Sunday, December 7, 2008

"White is Right" [WRONG!]: News from the National Indigenous Times (Australia)

The following editorial opinion is from the National Indigenous Times: Building a Bridge Between Australia's Black and White Communities, located at this webpage.

EDITORIAL OPINION: 'White is right' under Labor

ISSUE 167, November 27, 2008: How ironic that this edition of NIT focuses on the election promises of the ALP while we're mired in a heated debate over bilingual education in the Territory.

Here's one of federal Labor's promises from last year's election:

"Labor will make the protection, preservation and revitalisation of Indigenous languages a 'major priority'".

And yet here is federal Minister for Education Julia Gillard just last week:

"For Indigenous Australia, English is the language of further learning and English is the language of work.

"If we want Indigenous kids who are growing up today right across the Northern Territory, right across the nation to have a chance... to get a good job then people need to read and write English, they need to do that fluently and proficiently."

Gillard was referring to the recent announcement by the NT government that bilingual schools will have to teach the first four hours of the school day in English.

It means bilingual education will be phased out because the time left to teach in Indigenous languages will be limited to the last hour and a half of the day.

In other words, it's being scrapped.

The person to announce this appalling decision was NT Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour, the highest-ranking Aboriginal politician in the country.

It's a sad day for black politics, and an even sadder day for Scrymgour.

The Labor government announced the decision after being confronted with poor results among Indigenous Territorians in the national Years 3, 5 and 7 numeracy and literacy tests.

But scrapping bilingual education is not the solution. It sends a message to Indigenous Australia that black languages are not valued by this country.

Language is at the core of a culture. Countries are defined by their language.

If Australia is defined by English, why can't Indigenous people be defined by their own languages, languages that are endangered and desperately in need of protection?

The notion that English is superior and should take precedence over Indigenous languages is not only wrong, it's downright offensive.

There is no evidence that scrapping bilingual education will raise numeracy and literacy standards. And there is no evidence to suggest that bilingual education resulted in poor marks among students in the first place.

Indeed, there's a mountain of evidence to suggest that the results would be worse without bilingual education.

There are only nine bilingual schools remaining in the Territory. The poor literacy and numeracy test results spanned the entire NT education system.

The problem does not lie in bilingual education, but rather in the failures of successive governments and the ongoing neglect of Indigenous Australia.

Trampling black culture by the 'white is right' brigade is hardly a solution.

This foolish policy is proof positive that Labor at a state, territory and federal level has no intention of sticking to its promise of making evidence-based policy.

Abolishing bilingual education was proposed by the Country Liberal Party in the previous century, but abandoned.

It speaks volumes about the progress Labor has made today when it's trying to recycle a policy that failed to get up a decade ago.

The NT government is running in circles. The federal government isn't looking much better.

Success does not lie in abandoning the Indigenous languages that tell the story of a culture forged over 60,000 years.

Success lies in abandoning a political party that is fresh out of ideas.

Chris Graham, editor

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