Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Reading From the Book of History by John Howard

Today, the Prime Minister will announce that Federal funding to States for schools will only be provided if they teach an Australian History curriculum set by John Howard.

The curriculum move comes after John Howard dumped recommendations by a Melbourne history academic, and had them rewritten on his terms by right-wing (conservative) historian and a supporter of John Howard. Further, John Howard seems to have set the curriculum: students will have to learn about 70 facts of Australian History: emphasis on "facts". But history is not just about facts. Date-and-event is pretty dry content. History needs to be about people, context, environment, and ... not included in Mr Howard's curriculum ... balance.

There are some significant omissions from Australia's history, from which valuable lessons could have been learnt:
  • the White Australia Policy, and its parallel in current xenophobic policies
  • the "Rum Rebellion": a conflict between Governor William Bligh and Macarthur & his army officer supporters over the reduced number & size of land grants, especially to the wealthy
  • the Eureka Stockade
  • the Stolen Generation; and the broarder issue of treatment of orphans
  • attitudes and treatment of indigenous people, apart from 1 or 2 major incidents
  • other aspects of changing attitudes of the world and Australia. eg Britain's nuclear weapon testing in Australia (MonteBello Islands & Maralinga), and subsequent move to the EU; Australia's change to follow US foreign policy

What John Howard wants:

  • power over states
  • power to personally set school curricula
  • a politically-set quite prescriptive curriculum (HIS curriculum) It is similar to Japan's former politically-set history of WWII- a history that denied Japanese atrocities and war crimes - in that important key facts and political sensitivities are omitted or treated lightly.
The Prime Minister has also insisted on the attendance of the Principal and school captains at Moorebank High School. They are on school holidays and Mr Howard wants to use them for his own media promotion. He wants voters to think, by association, that the Principal and children are on his side. It is marketing manipulation, paid for by us voters.

Should politicians set the content of school curricula? Vote now - see top right section of my blog.