Monday, September 30, 2013

Chris Pyne - the gift that keeps giving

Chris Pyne has followed up his comments about Uni places and fees by talking about curricula and testing.

In a memorable line he says ''I don't believe in handing over responsibility for government policy to third parties." And hence asserts his right to recast the National Syllabus.

It does, however, slightly affect his claim that the existing syllabus is Labor oriented - since he clearly acknowledges it was written by a third party and NOT the previous Minister.

He also said, ''I know that the left will find that rather galling and, while we govern for everyone, there is a new management in town.''  Which raises the somewhat frightening concept that every time the Government changes the curriculum should too.

The actual curriculum for years 1-10 only cover Maths, Science, English, History and Geography.  The curriculum for senior secondary school are for the same subject areas but in greater depth.

But it was the following excerpt from the report that I thought required more digging.

Mr Pyne said the national history curriculum played down ''the non-Labor side of our history'' despite the Coalition governing for two-thirds of the past 60 years.
I thought I'd look at the content of the Year 1 to 10 Syllabus to try to figure this out, looking at the High School Years.  Really Australian history only features in Years 9 and 10 (Year 7 is ancient world, and year 8 is medieval). The last 60 years is exclusively Year 10.

Let's just face a few facts.  The big events that can't be avoided are WWI, Depression and WWII.  The facts are that Labor governed for most of these periods.

Further examination shows that outside these the focus is on things like cultural change, the war in Indo-China and its aftermath (including refugees) and the environmental movement.

But if we understand that history isn't just content for the sake of content, it isn't just learning a list of Prime Ministers, it ultimately is a study of change. That is it will always look like it is focussed on "progressive politics" because that is where the focus of change rests.

Conservative values are an important part of understanding all these progressive causes.  They explain why the causes weren't initially - or in some cases ever - adopted. 

If Pyne wants to make sure students read these he should sponsor a set of monographs on the conservative responses to those issues. In the end all change has developed through a dialectic - the existing thesis, a proposed antithesis which resolve to a synthesis.  Good history will understand that, but the content areas stay the same.

But I must admit I was wondering what other curricula he thought should be adjusted, because the existing lot is all too much biased by progressives.  So, a few thoughts.

In English - lets stick to the classics written before 1900.  If we do have to do with modern things like understanding newspapers anything will do so long as it is from News Corp.

In biology - obviously he should throw in intelligent design because this Darwinian evolution stuff is just a dangerous progressive theory.

In physics - clearly Aristotelean physics hasn't really been disproved yet, and if we can teach Newtonian and quantum mechanics then surely the "classical" mechanics can be taught.

In mathematics - complex numbers are right out, how can we possibly have maths based on an imaginary number i?
Finally we come to geography - and in high school geography you learn about weather and climate.  True to conservative values this will be taught to be unchanging, just as there will be no discussion of erosion because that is another dangerous progressive idea that the world isn't the same today as it has always been.

Ahh - the wonders of being a conservative!  Life is so much simpler - much less to learn and think about.

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