Some right-wing hysteria for a change.
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has published 95 “elaborations” to help teachers relate elements of the Australian curriculum to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. I have no idea why those chose 95 or why they used “elaboration” when the alternative term “case study” or even just “example” may have been less provocative (it sounds like someone higher up is a bit full of it). In any case, this has some of the right or leaning right-wing in what seems a bit of an unnecessary lather.
Tim Blair sees it as the intrusion of racial politics into science classes. His article is eminently reasonable and contains many good arguments:
A test tube doesn’t care who holds it. A scientific theory doesn’t care who formulates it. The first atom to be split didn’t care if that act was carried out by a woman in Bangladesh or by 46-year-old New Zealander Ernest Rutherford, who accomplished this remarkable breakthrough in 1917.
we are clearly moving away from a clear-eyed, empirical attitude towards science at a time when student elsewhere around the world are stepping up their scientific awareness.
Tim also mentions equally frothy reactions from Kevin Donnelly and Warren Mundine, Elsewhere the Daily Telegraph’s cartoonist was provoking people who are simply incapable of not taking the bait (how much advertising for the Daily Telegraph is done by perpetually outraged people that HATE it?):
‘Science is science. It is based on empirical data and the scientific method and nothing else. Also, here’s a racist cartoon we drew to mock Indigenous science.’ pic.twitter.com/aH3uVOAgez
— Pearson In The Wind (@LukeLPearson) November 1, 2018
Wow, this must be a very serious new front in the culture wars! The indigenous lobby has hijacked the Australian curriculum!
Except that is not at all what the Authority published or proposed. All they have done is issue case studies related to indigenous cultures or histories that can be used to investigate aspects of the curriculum. It doesn’t mandate that teachers must pretend that indigenous science is something other than what it is, it just gives teachers other (optional) ways to illustrate scientific concepts.
For example, one part of the curriculum is:
Students learn how scientific
understanding, including models
and theories, is contestable and
is refined over time through a
process of review by the scientific
And teachers can choose to use as a case study:
Students can investigate how fire
research has evaluated the effects
of traditional Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples’ fire regimes
and how these findings have
influenced fire management
policy throughout Australia
I understand that this will be mishandled by many Australian teachers. The mostly well-meaning but equally incapable people who taught at my under-resourced school weren’t able to handle the curriculum before and they certainly won’t be able to handle it being even more complicated. And there’s no doubt that some of the more enthusiastic woke teachers of the new generation will take this as an invitation to further romanticise the magical indigenous peoples. But that is an entirely different discussion about some of the more serious problems in the Australian education system. All in all, this seems to be much ado about absolutely nothing.
Anyway, this is the culture wars, so I’m sure two camps will form and the hysteria will intensify.