New posting to curriculum board reignites history wars in Australia

Historians in the News

THE latest chapter in the history wars returns one of its chief protagonists, Stuart Macintyre, to the front line, with his appointment by the National Curriculum Board to draft the course for schools from the first year of school through to Year 12.

Professor Macintyre, the Ernest Scott professor of history at Melbourne University and chairman of Australian Studies at Harvard, was sidelined by the Howard government in its pursuit of a national curriculum for Australian history.

But Professor Macintyre is one of four educators appointed to draft "framing documents" setting out a broad direction for the curriculum in four subjects.

The board has made another controversial appointment in its adviser on the English curriculum, selecting Sydney University literacy researcher Peter Freebody, who is identified with the critical literacy side of the so-called reading wars.

The adviser on science is University of Canberra professor Denis Goodrum, and Monash University professor Peter Sullivan will draft the mathematics curriculum.

Professors Macintyre and Freebody were understood to be overseas yesterday and unavailable for comment, but NCB chairman Barry McGaw defended the appointment of both academics, saying they were leaders in their fields.

Professor McGaw said Professor Macintyre - a former communist - was a "very sane historian" and the politics of Australian history was less of an issue with the board developing a broader history curriculum. He described Professor Freebody as a "fine scholar" and while his background was not in literature, the board would convene a panel of experts to work with him on that aspect of the curriculum.

"Almost anyone is controversial in literacy," he said. "If anyone doesn't have enemies, they probably haven't been engaged in the debate." Professor McGaw said the framing documents were intended as a starting point for public consultation. The final decision on the curriculum would rest with the board....
Read entire article at Australian

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