-revolutionary American history. It is a no-brainer to view it otherwise. Yet this is exactly what has bled it dry.

The argument that is often touted about the sacrosanct place of Australian history is that it is somehow a conduit for understanding national identity. The argument runs that students need to know about their own past so they can have a sense of belonging. This is so flawed as to be offensive. This suggests that there is simply one history and one identity that is the ballast of who we are as Australians. Yet an identity that emerges from social Darwinism, suspicion of race and bellicose jingoism is not one to be proud of or to endorse.

But what has also contributed to the death of Australian history is the demise of the narrative approach to the past. There is no Australian story, it seems, just topics. Still, Simon Schama, consultant on the British national curriculum for history, notes, "narrative drive and force of events have brought readers back to history and liberated them from 'the past'."

Teachers are not exempt from the killing of history. This is largely through a lack of methodology and knowledge. Australian history has been taught by non-specialists for a generation. Non-specialists who are not historically inclined are a bad sell for the past.

Schools desperate to cover classes have all too often parachuted staff into the teaching of history. That and the dreaded studies of societies and environment. What SOSE did was declare that history was a subject without a distinctive methodology and corpus of knowledge. It was in effect gutted as a subject.

There is no reasonable and substantial persuasive argument to suggest Australian history should be anywhere than part of global history.

For Australian history to survive at all, it must take off its black armband and be put into an international context. Leaving aside the long prehistory of Australia, which surely is a candidate for ancient society historical analysis under the national curriculum rubric, Australian history is modern, global history.

How different these arguments were when I participated in the national curriculum debates on history at Ruskin College, Oxford. British history was seen as a given. It was to be taught as a stand-alone subject, but the problem was the content, not its place in the curriculum. It was not about identity but about teaching history to a multicultural society.

The fact is that Australian history has to now give an account of itself. Why should it be studied at all? There is not a case that convinces as to why it must be seen as the marquee or beacon mandated history in schools.

Australian history's survival in a very different form is global. In this, ACARA not only makes sense but has probably saved the subject as such.


Hoagy is back!  With straight-out, unproven Warmist propaganda

Danish Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg was a great prophet of doom about the Great Barrier Reef until his own research showed the reef was in no danger.  He fell silent for a few years after that.  But we see below that he has now managed  the usual Greenie trick of ignoring the facts and is back at his old stall

For the record, the ocean is  very alkaline. There would have to  be huge changes for it to become acidic. And the claim that warming would cause acidity goes against Henry's law, anyway. A warmer ocean would outgas CO2 and hence reduce the incidence of carbonic acid.   The laboratory studies reported below therefore have no real-world significance

NEMO the clown fish, high on "acid", heads from the safety of home with no fear and no sense of smell, straight into the jaws of a predator.

No, it's not a dark sequel to the Pixar animated movie hit, but a reality facing one of the Great Barrier Reef's signature species clown fish.

The International Coral Reef symposium in Cairns yesterday heard disturbing new evidence that burning fossil fuels was not only pushing up global temperatures, but also ocean acidity that in turn could send the brains of some fish species haywire.

"It shows the next Hollywood release will not be so pretty," University of Queensland's Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said. "Nemo does not get so lucky next time."

About 2500 of the world's top reef scientists yesterday shared the latest research into coral growth and fish behaviour under climate change.

Townsville-based James Cook University researcher Phillip Munday and his team found clown fish, made famous in the movie Finding Nemo, as well as damsel fish and open-water predators like tuna and spanish mackerel, suffered adverse effects under high acidity.

They said laboratory studies showed increased acid levels affected the main neuro-transmitters in fish brains, causing a malfunction in the sense of smell, hearing and perception of risk, and an increased tendency to stray from safe reef areas.

"We're not talking about extinction (if acidity continues to rise) but changes in abundance," Mr Munday said.

Other dire predictions yesterday included a warning that bleaching could leave many reefs a white "stumpy" mass dominated by only a few coral species covered in a "brown scuzz" or "green, slimy sludge".

"Within 20 years, some coral species will have been nailed into the coffin," Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said. "It sounds like alarmism, but that is what the biology tells us."


Toxic health dumping scandal in NSW

The dreaded Mr  Achterstraat is back in action!  The incorruptible and outspoken Dutchman has been a regular source of embarrassment to NSW governments

The dangerous disposal of hazardous substances including liquid uranium and contaminated objects, the dumping of the confidential records of patients and the mishandling of asbestos have exposed a culture of mismanagement in Sydney hospitals.

A former NSW health contractor turned whistleblower is alleging that a lack of proper procedures and controls has led to breaches of state regulations at Royal North Shore Hospital, and serious compliance issues in several other hospitals.

Phil Clare, whose company In The Shed Asset Management was contracted with local health area services to manage surplus assets, said he has tried for years to expose the practices in some hospitals.

He filed a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman's office earlier this year about the mishandling of asbestos at Royal North Shore and now demolished buildings at Manly Hospital.

He claims that alerting the authorities to the information, as well as details of corrupt asset stripping of Health Department property, led to all his contracts with the department being cancelled. He is in dispute with NSW Health about the payment of outstanding bills.

"The management issues I uncovered are pandemic and they are continuing today," Mr Clare said.

"I saw numerous cases of improperly managed assets, equipment, records and asbestos as well as the theft of public property and corrupt conduct, but I eventually ran up against politics and favouritism."

Mr Clare has alleged that during his five-year contract between 2006 and October 2010, his workers discovered a raft of problems, including:

* Radioactive materials and liquid uranium that had been abandoned in a former research laboratory. Mr Clare said two workers were told by senior hospital staff to wash it down the sink;

* Private patient records dumped in non-secure areas of Royal North Shore Hospital;

* Hazardous chemicals, human tissue samples and contaminated sharps scattered around;

* Piles of asbestos next to a rusted airconditioning unit on the 12th floor at Royal North Shore Hospital;

* Asbestos contamination problems at the former Callan Park mental hospital in Rozelle.

NSW Health has rebutted Mr Clare's claims as old and unsubstantiated. A spokesman for Royal North Shore Hospital, where many of the incidents are alleged to have occurred, said Mr Clare never reported the allegations.

However, The Sun-Herald has obtained a dossier of photographs and reports Mr Clare said he provided to health officials documenting the incidents as each hospital project was undertaken.

The Sun-Herald has also obtained an internal review dated 2008, prepared for the former Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service (now Northern Sydney Local Health District), which takes in Royal North Shore Hospital, advising there were serious problems with the storage of patient medical records, constituting a breach of state record laws.

The document, Archiving - Preliminary Report, warned that "in some departments patient records are held in insecure storage" and "certain areas where records are stored on hospital or health centre sites are unsuitable for the purpose - the ramifications of this could be serious".

It also advised that there is "no standard records management process across the area" and "archiving methods and procedures … do not meet state records legislation requirements".

A spokeswoman for Royal North Shore Hospital said that Health Information Services, a department within Northern Sydney Local Health District, kept records centrally and complied with the act. She also said it had begun implementing an electronic medical record system.

The allegations of mismanagement follow warnings by the NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, that asset and contract management in NSW Health needed to be vastly improved.

Mr Achterstraat, who conducted a review released in December, criticised NSW Health's lack of central systems to keep track of contract work and revealed that there was no long-term asset management plan in place for medical equipment.

Mr Clare has compiled a series of reports that outline the problems he found when he first took on the contract to manage surplus assets for NSW Health's area health services in 2006.

In an initial pilot program, Mr Clare's company identified millions of dollars of surplus assets and equipment across seven hospital or health area sites. A brief document prepared in response by the NSW Health procurement department, and obtained by The Sun-Herald, approved Mr Clare's plan, which advised NSW Health could save up to $30 million.

The document also warned it was "imperative that the pilot proceed to the final asset redeployment/realisation stage to prove the concept … as well as avoid embarrassment should the extent of the problem be exposed".

In one of its first reports to officials about its work, Mr Clare's company warned about "significant asset management issues" and critical issues involving dangerous and inefficient storage practices of hazardous substances, missing equipment, regulatory and occupational health and safety non-compliance.

In later reports, Mr Clare warned about the discovery of asbestos fibres in 2008 next to a rusted airconditioning unit on the 12th floor of Royal North Shore Hospital.

A hospital spokesman said that as the airconditioning unit had been "completely contained and not accessible by staff or patients, there was no risk of contamination" and WorkCover was not notified.

The general secretary of the NSW Nurses Association, Brett Holmes, said he was very concerned about any incident where people might have been exposed to asbestos.

"Any suggestion that this has been happening needs to be fully investigated," Mr Holmes said. "We would be calling for WorkCover or the Dust Diseases Tribunal to make sure if there has been a problem in the past, it has been fixed and equally that there is a notification system."


Adelaide study finds junk food products making confusing nutrition claims

The underlying assumptions in the article below  are largely conventional superstition.  The best double blind studies, for instance, show that a low fat diet has NO EFFECT on  health.  And reducing salt can be positively harmful

CHILDREN are being conned by food companies who are making fatty and sugary foods appear to be healthy, an Adelaide study suggests.

Some of Australia's most popular brands, including Kellogg's and Nestle, have been accused of making food that appeals to children look healthier than it actually is, the Flinders University study shows.

Researchers, led by lecturer Kaye Mehte, found 157 products on a major supermarket chain's shelves with packaging designed to appeal to children through the use of cartoons, competitions and give-aways.

More than three-quarters of these products were deemed to be unhealthy, because they are high in fat and sugar.

However, more than half of them had prominent nutrition claims on the packaging, boasting that the product is, for example, "99% fat free", "high in calcium" or has "no artificial colours", they found.

"This has the potential to mislead and confuse children as well as parents who would be more inclined to purchase products carrying claims about health and nutrition", Dr Mehte said.

Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition said that "using these techniques to attract children to unhealthy food at a time when childhood obesity is at record levels is simply unethical".

A Nestle spokeswoman denied the company misled children or made unhealthy food appear to be healthy. A Kellogg's spokesman said products had daily intake guidelines which show the amount of sugar, salt, fat, sodium and kilojoules per serving on the front of the packs.


Australian  Mosque in strife with other Muslims after encouraging polygamy

VICTORIA'S largest mosque has been forced into an embarrassing back-down after women were told they must "fulfil the rights" of their husbands and share him with other women.

In a move that has outraged local Muslim women, at least one Preston Mosque committee member authorised a post on its official Facebook page instructing women that polygamy was a better alternative to divorce and husbands were "someone you share".

"It is very important for a wife to fulfil the rights of her husband. Why? Because Allah commanded her to, after marriage Jannah is through her husband, and also the husband is your partner. A partner is someone you share with not someone who does things for you," said the post.

"If a man is saying to his wife I will marry another woman, this is far better than saying you are divorced every time he is upset.

"Now where is the problem. If a man divorces his wife three times he has destroyed his family. They can no longer return to each other. Islam only allows two divorces and returns.

"So if your husband is telling you that he wants to take another wife and you are not doing the right thing by him, then know that he is thinking straight and using a weapon that doesn't have severe consequences."

The advice was pulled down after complaints and the Facebook post has been condemned by community leaders .

"We are deeply concerned by the advice provided by Preston Mosque; it reflects a poor understanding of marital discord in Muslim families," said Joumanah El Matrah, executive director of the Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights.

"Research from the Islamic world unequivocally demonstrates that polygamy contributes to marital discord, it does not resolve it.

"We are further concerned that the mosque is encouraging of polygamous marriages when they have no legal standing in this country - as this is a key requirement of Islam. Muslim marriage is a partnership, it is not a woman serving a man."

A spokesman for Preston Mosque refused to comment, but the secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Sherene Hassan, also condemned the post.

"The comments on the Facebook post are inappropriate and unacceptable," Ms Hassan said. "The fact that the post was removed . . . very shortly after it was posted is encouraging.

"However, this incident further substantiates the community's calls for greater conversations about these issues."


1 comment:

Paul said...

"husbands were "someone you share"."

I suspect many non-Muslim husbands would be thinking this idea rocks.