Downward slide Down Under

A cautionary tale emerges from Australia for those who, like many of Gadfly's best friends, favor national standards and curricula. It seems that a former Communist Party member has been appointed to oversee development of a history lesson plan for the entire nation. Stuart Macintyre, the ex-Red in question, subscribes to what he calls "history from below"--i.e., a history that doesn't acknowledge Australia's national accomplishments but instead focuses on the grievances of its minority groups. Then there's Peter Freebody, who will manage the construction of the country's English curriculum and who has written that being literate involves "a moral, political and cultural decision about the kind of literate practices that are needed to enhance people's agency over their life trajectories and to enhance communities' intellectual, cultural, and semiotic resources in print/multi-mediated economies." We must be wary, he believes, of approaches to teaching English that further "centralised political surveillance and technocratic control in education." Whatever. Implementing a national curriculum makes sense in theory, but if these are the sorts of folks who end up designing it.... Gadfly's wings tremble at the prospect of Howard Zinn's "people's history" of the United States at the center of our national curriculum--and Stanley Fish or one of his slimy fellow swimmers in charge of English/language arts.

"My worst fears have been realised," by Kevin Donnelly, The Australian, September 10, 2008

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