Pyne’s Review of National Curriculum will be a shambles

Today Christopher Pyne appointed two of his chosen men to review our national curriculum, Kevin Donnelly and Ken Wiltshire.

I expect it will be a shambles.

We certainly don’t need to wait until May to know what this review-by-two will come up with.

Kevin Donnelly is well known in education circles. He has attacked just about every component of the national curriculum that has been developed and agreed upon so far.

Here are Donnelly’s thoughts. The words are direct quotes from his website:-

Every subject has to be taught through environmental, indigenous and Asian perspectives where new-age, 21st century generic skills and competencies undermine academic content.

The draft civics and citizenship curriculum air brushes Christianity from the nation’s civic life and institutions and adopts a postmodern, subjective definition of citizenship, one where “Citizenship means different things to people at different times and depending on personal perspectives, their social situation and where they live”.

The history curriculum, in addition to uncritically promoting diversity and difference instead of what binds as a community and a nation, undervalues Western civilisation and the significance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and way of life.

the English national curriculum adopts an exploded definition of literature, one where classic works from the literary canon jostle for attention along side SMS messages, film posters, graffiti and multi-modal texts.

While nodding in the direction of teaching phonics and phonemic awareness, where children are taught the relationship between letters and groups of letters and sounds in a more formal, structured way, the English curriculum also favours whole language where children are taught to look and guess.

(The emphasis in bold is my addition.)

The national curriculum in Foundation to Year 10 in English, Maths, Science, History and Geography has already been agreed by all states and territories and is either being implemented or in the process of being implemented.

Getting this far has taken years of collaboration, extensive consultation and work by hundreds of expert teachers, academics, parents and politicians. It has not been easy.

However it will be very easy to undo it all.

States and territories that do not agree with changes to the national curriculum suggested by Pyne’s review-by-two can simply opt out.

Sadly I believe Christopher Pyne’s ideological obsessions will not end with this review.

Next will be an attempt to change how teachers teach.

Kevin claims:-

One reason why the cultural-left has been so successful in controlling the education system is because the majority of Australia’s professional bodies, subject associations and teacher training academics are hostile to a conservative view of education epitomised by choice and diversity, an academic curriculum, meritocracy and traditional styles of teaching.

Academics across the nation who are involved with teacher education can start preparing now.

Here is Pyne’s announcement Announcement of Curriculum Review

13 thoughts on “Pyne’s Review of National Curriculum will be a shambles

  1. I find Harry’s proposition that academics, teachers and researchers in education develop and maintain ‘a construct’ inimical to a conservative view because they are on the public payroll, they see life through that ‘prism’ and want to shape behaviour within it, opposed to inquiry and information which develops critical facilities, relying instead on proscription from above, rather strange and internally inconsistent. First, such a view would itself be ‘conservative’ since it promotes unquestioning obedience to existing authority. Second, if by ‘conservative’ we mean acceptance of ‘received’ religious and socio-economic ‘wisdom’, the private schools and commercial sector promotes this morality and obedience to ‘masters’ – very powerful ‘prisms’. The attacks on changes to the ‘moral compass’ by churches/mosques/synagogues illustrate this, as do the demands from employers that students should be made ‘work ready’ by instilling ‘company loyalty’. Recent attacks on the ABC emphasise this: it is the public broadcaster that is being attacked for daring to question the government and being ‘unpatriotic’.


    1. Well said, Al. The ‘logic’ of Harry’s odd answer can be equally applied to those who promote the conservative view of education; that through their experience in private enterprises, they develop a construct, (albeit unwittingly, not unlike the Murdoch press) of viewing the world in a way that attempts to shape behaviour and thought within that prism rather than encourage inquiry and information for which a person can can critically develop values rather than have them proscribed for them (by Murdoch). I guess one’s source of income can, to some extent, influence one’s opinions, but not to the extent you suggest.

  2. Good to see the former ‘interlocutors’ returning.

    I agree, Irene, that changes to mandated curriculum place constraints on teachers – as they should in terms of subject coverage and skill sets to be developed. However, in terms of political interference, there are ways of handling this. In studying particular texts in English, it is appropriate to refer to others as comparisons/contrasts, and encourage reading these (mind you, I’m probably a greater defender of the ‘literary canon’ and critic of postmodernism than many). In history (probably the main battlefield) study of the Anzac tradition should not preclude wider reference to the ethics, politics and economics of war. Any study of Australian history must enable reference to indigenous Australians. Any specific prohibitions beyond the reasonable would be likely to provoke industrial and political backlash (and it would be harder to repalce tens of thousands of trained teachers with military personnel, as done by Chifley with miners, Hawke with airline pilots or Howard with wharfies).

    1. Hi Folks

      Assuming Im not the third performer in the Minstrel show I’ll interlocute.

      In answer to your questions Irene

      1) Largely because all of them bar almost none rely on and survive on the public purse hence develop a construct, (albeit unwittingly not unlike the abc) of viewing the world in a way that attempts to shape behaviour and thought within that prism rather than encourage inquiry and informatoin for which a person can can critically develop values rather than have them proscribed for them.
      2) No – see above
      There is no doubnt that abenevolnet dictastrorship is the most efficient and effective form of government, unfortunately one can not depend on the benevolecne of the dictator either initially and certainly continuing – hence democracy is the best vwe can do.

      Ive sat around enough committee tables and Im sure you have to, where ensuring every one is happy leaves a mess. At soem times leadership is required

      1. Not sure why I only now became aware of this post. I agree that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others (Churchill, I think). I also agree that if you want to leave a committee meeting or working party or negotiation with the prime object being the happiness of all participants, you have a mess. I never took that view – but then I was a union thug and ideological warrior, and often ended up in contested votes and/or the IR Commission, where ‘conciliation’ did not necessarily mean keeping everyone happy and arbitration never did.

        I’ve never accepted the relativist, postmodernist attitiude that all views are equally ‘valid’. I argued for what I believed in or was committed to, and while (I hope) I always considered other views, I expected them to be based on evidence and logic if they were to make any change in my position, as well as recognising that politics and IR are the art of the possible and compromise may be necessary. I certainly was not alone in these attitudes; most of the colleagues with whom I worked over many years, especially in the NSW TF acted in the same way, consequently often being labelled intransigent.

        1. Harry,

          That’s a pompous and dismissive response, which boils down to belittling “Australia’s professional bodies, subject associations and teacher training academics” without really considering the question I posed.

  3. Most of those quotes from Wilshire seem eminently sensible.

    The very fact that something has been designed by thousands of hours of committees, collaboration, associations etc almost gurantees a result of concession and mushiness.

    Your blog proved the last paragraph correct comprehensively over many years.

    1. Hello Harry,

      Assuming that “the majority of Australia’s professional bodies, subject associations and teacher training academics ARE hostile to a conservative view of education”, why do you this point of view prevails amongst educators and their associations?

      Also do you think that the conservative view of education IS “epitomised by choice and diversity, an academic curriculum, meritocracy and traditional styles of teaching”?

      cheers 🙂

    2. An inclusive process of curriculum design may be time consuming and a bit messy (sort of like democratic politics) but are you advocating a (benevolent – according to ?) dictatorship? A camel might be a horse designed by a committee, but if the brief was to have a horse that can cross deserts easily, it’s not a bad oucome, even if it has a few humps. Black Caviar might be far more more elegant and much faster on a racetrack, but I know which I’d rather have to cross the Simpson. Education isn’t just about suiting well-maintained, consistent tracks!

  4. Why am I not surprised? But I reckon teachers will continue to exercise their professional judgement on how to approach their subject and best suit it to th particular cohort of students as they have generally done. I wonder whether ‘curriculum wars’ can be an elective in military history? Regards

    1. Al,

      Teachers will always exercise professional judgement, but are also obliged to follow mandated curricula. As regards the history wars, I am very disappointed that the primary history curriculum is more or less the exact same HSIE (social studies) that it always has been. Honestly, in both primary school and junior high school we do Australian history to death! So much national naval gazing turns students off history – and Pyne would like us to have even more. Primary school students would get turned onto history with colourful subjects like the Pharaohs and the Vikings. Enough Captain Cook … the great voyages of exploration are only mentioned in passing to pave the way for Captain Cook to sail here.

      I know that your comment about the studying the ‘curriculum wars’ was tongue in cheek, but they surely exemplify the ongoing political struggle between left and right in this country like nothing else does.

  5. Maralyn,
    Donnelly objects to “an exploded definition of literature” that applies a broad brush to the study of writing in various forms. I object to his imploded definition of review. I have no doubt that this review-by-two could just as easily report their findings today. Why even bother going through the motions of a formal process when the result is a foregone conclusion? Politics really is a cynical game. Too bad, that Pyne & Co think no more of the nation’s children (excluding their own, of course, who will be handsomely educated in grand style) than if they were pawns.

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