Australian Prime Minister's history speech gets mixed reception

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The New South Wales Teachers Federation has accused the Prime Minister of attacking school teachers in his call for students to be taught more about Australian history.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos says history is adequately being taught in schools.

"The Prime Minister's comments were ill-informed and dishonest and aimed at attacking and denigrating Australia's teachers," he said.

The Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley supports Mr Howard's call but is wary of the Government using the issue for political gain.

"One thing we don't need in this country is history written by serving politicians," he said.

Meanwhile, the History Teachers' Association of Australia (HTAA) has welcomed Mr Howard's call for greater concentration on the teaching of history in schools, but has questioned his approach.

HTAA president Nick Eubank says the Prime Minister has a very clear view of history and the founding of Australia, but Mr Eubank says any study of history should question it.

"What I'm saying is that we should expose those opinions and those historical documents to scrutiny and we should tool our students with skills whereby they can come to a soundly argued conclusion," he said.

However the South Australian Opposition Leader Rob Kerin supports the Prime Minister's comments and says he too would like to see history taught to more students.

"Obviously students need a very broad education but I think a basic understanding of how Australia got to where it is and what to be an Australian means, I think that is important for our young people," he said.

The new federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, has also weighed in on the debate, saying she would like to see Australian students echo the American sense of pride in learning about their nation's history.

Ms Bishop says we could learn a lot from the way American history is taught in the United States.

"They celebrate national events, they teach their history at school level, throughout university, throughout life, they are very very proud of their history and I'd like to see some of that pride in Australian schools," she said.

Ms Bishop, who will officially sworn in as Education Minister tomorrow after a cabinet reshuffle, says she also believes that few students are learning about Australian history, and lessons are falling victim to crowded curriculum.

"The history of Australia is full of a richness and excitement and I don't think we've told it well enough, yet," she said.

She says the way history is taught in Australian schools needs to be examined.

"Currently it tends to be in themes, it tends to be fragmented, the narrative of Australian history is so important, the history of this ancient land, the European settlement, the diversity of our nation, it's an important story, a compelling story and one that should be told."

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