In this article, Dr Bella d’Abrera contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into the teaching of history in Australian universities, conducted as part of the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program. The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program was established in 2011 to defend and extend Australians’ understanding of the influential, historical role of the West in establishing many of the liberties enjoyed by members of our society.
The national curriculum substitutes raw emotion for hard learning
Occasionally our political representatives will say things which stand the test of time, but more than often, they do not. One example which springs to mind is a comment made in 2004 by the then federal education minister Julie Bishop, who optimistically proposed that the creation of a national curriculum would wrestle education out of the hands of the left-wing ideologues occupying state bureaucracies and give it to a national board of studies comprised of educators from the ‘sensible centre’.
Unfortunately, the Institute of Public Affairs’ new report on the latest iteration of the National Curriculum, De-Educating Australia: How the National Curriculum is Failing Australian Children reveals beyond a shadow of doubt that the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is now irreversibly stacked with utopian activists who know that in order to change the world, you have to change what children are taught.
What is currently being unleashed in classrooms across this country is about as far away from a traditional curriculum as you can possibly get. Rather, it is an anarcho-political manifesto which seeks to dismantle the entire edifice of the modern state of Australia by undermining its values and institutions.
Children taught according to the dictates of this curriculum will finish school with a set of beliefs, a worldview and a sense of what it means to be Australian that are at odds with those which have previously been passed on to generations of Australians.
This document is indoctrinating the young and impressionable with radical theories about race and gender, which were once marginal academic ideas but have now become the pedagogy favoured by the progressive educationalists employed by the state.
Take critical race theory, for example. This American import is now interwoven into the arts, history, civics and citizenship learning areas. In the health and physical education syllabus students will ‘gain insights into the impact systemic racism and discrimination have had on Australian First Nations Peoples’.
The progressive educationalists are using their considerable institutional power to bring forth and legitimise radical ideas such as the notion that Australia is a fundamentally racist country, and that all of its institutions are smokescreens for racial domination. It introduces children to the fiction of ‘systemic racism’, as well as the racist concept of ‘whiteness’ being problematic.
Students studying Australia’s history will leave school convinced that Aboriginal Australians were not, and never have been, beneficiaries of the universal rights afforded to all Australians that were brought by the British to this country in 1788. In year 9 history, students will study ‘potential barriers to equality of access to justice, such as education and literacy, location and proximity to legal avenues, financial constraints, race or ethnicity especially for First Nations Australians’. At the same time, the curriculum teaches that the source of Aboriginal Australians’ rights is different from that of non-Aboriginal Australians, the implication being that Aboriginal Australians are in some way legally separate from other Australians. In the years 7 to 10 arts syllabus, for example, students are informed that, ‘First Nations Australian cultures have internationally enshrined rights to ensure that these diverse cultures can be maintained, controlled, protected and developed’. They will also be taught about ‘rights relating to Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and how these rights can be protected through respectful application of protocols’. We should hardly be surprised that in a recent YouGov poll, 64 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds were in favour of establishing an Indigenous Voice to parliament.
In the meantime, the ‘Sustainability Cross Curriculum’ priority is doing significant damage to Australia’s youth. It has become the gateway through which children are being introduced to concepts and ideologies that have nothing to do with looking after the environment in the true sense. They are schooled in environmental determinism, which is the concept that humans and their natural environment are interrelated, and that environmental factors such as climate change presuppose the success or failure of civilisations. The priority promotes the idea that a sustainable world cannot be achieved without a socially just world, and that the two are inextricably linked. Children are repeatedly asked to ‘recognise that the interdependence of Earth’s systems and values of diversity, equity and social justice are essential for achieving sustainability’.
In every learning area, they are bombarded with the view that society is not progressing towards greater wealth, prosperity, and improvement in the human condition, but that because of our attachment to plastic straws and bad recycling habits, we are careering headlong towards an environmental cataclysm. We should also not be surprised that young Australians are suffering from severe bouts of ‘eco-anxiety’.
This is placing an extremely unfair burden on young Australians. On the one hand, they are being fed the current prognosis of the ‘scientific consensus’ that every day of inaction brings us closer to catastrophe, while on the other they are being told that only they can avert that catastrophe through activism. In ‘foundation arts’, we see four-year-olds rapping about climate change. Eight-year-olds are ‘identifying ways they can change their behaviours to support the sustainability of the Earth’s systems’ in health and physical education. Students of French are organising real protests and rallies to ‘raise awareness of environmental, social or ethical issues’, and year 7 science students are writing letters to editors of newspapers to ‘express a view about an environmental issue affecting local ecosystems’.
Children are repeatedly informed that they are global citizens and that the global problems are theirs to solve, yet the curriculum does not even give them the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need to flourish and live fulfilled lives, let alone tackle imagined problems of a global nature.
There is no doubt that the bureaucrats at ACARA have deliberately jettisoned the acquisition of knowledge and replaced it with pure, unadulterated emotion. They have created a curriculum that will elicit feelings of guilt about the past, anger about the present and sheer terror about the future. In this way, they are manipulating children for political gain. As Thomas Sowell notes, ‘there are few things more dishonourable than misleading the young’.