Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hysterical History

Its been a landmark week in Australian education, with a national summit deciding its time we got rid of all the socially-contextual values-laden sludge which comprises the Social Studies curriculum in Australian schools. In a few shorts words, we're going to start teaching history in history from now on, not platitudes which “enable students, teachers and the broader school community to be critically informed about privilege and injustice”, or “enable students to develop the ability to critically analyse social structures that unjustly disadvantage some individuals or groups, and investigate events concerning societies and environments by applying socio-cultural and socio-critical inquiries emphasising social justice, ecological and economic sustainability, and peace.” No, I didn't make those phrases up - they are the stated aims of the current Queensland history curriculum. Under that current sort of criteria, Captain Cook has to be described as a white racist oppressor, and the Eureka Stockade as a nation-forming revolution of the masses overthrowing clear injustices.

But let's be clear on this: one of the main reasons that Australian history has, over the years, been minimised in the curriculum is that, quite simply put, there isn't much real history to teach. The early law and police force in Australia, the Rum Corps, were a group of corrupt alcoholics and thieves who tried to establish their own empire by force. The Eureka Stockade, so commonly described as above, was really nothing more than a 3 or 4 hour brawl involving a few drunken miners who tipped over a couple of carts and thumbed their nose at the authorities. When the authorities arrived they breached the so-called 'stockade' in two minutes and arrested the drunken yobbo's. And Burke & Wills, the famous explorers of the interior of Australia, were so inept that without the help of the aboriginals they wouldn't have made it out of the city in the first place.

How do I know all this? Because I was taught Australian history at school. Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great idea to start teaching it again. But for goodness sake tell it like it really was, and save the over-exaggerated rhetoric for Hollywood.

Let's Have History, Not Sludge

No comments: