Year 7 Social Studies

This is a further post in my series provoked by objects found whilst going through my too-many boxes of junk in an attempt to cull them. 

In primary school and year 7 in NSW, we all studied “Social Studies,” now I think replaced by “Studies of Society and the Environment,” (SOSE for short).

There was very little of true social studies in the syllabus: it was a compound of history and geography. In year 4, for example, we seemed to spend all our time learning about the rivers and towns of NSW. In year 5, we spent an awful lot of time on Captain Cook, and also learnt more regional geography (the Hunter Valley, where our teacher, Mr Leitch, hailed from, and where we also went for a three day school excursion to visit a vinery, a water treatment work, a dam, a power station and an old coal mine). In year 6 we repeated this exercise together with a healthy dose of “nation-building” propaganda culminating in a trip to see the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, stopping off at a sheep station near Goulburn on the way. The hallmark of Social Studies was the dreaded “Social Studies Project,” once defined as “pages copied from World Book.”

In year 7, for some reason, the syllabus focussed on ancient civilizations. Our teacher, Mr Yeo, had just completed an honours thesis on the reception of Darwin’s theories, and he lent me a book on this.

This led me to get hold of a copy of The Origin of Species (or maybe it was The Descent of Man). I never managed to get far with the Darwin, but I think it says something of the attitudes of even a (relatively) enlightened clergyman to the theory of evolution that the school chaplain, who took us for “Divinity”, evidently (and possibly rightly) considered my placing the book on my desk as an act of mild defiance, which many years later he even referred to in his history of the school.

As an idealist and would-be scholar, it almost goes without saying that Mr Yeo had almost no “discipline.” I was shocked at how rudely other boys treated him and I think he was too: he used to run his fingers or a comb through his rather crinkly hair in exasperation and bewilderment. I often thought of him, 15 or so years later, when I found myself in a similar predicament. He left at the end of the year to pursue further studies, some of which appear to have been a continuation of his honours work, judging by an article I found cited as:

 “Yeo, Richard. ‘Science and intellectual authority in mid-nineteenth-century Britain: Robert Chambers and Vestiges of the natural history of creation’, Victorian Studies, 28, 1984, pp. 5-31 and in P. Brantlinger ed., Energy & entropy. science and culture in Victorian Britain. 1989.”

This bout of doubtless narcissistic recollection has been provoked by my unearthing of my Year 7 Social Studies exercise book.  Here is an extract:


and Mr Yeo’s comment:

Ancient Man comment 

You can tell he was new.

I also did a project on “The Ancient Britons,” for which I think my principal source (one step up from an encyclopedia) was Our Celtic Heritage by Jack Lindsay, the incredibly prolific  son of Norman Lindsay. Here are two extracts (I certainly can’t guarantee fair dealing here) which caught Mr Yeo’s attention:

Celtic supernatural beliefs

Celtic gods

Here is Mr Yeo’s comment at the end (note also the good mark lovingly coloured in by me):

 Mr Yeo’s comment re supernatural beliefs

Mr Yeo is now Professor Richard Yeo at Griffith University. You will see he still has his hair, which, sadly, is more than I can say for myself.

Richard Yeo

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