Friday, July 20, 2012

Religion is not open to make-believe, neither is the Aboriginal Dreamtime

Curious thing happened to the Feral Teen at school - he was marked down on an essay after he politely explained to his teacher he would rather not make up some Dreamtime stories as he'd been instructed.
He did explain that these stories are sacred to many people and he would not feel comfortable 'making up' something out of his imagination.

He discussed it with me, anxious he would be in trouble with me (he wasn't) and asked if it would be ok to 'make up' stories about the Bible or the Torah or the Koran.
I said no, that these were held sacred as writings which helped define the different religions and their systems of belief.

So, what is different that the Aboriginal Dreamtime can be seen as less sacred where kids can 'make up' stories?
This puzzles me as there are so many Dreamtime Stories, that are accessible anywhere, that there is no need to invent new ones.
I would have thought that, in Year 9, it would have been a better framework for the students to study and compare various Dreamtime Stories, the morality tales they impart, the similarity across regions, clans, etc.

I understand that teachers are hard pressed for time and must cover a great many areas of history and society but, in my ever-so-humble opinion, this just enforces the idea that Indigenous Australians are to be accorded less respect for their belief system.

Should we ask Catholics to make up some stories for communion?
How about asking a Rabbi to make up something to espout at a Bar Mitzvah?
Or how about asking some Muslims to write some new tales for the Koran?

I have come late to the realisation that I'm of Aboriginal descent but I have never been slow in my respect for another person's belief.


  1. Good on the Feral Teen.

    And that is one suss teaching approach, in my humble opinion...

  2. Most biblical stories are hand me downs as in word of mouth unwritten fairy stories, like trench to trench verbal messages such as.
    Send reinforcements we are going to advance becomes send three shillings and fourpence were going to a dance.

  3. Great point, it's very obvious when you make it but I wonder how often this sort of thing happens. If I were going to teach about them I'd get kids to compare various parables and stories, or pick out what they think the message is. It would be fantastic to try to get across the differences that most of the major religions are historical, whereas the Dreaming is still happening now.
    As a creative writing exercise, why not write Just So stories or something like Aesop's Fables? The same exercise but non-offensive.

  4. It would be the same if someone asked my children to make up a story about our tribal ancestors.

    Good on you guys for standing your ground. And yes the teaching is a bit sus...creative writing is just that something new and original not an exercise in changing the ancient lore of an indigenous people.

  5. Go Feral Teen.

    Sometimes I think school was more enlightened back in the 60s when attitudes to indigenous people were just patronising rather than downright dismissive. Bastards.

    Yes Deb, the Dreaming IS.

  6. Could he have written a true Dreamtime story? Does he know any that he can write down and give credit to the original tribal elders who spoke of it? I don't know much about dreamtime stories. I know there are stories of how the rocks and rivers and stars were made,etc, but not the stories themselves, nor the areas they originated from.