Dear PLC Sydney Community

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Two important words in a rich education are ‘taxonomy’ and ‘survey’. I will seek to explain why.

PLC Sydney highly values these ideas.

Anyone in the 21st Century who listens to politicians or reads the newspapers regularly would be excused for thinking that the proper way to divide knowledge is into polarities. Knowledge is often assumed to be best described as two opposing extremes. For politicians, this could be in order to make things simple, or to express one’s virtues against another’s villainy; in the case of the media, it is usually to create drama and readability.

When we educate students we are seeking to provide them with an understanding of nuance as well as strongly held convictions.

The aim of a good education is understanding.

Taxonomies assist us to understand how things might fit together. One example of this is the classification system in Biology. We categorise animals according to groupings and thus arrive at a possible way of grasping how different plants and animals are related to one another. A second example is Bloom’s taxonomy of language which seeks to show how the cognitive and affective areas are related.

Surveys (and by survey I mean the documents that scope knowledge, not the questionnaires we might be asked to complete) show the range of opinion on a given subject. In the newspapers at present there is an argument about whether Australia was discovered or invaded. A survey of views on the topic might examine a range of options from invasion to colonisation to occupation to development, discovery and settlement. It would examine the world view and assumptions of the British officer, the convict and the aborigine. It might even spill over into ethical or moral considerations such as ‘Is might right?’ or ‘Is it ever right to live on land that other people call theirs?’

Once an understanding is developed in one area, it allows for discussion on related topics: for example ‘Who lays claim to Palestine and why?’

It is very important for young women to be aware of the range of ideas that exists in our community. Current affairs is an important topic. Some of the ways we seek to build an interest in, and understanding of, current affairs are as follows:

  • The Social Sciences (Business Studies, Commerce, Economics, Geography and Legal Studies) connect strongly with this area

  • History connects regularly with the present

  • Year 10 students undertake a lesson per fortnight in this area

  • I teach the General Studies ‘A’ Level Paper to Year 11 students

  • The Journalism Forum (soon to be relabelled as The Big Ideas Forum) connects to current topics

  • Debating has current affairs as its currency

  • Assemblies cover current topics

  • I will address Year 11 and Year 12 next week on the background to the Syrian crisis.

When we cover these ideas there are times when we work with some strong convictions, but our overall framework aims to build understanding.

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Thank you to the families who have offered words of kindness and support to Mrs Kylie Dickinson, one of our excellent Science teachers. Kylie has requested the rest of the year as leave in order to care for her son, Casper, who has Leukaemia. Of course we support her in her time of need. Casper is making good progress. Families whose daughters are in Mrs Dickinson’s classes will receive a letter soon outlining the arrangements for the rest of the year. Mrs Ryan-Clark has also been absent for some time. A letter will come home soon to her classes.

I also add my thanks to Mrs Nadia Young, who has been the Editor of Connections over the past four years and throughout the change to the new format. Her work, I am sure you will agree, has been excellent. This is her final edition as she is moving to a part-time role within the College. I thank her sincerely for her wonderful work.

Susan and I send our gratitude to PLC Sydney for your best wishes on the arrival of our second grandchild. Elle Victoria Sunday Gordon was born to our daughter Chelsea and son-in-law Joel on 3 April 2016. All is well. 

Dr Paul Burgis
PLC Sydney Principal