SCHOOLS: by Kevin DonnellyNews Weekly
History wars erupt again with new curriculum
, June 26, 2010
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 years 10, 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, will now have 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, Shintoism, Judaism and Islam.
Ignored is the fact that indigenous Australians, according to the 2006 census, account for only 2.6 per cent 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 Judaeo-Christian heritage.
According to 1999 figures, 70 per cent of Australians describe themselves as Anglo-Celtic in origin, and, according to the 2007 census, 64 per cent 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 than 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 the Westminster Parliament or political concepts like the 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 us that 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 people's "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 II, in Europe and the Pacific, reflects an anti-American sentiment widespread amongst the left.
That the history curriculum appears to have been written by culture warriors of the left most likely explains why, in the section on the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, only McCarthyism is mentioned, but not Stalin's Great Terror and purges nor 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.
Two of the most powerful and significant movements in the modern era are communism and Christianity. To focus uncritically on one, to the exclusion of the other, leaves students with a shallow and one-sided understanding of the past.Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of the Education Standards Institute. He taught for 18 years in Melbourne government and non-government secondary schools and was a member of Victoria's Board of Studies. Kevin Donnelly is author of Australia's Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars (2009).
You can examine and comment on the Government's proposed new curriculum at: www.australiancurriculum.edu.au