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The Review of the Australian Curriculum has been released. This review was undertaken by a conservative English teacher and a conservative bureaucrat. BORING, BORING, BORING, BORING—I could have told them most of what they have discovered for nothing (and a little more succinctly).

C says I have no business looking at this, given it would have been a document core to my work, and now I am retired. But I still care deeply about the arts and education so I had to take a peek.


Image by epSos .de

First, a couple of disclaimers:

DISCLAIMER: I am a visual artist, but my heart, body and soul belong to dance. And I love to compose music. And some of the best years of my life so far have been in designing and creating theatrical sets and costumes, acting in front of audiences, and teaching drama in schools. And my favourite thing to do in the whole world is engage with and create film, video, animation and games.

DISCLAIMER: I’m an arts educator and have focused on the arts throughout my career, but I do appreciate the importance of other curriculum domains and the essential right of every young person to have access to all forms of knowledge and thinking. Although I’m not sure about science* because I was so bored in science in school; except when we feigned illness from inhaling gas, surreptitiously filled up our mouths with water and pretend-vomitted out the classroom windows; or when every member of the class ‘forgot my science book today Miss!’; or when we armed ourselves with sago and threw the little pearls at the teacher when she wasn’t looking to see how long it would take her to work out what was going on; or when my BF Michelle got sent to the ‘Animal Room’ (Prep room) and tried to cut up all the geology specimens; or when we broke into a chorus of ‘Downtown’ just because our novice teacher looked like she was wearing a tutu (not really sure of connection between song and attire).

DISCLAIMER: I’m a teacher who believes in the right of every child and youth to equal access to the best possible education, and that a comprehensive and progressive education (read—an education for today and for the future) is essential for survival of individuals, communities, countries and the world. A comprehensive and progressive education costs money, and providing this equally to all costs lots of money. This belief means I am a low-life lefty leaner.

BACK TO THE NITTY GRITTY OF THE REVIEW OF THE ARTS CURRICULUM, supported by subject specialists Dr John Vallance and Ms Michele Chigwidden—wait, WHO??? Oh, never mind, the whole report has been compiled by pseudo-educationalists so why not ask someone over dinner what they thought about the arts in schools.

The arts section of the report isn’t worth the pdf it’s written on. There are so many DER! moments it’s almost like the authors have watched a movie of the last decade of curriculum review on fast forward, and have critiqued the best slapstick moments, but didn’t really grasp enough to write a synopsis. So, I’ll just pull out some gems:

The [arts] learning area should be formally introduced at Year 3 but provide a rich source of resource material for Foundation to Year 2, the Foundation years.

In other words don’t teach the arts from Kindergarten to Year 2 because it is much more important that children sit still and do maths and reading. Young children can’t be taught arts disciplines anyway. Have a look at this video of Zony and Yony. They are only 6 years old and have no hope of grasping new choreography. Their crappy attempt is because they are girls, so if you are going to teach dance, make sure it’s only to the girls.

The core content of all five strands should be reduced and a considerable portion of the current core be included in school-based curriculum and activities, thus augmenting the rich arts programs which most schools are already conducting.

In other words don’t teach the arts. There’s enough arts happening in the final year concert. Except visual arts, but that can probably be covered with easter hat parades and mother’s day cards.

The content of each of the arts forms needs to be restructured and re-sequenced along the lines suggested by the subject matter specialists. 

After a few drinks over dinner, subject specialist Ms Chigwidden said some random things about too much Aboriginal dance, some appalling ratios of content in drama where children have to discuss and reflect on their work, the need to buy musical instruments and how good the English curriculum is—in England.

The other subject specialist, Dr Vallance said to get rid of Media Arts, Dance and Drama altogether because he only likes music and sculpture. And maybe he wasn’t drinking enough to want to have a dance.

So, I agree, we should be restructuring the curriculum based on what they say. They say quite different things about what to do, but someone will work out how to pull all those suggestions together sensibly.

[Apologies for the dig Ms Chigwidden and Dr Vallance, but how did you think you would be represented as one of only two voices chosen to make this report appear to be consultative?]

The considerable resourcing costs associated with delivering the arts curriculum need greater consideration, and professional development for teachers is needed as the years progress. 

Professional development is needed when any new curriculum is introduced. A supreme DER! moment.

… only two of the five arts subject areas would be mandatory and the most likely ones would be music and visual arts. 

In case you didn’t get the memo, there is some solid thinking out there about the importance of educating the whole human, including their body, not just their head. Have another look at this compelling talk by Sir Ken Robinson:


The report doesn’t tell us anything new. I lived all these arguments over the development of the Australian Curriculum. ACARA dealt with all these arguments in solid consultation, working with and listening to every person and their Tamagotchi. The recommendations of this lightweight (and bordering on spurious) document are different to the path ACARA took. Who should we place more faith in—two authors and two ‘subject specialists’ and 6 months of consultation? Or a comprehensive review over many years conducted by an authentic organisation charged with developing curriculum for all.

*My Year 12 teacher was pretty pleased that I got 123 out of a possible 130 for my final Biology exam. But that isn’t a huge achievement because it was the ‘Web of Life’ course and you just had to use some common sense and draw some pretty pictures. I’m also telling fibs about not seeing the benefit of science learning. I’m a huge fan now, of the connections between art and science. The gist of this ridiculous review lies in that sentence for me. I’m a fan now, but wasn’t at school. Why? Because of the rubbish curriculum and the rubbish way it was taught.

Seems to me that report authors Messrs. Donnelly and Wiltshire may like to return to that time.