The other day a student popped a question out of the blue: How come we never learn about Australia?
Although the question at the time seemed completely unrelated to the task at hand, I stopped to consider it. It was a great question. I initially replied that Australia is not part of the curriculum. It's not part of our Regents test. These answers, of course, beg another question: Why do the Regents slight Australia...more than they slight many other places?
About eight years ago, strolling along through the centuries, just doing some good, old genealogical research, I happened upon a distant (dare I say, very distant) cousin in Australia doing the same research. We traced our connection back to the early 1800s in the Channel Islands. There were two sisters, Judith and Elizabeth. Whereas my Judith married and moved to the States, Elizabeth's family moved to Australia. Elizabeth died young.
My cousin and I struck up a friendship. We have been e-mailing each other on a weekly basis since. So, I keep up on Australian news from the best perspective. We swap stories about her grand kids, whom she helps raise in very significant ways, and my own little ones. We talk about lots, from family to international events. When her son came to NY with his soon-to-be-wife, we met and enjoyed a few hours. All the miles and years don't seem to mean much. Family just feels like family.
So, given all this, that student's question did not just bounce off me. It hit home. I will suggest we designate an Australia Day in class. Given that April 25th is a little long to wait for ANZAC Day, we will attempt it before Christmas, that great summertime holiday Down Under! I will invite the students to do some extra research and bring in anything they would like to share. I will turn, in part, to my cousin. I told her that American students, especially on the eve of a holiday, might not be able to store much more than five facts about Australia. So, I asked her to give me her top list of what she thinks people should know about Australia. Not an easy task at all, for any country, I am sure. Knowing how she has met my questions in the past about Australian schools, favorite recipes, cricket, etc., I have the greatest faith in her.
I will introduce some Australian slang to my students. Here, too, my cousin has helped me. She once sent on a book of Aussie slang. It is wonderful. And, after all, if my students ever find themselves or a swagman singing at the billabong, I want to be sure that by the time the troopers arrive it is not the first time they have considered whether to shove that jumbuck in their tuckerbag! Thanks to Judith Durham and the Seekers, many years ago I found myself puzzling over this very same question!