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Oils in education – From Countdown to the Ministry

In a recent newspaper article (Long way to top 10, The Age (Melbourne, Australia) – 23/10/ 2010), I was reminded of the Federal Minister for Education’s previous incarnation as the leader of the Australian band Midnight Oil. This memory of Peter Garrett in this capacity initiated a small glimmer of hope within my increasingly critical thinking around National Curriculum and other agendas in education. Perhaps foolishly, I have also been heartened by his deferral of the implementation of such important policy.

I grew up in a time when Peter Garrett stood as the antithesis of all that was formal and structured. He dared to be different – to think differently, and to articulate those views, through lyrics and his post-gig interviews. He even moved differently. His convulsive dance style was unconventional at best, and yet even today, amongst an ageing Midnight Oil fan Club, there is a tendency to mimic those Garrettisms as soon as lyrics such as “US Forces give the nod . ..” begin. It is in this embrace of being different, that I so desperately want Peter Garrett to do something to enable others to think more critically and be more creative. Education enables others to be creative, critical, and to participate within discussions of what is important for a society.

My memory of Garrett is as a courageous, intelligent and creative advocate for important and pressing social issues such as the national environment and taking on the global capitalist juggernaut. In whatever decisions Garrett makes in all of these Federal educational initiatives, he has the opportunity to empower diverse groups to have access to forms of social and cultural capital, which include the skills and knowledge to perform as multidimensional citizens.

I urge Minister Garrett to look at the narrowly scoped drafts of National Curriculum against the diverse populations of Australia, and their differing needs. I hope that he will reflect upon his own (then) skill of using foresight to identify social issues which would have increasingly negative impacts upon the lives of our future generation. With this in mind, I really want Minister Garrett to rethink the ways that this national agenda impedes students’ abilities to envisage, shape and prepare for their futures.


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