Decolonising (Or Radicalising) The Curriculum

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26 February 2024
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In this article, Lana Starkey contextualises and disseminates the findings of the IPA’s research into Victoria’s year 12 English reading list, and how this is failing high school students.

It appears our educational elites have learned nothing from 2023’s referendum on the Voice to Parliament. Despite promises of a ‘back to basics’ curriculum, this year Victorian teachers will have to contend with a curriculum blinded by Woke racial ideology and historical myth.

One of the ‘texts’ teachers can select for VCE English is a four-minute video of an Australian Indigenous actor reciting a monologue from his play City of Gold featured on Q&A in June 2020. Described as a ‘howl of rage at the injustice, inequality and wilful amnesia of this country’s 21st Century’, an ‘urgent and necessary play’ in light of ‘the global Black Lives Matter movement’, and a ‘powerful message’ urging students to ‘offend your family, call them out’ – the monologue asks that we ‘re-write’ the ‘colonial narrative’.

Classified by the IPA as a text that fits with the agenda of ‘decolonisation theory’, which, according to the pedagogy, involves combating ‘systemic racism’ by not simply including ‘token intellectual achievements of non-white cultures’ into a curriculum but by occasioning a ‘paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems … a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways’, the artist addresses students as a ‘Blak Australian’ and tells us that they ‘hate[s] being a token. Some box to tick, part of some diversity angle’.

The monologue then mentions the regularly repeated, but historically incorrect claim that Indigenous Australians were covered by the Flora and Fauna Act which did not classify them as human beings, and that this only changed when the Constitution was amended following the 1967 referendum. ‘C’mon man we was flora and fauna before 1967’ cries the monologue, cadit quaestio. ‘Adjusting cultural perceptions’ and ‘making space for other knowledge systems’, indeed, the play is ‘decolonisation’ theory in action.

This long-debunked myth about the Flora and Fauna Act has made its way into a text set for year 12 Victorian English in 2024. So much for ‘back to basics’. And where are the fact checkers when you need them?

Interestingly, in the VCE annotation for teachers that accompanies the text, the VCLAA warns that the play ‘contains explicit language’. No mention of the historically incorrect claim, of course, as decolonisation theory dictates that ‘anti-racism’ trumps facts. The IPA analysed the list in full here where I also show how the 2024 rules mean that teachers cannot avoid selecting Woke, in particular, ‘decolonisation theory’ texts.

This is all despite Australians voting overwhelming against dividing our country along racial lines only last year. It seems that the educational Powers That Be did not get the memo. The VCLAA, the body responsible for the 2024 text list teachers are to select from, insists on continuing to indoctrinate students with critical race theory largely imported from the United States, providing a list of texts that purport to ‘directly explore Australian knowledge, experience, and voices’ but are thinly veiled anti-colonial or ‘anti-racists’ manifestos.

This monologue is just one of an inordinate number of texts on race in the VCE 2024 English document, with the first post-colonial African novel in English, Chinua Achebe’s 1958 Things Fall Apart, topping the list. Of the 16 texts assigned under the ‘Framework of Ideas’ section, over half deal directly with race, with this monologue and another titled The Hate Race standing out as particularly overt.

The Hate Race is a memoir that links the experience of Indigenous Australians to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The teachers’ resource states that the text ‘is framed by the racist polices and politics that define Australia’ and gives suggestions on how to approach teaching the text. It illustrates explicitly how Critical Race and Decolonisation theory is weaponised for our Australian context. ‘The Atlantic Slave trade’ is to be considered alongside ‘the impacts of colonisation on Indigenous Australian communities’, while ‘the Ku Klux Klan in the USA, Enoch Powell in the UK, and Pauline Hanson in Australia’ are all grouped under the heading ‘white supremacist political movements’ and suggested to teachers as ‘aspects of history and contemporary politics’ relevant to a discussion of the VCE text.

Faced with a text list that more resembles the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement than English literature as we once knew it, students will miss out on not only the ‘greats’ of the Western canon, but a wealth of Australian literature that celebrates our distinctively Australian way of life based on fairness, equality, freedom, and tolerance. As executive director of the IPA Scott Hargreaves pointed out in 2021, classic works in which Australian artists and writers told their countrymen of our nation and asserted the innate worth of a national culture are now either explicitly cancelled or simply crowed out by a right-on national curriculum full of Woke preening and second-rate texts. Disturbingly, the new 2024 rules mean that the teaching of this ideology is now unavoidable.

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