Australian Editorial: Australian history should not be taught as tragedy or farce

Roundup: Talking About History

ADDRESSING the dinner opening today's Australian History Summit last night, federal Education Minister Julie Bishop said: ''History is not peace studies. History is not social justice awareness week. Or consciousness-raising about ecological sustainability. History is history.'' She is exactly right.

Yet for too long Australian history, when it is taught at all, has been used as an excuse to indoctrinate students in politically correct fads rather than give them a solid grounding in the factual and narrative history of their nation. In many states, Australian history is taught as part of something called Studies of Society and the Environment. In the ACT, ''gender equity'' is a key ''curriculum component'' informing what the territory's educators call the study of ''time, continuity and change''. Most other jurisdictions are no better, replacing history with outcomes-based education gobbledegook. The end result is students turned off by history who graduate without any concrete sense of how Australia became the nation it is today. The only exception is NSW, where, thanks to former premier Bob Carr, history is taught as a discrete subject in secondary schools by teachers who have actually studied the stuff. In bringing together a raft of historians and thinkers in Sydney today to discuss the teaching of history, the Howard Government is sending a clear message: our history matters, has been ignored for too long and deserves to be taught as a stand-alone subject to every Australian child.

From the moment it was announced, the summit has been targeted by left-wing historians fretting that the push for the teaching of narrative history -- names, dates and context -- is a plot to indoctrinate unsuspecting children with Liberal Party orthodoxy. Nothing could be further from the truth. And in attacking the summit, these critics reveal much about themselves. Guy Rundle laughably wrote on the Crikey website that the summit's participants were strongly biased toward the conservative Right. But Mr Rundle is so far to the Left that when he looks to his right he sees 95 per cent of the population polishing their jackboots. He even derided Mr Carr, as well as this newspaper's Paul Kelly, as ''right activist(s)'', something that was surely news to them. Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne's Stuart Macintyre complained that the history controversy stemmed from a ''pernicious campaign'' waged by The Australian against postmodernism and moral relativism. To that we plead guilty: the teaching of Australian history is indisputably taught from postmodern perspectives. Mr Macintyre, a former communist and intellectual father to a generation of postmodernists, bears partial responsibility for this. It was, after all, Mr Macintyre who once famously applauded the overthrow of ''the tyranny of the fact''.

Parents and their children deserve better than curriculums guided by historians whose motto is to never let the truth get in the way of a political agenda....

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