‘Singleton High School teacher removed from classrooms after racist rant’. The headline, repeated by the ABC and other media outlets, seemed appropriate. It described the NSW Department of Education’s swift response to a high school teacher who voiced personal opinions about Aboriginal culture. The event received wide coverage, including a June 30 segment on ABC television news.
The Department reacted in the way parents expect when their children are badly treated. The teacher has apologised and, presumably, has since been instructed not to stray from the curriculum again.
Sadly the Department is not so sensitive when the vilified culture is Anglo Australia.
Quadrant Online readers might recall my recent comment, (“The English Curriculum’s Comorbidity”). My son’s Year 8 English teacher pushed leftist ideology about race and defamed Australia’s history, so I complained to the school. My letter pointed out that Aborigines were not treated as “flora and fauna”; Australians should not be “ashamed” of their history; and English lessons should not be taken up with a half-baked history of American racism.
At that point I had not received a reply from the NSW Department of Education, to whom I had forwarded the letter. The remainder of this comment consists of the reply, my response, and a further reply from an officer further up the pecking order.
The following e-mail arrived on 26 May:
Dear Dr Frank Salter,
Thank you for your letter of concern Monday 11 May 2020.
The New South Wales Standards Authority (NESA) is responsible for developing the Kindergarten to Year 12 curriculum to be taught in NSW schools. The Department of Education (DoE) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of curriculum in NSW government schools.
NSW public schools are committed to providing high quality education for every student. Principals and teachers are empowered to make these decisions at a local level. In addressing curriculum requirements schools have the flexibility to design their own programs of study and to select appropriate resources that meet the needs of the students and the local context.
Principals, in consultation with their school community, are responsible for choosing appropriate teaching and learning materials and programs for implementation and support of mandatory syllabus documents.
The Department of Education encourages members of its school community to work with the school in regards to their curriculum concerns. I have liaised with your school Principal Ms **** around your concerns. If you wish to discuss this matter further, you may wish to contact [her].
At the foot of the response there was this:
I acknowledge the homelands of all Aboriginal people and pay my respect to Country
I replied on June 15, 2020.
Thank you for your reply of 26 May. You begin by clarifying the relationship between your office, the New South Wales Standards Authority (NESA), and the NSW Department of Education. NESA is responsible for developing the school curriculum from Kindergarten to Year 12, while the Department manages the curriculum’s implementation. Based on that description, it is clear that NESA has great influence on our children’s education.
I must say I am disappointed by the remainder of your letter. I asked some straightforward questions in my e-mail, only one of which is answered.
In the original letter to my son’s teacher, upon which I asked you to comment, I asked whether the content of certain Year 8 English lessons had been drawn from or were compatible with the official curriculum and if so, which sections. The lessons in question had strayed from English by dwelling on the history of American and Australian race relations; the teacher had accused Australia of having a “dark history” of “shameful” conduct towards Aborigines, which included categorising them as “flora and fauna” until the 1960s. You should know that the deputy principal telephoned me and implied that the material was indeed consistent with the curriculum, though he did not specify the relevant section. Your answer implicitly concurred, while explicitly emphasising schools’ responsibility.
“Principals and teachers are empowered to make these decisions at a local level. In addressing curriculum requirements schools have the flexibility to design their own programs of study and to select appropriate resources that meet the needs of the students and the local context.”
This is really a deflection from my question, which focused on what “addressing curriculum requirements” means. Which contents, if any, attack children’s national identity? Do they falsify and shame national history? How much emphasis is given to indigenous perspectives and how much to the historic nation? Are both treated with truth and dignity? Whatever the answer, I want to know what the curriculum states, in which words, and in which sections.
And what about choice of resource material such as textbooks and internet sites? You state that schools may choose their own teaching material. Again this is a deflection. Which resources does NESA or the Department suggest? In choosing resources, are teachers permitted to propagandise their students? Are they allowed to present falsehoods? Are they permitted to ignore the Western canon? If not, what are the correction mechanisms? Surely the task of correcting straying teachers and principals is not left wholly to community pressure?
No-one seems to want to spell out the answers to these questions. It’s almost as if the curriculum and the ideological spin put on it are embarrassing, something not to be released to the public.
Your answer is remarkable not only for its omissions but because it seeks to shift all responsibility to the school, while simultaneously withholding comment on the examples complained about in my letter.
If it is true that my son’s English teacher and principal are responsible then you and your office are blameless. My understanding is different. I think your office sets the curriculum in considerable detail. How could it not? Students across our large state are expected to complete the same course work and take the same exams in years ten and twelve. What you describe is not compatible with such standardisation. I think the ideology and the accompanying ignorance and bias come in large part from your office. That is why I approached you. But you claim your office had nothing to do with the material presented to my son’s class.
The situation would be bad enough even if the school were responsible. That would mean that a school had gone rogue by teaching historical falsehoods and vilifying Anglo Australia. It is significant that you did not object in any way to the material I sent.
It seems to me that you, as a person in or near authority, must take sides. Either the teaching material is acceptable or it is not. If it is, you should be able to offer a principled defence. That should not be a challenge for an English adviser in the upper reaches of the state’s education system. If it is not, you should be equally capable of identifying where and why the material is improper. Your expert opinion should then be communicated to the school principal and any error corrected. Is that not one of your duties? You stated that you liaised with the principal, so that is clearly within your remit.
If not you, then who? Perhaps that function would be better performed by an officer in the Department of Education. Or should I be writing to the those who manage the national curriculum? You did not report the matter or refer me. This despite the obvious impropriety of the teaching material documented in my letter. How bad, how false and degrading, would the material need to be to justify being reported? If not glaring falsehoods and national defamation, then what?
Instead you sent me back to the school principal and to the school “community” without referring (let alone objecting) to the deputy principal’s prediction that if the school’s lessons were changed, the teachers would be accused of racism by Aboriginal representatives.
As I wrote in my letter, I don’t blame my son’s teacher. She is trapped by the curriculum and her own miseducation. Since the 1960s various irrationalist and intolerant intellectual fashions – postmodernism, relativism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction – have come to dominate university departments of humanities. The process was evident by the 1980s, as described by the philosopher David Stove and others.
These stances criticise universalist theories of reality, morality, truth, and human nature. They reject reason and science as mere “grand narratives”, ideological tool used by the powerful to distort relations between genders, classes and ethnicities. This resembles, and indeed originated in, the neo-Marxist doctrine that science is a tool of class power. These stances accuse science of making unwarranted “knowledge claims”, including disciplines that research human nature – behavioural biology, psychology, evolutionary science, behavioural genetics, etc.
That is the attitude. The analysis (using the term loosely) that legitimates this radical anti-science stance resides in numerous case studies and theoretical treatises. What is usually transmitted to many university students is little more than unwarranted suspicion of the Western canon in literature and science plus designated policy orientations. The analytical elements are reduced to slogans learnt by rote. In other words, university departments of English often produce people as trained in ideology as in literary analysis.
As part of this irrationalism, many undergraduates in English and other humanities subjects are led to teach across or around multiple disciplines far beyond their knowledge. They are expected to teach not only literature but history (American, Australian, colonialism), social theory, areas of cultural and biological anthropology, population genetics, gender development and associated disciplines (social psychology, psycho-endocrinology). Competence in any one of these fields requires years of study, even if limited to areas of established knowledge and avoiding the cutting edges of research.
Nevertheless, based on the material presented to my son and your lack of criticism of it, it seems the NSW curriculum expects teachers to present syntheses of this vast body of knowledge. In my son’s class the result took the form of leftist morality tales; ideology, not scholarship or science. This does not mean that teachers are making up this nonsense. It comes from the curriculum and academics and bureaucrats who produce it. Teachers necessarily rely on the expert knowledge of those higher up the educational system. But many academics are themselves unable to produce a coherent synthesis due to ideological blinders. They reject the teaching of a peer-reviewed canon based on approved textbooks.
That is why teachers but not the curriculum should be excused. Humanities teachers are stuck with a perverse curriculum and ill-trained to resist it. But the buck must stop at the top. That is why I wrote to you for information. That is why our politicised Education Department needs a stiff broom.
So please don’t send me back to my son’s school and “community” to locate the origins of this ideologically distorted teaching material. Because you are in the belly of the beast I hoped you could provide answers.
An inadvertent part of your letter is the declaration placed under the NSW Department of Education letterhead. It states: “I acknowledge the homelands of all Aboriginal people and pay my respect to Country”. Have you thought about that declaration? Someone intimately involved in making the state curriculum admits to ethnic favouritism by honouring three percent of Australians. The homeland and identity of non-Aboriginal Australians are not acknowledged. By signing off on those words you effectively approved the message drummed into school children from primary level onwards, that Australia is not theirs, that it was stolen by their ancestors, that they should be ashamed of their identity.
How can a Department that ritually vilifies the nation be trusted with children’s education?
The declaration might seem normal, even banal, a part of the bureaucratic furniture. In fact it ritually belittles most students’ national identity.
That declaration raises a basic question. Do you and your colleagues, people entrusted to give advice about the school curriculum, contest the legitimacy of the Australian nation? In your view does our nation rightly possess the continent? If the children in my son’s class do belong to the nation that legitimately owns Australia, how dare you exclusively acknowledge territorial claims to large tracts of our country made on behalf of just three percent of the population? Whose side are you on? It is your right to hate Australia but then it would be your duty, as a matter of honour, to resign from any position of authority, especially when the position is paid with tax dollars raised from the Australian people.
Our children’s identity should be honoured. If schools are to have ritual affirmations of identity and homeland, those affirmations should be patriotic and apply to the entire nation past and present; they must not privilege a minority nor disparage our children’s country or ancestors. When decades ago the Department of Education began using its authority to turn children against their country it declared war on the Australian people. It is a revolution from above.
In summation, I’m asking that you provide:
1/ clarification of where responsibility for the content of school teaching lies;
2/ to the extent that it lies with your Department, your justification for the falsehoods and anti-Anglo content documented in my original letter; and
3/ to the extent that it lies with the teacher, your plan to correct her and ensure she teaches the correct curriculum material.
It was in this letter for the first time that I changed my own sign-off details to include the declaration: “I acknowledge Australia’s historic nation.” It seemed appropriate.
A response from a senior officer of the Department arrived on July 1. It did not answer my specific questions. The letter advised me to look into the curriculum myself, on the website of the NSW Educational Standards Authority (NESA). The letter made no reference to my complaint about improper course content. There was no news about an investigation or other official action. It was a strictly pro forma, bureaucratic brush-off.
For me the take-home lesson was further confirmation that the NSW Department of Education and teacher education have been captured by the cultural Left and turned into a political indoctrination machine. This has occurred under governments on both sides of politics. The Department’s administrators are impervious to complaints and determined to impose their ideology on students.
It is time for wholesale reform of the Department of Education and the universities. But how?
British historian David Starkey suggests a solution: “We should probably begin with the universities.”
He was being interviewed concerning the Black Lives Matter attacks on the legitimacy of British history. (Watch the video below, especially from the 33-minute mark). In Britain he suggested Cambridge. Starkey’s proposed instrument is financial.
We should say that no government funding, directly or indirectly … will be payable to, for example, the English faculty at Cambridge. Because the English faculty at Cambridge is not about academic freedom. There is no academic content in it whatever. What it is about is indoctrination. It is a program of Marxist indoctrination dressed up in this preposterous … Franco-American language of critical theory. It is the worst form of perverse verbiage. There can be no public benefit of paying anybody to [study] it.
I wouldn’t abolish it because I believe in free speech. But if people want it they bloody well pay for it themselves. This seems to me to be the approach we should take.
Starkey then suggested extending this principle to the BBC, which like the ABC has also been captured by intolerant leftists. If people wish to listen, they should have to pay. There should be no public funding.
In Australia, Starkey’s defunding instrument would be applied to, initially, the Big Eight research universities plus the ABC, which have the least excuse for intellectual corruption.
Starkey did not suggest how to find politicians with the requisite wisdom and spine to implement this policy, but did observe that the major parties are part of the problem. Again, the same situation applies in Australia.
Voters should be searching for electoral candidates able to champion our history and civilization against the new vandals.