Multiculturallism

Scenario

Terry is in his second year ofteaching Humanities in a local high school in a regional city in NSW. The school has a multicultural

mix of students but with a predominantly Anglo-Celtic demographic especially from the surrounding countryside. There is a significant
lndigenous student population. A smaller number of students, whose families arrived in the city in the last twenty years, come from Asian,
Middle Eastern and African backgrounds.

Terry teaches the Year 10 History class. In the lesson, an academically successful ‘Australian

fietnamese’ student, Luc, asks the History teacherwhy they “all” had to learn so much about British and Australian colonial history.

He says he wants to study “more about modern Australian society” and particularly the Wetnam war period as his parents escaped Wetnam
and arrived in Australia as refugees.Terry immediately decides to open the discussion with the class hoping that this will trigger some
interest in ideas about what constitutes History from his students. Much to Luc’s discomfort, two male students, Peter and Ian, start to
tease him about “not belonging to Australia really” and not being interested in “adapting”to the country. Both students loudly

assert that they are happy to learn about “White Australia because we need to understand ourvalues, sir.” Their assertions receive a
mixed response from the rest ofthe class with one female student deriding them fortheir”racism” and others mentioning the Cronulla
riots. Many students remain silent.

Terry tries to intervene by supporting Luc – saying that he “has a point” and that Australia is

now “more than just its British heritage”. He refers to the Indigenous and other non-Anglo students in the class and says, “They too
have a right to share in the discussion”. Peter and Ian continue to promote the idea that they are happy with learning about the

British heritage” ofAustralia and become increasingly vocal and dismissive of other student’s points ofview. One says, “Bet they

don’t teach Australian history in Wetnam.” Camille, an Indigenous student, obviously frustrated with the discussion, makes the comment
that “We were here before all you, anyway”. This produces laughter at first but then some dismissive remarks from lan. Luc and the other
non-Anglo students go quiet. The debate has evolved into a slanging match between two students.

The increasingly hostile exchanges between

Camille and Ian provoke an increase in the level oftension in the class and Terry wonders what he should do. He reacts by trying to shut
down the debate and warns both Camille and Ian that he will send them from the room ifthey persist. The History lesson has become a
slanging match and most ofthe class are silent and appear alienated.

Reflection Questions

1. What factors (i.e. class, ethnicity, gender,

place, impact ofthe media etc.) do you think influence or dominate the course ofthe class discussion and why?

2. Could the teacher have

chosen alternative ways to initiate discussion and to manage the flow of commentary on the issues of history, identity and power?

3. Whose

voices’ dominated in the teaching you experienced ofAustralian or other History and whose interests were served?

4. What practices or

policies do you think might have helped the teacher make this lesson more productive for all the students in the class?

5. Which models of

multiculturalism do you think are relevant to the participants in this discussion? (see Gamage Ch. 6 ofthe text))

Step 4. Compose your

report

Compose your report on the analysis ofthe scenario, integrating your reflections on the questions above and any other issues you

think are relevant. Your report should include an introduction, discussion and a conclusion section and list of references.

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