Page 3381 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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We need to remember and always remind ourselves that it was those opposite who oversaw the disaster that was the closure of Charnwood high school. It is quite remarkable that now they are beating their breasts in relation to the government’s consultation position in relation to Ginninderra district high school. They closed Charnwood high school. They put nothing in its place, no reinvestment and no consideration for the educational needs of the people of Charnwood or west Belconnen. Now we have this latter day bleeding heart. They had an opportunity to do something and they sat back and did nothing.

Mrs Dunne now, through this motion, like the Prime Minister and Dr Nelson up on the hill, is seeking to undermine public education. She does not run a single public school. I doubt that she has ever worked in a public school. Yet she criticises and challenges the hard work and commitment of all those involved in the outstanding, free, universal, public education that we enjoy in the territory. In doing so, as I have said, she questions and belittles the commitment of the most important resource in the system, the teachers who work so tirelessly to produce the fantastic results that I have referred to today.

The opposition should be defending public education in the territory, not attacking it. They should not just adopt and mouth the policies of the leaders in the other parliament who continually seek to undermine public education. The attitude, the rumours and innuendo are classic scaremongering by the opposition. We saw it today. Mrs Dunne said that department staff were deliberately throwing furniture down stairwells to break it. What an outlandish, outrageous suggestion! It impacts on the department, the teachers and the staff at Ginninderra district high school. The shadow education spokesperson said in this place that staff at Ginninderra district high school within the ACT department of education order removalists to throw furniture down stairwells to deliberately break it, to deliberately destroy it. That is an outrageous and defamatory statement. It reflects the opposition spokesperson’s commitment to public education.

MADAM TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.17): It is a sorry day when our children’s education becomes a gymnasium for ideological battles. Sadly, I think that that is what this debate has boiled down to. I believe that Mrs Dunne’s speech was more about ideology than about curriculum. It failed to acknowledge any of the successes of ACT schools. It defended what she called the traditional curriculum in a day and age when we really need to have a curriculum that is appropriate for children who are going to face a world that we cannot even imagine—certainly it will not be like the old days—not the curriculum that I and perhaps Mrs Dunne experienced.

This debate about postmodernism has been going on in the media for some time and I suppose it was bound to surface here. People tend to use postmodernism as a dirty word. In fact, just to be clear, postmodernism is an approach that predicates that there are no universal truths, as we used to know them, for instance, about questions of religion or other ideologies that so often suit some political purpose.

If we have a curriculum that uses the word “critical”, then I think we are serving our children well. More than anything, our young people, who are the major targets of

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