Saturday, August 19, 2006


Three current articles below

States told to reinvigorate history teaching

Three state governments risk losing billions in schools funding after dismissing the finding of a summit of historians that recommended postmodern subjects be replaced with a traditional history course. The history summit communique foreshadowed a massive shift in the teaching of history, as well as a new level of commonwealth interference in state and territory education systems.

But the Queensland, South Australian and West Australian education ministers yesterday dismissed the need for a stand-alone subject. Apart from NSW and Victoria, the states and territories have replaced stand-alone history offerings with cross-disciplinary, outcomes-based subjects with titles such as Studies of Society and its Environment. Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford said it would be "educational vandalism" for the federal Government to force on the states the separate study of history. "To talk about history as a stand-alone subject, as a list of events, is an educational absurdity," Mr Welford said. "It will do absolutely nothing to students' understanding or interpretation of their place in the world."

Speaking on behalf of the 23 participants in the event, held in Canberra yesterday, former NSW premier Bob Carr said: "History should be taught in our schools, in Year 9 and 10 especially, as a stand-alone discipline. "It shouldn't be absorbed in other subjects. It should be taught as history." Urging state and territory governments to join in "a nationwide revival in the teaching of Australian history", the summit communique said that "the study of Australian history should be sequentially planned through primary and secondary schooling and should be a distinct subject in years 9 and 10. This would be an essential and required core part of all students' learning experience to prepare them for the 21st century".

The summit, also attended by historian Geoffrey Blainey and the co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, Jackie Huggins, formed a five-member working group to develop a standard Australian history curriculum, including a chronology and set of "open-ended questions", which federal Education Minister Julie Bishop will urge the states and territories to adopt. If they do not co-operate, Ms Bishop has refused to rule out using the upcoming quadrennial funding agreement, worth about $13 billion in commonwealth money for state schools, to force their hands....

Launching the summit, the Prime Minister threw down the gauntlet to the states and territories, announcing he wanted them to reinstate history as "astand-alone subject in our school system". "We want to bring about a renaissance of interest in and understanding of Australian history," Mr Howard said.

Yesterday's summit was called following concerns raised by Mr Howard in January that the orderly teaching of Australian history had been "replaced by a fragmented stew of themes and issues". Rejecting the current approach, the summit said "development of history study needs to be firmly based on a clear chronological sequence of key events spanning indigenous presence to recent decades".

More here

Leftists grumble that the new history courses might be politically biased!

The have the hide to complain about replacing Leftist bias with facts

History is set to become compulsory in Australian high schools. The debate now is whose history is it? The one-day History Summit in Canberra ended yesterday with an agreement for the development of "a clear chronology of events" shaping Australia. The summit agreed history should be a stand-alone and "essential and required" discipline for Years 9 and 10. And otherwise reluctant students will be encouraged by the possibility of a $100,000 prize.

Prime Minister John Howard made the surprise announcement of a new history prize as he addressed the summit yesterday morning. The "Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History", judged by academics, will be for a for a "substantial written work or a documentary or film". The prize and the summit are part of a long-running bid by the ruling Coalition to reshape the history curriculum, which it believes has been dominated by the political Left.

Mr Howard denied he was advocating a regression to a more nostalgic historical narrative, which celebrates the achievements of colonialism and lessens the emphasis of Aboriginal dispossession. He told the summit, attended by academics Greg Melleuish and Tony Taylor - who will flesh out recommendations on curriculum improvements - that history students needed a solid foundation from which to work. "I do not believe . . . that you can have any sensible understanding and, therefore, any sensible debate about different opinions of Australian history unless you have some narrative and method in the comprehension and understanding of history," Mr Howard said. "How you can just teach issues and study moods and fashions in history, rather than comprehend and teach the narrative, has always escaped me."

Education Minister Julie Bishop denied the government was trying to create an "official" version of Australian history. But Labor, the Greens and the Democrats fear the Government is about to re-fashion Australia's past into a reflection of its own world view. "The teaching of history is very important in our schools but the last thing we want is John Howard pushing his ideology down the throats of our children," Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.

More here

Let's understand our Western institutional heritage

Excerpts from the speech of Prime Minister John Howard, at the history summit yesterday

We do want to bring about a renaissance of both interest in and understanding of Australian history, and that must involve a greater focus on the disciplined teaching and understanding of history in Australian schools. My assessment is that it varies enormously around the country. In some parts of Australia, the school curriculum has a welcome emphasis; in other parts I don't believe it does.

I want to make it very clear that we are not seeking some kind of official version of Australian history. We're not seeking some kind of nostalgic return to a particular version of Australian history, although I do not believe, and the Government does not believe, that you can have any sensible understanding, and therefore any sensible debate, about different opinions of Australian history unless you have some narrative and method in the comprehension and understanding of history. How we can just teach issues and study moods and fashions in history rather than comprehend and teach the narrative, have a narrative, has always escaped me.

I don't think you can have a proper teaching and comprehension of Australian history, of course, without having a proper understanding of indigenous history and the contribution of the indigenous experience to Australia's development and the Australian story. Equally, I don't believe that you can have a proper understanding of Australian history without some understanding of those movements and attitudes and values and traditions of other countries that had an influence on the formation of Australia. And obviously we need an understanding of those institutions we inherited from the British and the other European influences on Australia.

We need to understand the influence of religion in the formation of attitudes and development in Australia. We obviously have to see Australia as heavily influenced by the Western intellectual position, the Enlightenment and all that's associated with it.

I don't want to give The Australian newspaper a free plug, but I know Education Minister Julie Bishop in her speech last night (see Cut & Paste yesterday) quoted that (opinion page) article by Roy Eccleston about the experience of his daughter in having been taught in the American school system and been taught a little bit about some of the formative events in American history. And whilst I don't necessarily suggest we pick that up root and branch and transplant it, obviously we have our own way of doing it, but I thought it made a good point.


Permissive doctor regulation rejected

Surgeons insist that a trainee neurosurgeon will never operate again despite a medical board clearing the way for his return to medicine next year after being convicted on child pornography charges. A Medical Practitioners Board of Victoria inquiry into Abraham Stephanopoulos found his proclivity for downloading and storing "large amounts of child pornography" - including images of children between the ages of four and seven - did not make him a pedophile.

The 31-year-old doctor was suspended from practice for being caught with having 1400 pictures at his home, in his car, and on computers at Monash Medical Centre, in Melbourne's southeast, of naked children. The board said he would be able to return to medicine in March next year, but that he would be banned from treating patients younger than 18 for the following eight years.

But the Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association, Mark Yates, attacked the board's decision yesterday, saying it would bring the medical profession's image into further disrepute. "The board is there to protect the public, it says, but it's not there to maintain the good standing of the profession necessarily," he told The Australian. "Clearly this person has acted in an unethical way, has brought the profession considerable discredit."

Dr Stephanopoulos received a five-month suspended jail sentence in July last year on three charges of knowingly possessing child pornography between 2000 and 2003. A spokeswoman for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons said the 31-year-old would not be able to practice surgery in Australia again. "He's been dismissed from our training program," she said.

Dr Stephanopoulos justified his obsession with child pornography as an avenue for coping with a heavy workload, the medical board said in the 44-page report of its inquiry, published on its website on Wednesday. It found his reason for saving the downloaded pornographic images onto his computer was because it was "exceptionally easy - just one mouse-click". "He emphatically denied that he has an attraction to children," the board inquiry said. "He noted that he also saved images of adult males and made the point that he also had no attraction to them. "He emphatically denied receiving any sexual gratification from the illegal images which he viewed and downloaded onto the hard disc on the work computer." But the board ruled the misconduct was "abhorrent". "By his addiction to such material ... he provided encouragement to the producers and purveyors of illegal material that violates the innocence of children," it said. "As a consumer of their product, he has taken his place in the chain of their criminality."


Farmers campaign to reverse knee-jerk Greenie bans

Farmers in the Nyngan, Cobar and Tottenham districts of western NSW are celebrating a win in their campaign to sway public opinion about the clearing of native invasive scrub in order to have native vegetation regulations changed. A national current affairs television program aired a story filmed in the far west yesterday morning which challenged claims by green groups that land clearing is damaging the environment.

The chairman of the Regional Community Survival Group, Doug Menzies, says it was a real victory for farmers. "I think it should go a long way to debunking the myth that western New South Wales or the so-called hot spot for clearing in western New South Wales is not tearing the environment apart or anything and quite the contrary, in fact," Mr Menzies said.

The Opposition spokesman on Natural Resources, Adrian Piccoli, says he is hoping the revelations about flaws in land clearing policy will mean a return to science-based decisions. He says locking up land that is now being invaded by woody weeds was driven by emotion because the Labor Government has had to mould policy to secure Green preferences. Mr Piccoli says the story on the Sunday program has now taken the debate to a wide metropolitan audience. "Farmers have had a lot of difficulty getting the message across to the media about the good things that some of those farm practices achieve and what are some of the negative consequences of current government policy," he said. "I think the Sunday program illustrated that this sentimental notion that you can just lock up areas of land and it will return to some sort of pristine environment is not in fact correct."

Mr Menzies says his group will maintain its community-funded PR campaign until next year's state election. "I think it's going to take us a little while, the Greenies have been working on this for 30 years so we're not going to catch up overnight," he said. "But we've got to keep plugging, keep telling the truth, you know, we've got problems that we can demonstrate but that's something the other side doesn't have, they've got to rely on rhetoric and nonsense."


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