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SUSTAINABILITY IN THE HUMANITIES Cross-disciplinary ideas and practices for the Australian Curriculum Ben Williamson The King David School, Melbourne.

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Presentation on theme: "SUSTAINABILITY IN THE HUMANITIES Cross-disciplinary ideas and practices for the Australian Curriculum Ben Williamson The King David School, Melbourne."— Presentation transcript:

1 SUSTAINABILITY IN THE HUMANITIES Cross-disciplinary ideas and practices for the Australian Curriculum Ben Williamson The King David School, Melbourne

2 GENERAL CAPABILITIES  Literacy  Numeracy  Information and communication technology (ICT) capability  Critical and creative thinking  Personal and social capability  Ethical understanding  Intercultural understanding (Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians - 2008)


4 CROSS-CURRICULAR PRIORITIES 1. Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia 2. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander histories and cultures 3. Sustainability  What can be meant by the term ‘Sustainability’ and how does it apply to the humanities?  What is the implied value in teaching ‘Sustainability’ in these subjects?  Is this value explicitly present?

5 CROSS-CURRICULAR POTENTIAL English History Civics and Citizenship Geography Economics and Business Science  Foundation to Year 10

6 DEFINING SUSTAINABILITY Sustainability, the future, and the Australian Curriculum  How do societies protect and preserve the environment for the future?  What action, social and political, should be undertaken from this point onwards? How can students engage in this thinking and express themselves?  Fostering the values of science and recognising its inherent connection to our lives  Environmental in focus, but also a tool for reflection and ontological exploration

7 THE FUTURE OF THE HUMANITIES  Sustainability is more than just planting trees  How does the term ‘humanities’ function today, if at all, in a curricular sense? ‘Social sciences’ still appears in documentation  Avoiding the shortcomings of the SOSE (Studies of Society and the Environment) all you can eat cross-curricular buffet

8 CONNECTING IDEAS The benefit of cross-curricular ideas in English and History  A more specific and multi-faceted understanding of our society  A better understanding of our emergent values  A clear picture of how our literary ideas connect and complement our actual experiences throughout time  Students can recognise that while disciplinary boundaries have certain usages, a broader application of intellectual enquiry creates a richer and more meaningful experience  Cross-discipline should not replace key focus areas of study

9 SUSTAINABILITY IN ENGLISH?  Text based examinations of the environment (The Secret River by Kate Grenville)  Text based examinations of human behaviour and consumption (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley)  Argumentative and expository writing on issues pertaining to the environment  Research into literary and oral traditions – particularly indigenous and Asian backgrounds


11 THE SECRET RIVER BY KATE GRENVILLE  The designation, acquisition and agricultural manipulation of land in ‘terra nullius’  European settlement and its perspective on the hardships of colonialism  Interaction with indigenous populations and shared experience  Indigenous perspectives  Empire expansion and the human cost  The idea of reflection and compromised moral integrity

12 A CROSS-DISCIPLINARY APPROACH Research assignment into Australian colonialism to examine the facts and experiences of colonial life while making comparisons to the text. This can also segue into the Views and Values component of Literature courses in Victoria, and comparable units in other states. Students would then identify:  How writers draw from historical events to fictionalise their accounts  How Australia’s nascent European era begins  What are the corollary implications, moral and ethical, from this process?

13 BASIC ASSIGNMENT TEMPLATE HOW ARE USAGES OF THE LAND DEPICTED IN KATE GRENVILLE’S ‘THE SECRET RIVER’ POTENTIAL CRITERIA:  A description and interpretation of indigenous people’s treatment and value of the land as depicted in the novel  Analysis of primary source historical accounts of indigenous treatment of the land  A comparison between the indigenous and European valuing of the land as depicted in the novel  An examination of how the novel’s characters represent disparate views towards the land and its indigenous people, revealing a complexity to issues of European perspectives  The student’s point of view on the ethical questions on the acquisition of land in “terra nullius” and its impact on future generations of Australians


15 BRAVE NEW WORLD BY ALDOUS HUXLEY  The commoditisation of the environment and its exploitation as demonstrated in the concept of the ‘Savage Reservation’ as an unnatural space – humanity’s rejection of the natural and embrace of the artificial (dystopian)  The ingestion of a drug (Soma) to escape the corporeal environment – again a rejection of the real and an entry into an artificial experience validated by government/cultural values  The impossibility of seclusion in a future world of communication, transportation and the humanising of the environment  The commoditisation of gardens and rural spaces (monetary value of green spaces)

16 CONNECTING TEXTS TO OUR LIVES Students need to:  Observe how green spaces in their own cities/towns/regions are valued and used by the populace  Examine sporting trends  Detail how national parks and other sanctuaries are run, and the reasons for their existence  Eco-tourism  Differing treatment of humans based on race and region

17 BROADER VIEW Some of these suggested areas of study for ‘Brave New World’ lend themselves to:  Civics and citizenship – the role of government in shaping values  Economics and business – the impact of pecuniary perspectives  Geography – types of land, access and engagement with natural spaces

18 HISTORY AND SUSTAINABILITY  As History follows a chronological path from pre-history to modern Australian life, there is significant scope to examine the impact of human beings on their environment. Also, the ways in which people have adapted to harmonise with, or, in some cases, destroy their environments  Middle Ages – the destruction of forests for firewood and the impact of the climate changes during this era  The dramatic growth of cities during the Industrial Revolution and the living conditions of the urban poor. Similarly, the resulting changes in farming techniques and the abandonment of agrarian lifestyles

19 POTENTIAL Consider for a moment your own school or system:  What examples from the curriculum would lend themselves to a more codified cross-disciplinary approach in dealing with Sustainability?  What isn’t being taught but could be in order to better facilitate discussion, exploration and assessment in this area?  What shortcomings could be found in incorporating this approach into regular pedagogy (administrative/practical/assessment wise)

20 FURTHER EXAMPLES The decline and demise of cultures with environmental implications:  Angkor (Cambodia)  Rapa Nui (Easter Island)  Mayan (causes of decline are debatable, leading to examination and evidence based hypotheses to be made. Links possibly with science) The successful balancing of societies with their environments  Tribal and hunter/gatherer communities  Agricultural management in arid regions

21 MORE THAN JUST ENVIRONMENTAL?  Sustaining our own well-being - Emotional intelligence – RULER approach (Recognise, Understand, Label, Expressing, Regulating) and other school initiatives  Linking the environment to personal and social well-being  A respect for other societies/cultures. Sustaining healthy interactions between groups

22 CONTACT Ben Williamson The King David School Melbourne

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