I was honoured on the weekend with the Renee Erdos Award of the History Teachers’ Association for an outstanding contribution to history teaching. Very honoured – because I took a lot of time and effort to see that History was protected in NSW schools and not watered down as social studies or something else.
I learnt at the dinner that currently there are 35 000 students doing Ancient History in year 11 and year 12 in NSW. That compares with a mere 2000 doing Ancient History at the comparable level in the United Kingdom. I was also told that the History Extension course I was proud to introduce has no equivalent anywhere else in the world for the rigour of its historiography. A curriculum expert told me, “It is world’s best practice.”
We did three things:
- make compulsory two years of Australian History during years 9 and 10 in high school.
- keep History as History when in every other state in Australia it had been dumbed down into Social Studies or Human Beings and their Environment or something else.
- enable it to be studied at the most rigorous and interesting standards (that is as History Extension) in the last two years of High School.
The history teachers were also generous enough to acknowledge the awards for overseas travel that I initiated with the $50 000 Fulbright Fellowship. That was enough to send five history teachers to America. Since then the scholarship has expanded to $2 million from private donors and supports over 125 teachers getting to travel abroad and return with new knowledge and skills.