Home' Teacher : October 2009 Contents GRAPEVINE 33
It's now customary for a conference to begin
with a Welcome to Country or acknowledge-
ment of the land's traditional custodians, its
elders. In doing this we not only acknowl-
edge the Indigenous people and their ties to
country, but also remind ourselves that such
elders and custodians have greatly contrib-
uted to, and continue to contribute to, our
It's a refreshing change in our culture. At
long last there is some movement away from
the Australian predilection to cut dow n our
tall poppies. This shift to acknowledging our
elders originates, not from a British heritage
that still has a House of Lords, nor from
our egalitarian dislike of bosses and prefer-
ence for 'mateship,' but from our Indigenous
com munity, the members of which retain an
inherent deep respect for their elders.
There have always been individuals with
authority, but those in authority don't always
encourage respect, which is such an important
aspect of what elders should inspire. We come
close to the Indigenous use of the word 'elder'
in religion, where there are people valued for
their wisdom, who hold positions of respon-
sibility rather than positional authority.
My challenge to you is to now extend this
respect for elders into other parts of our lives.
Let's pay our respects to our educational
elders, those who have shared their wisdom
with us and in so doing have given us insight,
values and direction. If we are to act with
clarity of vision and with an appreciation of
our deeper values, we need to be able to iden-
tify what we value most in our inheritance
and from whom we gained this insight.
To prompt you, let me publicly acknowl-
edge those I consider to be my elders, both
past and present, who have shaped me,
helping me to formulate my views on epis-
temology, learning, schooling, curriculum
Specifically, I acknowledge:
Martin Buber, whose existential phi-
losophy helped me to accept myself as
a unique person, as well as accepting
the personal uniqueness of my students.
According to existentialism, truth can be
discovered by entering into the intensity
of personal experience. In contrast to
how I experienced school, as an empty
vessel to be filled with information, with
the insight of Buber and others, I came
to see knowledge as something built by
the learner that is personal.
John Dewey, whose approach to learning
was to create a more active, self-directed
form of learning for young people in
schools. I saw this view as an invitation
for me as a teacher to think beyond didac-
tic instruction and even to think outside
the classroom for learning experiences.
John Holt who, along with Ivan Illich
and others, confirmed my experience that
'schools can be bad places for kids.' The
writing of Holt and his contemporaries
challenged leaders and teachers in schools
to rethink their practice of continuing to
adopt an industrial model of schooling.
Seymou r Papert, who gave me both tech-
nology and epistemology, a revolution in
thinking about students and knowledge.
I immersed myself in his writing and
fou nd him a challenging and compelling
Liddy Nevile, the instigator of the 1980s
Sunrise program, through which per-
sonal computing became a reality. Liddy
was the mentor who introduced me to
Papert's work and Logo software; she
also encouraged me to tackle the impos-
sible when I encountered barriers to the
implementation of the laptop program.
Brian Caldwell, who helped me find my
voice as a writer. Without his encour-
agement, I would not have contemplated
writing something such as this.
Mary Mason, a colleague with whom I
worked in different school contexts and
with whom I have defined and refined
many of my educational ideas. She is
someone who's not averse to robust dis-
cussion and often helped me to give some
of my wilder ideas shape.
I could have included many others in this
list, friends and colleagues who have acted
as my role models and sounding boards.
Narrowing the list down was a difficult and
challenging task, and why individuals were
chosen is pu rely reflective of their impact on
me and my practice. This is a very personal
list and is in no way meant to reflect 'right'
authors or approaches.
Thinking about my ow n educational
elders has given me a wonderful opportu-
nity for reflection and for 'viewing from
the ridge' my own philosophies and values.
I strongly recommend completing such an
exercise with a group of educational col-
leagues; it's well worth doing, both indi-
vidually and collectively.
With World Teachers' Day this month,
it's worth asking yourself who you'd nomi-
nate as your elders in education. T
David Loader is an educ ation consultant
and Associate Professor in the Faculty of
Education at the Unive rsity of Melbourne.
His latest book is Jousting for the New
Generation: Challenges to contemporary
schooling , published by ACER Press.
Em ail firstname.lastname@example.org
DAVID LOADER ACKNOWLEDGES HIS ELDERS, THOSE WHO HAVE HELPED HIM TO FORMULATE
HIS VIEWS ON EPISTEMOLOGY, LEARNING, SCHOOLING, CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY, AND
ASKS WHO YOU WOULD NOMINATE AS YOUR ELDERS IN EDUCATION.
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