Tuesday, April 04, 2006

History

C has come home from school lately telling me about our local history:

"We are white people. The white people came in ships from far away, and the aborigines who were here before moved to where Ayer's Rock which is in the middle of Australia".

His story is a very simplistic one, as befits a kindergartener, but it makes me very uncomfortable. For a start, two of the kids in his class are asian - do they get the same spiel about being white people? And, of course, there are aboriginal people in Sydney - not many around where we live, but not far away. And the aboriginal people who were here before the First Fleet didn't just move to central australia in an accommodating way - they died of smallpox, or were gradually forced off their traditional hunting grounds.

I'm assuming all that history came from the teacher rather than other children (who is american, but I doubt if it would make any difference), and I'd like to think there was a way it could be explained that was both understandable for a kindergartener, and not misleading about what actually happened, and continues to happen.

I'm not sure what, if anything, to do about it, though. Talk to C about the real story when we have enough time to chat about it, I think.

4 Comments:

At 10:09 am, Anonymous elsewhere said...

Where did the Uluru bit come in? Talk about a mixed up Australian imaginary (not even an accurate black armband history!). I don't think the folks at Uluru are from inner-city Sydney, somehow.

 
At 9:51 pm, Blogger Jennifer said...

I've since discovered it didn't come from his teacher, but from a teacher's aide (they have a kid with Down's syndrome in their class who has a permanent teacher's aide) who has just been to Uluru. I'm hoping that will make all of us more comfortable with contradicting something that came from school (I remember that I upset my parents greatly by refusing to believe that they could know more than a teacher when in fact he was talking complete rubbish).

 
At 9:43 pm, Anonymous Jennifer V said...

I think that the story of invasion/settlement is so complex that it can't help but seem over-simplified whatever version is given first (but the Uluru migration story is a bit weird). The impact of disease is something that seems to get taught very early on - I suspect because it removes the agency from genocide: don't blame us, it was our germs what done it. It's probably regarded as a bit morbid for kindergarten though.

 
At 9:43 pm, Anonymous Jennifer V said...

I think that the story of invasion/settlement is so complex that it can't help but seem over-simplified whatever version is given first (but the Uluru migration story is a bit weird). The impact of disease is something that seems to get taught very early on - I suspect because it removes the agency from genocide: don't blame us, it was our germs what done it. It's probably regarded as a bit morbid for kindergarten though.

 

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