Change in a culture often occurs in fits and starts, in confusing whirls of ideas and protest followed by quiet periods where old orthodoxies percolate through society again but in a different guise. Reform digs in its heels. New form orthodoxies flex their muscles and then we find the times of protest, ideas and reform are upon us again. As we cycle through complacency, protest and reform injustices are gradually addressed.
This has been the life of the quest for equality of women and men. Undoubtedly enormous progress has been made over the last two hundred years. Yet despite hard-won gains, there is still so much that can be improved. An important aspect of the movement to equality is reviewing the history of human achievement and telling the stories of women’s achievements which have been forgotten over the passage of time or never properly recognised and told in the first place.
Maybanke Anderson 1845-1927: Sex, suffrage & social reform by Jan Roberts, published by Ruskin Rowe Press. This review is of the second edition published in 1997.
In writing the biography of Maybanke Anderson, Jan Roberts has ensured that the contributions of a leading educationist and prominent leader of social reform in New South Wales continue to be recognised. Maybanke Anderson was a leading public figure in the debates about the problems women and children faced in New South Wales during the 1890s and the early twentieth century. She established a school known for its high standard of education, was a leading light in the campaign for women’s suffrage, spent years working to establish free, high-quality kindergarten education and was the founder and editor of a feminist magazine. She was one of a small group of women and men who pushed the issue of a better life for women to the front of public debate time again.
Jan Roberts has written an illuminating biography about Maybanke Anderson but Roberts faced a struggle to cover the early years before Maybanke became a public figure. A biography ideally covers the entire life of a person and accounts for the time before the subject became well known. Yet the documentary record before a person comes to prominence is often sparce Continue reading →
Do you think this watch last worn in the 1980s is an historic object?
Every now and then my daughter and I think about how the times in which we live will be perceived by people in the future. “They did that???,” we imagine incredulous school students of the future saying when told about things that happen that seem to be weirdly normal today.
But when will school students be taught about 2017 in their history lessons? I will make a bold prediction. I don’t expect lessons about 2017 to be taught in schools until some time around the 2040s. Continue reading →
On the second day I was in Singapore I left the bus and became lost. My phone was low on batteries and my GPS was not working properly. I trudged off in the direction I thought I should be going and found myself walking through a large HDB housing complex.
Getting lost on foot in a new place is a good thing. My family is not convinced about this, but that is their loss. Losing one’s way in a new place is a wonderful way to discover things that you may not ordinarily encounter.
Behind the HDB (public housing) complex I discovered Singapore’s education museum – the Ministry of Education Heritage Centre. This museum does not make the lists of museums that tourists are urged to visit so if I hadn’t become lost I may have missed it. Not many people would be excited by this but I have a background in education history so I made a mental note to visit it once I knew a bit more of Singapore’s general history.
Last week I visited the Heritage Centre with a friend of mine, Betty Wee, who is a retired Singaporean primary school teacher. The first section starts with the point where most accounts of Singaporean history start, Sir Stamford Raffles and the early nineteenth century. The first thing that visitors are informed about is Raffles’ vision for a Malayan college in Singapore which he was unable to establish before he left the island in 1824. The college was opened as a primary school in 1837.
However, the exhibition then notes that formal Malay education started well before Europeans arrived in the region. The visitor is told that this was mostly of a religious nature but aside from this there was very little detail. Perhaps the historical records have disappeared? Continue reading →
A History of Australian Schooling by Craig Campbell and Helen Proctor (Crows Nest, NSW:Allen & Unwin, 2014).
For over a century Australian schools have acted as future-shapers. Since the era of compulsory schooling emerged in the Australian colonies during the late nineteenth-century, every Australian child has spent a number of years in school. Children take at least some of the ideas and behaviours that are developed in the classroom and in the playground with them for the rest of their lives. As such it surprises me that education history is seen as a ‘special interest’ and not a field that is part of the core of Australian history.
A History of Australian Schooling by Craig Campbell and Helen Proctor is a chance for people to catch up on the latest research in Australia’s schooling history in one readable volume. It is long overdue. When I started exploring the history of education in Australia seven years ago I had to turn to books published in the 1970s for the overview I needed to become grounded in this history. Those books were good but forty years later our society has changed and a substantial amount of historical research into many different themes has been conducted. A History of Australian Schooling encompasses a broad range of themes in Australian education history including those that have not been previously collected in one volume. Continue reading →
The executive committee of the Bible in State Schools League. They were all men but this photo fails to convey the importance of the work of women in the campaign. Source: John Oxley Library
My honours thesis, Queensland’s Bible in State Schools Referendum 1910: A Case Study of Democracy, is now available to download from the University of Sydney eScholarship Repository. In it I explore a fascinating era of Queensland’s history where women, Labour politicians and the Protestant clergymen of the Bible in State Schools League were key participants in a public debate about whether Bible lessons should be reintroduced in Queensland’s state schools. These lessons had not been held in public schools since the introduction of Queensland’s free, compulsory and secular education legislation in 1875.
I loved doing the research. At times I was sitting in the Fisher Library at University of Sydney silently remonstrating with the politicians as they were debating the issue in parliament. At other times I was incredulous. The Legislative Council spent twenty-one hours debating the issue and this was after the referendum had been passed by Queensland voters! I was a bit suspicious of the Hansard recorder. The debate was rather sparse at around two o’clock in the morning. Was he taking a cat nap?
Women were instrumental in the campaign for the passing of the referendum. The Bible in State Schools League was in financial trouble and turned to women to help them out. Not only did women rescue the organisation financially through their fundraising, they wrote letters to newspapers, were part of delegations who visited parliamentarians about the issue and were conspicuous as they manned the polling booths on the day of the referendum. However, while researching this referendum I was mindful of the fact that women do not all think the same way. Sure enough newspapers such as The Worker had letters from women who opposed the introduction of Bible lessons and expressed their opposition to the referendum to the Bible in State Schools women at the polling booths. Continue reading →
It was with great sadness that we learned that history teacher, Ms Ann Hardy, died in an accident while on holiday in Thailand. She was one of a group of special teachers at my children’s high school. She had tremendous rapport with the students and her energy enlivened the school. Last year she was a finalist for the NEiTA 2012 ASG Inspirational Teaching Awards.
The principal of Killarney Heights High School, Ms Kim Jackson, wrote the following obituary for Ms Hardy which I reprint with permission.
As term 4 began at Killarney Heights High School we were shocked to hear that Mrs Ann Hardy and her husband Dr Carlos Hardy had been in a motor bike accident in Thailand. This shock turned to grief upon hearing last Friday that Mrs Hardy had passed away. To those who knew and loved her she was a bright and vibrant person who set high standards for herself and others. She was a very dedicated, passionate and committed educator and was very involved in the corporate life of Killarney Heights High School. Continue reading →
“Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place…” The words sung by the a capella choir filled the Sydney Baha’i Temple with glorious harmonies accompanied by the rumbling thunder of the storm outside. I shut my eyes and allowed the sounds to resonate through me. Beauty and emotion intertwined in that moment.
The effort to drive through the wind and rain to attend the special service for National Reconciliation Week at the Baha’i Temple was worth it. We imbibed the teachings of holy writings from around the world which exhort those who read them to treat everyone with justice, to create a peaceful world. After the service I was fortunate enough to hear Bettina King, an Aboriginal lawyer, and Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, speak about reconciliation.
It was the end of a tumultuous week. During National Reconciliation Week Australians had celebrated indigenous achievement and remembered a difficult past. We had also despaired when we were confronted by further evidence that our society fails to achieve the standards of inclusiveness, fairness and kindness that we aspire to. Continue reading →