History wars
30th May 2010

The history wars have erupted again with the release of the proposed national history curriculum.  See the Sunday Herald Sun.  Below is a full version of a comment piece published in the paper.

 Julia Gillard, the Commonwealth Minister for Education, and Stuart Macintyre, an academic from the University of Melbourne, argue that the new national history curriculum is balanced and that critics are wrong to label it left-wing.
They’re wrong.  Anyone reading the two syllabus documents, covering kindergarten to year 10 and years 11 and 12, can be left in no doubt that schools across Australia will soon be forced to teach a new-age and politically correct view of history and Australia’s place in the world.
History, like every other subject in the national curriculum, has to be taught through the politically correct prism of aboriginal, Asian and environmental perspectives.  Forget the importance of Australia’s Western heritage or the impact of science, technology and industry in overcoming poverty and eradicating disease.
In the years K-10 curriculum students are told to study the “contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Australian nation”, the “significance of Dreaming and the perspectives and meaning in Dreaming stories” and to “explain the key features of Aboriginal and Torres Trait Islander societies”.
In the 29 pages of the K-10 syllabus, ‘Christendom’ is mentioned once and ‘Christian’ also once, but only in the context of studying other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism and Islam.
Ignored is that indigenous Australians, according to the 2006 census, account for only 2.6% of the population and that Australia’s language, political and legal systems and culture are Anglo-Celtic in origin and based on the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
Based on 1999 figures 70% of Australians describe themselves as Anglo-Celtic in origin and according to the 2007 census 64% of Australians are Christians.  It’s no accident that sessions of parliament begin with the Lord’s Prayer and that Christian morality underpins much of our way of life.
After reading the history curriculum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that mainstream Australians are simply one ethnic group amongst many and that celebrating difference and diversity is more important then acknowledging what we hold in common.  
While there is one mention of Australia’s debt to Britain at the year 6 level, there is no mention of key documents like Magna Carta, concepts like habeas corpus, institutions like Westminster Parliament or political concepts like separation of powers.
Political correctness is especially strong at years 9 and 10.  Topics like the “individuals and groups who rebelled against social conditions and society”, “White Australia policy, exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, voting rights of women” and “the origins and consequences of anti-colonial movements and civil rights movement” are ripe for being taught from a left-wing perspective.
It should not surprise there is no mention of socialism’s failure as an economic system, the millions killed by communist dictators like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot or that democratic ideals like “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are uniquely Western in origin and steeped in Christian commitment and belief.
Year 11 and 12 students, once again, will have to study history through a politically correct lens.  Students are told that they will learn Australian history “within the Asian context” and that what is taught will be in the context of indigenous peoples “struggles for recognition and equality” and “the demographic and environmental consequences of growth”.
Asking students to study “organised labour, including the union movement and the ALP” while ignoring the origins of the Liberal Party is clear evidence of bias.  Likewise, ignoring America’s role in World War 11 in Europe and the Pacific reflects an anti-American sentiment widespread amongst the left.
That the history curriculum appears to have been written by cultural warriors of the left most likely explains why, on studying the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, that McCarthyism is mentioned, but not Stalin’s purges or the role of Ronald Reagan in defeating what he termed the evil empire.
The unit ‘Recognition and equality’ reads like a beginner’s guide to left-wing political indoctrination.  Under the heading “the struggles of oppressed and disadvantaged peoples”, the topics listed are ‘women’s struggle for equality’, ‘First Nations and the struggle for recognition and equality’, ‘apartheid in South Africa’ and ‘Civil rights movement in the USA.
While Christianity is mentioned twice in the K-10 syllabus, there is no mention of it at years 11 and 12.  That a Modern History curriculum, while including a host of left-wing ideologies and movements, excludes Christianity beggars belief and is the clearest indication of the curriculum’s bias.
Two of the most powerful and significant movements in the modern era are communism and Christianity.  To focus on one, to the exclusion of the other leaves students with a shallow and one-sided understanding of the past.

Dr Kevin Donnelly taught for 18 years in secondary schools and was a member of Victoria’s Board of Studies. Kevin is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars (Connor Court Publishing)






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30th May 2010

The history wars have erupted again with the release of the proposed national history curriculum.  See the Sunday Herald Sun.  Below is a full version of a comment piece published in the...
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