chapter  8
8 Pages

Futures

We know that tomorrow will not be like today. That is one of the few certainties of the present period. We can perceive only dimly what the day after that tomorrow is likely to be like. That wasn’t always the case, as I suggested in the preface. I knew, in my early teenage, that I would, once I’d finished my apprenticeship as a furrier, become a journeyman in ‘my trade’, and that I could become a master craftsman if I chose that path. The fact that things turned out differently for me did not challenge the certainty: it was just a thing that happened, which could easily be accommodated in that rock-solid edifice of how we knew things were. Of course, the event that made things different for me was my parents’ emigration, from Germany to Australia, which was itself a tiny part of the unmaking of the postwar world. It dislodged me from certainty, even though I continued working in ‘my trade’, somewhat incongruously in hot Newcastle, New South Wales, for another ten years. Emigration, if anything, cemented certainties in those days: one moved from a place of social insecurity to a place of social security-which in the case of emigrants then meant from a place of no (reliable) work to a place of (reliable) work. In the era preceding the Second World War, immigration did not unsettle anything. Immigrant groups formed relatively closed-off, self-contained cultural islands in their new environment. By this they confirmed the continuity and stability of their ethnic and cultural identity, and reciprocally confirmed the stability and continuity of the host society. The certainties in that area of social life had their effects on curricula. If we knew that tomorrow would be as today, we also knew what it was that the young should learn and know. Broadly, they should know what we knew; and value what their elders valued. Curriculum had the function of ensuring that the future would be like the

present, which itself was much the same as the immediate past. We could be relatively clear about the aims and needs of today.