Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Curriculum for rugrats to learn which came first, the chooken or the bumnut?

Jim raised an interesting point, as regards the proposed new national curriculum for Oz, in that he stated the current history is one dimensional and we must study British history.

1. Yes, the history taught at the moment is very one dimensional; the 'history wars' and claims of 'white blindfold' or 'black armband' history need to be reeled in.
The facts are (mostly) available for any historian worth his/her salt to research and find.
For example...Stone structures by Indigenous People have been known about and documented all over Oz since at least 1838, the fish and eel trap constructions are also common knowledge yet not only did schools continue to teach, up until 5 years ago, that Australian Aboriginals were a nomadic people with no ability to erect structures there are those who insist on perpetuating these ideas. Many were commenting on open forums about the 2006 discoveries of further stone houses in South-West Victoria as being made up or of European origin, completely rejecting archaeological findings to justify their belief that Indigenous People were some kind of 'lesser' race.
Many historians, until recently, have disregarded the Indigenous oral history tradition, condemning the beliefs, languages and stories to be forgotten simply because it was not written down like the Doomsday Book.
(I could point to the fictional Picnic at Hanging Rock and the conspiracy theorists who claim it's real simply because it was written down!).
The urban myth of Aboriginal People ripping their public housing houses apart....with the old justification of "why should we keep subsidising their housing when they don't respect it?" crap is, in fact, the poorly built, substandard housing that begins to fall apart before the construction is even finished.
This problem is most notable in the NT, with poor maintenance and lack of building repairs in suburban areas of captial cities which afflicts all who live in public housing, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
The 'one-size fits all' approach to schooling, health, lifestyle and culture just does not work as has been obvious for more than 100 years to date.
Lobbing Indigenous history into the national curriculum is not going to address anything - who's history? Jaara People's history? Kurnai? Wathaurong? Wurundjeri? Yorta Yorta?
Perhaps one mob from NSW, the Wiradjuri? The Murris from Qld? How about the Tiwi Islanders or the Torres Strait Islanders?
Don't be calling a Victorian a Koori, it's Koorie, NSW is Koori and as for the Palawa in Tassie, the Lia Pootah are fighting to be recognised as Tassie Indigenous, too.
It is still taught that Bunurong People of this area all died out, harking back to the old 'full blood' vs 'half caste' distinction of who is what race.
Yet the descendents did not die out; they were pushed from pillar to post, from this mission to that, just like the many other Peoples who are still thriving but told they don't exist.

2.We must study British history, absolutely, but we must also study it against the background of world history that triggered events, laws and policies.
No man is an island which holds true for each country, also.
There would be no Oz without Britain, without America kicking up a stink for independence from taxes.
Nor would there be either country, as we know it, without the Industrial Revolution which gave travel to the common man for the first time, allowing the average farm labourer to move from his tiny hamlet to the nearest regional centre to follow work in the mines/factories/ or the industries that sprang up to support these new fields of employment, such as construction, transport, engineering, etc.
This crowded the cities with people struggling to find work faced with the options of steal or starve, while many others were opportunistic and simply stole because they could.
The industrial revolution also influenced many other countries, like Japan, with the study of human anatomy en masse at fairs enabled with the production of anatomy dolls, the study of anatomy ( and, in particular the study of the cross fibres of the human femur bone) influenced Gustave Eiffel in his design of the Eiffel Tower.
The Crystal Palace was designed by a gardener who had found the incredible strength of a lily leaf (able to hold his own child) was due to the interlocking structure of its underside.
The pre-fabrication of the cast iron rods of the Crystal Palace spawned another industry in prefabrication of buildings and factories, with one result being the Corio Villa here in our own Geelong.
Every little inch of history has its place in the domino effect flowing ever onwards unto this day.
We cannot begin to fully comprehend our place in the world or in history until we trace the whole lot back and forth.


  1. We learned a little of aboriginal history in primary school and I loved learning about how the other culture lived, but I soon became disenchanted with the lessons when the focus became more oriented towards the white settlers and the English history they came from. Then there was the whole "recite the kings and queens of England from the year dot" type of thing we had to memorise. Does anyone remember the names of all of Henry the eighth's wives? I would much rather have learned about the way the common peoples lived and learned and developed, how there were similarities between all the different races, nationalities and religions, proving that we are all the same after all. I was always intensely interested inthe way early man learned about tools, cooking vs. raw foods, nomadic gathering vs. settled farming, how they discovered methods of clothing themselves and which herbs treated what health problems. So much more interesting than dull politics, and which party is more superior and why.

  2. valid point there about not being able to "fully comprehend our place in the world or in history until we trace the whole lot back and forth".

    In hindsight I wish I had taken history at High School but as a teenage girl it didn't hold an interest.

    As an adult it does....

  3. Obviously I'm 100 per cent in agreement here...especially with River's comment about concentrating less on Kings and Queens and more on the common people.

  4. I'm kind of surprised that your country 'claims' British history in lieu of its own history. I've really enjoyed reading snippets of your history. Wade right in there and sort them all out, Jayne.

  5. You tell 'em, Jayne!

    Being edumacated in NZ decades ago, we didn't even hear about Australia. All we knew was many of our people went to live & holiday there! But we knew 1066 & all that.

    Is there a "People's History of Australia" or the like, as there is for the US for those of us who'd like to know the history of the common man or woman, regardless of background, rather than the big, bloody hero history?

    Now, Jayne, go look at a few vintage travel posters to get yer equilibrium back, but no tickling the trees ;)

  6. Interesting and so very true.

  7. Hi Jayne. Looking at the comments, for those who are interested in the domestic detail of past Australian life, Geoffrey Blainey's Black Kettle and Full Moon, Daily Life in a vanished Australia is a quite wonderful book. Want to know about the role of the moon, our changing perception of time, what we ate etc, its all there.

    Blainey's Triumph of the Nomad remains one of the best descriptions of Aboriginal Australia, while John Mulvaney and Johan Kamminga's Prehistory of Australia gives a great introduction into the long Aboriginal occupation of the continent prior to British colonisation.

    I mention these three because they are still in print.

  8. It is interesting the slants that get put on history too without revealing the whole context. Like that local aborigines were hostile to white settlers... well I'd be hostile to a race that buried my children in the ground up to their necks and kicked their heads off for sport too!