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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.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

When kids tell historical figures how they could have 'done it better'

If you've read my recent blog about white dudes, you'll know that my class were pretty shocked by the systematic destruction of Australia's Indigenous population.  We did summise, however, that there were indeed 'good white dudes' as there are 'good peeps' of every skin colour.

.. though I wouldn't necessarily trust blue dudes.  They look shady.
My kids remained convinced that Captain Arthur Phillip, Captain of the Sirius and Governor of the colony of New South Wales, could have done things.... better.

We're setting the dial for 1787, kids.  Buckle Up.
I decided to bring out the Delorean from the garage and put the kids in a time-travelling scenario.  They laid on the floor and were asked to imagine travelling through time and space to the Captain's quarters on board the HMS Sirius in 1787, en route to the Great South Land that Cook had 'discovered' 17 years before.
What advice could 4RPB offer the Governor-designate-to-be?  What would they tell him about what he was about to see?  What would they advise he do about the Aboriginal population?

I played the role of Cpt Arthur Phillip.  I graciously listened to the suggestions at first - taking in some natural suggestions to turn back to England immediately.  Don't do it!  Turn back!  Leave them alone!
After a few suggestions of this sort, I started to offer counter arguments.  If we turned back, we'd all die.  If we left, someone else - possibly more brutal - would invade instead. NB: the French arrived in Port Jackson 6 days after Arthur Phillip's landing. 

I poo-pooed every suggestion with counter-arguments, giving my reasons where practicable. 

Then the suggestion came (from a few girls) that I should simply know that the Aboriginals were people, with a rich and proud history and that I should do everything I can to work with them to share the land.  


Cpt A.Phillip.  Heart of stone?
History books give many different accounts of Arthur Phillip's motives.  All agree that he treated the Indigenous Eora people with more respect than most of his contemporaries.  He did kidnap several Aboriginal men in order to learn their language and customs.  He did, however, also hang any man who killed an Aboriginal.  Did he treat (or view) them as human?  That would take a great deal of research - probably of his private journals. 

The advice that the kids wanted to give, was, for the most part, shot down as impractical, impossible or undesirable.  The only advice that stuck was to recognise the Indigenous Australians as PEOPLE with RIGHTS.

Next week, we'll time travel again.

This time, one of the kids can sit in the hot seat.  The rest of us will be that kid's g.g.g.grandchildren, visiting from the distant future. 

What advice will they give this time?  Will they be able to stick to the theme of Indigenous relations?  Will they tangent off into advice about the environment?  Will anyone see the link between the two themes?


Thanks to pictures from Flickr, I am now hopefully not contravening any copyright laws with this blog.  Awesome.

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