Before Common Era Date Reference

About this Item
SubjectsExaminations; Schools; Literacy; History; Education
SpeakersPresident; Cusack The Hon Catherine; Tebbutt The Hon Carmel
BusinessQuestions Without Notice
Commentary Supplementary Question

Page: 14394

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Training. Were 157,000 students sitting yesterday's English Language and Literacy Assessment [ELLA] test required to respond to a question called "The Surveyor's Problem"? Does page 13 of the source book that was handed to every child who sat the ELLA test read: "The year was 590 BCE ..."? Does the use of the new term "BCE" mean "Before Common Era"? Is this the latest politically correct attempt by the Carr Government to destroy our ordinary language by eliminating references to "BC ", in other words, "Before Christ"? Is this bid by the Carr Government to force politically correct views on our children not the very reason we have record numbers of students quitting the public school system in favour of private schools?

    The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: The standing orders provide that questions should not be argumentative. If ever a question was just one huge argument, it was the one asked by the honourable member. I submit the question is out of order.

    The Hon. Don Harwin: To the point of order: The characterisation of the question by the Hon. Amanda Fazio is completely wrong. There was no argument in the question. It provided information to render the question intelligible, so that the Minister would know what it was that the honourable member was referring to and enable the Minister to answer the question.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind all members that questions must not contain argument. The fine line between giving information necessary to make a question intelligible and engaging in argument is crossed on many occasions by members when asking questions. The question is in order. The Minister may reply.

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: I am aware of the text in the question. It was part of this year's English language and literacy assessment [ELLA] test, which was taken yesterday throughout the State, as I reported to the House yesterday. I am advised that the original text said 590 "BC", not "BCE", and that it was changed to 590 BCE, which stands for "Before Common Era". A footnote to the text made it clear that BCE is the same as BC. I am advised that BCE is largely used in museums and academic circles internationally. My own view is that the text should not have been changed; it should have been left as BC, with a footnote explaining that BCE is an alternative. I have asked the department to ensure that in the future this type of change is not made to texts.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK: I ask a supplementary question. Given the Minister's answer to the question, how does the Minister explain the fact that support material for the K-to-6 Human Society and Environment syllabus also uses the term "Before Common Era", replacing the term that we all know and understand, which is "Before Christ"?

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: Obviously the honourable member did not listen to my answer. As I explained, as I understand, and as I am advised, both BC and BCE are in usage. BCE is widely used, as I am advised. Nonetheless, the point with the ELLA test is that the text should have remained as it was originally. I have advised the department that in the future this type of change is not to be made to texts.

    The Hon. Catherine Cusack: It is a syllabus document.

    The Hon. CARMEL TEBBUTT: That was not the honourable member's original question. I am advised that both BC and BCE are accepted usage. That is not a decision that I make; other people make that decision. I am advised that BCE is largely used in museums, academic circles and archaeology circles. The point I am making is that the department should not be changing texts. I have made that very clear. I have asked the department to ensure that in the future this type of change is not made to texts. The honourable member should not try to turn this into an argument about political correctness when it clearly is not. I have made my position quite clear. This is yet a further attempt by the Opposition, because it has no clear plans of its own, to try to turn something into an issue when it is not.

    The Hon. John Della Bosca: Point of order: I ask you to call to order the members who are repeatedly interjecting on the Minister. You might care to point out to them that they are actually conceding, by their interjections, that the further question asked by the Hon. Catherine Cusack is not a supplementary question and is therefore out of order. The Minister is elucidating her original answer. Members of the Opposition who are interjecting are becoming disorderly.

    The PRESIDENT: Order!

    The Hon. Michael Gallacher: To the point of order, Madam President.

    The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind all members that interjections—

    The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Madam President, my point of order is—

    The PRESIDENT: Order! It is too late for the Leader of the Opposition to speak to this point of order. If he wishes to take another point of order, he should wait until I have ruled on the point of order taken by the Leader of the Government. The Leader of the Opposition will sit down! I remind members that interjections are disorderly at all times.