Archive for the ‘history’ Category

The National Curriculum: A Critique

February 16, 2011

How to deprive our children of their heritage

A timely and invaluable monograph, The National Curriculum: A critique, has just been released by the Institute of Public Affairs in the context of their ongoing Foundations of Western Civilization Program. As Chris Berg, the editor, says in his introduction,

The release of the federal government’s national curriculum gives us an opportunity to take stock of how Australia sees itself, its role in the world, and its position in the grand sweep of history – in other words, how it imagines itself not just as a nation, but as part of a civilisation.

Alas, the way Australia sees itself, according the analysis of the writers in this book, is pretty dismal. It would appear that almost all the conventional and traditional understanding that most of us have for the origins of the uniqueness of Western Civilisation and the qualities that Australia has inherited and shares with other western societies, is almost completely absent. Worse, this understanding and these qualities appear to be wilfully and deliberately ignored in this shiny new curriculum. Antonio Gramsci in his grave would be thrilled beyond belief. Conservatives should be horrified.

The book is organized as a set of six essays on particular areas of the syllabus by six writers.

Greg Melleuish takes a swipe at the history syllabus and concludes that it is a mishmash of disconnected study areas with no “organizing principle”, leaving the subject areas open to arbitrariness and prejudice. In this way, year nine students can choose in depth studies of the Ottoman Empire followed by Polynesian expansion, followed by a study of Spanish conquest. This leads, as Melleuish puts it, to human history of the past ten thousand years reaching its climax with AC/DC and Kylie Minogue.

Richard Allsop takes a closer look at Australian History, announcing the sad news that in less than 30 years Victorian students taking Year 12 history has declined from 42 percent to 5 percent. It seems students like facts. This syllabus wants to focus on “method rather than substance, on developing skills rather than imparting knowledge”. Australian exceptionalism is ignored, or avoided –– forget that Australia was, before Federation, one of the richest countries on Earth.

Augusto Zimmermann takes to task the way the syllabus ignores concepts like the separation of powers or the Westminster system, and only passingly touches on the Magna Carta, the 1688 Glorious Revolution or the American Revolution. Unsurprisingly, the curriculum will thus give students the impression that freedom and human rights only began with the United Nations.

Barry Spurr shows how English has been corralled into po-mo gibberish. Spurr finds the mandated imperatives in the new English curriculum as “platitudinous, philosophically vacuous-unsubstantiated feel-good rhapsody”. He astutely observes that the academic study of English language and literature –– the discipline of English –– has been “transmuted into an agent of social change”. Discipline in the study of language is absent. Further, Spurr sees the gutting of the greatest poets as “cultural philistinism, indeed barbarism on a grand scale.”

David Daintree tackles the issue of our Christian heritage and the importance of the Bible as a reference point to our cultural literacy. The most perverse aspect of this new syllabus is that over the 2000 years of European history, Christianity and its contribution is not specifically mentioned; as Daintree observes, there is “deliberate, pointed, tendentious and outrageous silence”.

To finish off, Julie Novak gives us an analysis of the failure of the new curriculum to explain Australia’s prosperity by excluding any explanation that involves free markets, enterprise or the capitalistic system. It reminds this reviewer that this tendency has already happened with disastrous results in France and Germany. Novak finds the new curriculum does not recognise the role economics plays in our historical development and when mentioned is largely negative. She concludes that students will not be able to understand our economic achievements of the past, nor those of the present, and will be “unable to capitalise on the exciting economic opportunities that lie ahead”.

This book is important. Its aim is to look at the national curriculum and to see how much it explains the foundations of Western Civilisation to our children. Clearly, it fails. If it is not stopped or changed, we will fail our children utterly in developing their understanding of themselves and their society.

This review first appeared at  Quadrant Online

Buy The National Curriculum: A Critique here…


ABC, please !! It is not unusual weather in Melbourne

February 5, 2011

It is just more of the same … really

Everyone, of course, is talking about this “really strange summer” in Melbourne. Warmists are just busting to believe that something odd is indeed happening, something to do with global warming. After all, how many weeks of holidays down on the coast have been spoiled by rain and exceptionally cold beach weather?

It all reminds me of my grandmother-in-law who announced one Good Friday morning that the gloomy black clouds hovering in the sky was a “sign” from God to remind us of Jesus’ crucifixion. She claimed that it always rained on Good Friday.

One can smile indulgently on an elderly woman’s naïve understanding of meteorology, but it is a lot harder to sympathize with the government’s leading global warming court jester, Ross Garnaut, with his self-satisfied grin, announcing “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

Andrew Bolt has listed, yet again, a timely reminder, in case leading ABC journalists bleat out the “unusual weather = global warming” alarm. For any other warmists, please stare at the above photo, and ask yourselves, what is this telling me….

Agora – a film review

November 25, 2010

A promising film spoilt by political correctness

The promises made about this limited release film Agora by director Alejandro Amenabar, showing in Australia at the moment, were intriguing. The subject, Alexandria in the forth century AD at the time of the destruction of the famous library — the “Axial Age”, or, in the words of Karl Jaspers, ‘the most deep cut dividing line in history’ — seemed pretty promising and ambitious. Central to this film is one of feminism’s archetypal historical heroines, Hypatia, a philosopher and mathematician, grappling with the movement of the orbs of the heavenly bodies.

The film, one imagined, was to deal with the complex sets of interactions between the Judaic tradition, the propagation of the Christian message of St Paul, the Roman world and its Law, the decline and virtual disappearance of Hellenism with the gradual withdrawal from Aristotelian thinking, and the eclipse of the Hellenistic values that accompanied the fall of Rome and the subsequent plunge into the ‘dark ages’. It was what the enthusiastic ABC film review Margaret Pomerantz hailed as, “a rare film about something”.

The portrayal of Alexandria was physically fascinating, with a wonderfully convincing mixture of the Roman and the Egyptian, and the collision of their cultural values. There were delightful insights into the liturgy, vestments and character of the early Pauline church. Nevertheless, there was something disconcertingly uninvolving and unconvincing about the texture and narrative. For instance, it contrasted poorly with the splendidly visceral portrayal of the city of Rome in the film Gladiator, and had a strangely total absence of dramatic tension in the plot development.

A predictable dread about the film, as promoted in its advertising, was the inevitable potential for political correctness. The ingredients were all there. There was the fashionable, anti-Christian sentiment that painted Bishop Cyril of Alexandria as an irresistibly self styled Taliban leader, and the inevitable temptation to portray Hypatia as an unyielding and archetypally smug feminista with a rampant and satisfying dose of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. So it came to pass. What could, with generosity, be considered to be a cunning allegorical warning against present day Islamic terrorism in Europe and America, wasn’t really the film’s intention, or the director’s.  The film safely fell on the side of reactionary Christian bashing, including a pointed quote from St Paul about the importance of silencing women. No attempt was made to suggest that these views would have had their origin in the prevalent Jewish Synagogue Regulations of the time. The film’s treatment seems to suggest that these 2000 year old Christian values are more reprehensible that those of current Islamic sharia values that the West is feebly yielding to today. This lack of clarity thus manages to portray a fatuous anachronism. The implications are nasty.

Most disappointing is that the ‘ideas’ part of the film end up being trite. The endless ruminations and discussions by Hypatia, played, incidentally, utterly unconvincingly and blandly by Rachel Weisz, about the movements of the planets, with ‘learned’ references to Aristarchus, sounded more like a polite and earnest discussion of a ‘dangerous idea’ on Jennifer Burns’ First Tuesday Book Club. Aristarchus, along with other remarkable figures like Eratosthenes, Hypparchus and Posidonius had nailed the actual physical dimensions and movements of our solar system accurately hundreds of years before.

We should have been forewarned. The Pomerstratton team gave the film four and four and a half stars respectively, so politically correct, safe and predictable it inevitably was. For all its admirable qualities and the attempts to deal with one of the most truly fascinating periods in history, it ended up, as one reviewer put it, as “an overlong school trip to the planetarium, followed by a Romans-in-togas play in the gym”. But worse, it failed to see itself, judging by the reviews and commentary, as a powerful allegory concerning the threat of Islamic fundamentalism on our own doorstep today. A truly wasted opportunity.

Howard’s presence imposes on the ABC

October 25, 2010

An impressive performance

Coming on the heels of Tom Switzer’s editorial in The Spectator, ‘Howard the Great’, which sums up John Howard’s prime ministership, he himself appeared on the ABC’s Q&A. Everything Switzer said  became eminently apparent on the show.

To some of his fellow Australians, John Winston Howard is a figure demonised almost beyond rational understanding. But to many more, he is undoubtedly the greatest living Australian, and he will be feted accordingly next week when his long-awaited memoirs are published.

Those whom Mr Howard called the ‘self-appointed cultural commentators and dietitians’ never could understand his widespread popularity, much less explain it. As for John Howard himself, we suspect he’s amused and pleased to see that, even three years after he was retired by the Australian people, his old foes still underestimate and attack him.

The feting was well and truly there on television. Even Tony Jones, on radio this morning, thought Mr Howard “nimble”. Jones appeared almost in awe of him, showing great deference and respect, to the point of being gracious when caught out several times with unfair or misleading questions. I think he had forgotten, in just three years, just how nimble and intelligent a politician can be. In fact, the feeling in the studio, in spite of the handful of dissenters, gave an overall impression of seeing a stunning performer, on top of the facts, able to answer questions with brevity, incisiveness, and authority. The impressive performance was in stark contrast to the rambling loquaciousness of ex Prime Minister Rudd, and the dreary moralizing of present Prime Minister Gillard. It was truly a class act.

 

UPDATE

In listening to Fran Kelly on Radio ‘Notional’ this morning in an interview with John Howard, one can hear a riff emerging amongst pro-Labor anti-Howard journalists. Doesn’t Howard regret ANY of his decisions of his time in office? From this group of exasperated Howard haters, they all want to know — even as he emphatically tells them that no — if he had no doubts, no regrets, about what he did. The list is almost endless; not apologizing to the Aborigines, going into Iraq, going into Afghanistan, Work Choices, not retiring and giving the job to Peter Costello, the boat people, children overboard. They cannot believe or understand that he really, sincerely held a different opinion and now has no regrets.

Howard answers with candour that he actually takes full responsibility for decisions, even if they may not have been as good in outcomes as desired, or that they earned him disapproval by some. Would he have done things differently? With consideration of the facts at the time, not at all. Listen to this morning’s revealing interview with Fran Kelly.

Why does Morry Schwartz allow it?

October 3, 2010

Robert Manne does it again

I recently posted a blog saying that one has to feel sorry for poor old Robert Manne. He had been exposed for his shoddy history research concerning the stolen generations. After that, came his very public demonstration in The Australian of the way he uses morality, indignation and appeals to authority to cover for his lack of facts. I suggested at the time that it was perhaps time for him to retire.

However, it appears that Robert ‘No-Shame’ Manne continues in the same vein, this time in the September issue of The Monthly. According to Hal Colebatch in the latest Quadrant, Manne writes about the South Vietnamese refugee policy in Australia between 1976 and 1982, making the extraordinary claim that “With the boat arrivals, the Labor Opposition under Whitlam, and then Hayden, resisted the temptation to exploit underlying racist or anti-refugee sentiment for party political gain.”

Colebatch rightly wonders if Manne was on another planet. He quotes the infamous comment by Whitlam ,“I’m not having hundreds of fucking Vietnamese Balts coming into this country with their political and religious hatreds against us” … He then goes on to list the many examples of ALP bloodymindedness; Clyde Cameron himself advocating in the 1977 election campaign that “the only effective means of dealing with illegal immigrants would be to have them arrested and deported as soon as they land”, Hawke wanting the return of the bogus refugees, and Darwin waterside workers striking over the ship Entalina that rescued Vietnamese boat people, threatening any further shipping that was prepared to rescue boat people. The litany of racist and inhumane bigotry by the Left is documented in detail. The article thus reveals Manne’s strange delusional rewrite of history.

Colebatch concludes:

I could continue these quotes at considerable length (my PhD thesis on this subject occupies 489 pages exclusive of bibliography and appendices), but this is probably enough to make the point.

Far from being the beneficiaries of a bipartisan approach, Vietnamese refugees were attacked by virtually every group on the Left. I find it baffling that someone occupying Mr Manne’s position is either unaware of the well-documented history of the ALP and the Left regarding Vietnamese refugees or, if he is aware of it, that he should apparently seek to radically rewrite these facts.

Hal Colebatch’s article, The Left Rewrites Its History on Refugees is very worthwhile and is available in the October edition of Quadrant [no link available].

It is now incomprehensible just how Manne manages to get published with such falsehoods, except for the fact that he is Chairman of the Board of The Monthly. Morry Schwartz should sack him.

UPDATE

Quadrant has now made the link available to Hal Colebatch’s article.

Age editorial correct !

June 16, 2010

The Age reflects agendas of journalists

In a previous post I quoted an Age editorial where they boasted that “quality newspapers offer their readers an implicit assurance with every story they publish: that their selection and presentation of news does not reflect the personal or corporate agendas of journalists, editors or proprietors.”

We knew that it was their idea of a joke, but the very next day we had the proof. Yesterday they ran a news report, not opinion, on a debate that took place in Melbourne on racism, between Professor Robert Manne and Hanifa Deen for the affirmative, and Professor Bob Birrell and Dr Tanveer Ahmed for the negative.

The article, written by Paul Millar, was headed Country ‘drifting back to racism’. A strange heading for a debate with two sides whose subject was to determine whether or not Australian had escaped its racist past. However, The Age never lets facts get in the way of story. Looking closely at the article, almost all of it was taken up with Hanifa Deen’s presentation for the affirmative. In a total of 470 words, Professor Birrell was given only 42 words, or barely nine percent of the report. Not another word from the negative.

In a follow-up editorial today, we learn that the debate was an IQ2 event, sponsored by The Age. We also learn that the audience voted in favour of the proposition, 71 per cent to 20 per cent. The editorial suggested that maybe it was because of the difficulty of  “satisfying the opposite contention”. But is it not as feasible that the vast majority of the audience were Age readers and thus ill-informed because The Age coverage of issues never satisfies the opposite contention.

PC gone mad

April 28, 2010

Belgians’ guilt for being White Men

Here we go again with more political correctness on race. The famous Tintin, Belgian artist Herge’s most loved adventurer, is being taken to court for having 19th century attitudes in the 21st century.

“This book contains unacceptable racist and xenophobic words which are designed to convey the idea that the black man is inferior,” Maitre Papis Tshimpangila, Mbutu Mondondo’s lawyer, told The Times.

The court was asked to study a series of scenes in which Congolese villagers fight over a straw hat, wonder how to add two and two or express admiration for the superior intelligence of their white rulers.”

What do people imagine that encounters with Africans were like one hundred years ago? That Belgians were arguably the most appalling colonists in Africa is well known, but what about the indescribable anarchy that exists today in the Congo, where millions have been raped and slaughtered in the most barbaric way.

It reminds me of all those period films where smoking is now disallowed, or the famous Beatle’s Abby Road album which has had a cigarette erased from one of the Fab Four’s hand. What about all those many documentaries on Hitler? Do they censor the appalling attitudes expressed by the Nazis towards Jews?


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