Bennelong Papers

In NSW, Miseducation is a Teacher’s Option

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:

Dear Minister,
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Dark Emu viz the publication of another book which totally discredits it, you will consider directing that Dark Emu be withdrawn from any participation in the NSW curriculum.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]

Yours sincerely
Kate Wootten

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.

Best wishes
Jennifer Curtis

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.

Order Peter O’Brien’s Bitter Harvest here

17 comments
  • Tony Tea

    I left the following comment at The Australian, under Adam Creighton’s article titled “Shrinking white population amid US racial reinvention”:

    “Perhaps a certain alleged Yuin Bunurong and Tasmanian man can take one of those popular DNA tests.”

    When I went back to look – obviously not expecting it to have been published given all my comments critical of Uncle Whitey have gone straight into the bin – it had indeed been published, and in a short time had racked up 33 likes.
    I had a look a bit later and it has now been rejected with 34 likes. Seems there may be differences of opinion among The Oz comment elves.

  • Peter OBrien

    Hi Tony, that’s interesting. More likely the chief elf was busy registering as a Wikipedia editor and missed your comment initially.

  • rajones

    Hi Peter,
    I know I am not telling you anything that you haven’t already implied but here I go: It looks like the Minister is yet another one of those woke, fake Liberal/Conservatives that infest all coalition governments these days. They know that the schools, via the beliefs of the teaching workforce, functions as a Cultural Marxist indoctrination machine, and so, one way to deflect attempts at open enquiry is to pretend to be hands off–knowing all the while that the teachers will do what comes naturally. What sort of mark, I wonder, would a student get if they didn’t pay lip service to the woke party line on Pascoe?

  • ChrisPer

    More than likely the modern curriculum system allows idiot teachers and discipline heads to score woke points by writing the curriculum their own way. They called it Outcomes-Based Education in WA.
    It follows that your top-down approach may not have any chance of a good reception; the Minister has other fish to fry. I used to be an electorate volunteer for the then (twelve years ago) WA Minister for Education and I got a lot better access as a committee parent, sizzling sausages and hauling cucumber sandwiches.

  • STD

    Marx rajones, Marx.

  • Daffy

    1. Whew, my decision to stop my sub to the Oz is vindicated (yet again). The good writers, whom I do miss, are outweighed by the ranks of the one-eyed, unfortunately.
    2. I see the frustration of communicating with the bureaucracy. It is futile. The bureaucracy is a dab hand at the Kafkaesque. It serves to protect the minister, and its own decisions from critical scrutiny and to bolster its own self image as omniscient. Bureaucrats do not engage in normal social intercourse, but merely write to answer the question they prefer you to have asked, this question, of course is ‘How good are you then!?” In an admiring tone, of course.

  • lbloveday

    ” More likely the chief elf was busy registering as a Wikipedia editor and missed your comment initially”.
    .
    Ten weeks ago the chief elf reversed 6 rejections by lower-ranking elves of 7 consecutive comments of mine.

  • Peter OBrien

    Recently two commentators that I greatly admire, Tony Abbott and Gerard Henderson, took Campbell Newman to task for kicking an own goal in resigning from the Liberal Party to run for Lib Democrats. But how could any conservative vote for the current crop of Libs, when the best and almost only defender of what we believe is Mark Latham? And I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Mark, who has been the only champion of conservative values in the NSW parliament. If the current occupant of the Education portfolio is anything to go by, then what is the point of voting Liberal?

  • lbloveday

    Daffy,

    One by one I drop off The Australian correspondents that I used to read – Peter Hoysted (“Jack the Insider”) went as of yesterday – but still find it better to not miss those I still read and find value in news items outside the opinion columns (I look at the Latest News several times a day and where else am I going to get informed?) – as I do in The Daily Telegraph which is also ever trending Left.

  • lbloveday

    The chief elf tells me “..we are adding 70-100 new subscribers most days and recently passed 230,000 digital subscribers, which is a massive increase year on year”. Nothing about how many unsubscribe, but he feels that they are going the right way, regardless of what the likes of me think.

  • Ceres

    Registered post a must Peter, when dealing with Government bureaucrats.

  • Peter OBrien

    Ceres,

    thank you. Good point.

  • brandee

    With your book and this follow up Peter OBrien you are making a major enlightenment contribution. Thank you.
    Might I suggest that you forward this QOL contribution to former Deputy PM John Anderson and ask him to present the case to Sarah Mitchell who used to work in his National Party electorate office after studying for a BA in Politics and International Relations at UNSW.
    The NP in NSW seems to throw up Education Ministers who appear to act very Woke! Some remember with chagrin Adrian Piccoli the former Education Minister and NP member who is now Professor Piccoli Director of UNSW’s Gonski Institute of Education. Perhaps the latter named two could offer support for ‘Bitter Harvest’ although David Gonski with acknowledged financial expertise makes no claim to be an education expert.

  • brandee

    In addition. Present federal NP Member and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce could offer robust support for ‘Bitter Harvest’ in its expose of ‘Dark Emu’.

  • Geoff Sherrington

    I wonder if Kate Wootten learned from the late Hal Wootten, who made his early career gains with aboriginal activism. Geoff S

  • Stephen Ireland

    After Cardinal Pell lost his appeal in the Victorian justice system I wrote to the then Attorney-General, Christian Porter, suggesting that if Pell chose not to appeal to the High Court the Federal Government itself should appeal as two of the three grounds for appeal to the HC were satisfied, in my opinion.

    I further suggested that Porter or some of his colleagues could well be next in line as targets of malicious allegations.

    About four months later I received a reply from a minion, presumably with a law degree, explaining to me the judicial procedures that may or may not happen. This reply was completely unintelligible.

    It would seem a shame that so many Ministers of the Crown are shielded from reality by troupes ideologically sure-of-themselves minders.

  • STD

    Stephen Ireland the problem is well paid- sure of themselves. As an old cocky would say about as useful as ………
    The problem – young ,inexperienced and vain. Oh I’m sorry, did I leave out upwardly ‘ mobile’.

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