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the pathway of assimilation « Previous | |Next »
May 30, 2006

The conservative account of the best way to address indigenous disadvantage is to highlight law and order solutions, criticise the use of cultural factors as a mitigating factor in sentencing, withdraw subsidies to dysfunctional and uneconomic outstation communities, and place the emphasis on assimilation.

Geoff Pryor

A new strand has been added to the conservative policy bow--compulsory education by Gary Johns in a paper entitled 'Aboriginal Education: Remote Schools and the Real Economy', published by the Menzies Research Centre. Johns summaries the argument in an op ed. in todays The Australian:

There are solutions [to indigeneous disadvantage] and they lie in recognising that some Aborigines use the "cultural curtain" as an excuse to avoid participation in schooling and in the economy. Further, they lie in recognising that there is no real economy in many remote communities; and, in the few where an economy does exist, welfare and other incentives lead people to not work. In short, it is time to draw back the cultural curtain in Aboriginal policy and bring back economics. Incentives to work must change if education is to save lives...Culture has been used as a curtain, drawn by those who seek to avoid responsibility for their actions. It is used as an excuse by parents to take children from school, by children to leave school and by teachers to teach to a lower standard.

Let's grant this analysis for the sake of the argument. What is the policy approach?

Johns says it is compulsory schooling:

Compulsory schooling is well known and has been accepted in the wider community, especially among the poor and non-English speakers. It should be equally accepted in remote Aboriginal communities. If that smacks of paternalism, then so be it...The correct policy response to failure at school will be determined not simply by additional programs at school but by how various issues of transition to the real economy - work, individual obligation, mobility - are managed. The transition will be better managed if educators and governments understand that education is essentially an instrument in economic integration, and that many remote communities are not viable and schools should not be used as pawns to keep them afloat.

Skills are needed to work and live in a free market economy. Many programs within the education sector should be been used to improve the chances of children succeeding at school and moving into the workforce. However, educational outcomes are deteriorating from an already low base. Poor school attendance as a direct cause of poor learning, and this is exacerbated by high teacher turnover and long-term systemic failure. It is important for Indigenous children to develop their English language oracy, literacy and numeracy skills while maintaining their own language, cultural heritage and Indigenous identity.

Johns, however, dumps the indigenous culture/educaiton bit when he says that 'teachers and governments should understand that Western education cannot and should not preserve Aboriginal culture.' So it is compulsory schooling as a tool for assimilation.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:31 PM | | Comments (1)


It smacks of cultural racism to me.

The 'cultural curtain' has never stopped the government taking action. Aboriginal people aren't responsible for government inaction in the slighest.