Thursday, October 11, 2007

We've always been at war with Eastasia...

Imre Salusinszky and staff writers from The Australian say "SCHOOLS have been complacent about the teaching of Australian history, Prime Minister John Howard said today as he launched a compulsory national curriculum.

Under the new plan, students in years nine and 10 will be made to attend 150 hours of Australian history lessons, and the compulsory teaching of Australian history will be a condition of the next commonwealth schools funding agreement with the states and territories, which begins on January 1, 2009."

Quite so. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps, though, before attempting to teach history, we should attempt to 'up' the literacy and numeracy levels in schools so that the majority of students can not only be told about our history but can also read and write about it as well? So that they can, for example, work out the number of years between 1901 and 2007? Heaven forbid that they also be taught to think critically so that they can draw their own conclusions from what they read... Yes, curriculum and standards are an issue.

History is written by the winners. That may have been true even up to 20 years ago - nowadays, history is written by the whingers. I'm interested is seeing exactly what and whose version of events will be passed off as history this time (given that the whole post-modernist pendulum has pretty much reached the end of its swing). Facts versus Opinion versus Political Correctness is also an issue.

But the issue that's making me twitch a little is the whole "you will teach what we recommend as 'History', or we'll cut your funding" suggestion. As George Orwell said, in '1984': "We've always been at war with Eastasia." (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this classic novel - read it. Or at least read the Wikipedia entry for a very basic overview.)


Anonymous said...

25 years ago I 'studied' Australian history in year 10, high school. A term of what was fuzzily referred to as Aboriginal Studies. (From which I gleaned little more than the fact that they got to Sydney ahead of Cook). A term of "Contemporary Australian History" - a very narrow and skewed perspective of the Vietnam era, and a term where we were very much left to our own devices. Federation? Ypres and the Somme? The Great Depression? Whitlam? Apparently they weren't in the syllabus.
Why should our esteemed Prime Minister offer an apology for the wrongs of the past inflicted upon the Indigenous population? I never learnt about Those Kind Of Things at school... The Myall Creek massacre might as well as never have happened.
Ah, here's me sounding like a bleeding heart leftie. And what would I know about history? If you want to know about history, put your faith in those who have a firm grasp of it... (or a suitable paraphrase / parody of the PM's latest key motto).

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