About Me

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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

When several kids ask, "Were ANY white guys good!?"

White dudes.  Seriously!

They've caused their fair share of problems throughout history.
You can handle a 'bit' of the truth, I suppose...
When I was a kid, we simply celebrated Australian history with a collective, naive smugness.  We thought white guys were... rad.
Today's generation of kidlets are learning some of the ugly truth - at least the 'bits' of truth they can handle right now.

Today a few kids asked me, with great sincerity, "Were ANY white guys good!?"  My answer was, of course, "Yes," but I could tell that they were reeling a little from the story-so-far about European settlement of Australia.

See.... if you're reading this from afar and you didn't know, white dudes tried their hands at genocide here.
Some conquering white guys purposefully gave Aboriginal people smallpox.  Some white guys murdered.  Some white guys took Aboriginal children from their families - and they did that throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  My parents were old enough to vote in the 1967 referendum which finally recognised Aboriginal people as ... people.  Before then, they were categorised amongst the fauna of the land.

Yep - our history is not filled with the peace and love for humankind that we hope for our future.

Great cover, Awesome band, Average album.
There is something of a heavy burden when you uncover these sorts of facts about your 'white history' as an adult.  Kids feel this kinda stuff more acutely.  Thank GOD my class discovered this information in a setting where we had time to discuss our feelings and our response.

One Key Concept we are covering this unit is that of Reflection. What's been positive? What's been negative?  What can we do about what's been? (if anything)  What can we do now to respond to the past?  All these questions need to be 'unpacked'.  
How do we feel about the wrongdoing?  Pretty bad.  The kids felt really disappointed - even downhearted.  But Australia doesn't need these kids to feel downhearted, we need them to feel empowered to make a difference to TODAY.

The next step doesn't need to be hard.  These kids need to hear about dispossession and genocide - just not right now.  The worst possible outcome would be for any kid to feel that overwhelming feeling of, "too big to handle" which is usually followed by opting out altogether.  My students need to simplify the facts at this stage of their development - and the Key Concept will help us achieve that.

1. What's been positive?  Plenty. We will end the unit by looking at significant people who have influenced our lives positively.  This could be a 'Good White Guy' (or gal), an Aboriginal, a Migrant or even a Foreigner.
Just don't actually choose 'Foreigner'

2. What's been negative?  Plenty.  We don't need to go into great detail here.  We've been shocked already.  We now understand that there were serious wrong-doings.  We didn't do it.  We didn't have anything to do with it.  We know it happened and we are truly sorry.
Would be pretty rad though...

3.  What can we do about what's been?  Without Marty McFly's Delorian, NOTHING!  We can say that we are sorry it happened, but we can't undo it.  None of it.  No matter how much we wish we could.

4.  What can we do now to respond to the past?  PLENTY!  We can make sure that we do our bit now to show deep respect for the Indigenous history, present and future of this land. 

Next week our now-more-aware students will meet Duncan Smith, an amazing Wiradjuri man.  He will tell us about Indigenous history, present and future.  He will play the didge, he will sing, tell dreamtime stories, laugh and share his passion for this land.

Step one of our response to our tainted history is what will inevitably happen. 
These beautiful kids will show a profound respect for a man and his living culture.

There are good guys and bad guys of every skin colour.  The worst guys are the ones who breed hate.
The best guys are the ones who breed truth, compassion and wisdom

Our school crest.  How's about that!


Bruce Ferrington said...

So... we need to consider (reflect) what something is like (its form) in order to instigate change?

elisamaza76 said...

Love this -- wise words, Mr. Black!

Richard Black said...

Thanks Buddy. Glad you dig it. I love your inmediasrant still!
Kel and I are trying Dark Shadows, though we come at it from the heathen land of never having seen the soap. Shock horror.
and yes, Mr Ferrington... you've nailed the Key Concepts that make this unit work. Now just to impart all this in the next three weeks.

Zoe said...

Nice one, Richie. What a great way to show/live the importance of meta cognition.

Richard Black said...

Thanks Zoe. Stoked that you enjoy the odd blurb.
The pictures are mostly for my entertainment. ;)

Richard Black said...

Captain's Log - Supplimental:
Today I took on the role of Captain Arthur Phillip, First Governor of New South Wales. The kids were invited to suggest ways I could have set up our colony differently, perhaps even better. At each suggestion, I offered a counter-argument. By the end, they were stumped.
Valuable reflection.
On Monday, I will be taking on the role of one of my kids and the class will be that kid's great, great grandchildren. They will time travellers from the distant future offering advice to today.
Should be interesting!