Following gallant efforts on the part of Mark Latham to have Bruce Pascoe’s farrago of lies and deception de-platformed in our classrooms, I attempted to support his efforts by writing on my own behalf to NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. You can read that initial letter here.
Here is the text of my follow-up email:
two months ago, I sent you a copy of my book Bitter Harvest, which debunks Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. I don’t know if you had a chance to look at it – indeed I don’t even know whether you received it since I have had no acknowledgement of receipt – however I wonder whether now, in the light of recent revelations concerning Dark Emu viz the publication of another book which totally discredits it, you will consider directing that Dark Emu be withdrawn from any participation in the NSW curriculum.
Here is the response I got:
Dear Mr O’Brien
Thank you for your emails of 18 June and 11 July 2021, to the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, regarding your book Bitter Harvest. The Minister has asked me to respond on her behalf.
The Minister’s Office have advised me that a copy of your book, Bitter Harvest, has not been received. The release of your book, as well as other articles, has prompted debate in response to the argument presented by Professor Pascoe and brought to light some criticism of its assertions and assumptions. This is the kind of intellectual debate and insight that improves our collective understanding of our history and our world.
Dark Emu is not a set text and is not mandated for use in NSW schools. If the text is used, it is as one of many historical sources, and must be taught through a critical lens in an age appropriate way to provide opportunities to interrogate the claims in the book as part of the discipline of history, as with any text.
The study of history involves an inquiry process where multiple sources of material that present varying or even conflicting perspectives are considered by students. All historical sources are critically analysed for reliability, usefulness and perspective and no source is used in isolation.
Should you require any further information, you may contact Ms Kate Littlejohn, HSIE Advisor 7-12, Curriculum Secondary Learners… [contact details deleted]
I duly followed up with Kate Littlejohn, as follows:
Good afternoon Kate,
I was referred to you by Kate Wootten, A/Director, Curriculum Secondary Learners, in regard to the status within the curriculum of Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu. I have conducted a forensic examination of Dark Emu, in my own book Bitter Harvest, and proven that it is almost completely fictional. My work has now been vindicated by the publication of Farmers or Hunter/Gatherers, by Drs Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe, which reaches the same conclusion I did.
Some time ago I sent a copy of my book to Minister Mitchell and asked her to consider my conclusions and whether Dark Emu was a suitable text for NSW schools. After hearing nothing for some time I followed up with the Minister’s office I was advised that the book had never arrived. I was also advised that:
“Dark Emu is not a set text and is not mandated for use in NSW schools. If the text is used, it is as one of many historical sources, and must be taught through a critical lens in an age appropriate way to provide opportunities to interrogate the claims in the book as part of the discipline of history, as with any text.
The study of history involves an inquiry process where multiple sources of material that present varying or even conflicting perspectives are considered by students. All historical sources are critically analysed for reliability, usefulness and perspective and no source is used in isolation.”
My purpose in writing to you is to ascertain if my book and/or Farmers or Hunter/Gatherers are now being used as part of the evaluation process described above? It’s a shame that the copy I sent the Minister has gone astray, but you can order a replacement copy at https://quadrant.org.au/product/bitter-harvest/.
I look forward to your response,
And here is the response I got to that:
Dear Mr O’Brien
Thank you for your follow up email of 20 August 2021, regarding your book Bitter Harvest.
Text books are not mandated for the History K-10 syllabus, and as such Dark Emu is not a mandated text. Teachers select a range of sources that are appropriate for the content they are teaching, and the students in their classrooms.
All Department schools in NSW are able to make their own decisions about the types of resources, support and programs required for their students. These decisions are based on the suitability of the material or programs for student learning and the needs and interests of the school community.
While the department does not endorse or recommend specific resources developed by external organisations or individuals, you may wish to contact schools directly. Contact details for NSW government schools can be found at: https://education.nsw.gov.au/school-finder.
I’m starting to get the message that Dark Emu is not a mandated text. Well, that’s okay then. We don’t mind if our students are force fed crap, as long as it’s voluntary on the part of teachers. What in God’s name do we pay these bureaucrats for?
Here is my response to Ms Curtis:
Dear Ms Curtis,
Thank you for your response to my email.
Unfortunately, you have failed to answer my query. Ms Wootten has told me: ‘All historical sources are critically analysed for reliability, usefulness and perspective and no source is used in isolation.’
My question is, who has carried out that critical analysis in respect of Dark Emu and what alternative sources were involved in that evaluation?
And please do not tell me yet again that Dark Emu is not a mandated text. As far as I am concerned that is irrelevant. Would the Department tolerate the inclusion of, say, Mein Kampf in a school’s resources on the basis that it is not mandated? Does the Department exercise no oversight of what material is regarded as suitable for use in individual schools?
I look forward to your substantive response.
I’ll keep you posted.