An Impressive Start
The subject Society and Culture was introduced as a Year 11 subject in 1985, and was first examined at HSC level in 1986. The process of developing a curriculum began in 1978 with the first Syllabus Committee, chaired by Dr David Dufty, meeting in 1981.
A number of academic committee members and consultants assisted in ensuring that the syllabus was characterised by rigour, sound content and appropriate methodologies. These included:
Society and Culture challenged
Early in 1996 whispers were heard that the HSC Review was placing certain subjects under close scrutiny, believing them to be 'soft options'. When Society and Culture was named as one of these, all its loyal followers: teachers, past students, academics and parents sprang to its defence. Dr David Dufty agreed to spearhead the defence by calling for submissions from the Executive, individual teachers, and other loyal advocates. What resulted was a 53 page document entitled "Society and Culture: A Significant Curriculum Innovation". Below are just a few of the contributors' comments:
course addresses the realities of students coping with living
in and understanding a changing world. It offers a creative combination
of subject matter and skills, with a mandatory intercultural dimension.
Because it accepts as legitimate personal experience to be part
of the acquisition of the knowledge and identity, it helps to
bridge the crisis in understanding now evident in human relations
in the world of the late 20th century"
Interdisciplinary courses such as Society and Culture are most
appropriate for teaching and learning methodologies that are placing
more and more emphasis on the use of the Internet, associated
technology and individual student research."
social research skills that students gain through doing their
Personal Interest Projects have, in the opinion of many former
students, been the single most important benefit that they have
taken with them from secondary schools to university"
As with so many such media-fuelled issues, there seemed to be few opportunities to recommend our subject in a public forum. Marshall Leaver invited journalists and photographers into his classes to observe the range of activities in Society and Culture lessons. Little, however, was reported on TV or in the newspaper. In his article in Culturescope (May 1996) Marshall deplored the fact that S&C simply did not provide a sufficiently 'saleable photoshoot' to be given much airspace.
Finally, in 1997, the rumours were swept aside with the announcement that following the release of McGaw's research, only 1 unit subjects were under threat. Society and Culture was not an endangered subject...and what a great relief it was to all of us. During the months of uncertainty in which we had been besieged by worried students, parents and colleagues, an impressive support group was galvanised into action. There's no doubt that Society and Culture is a great cause, and has built a strong network of advocates.
The Committee hope that the inclusion of the subject of Society & Culture on the HSC On-Line site will generate more interest in it. Above all, we have been motivated by the knowledge that we have an excellent subject and wonderful teachers who have, over many years, produced a wealth of resources. We are always aware of the difficulty that teachers outside the Metropolitan area face in accessing materials, and attending Study Days and In-Services. Our hope is that the HSC On-Line will provide an effective way to communicate with more isolated teachers and help newer teachers across the state. We have scoured Culturescope and reprinted the best articles, contacted academics from 7 universities, and ransacked school archives and members' brains to produce this resource.
This year in May we opened our first Hotmail site for students and teachers to send email requests. In just 2 months we had 81 emails, and sent 94 answers. Most were about the major research project (worth 30% of the final mark) which we call a P(ersonal I(nterest) P(roject). This revealed the need of both teachers and students for help with research and formatting. A significant number came from isolated schools who clearly have more difficulty accessing information and need considerable support. Members of the committee have been pleased to take on the extra demands that this made on their time.
Now we have a dynamic new Association site which will help teachers in outlying areas of New South Wales by giving them up-to-date information about current events, helping them implement the new Syllabus, as well as accessing valuable articles from past Culturescope magazines and Study Day handouts. We hope to increase our membership numbers and over the coming years to lift the profile of Society and Culture in NSW schools to see it become a valued senior subject in every high school and college.