I thought I would contribute a teacher’s point of view to this thread, to give people a better idea about why teachers teach what they do and how
they do. I was a high school teacher here in Australia for three years. I taught History and Social Studies and know, from speaking with many of my
American colleagues, that the system by which teachers in Australia choose what subjects to cover and in what depth is fairly similar to that used by
Before the start of each year, teachers get together and decide which units they are going to teach. Usually you have a selection of topics you can
choose from, although some are required – it would be difficult to avoid teaching about World War 2 to some extent in History class, for example.
Teachers choose their subjects in conjunction with each other, purely because doing so makes it easier to share resources and help each other out with
planning and subject material.
When it comes to the actual content of the unit itself, there is a degree of flexibility as to what you teach, but this is often limited. For example,
your unit workplan (the teacher’s Bible which details what subjects should be covered because of their importance and which is usually written by
teachers in line with the syllabus for each subject) might suggest that students learn about the initial stages of WW2, then about Nazi atrocities,
then about major battles and turning points in the war and finally about how the war was ended. Now, a teacher may choose to cover these topics in
whatever degree of detail they wish, although some will naturally be afforded more time and depth than others due to their relative importance. In
deciding which issues to give the most amount of coverage to, a teacher generally follows their own sense of what is important, rather than any
mandated guide that says “Teach about Hiroshima for a week and D-Day for a day”. It must be remembered that teachers are very human. They have
their own opinions and beliefs regarding issues and I personally feel that a good teacher should make their students aware of their beliefs and
challenge the students to question them and form their own opinions. Teachers are not robots and asking them to teach in a vacuum of objectivity is
not only impossible, but will likely stifle healthy debate and the subsequent development of independent, well reasoned and structured arguments.
I have taught many units on the Australian system of government and Australian history and have watched my colleagues do the same. One of the
guidelines Government has given us on this matter is simply that the promotion of a positive national identity – that is, taking pride in our status
as Australians – is an extremely important aspect of ensuring that Australia has a prosperous future. It should be noted, however, before people
suggest that this is evidence of Government brainwashing techniques being openly promoted in schools, that the Government also highlights, in these
same documents, the importance of focusing on and developing a sense of diverse cultural appreciation and respect for different religions and points
of view amongst students.
I have increasingly found that the truly major obstacles in doing so for teachers are the media and the student’s own parents. For example, I was
once teaching a class about the Holocaust in WW2. After I had explained what the Holocaust was, one of my students expressed his opinion that the Jews
deserved to be exterminated. When I asked him why he thought this, he said it was because his father had told him so. A common saying amongst teachers
when students mouth such beliefs is “You can hear their parent’s voice speaking through them”. Far from Government brainwashing pupils by using
teachers as their proxies, most brainwashing is done well before students enter high school.
As for teachers promoting “liberalist” ideas, I think it is more a case of teachers expressing their personal points of view. I know I do this all
the time, but it is hardly exclusive. I have taught about the gross injustices performed by the Australian Government during the
years and I have proudly taught about Australian victories over the
Japanese Empire during WW2. No government individual has ever told me what I can or cannot teach – most of the noise comes rather from parents. I
have alternately been accused of being a tree-hugging hippy and a racist who teaches white supremacy (during a unit on cultural identity I had
students explore their own family histories and explained to a white student, who thought he was being racist in taking pride in his German heritage,
that this did not make him a Nazi). The most valuable thing I feel I can teach my students is to think for themselves – everything else will be
forgotten or can be looked up.
I hope this addresses at least some of the fears people have about the government brainwashing students. The truth is that, here in Australia at
least, the government has very little input into what actually happens in the classroom. After all, once you get in there and shut the door, it’s
just you and your students. If anybody would like to comment on what I have said or ask me any questions, by all means do so. I look forward to
hearing what people think of this.
[edit on 25/9/05 by Jeremiah25]