‘Curriculum Wars’ Are Distorting History For Political Advantage

Written by:
9 July 2024
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In this article, Dr. Bella d’Abrera contextualises and disseminates the IPA’s research on the national curriculum.


The desecration of the memorials to our fighting men and women in Canberra is a physical manifestation of the broader cultural conflict that is currently afflicting our nation.

The delinquents who committed these acts of vandalism are part of a nihilistic movement that seeks to dismantle the modern state of Australia through activism, statue toppling, and the eradication of a positive narrative about Australia from the history books well as from public consciousness.

One of the main battlegrounds in this conflict is our education system, which has been designed to produce exactly the type of individual who will arm themselves with an angle grinder, don a balaclava and attempt to saw through the ankles of Captain James Cook’s bronze likeness in order to punish him for being a “racist coloniser”.

From childcare onwards, Australian children are being funnelled through a depressing pipeline of propaganda that depicts this country as being racist. Recent research by the Institute of Public Affairs has revealed that the government-mandated Early Learning Framework tells toddlers this nation is so fractured that their role in life is to mend it by being active citizens in the journey of reconciliation.

In the syllabus entitled “Belonging, Being & Becoming”, we learn that “early childhood education has a critical role to play in delivering this outcome and advancing Reconciliation in Australia”. It is expected that educators should not only recognise “diversity contributes to the richness of our society and provides a valid evidence base about ways of knowing” but also that “for Australian children it also includes promoting greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing and being and actively working towards Reconciliation”.

Educators are also encouraged to decolonise early childhood education. They are to reconsider “education spaces, which focuses on acknowledging colonisation and its continued impacts, while seeking to disrupt and reconceptualise colonial understandings”.

Decolonisation might involve “critically reflecting on existing curriculum, resources and practices, and considering whether they serve to sustain or privilege colonial narratives and how they can be reconsidered to make visible Indigenous and First Nations perspectives”. Toddlers are able to spot the Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander flags at a hundred paces, but they have no idea what that red, white and blue flag is in the corner.

Thanks to the addition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories Cross Curriculum Priority in our National Curriculum, the single narrative currently taught to primary and secondary school students is that Australia was founded on racism, and that the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 resulted in dispossession and genocide.

It is no coincidence that the Acknowledgement of Country ceremonies are becoming more elaborate and increasingly performative by the day. It recently came to light that students in a Sydney primary school start their day by putting their hands on the ground and repeating “always was, always will be Aboriginal land” before each assembly. In a Victorian school it was uncovered that the “Aboriginal national anthem” was being played in lieu of the official version for assemblies.

In our universities, Australian history as a discipline has been enlisted to support political causes by academics. Those who teach at university today seem more concerned with rewriting the past as a way of empowering minorities and the oppressed than they are with constructing a narrative motivated by professional rather than political concerns.

While the abuse of history for political advantage is hardly a new phenomenon, the current movement threatens to destabilise us by undermining our self-confidence. It seeks to divide the community and cast a shadow of doubt about whether we should even exist at all.

There can be no doubt what we are seeing playing out in society is the concerted and energetic efforts of the few to impose their version of history on society. No longer can it be perceived as an expression of concern for the oppressed; the pendulum has now swung too far. Australia is a fundamentally decent and tolerant country, and the narrative of constant racial strife is now being rejected by mainstream Australians who believe there is more that unites us than divides us.

The voice referendum and the backlash against Woolworths’ decision not to stock Australia Day goods earlier this year confirm which side of this conflict the majority of Australians are on. The pushback against the corrosive nature of this movement is only just beginning.

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