Before Common Era Date Reference

About this Item
SubjectsEducation; Churches: Christian; Examinations
SpeakersSkinner Mrs Jillian
BusinessPrivate Members Statements

Page: 14517

    Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER (North Shore) [5.22 p.m.]: The honourable member for Auburn talked about initiatives in her electorate relating to the Chinese community. I extend my congratulations to those in my community who have been involved in initiatives and activities in recent months and weeks to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The honourable member referred to the "infectious enthusiasm" brought to classrooms. I like that phrase. I suggest that that has been the pattern of my day today; I have been contacted by parents and teachers in my electorate, as well as people from other electorates, who are concerned about what they found yesterday in an English language and literacy assessment [ELLA] paper which was handed to more than 150,000 year 7 and 8 students. The paper referred to the year "590 BCE", with a notation that BCE stands for "Before Common Era". There is no reference to "Before Christ".

    A number of parents and teachers have raised this matter with me. They think it is political correctness gone mad, that it is not about not wanting to offend people from different religious backgrounds. "BC" has been in common use for centuries. I assure honourable members that people of non-Christian beliefs have told me that they are not offended by the terminology, but they think it has gone too far. It is not only the ELLA test paper. Honourable members may not have seen the document entitled "The Surveyor's Problem", which quotes a story. The second paragraph states:

    The year was 590 BCE* and the place was northern Egypt.

    A notation at the bottom of the page states:

    *BCE = Before Common Era (also known as BC)

    That is not the only reference to "BCE". After this was drawn to my attention I looked at the Department of Education and Training and the Board of Studies web sites. It was not the only reference, by any means. The Board of Studies history syllabus for years 7 to 10 states:

    Students learn about:

    • the terminology and concepts of historical time, including year, decade, generation, century, age, BC/AD, BCE/CE

    It is madness. The Department of Education and Training web site has a document with the subheading "Support material for K-6 Human Society and Its Environment Syllabus". There are references to the term "BCE" throughout the document, but there is no reference to "BC". As I said, BC is common terminology that has been used for centuries. I am afraid the angry reaction to the lack of Christmas decorations and trees will be nothing compared to the anger that will be generated by this kind of political correctness. As others learn about this I expect the angry reaction to be widespread. I call on the Government to reverse its ridiculous decision to teach our children that we do not have 590 BC but 590 BCE.

    It is doubly offensive because it involves instructing students who may not understand that this was introduced only recently. Indeed, the terminology has been changed to suit the Government's current view. Today it was put to me that the Carr Government's politically correct view could be one reason that parents are enrolling their children in non-government schools. It is possible that it is this kind of over-the-top politically correct terminology that sends the wrong message to parents and the broader community. As I said, people are fed up with religious traditions being tampered with once again. They point out that the term "Before Christ" has been accepted by people of many different religious beliefs for years. They are not offended by it but people are offended by the Government's new politically correct terminology.