Here’s a guest post by Kevin Donnelly (who as many readers will recall, is an educationalist who has written extensively on curriculum issues, especially regarding the teaching English in high schools). Also see the various posts about education policy in the Troppo archives, in which Kevin has actively participated.
Education culture wars revisited
by Kevin Donnelly
Are the culture wars over and have the PC new-age warriors won the day?
Judged by events in NSW schools the answer is ‘yes’. Some 150,000 year 7 students recently sat an examination where, in one of the questions, the accepted way of dating events before the birth of Christ (BC) was replaced by Before the Common Era (BCE).
The reason? Apparently, the designers of the exam feel that the use of Before Christ might offend or distress people of other religions. In the same way that some schools banned Nativity Plays before Christmas, the argument is that as Australian society is multicultural, Christianity cannot be considered privileged. The move to cultural relativism means that all cultures must be equally valued.
Ignored is that Australia’s history, legal and political systems have arisen out of the Judeo/Christian tradition and that our culture is steeped in the Christian ethic. Also ignored is that the very values on which tolerance and acceptance of diversity are based are the very values most commonly associated with the Western tradition.
What about putting together a list of PC examples in education, beginning with:
- Banning Little Black Sambo as it denigrates coloured people.
- La Trobe University English Department no longer teaching Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress as it treats women as sexual objects.
- When teaching Shane at a boys’ school, being told by a mother that it unfairly stereotypes men and women as, while the men engage in a competition to dig out a tree trunk, the farmer’s wife makes lemonade and cookies.
- The feminisation of the curriculum, especially the way maths is now taught with a greater emphasis on written and verbal skills – in which girls do better.
- Sophie’s examples of how literature is now not taught.
- The emphasis on social critical literacy and education as empowerment and social action – see the Wayne Sawyer editorial in English in Australia (unfortunately removed by the AATE).
- Non-competitive, non-graded assessment as failing is bad for a student’s self-esteem.
- History disappearing to be replaced by Study of Society and the Environment with a left-wing focus on multiculturalism, the environment, indigenous studies, gender, peace studies and the class war.