Thursday, July 06, 2006

Question begging Bishop

In Today's Australian the new Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, makes this convincing argument about the teaching of history:

THE time has come for a renaissance in the teaching of Australian history in our schools. By the time students finish their secondary schooling, they must have a thorough understanding of their nation's past.

Fair enough I say. But why Ms Bishop?

It makes young people more informed citizens and better able to appreciate where our nation has come from and how we have arrived at our place as a modern lib-eral [sic] democracy.

Oh? A thorough understanding of our nation's past means people are more informed about where our nation has come from etc.? Wow, I'm convinced.

All she has done is argued for her first statement, that students ought to have a thorough understanding of the past, by saying that if they have a thorough understanding of the past they will be informed about the past. This pigheaded reasoning is an example of Begging the Question.*

In saying that, I'm all for the non-politicised teaching of and renewed focus on, Australian history, which is what the current Federal government is on about. And the rest of her opining is fairly reasonable. Though it's fair to say that non-educators need to tread wary when discussing issues of curriculum. The last Federal education minister, for example, gave credence to ID. (That's not to say they couldn't possibly have a reasoned opinion - otherwise I'd be guilty of Special Pleading.)

*I'm possibly being a bit harsh, in that she does say they'll know why we are where we are now (a modern liberal democracy). I.e, she adds a little more to her argument than a simple restatement of her premise. But I wanted to post today.

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