Listening to Alan Tudge’s criticisms of the proposed school history curriculum made it clear that Australia’s traditionally moronic federal election season cannot be too far away. As we have painfully learned, the Federal Minister of Education wants a national curriculum that presents a positive take on Australian history.
Last month he gave the current project a “C”, saying it would teach students a “negative and miserable view of Australia,” a view that downplays the nation’s Western and Christian heritage. Future generations would not be prepared to defend the nation against threats to its liberal democracy, he warns. I am also concerned about research indicating that young people are not sold on the relative merits of democracy. What I’m not convinced about is Tudge’s solution.
This draft program is the work of an independent authority who is probably doing everything possible to recruit masochists and fall professionals ready to be publicly flogged for sharing their soil expertise. Because night succeeding day, the authority’s recommendations for teaching history would always start a new cycle in culture wars with “Anzac Day” thrown like the grenade it has become. To gauge the intensity of the battle, note the volume of childish superlatives in Tudge’s remarks last week: Australia is “one of the richest, freest, most equal and tolerant societies in the world. ever existed in the history of the world. “There is a reason millions of people want to come here! Of course the nation has dark chapters in its history with the First Peoples but, overall, yes Australia!
I would venture to say that gaining a rich understanding of the past goes beyond the narrow frame of reference of â€œyesâ€ or â€œnoâ€. This does not exclude the possibility that Tudge is correct in saying that the draft program is biased towards negative narratives of Australian history. I note the healthy disagreement among historians on the substance of his assertions. My layman’s response to specific examples can be taken with many grains of salt, but let’s try. First, grade 10 students will be taught in “Rights and Freedoms (1945 to the Present)” on “the background and causes, such as discriminatory legislation and policies, of the struggle of First Nations people of Australia for rights and freedoms â€. Conservative think tank says this is a bad thing. It seems to me a necessary thing.
What about educating all students on â€œhow indigenous history, culture, knowledge and understanding can be incorporated into the teaching of basic science conceptsâ€? I do not know. But as an idea, it seems infinitely more constructive than an assumption that mathematics education is
consistently racist – an opinion shared by at least one aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander member
advisory committee which gave its opinion on the proposed curriculum, according to reports from “yay Australia!” media camp.
â€œUnlike our American cousins, Australians are still adults. “
And as for the positive aspects of Australian history, I agree with Tudge, they should be celebrated. Could a shutter start with the Australian rebels at Vinegar Hill in 1804, the condemned rebellion soaking up the spirit of the Irish-Western independence movement? To verify. Christian? To verify. And from there, progress to the stonemasonry struggles for an eight-hour workday in the late 1800s; the establishment of the conciliation and arbitration system in 1904 which enshrined the notion of an independent arbitrator settling disputes concerning wages and working conditions; and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court Harvester judgment of 1907 on a “base wage” which enshrines the radical idea that workers are people too. And you can also check out the CUTA website to learn more about Australia’s proud heritage as a fairground country and the obsessive attempts of successive liberal leaders, trained in the gentle philosophy of union hatred. unequivocally, to return to the gains.
But such partisan digs cannot quell my unease at challenging everything that is taught in the
the classroom has become. Even math; learning the multiplication tables is a political matter, apparently. Let’s not even talk about the phonetics – oops, too late.
The reason Tudge will amplify his cries against the black armbands is the same reason Republicans knew they were on a winner attacking “awake” schools in the recent gubernatorial race in Virginia: parents about schools becoming hotbeds of social engineering and extremist programs on race, and gender identity, is real, easily stoked, and although radically exaggerated, not entirely without merit. I have no space to enter the savage machinations behind the upheaval in Virginia and fear
we forget, unlike our American cousins, Australians are still adults. (A political ad in Virginia featured a mother in distress because her son’s reading assignment included “explicit” material; the text was taken from Toni Morrison’s book Beloved.)