Friday, August 18, 2006

Further thoughts on Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth

Of course, if Senator Bishop (see below) had been smarter and faster when asked to name the three first Europeans to cross the Blue Mountains, she would have have replied cheerfully 'Wouldn't have the foggiest. See? I'm a walking, talking, living-doll example of why we need to overhaul the teaching of history.'

Think of the press she would have got. Think of the goodwill that she, and by extension the line she's pushing, would have engendered. But I've never yet seen a pollie who wouldn't sooner be taken away gibbering on a stretcher than say, in answer to a question, 'I don't know.'

7 comments:

Bernice Balconey said...

It's a fraught one this - bit concerned that simply critiquing the process will only give the silly buggers the room to impose their narrative of white settler heroes, brave sun-tanned Anzacs, and handy cricketers as the only reading that has validity. Wonder if it isn't better to engage and insist upon introducing the complexity & nuance of lived history into the narrative, make them have a dialogue. Its always been a potential weakness of the left in that by analysing the process as well, corrupt & the refusing to engage with it, the nitwits get to strut centre stage with no alternative view being spoken. I can fully understand the enormous frustration of state ed ministers at having to engage with this at a time when the Feds are reveiwing private school funding without releasing the terms of reference, but without turning up to bat, well they win by default. They should at least have to slog it out in every meeting & conference & have their silly simplicities exposed.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Oh, Bernice, I agree. As an historian manquè and a woman of a certain age, I am quite enamoured of facts myself. This whole debate, such as it is, reminds me forcibly of something a very smart Aust Lit student once said to me: 'There's no point in teaching us alternatives to the canon when we don't know what the canon is.' To that extent, I agree with the Libs when they say the teaching needs to be changed: the ideal model is the one you suggest here.

The problem as it seems to me is that Howard's mob are conflating two quite different things: the absence of a (i.e. their preferred) Master Narrative, on the one hand, and the hated Black Armband view on the other. The main irony of this is the that Father of the Black Armband, Manning Clark, would (a) have scorned to get any of his facts wrong, much less leave any of them out, and (b) been astonished to have been told that he was part of a great tradition of patriarchal historiography.

Lucy Tartan said...

I was very surprised to hear from my English students that they haven't been discussing the current episode of history wars in their History classes. Most of them were aware of it though, and as they pretty much all plan to be secondary school teachers, I was very pleased to hear some say that they thought they saw through the simplistic & politically motivated aims of the complainers.

tigtog said...

But I've never yet seen a pollie who wouldn't sooner be taken away gibbering on a stretcher than say, in answer to a question, 'I don't know.'

Yep. It's one of the ways that the West Wing occasionally breaks the suspension of disbelief, when one of the whitehats admits openly to a political partisan that they don't know something yet.

Anna Winter said...

So, would it be a demonstration that I too care about the facts, or horribly rude and pedantic, were I to point out that Senator Bishop isn't the same as Ms Julie Bishop, Minister for Education?

Mostly, it's that, I am almost ashamed to say, I would be happy to swap said Bishops and take Ms Julie over to our side...

phil said...

Lucy - so it's true then: the students (a)can deduce an agenda from a seemingly sensible Prime Ministerial suggestion and (b) they don't know any dates. That's what's wrong with the syllabus! We need less thinking and more memorisation!.

Anna - ah, er, yes, I quite like the Honourable Minister also...mumble mumble

Pavlov's Cat said...

Anna -- the former, of course. (But hey, if the Beazer can get his Ian MacFarlanes mixed up ...)