George Orwell once said, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Quite so. It has always been a hallmark of the totalist state to control education and to rewrite history. Those who can alter the past will be able to manipulate the future.
Sadly democratic states are not immune from allowing education in general and history in particular to be dominated by those pushing agendas. For decades now mass education in the West has largely been in the hands of the secular left, and they have been quite happy to push their own politically correct agendas in all areas, including history.
For years now students in all levels of education have been subject to a fairly one-eyed view of things, including history. With so much education today being little more than indoctrination, no wonder that so many parents have voted with their feet and put their kids in private schools, or resorted to homeschooling.
Recent announcements about a new draft national history curriculum for Australian schools may result in even more parents making the move out of the public education system. A number of historians have warned that this curriculum appears to be yet more leftist propaganda masquerading as education.
Here is how one press account introduces the story: “Historians say the new national modern history curriculum for schools reads like a Marxist manifesto that ignores popular aspects of our past and neglects Australia’s role in world politics and war. The course, designed for years 11 and 12, is heavily focused on revolutionary struggles, colonial oppression and women’s struggle for equality.
“It neglects Australia’s British roots and institutions and its military history, with no mention of Gallipoli, Tobruk or Kokoda, the experts say. The draft lists World War I as a potential case study in ‘investigating modern history’. It lists ‘controversies surrounding … memorial sites and commemorative events’ as an area of study but does not mention Gallipoli or the battle of Fromelle.
“In a topic headed ‘Australia 1880-1945’, the draft lists ‘the formation of organised labour’, ‘White Australia’ and ‘wartime government controls, including conscription, control of the labour force, rationing, censorship and propaganda’. But it does not mention the settlement of Australia or the deeds of the first AIF in World War I.”
Various historians have weighed into the debate. Geoffrey Blainey for example has said that the draft curriculum seems to offer a “left-wing view of Australian history”. Historian Andrew Garvie said the course lacked a balanced view of history: “This appears to be a very trendy, right-on curriculum. It looks heavily influenced by a Marxist view of history – there’s lots about revolution and struggles against oppression.”
And education expert “Dr Kevin Donnelly said the new curriculum had put indigenous and Asian content and perspectives ahead of Australia’s Anglo-Celtic tradition, the debt we owe to Western civilisation and the importance of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Dr Donnelly said the curriculum contained 118 references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culture and history – with grade 5s studying White Australia and grade 9s Aboriginal massacres and displacement. There is just one reference to Parliament and none to Westminster or the Magna Carta.”
Donnelly said Education Minister Julia Gillard and other defenders of the curriculum are amiss to dismiss concerns about bias. “They’re wrong. Anyone reading the two syllabus documents, covering kindergarten to year 10 and years 11 and 12, can be left in no doubt that schools across Australia will soon be forced to teach a new-age and politically correct view of history and Australia’s place in the world.
“History, like every other subject in the national curriculum, has to be taught through the politically correct prism of Aboriginal, Asian and environmental perspectives. Forget the importance of Australia’s Western heritage or the impact of science, technology and industry in overcoming poverty and eradicating disease.”
Consider Australia’s religious makeup, and how the new curriculum seeks to rewrite this important topic: “In the years K-10 curriculum students are told to study the ‘contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Australian nation’, the ‘significance of Dreaming and the perspectives and meaning in Dreaming stories’ and to ‘explain the key features of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies’.
“In the 29 pages of the K-10 syllabus, ‘Christendom’ is mentioned once and ‘Christian’ also once, but only in the context of studying other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism and Islam. Ignored is that Indigenous Australians, according to the 2006 census, account for only 2.6 per cent of the population and that Australia’s language, political and legal systems and culture are Anglo-Celtic in origin and based on the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage.
“Based on 1999 figures 70 per cent of Australians describe themselves as Anglo-Celtic in origin and according to the 2007 census 64 per cent of Australians are Christians. It’s no accident that sessions of parliament begin with the Lord’s Prayer and that Christian morality underpins much of our way of life.”
Yet all this will be significantly downplayed or ignored altogether if the historical revisionists get their way. And what will be played up is the leftist version of events: “Asking students to study ‘organised labour, including the union movement and the ALP’ while ignoring the origins of the Liberal Party is clear evidence of bias. Likewise, ignoring America’s role in World War II in Europe and the Pacific reflects an anti-American sentiment widespread amongst the left.
“That the history curriculum appears to have been written by cultural warriors of the left most likely explains why, on studying the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, that McCarthyism is mentioned, but not Stalin’s purges or the role of Ronald Reagan in defeating what he termed the evil empire.”
Of course all this is not happening by accident. The Left has always known that to control the institution of education, along with the other centres of power and influence (like the media, the courts, and the churches) is a powerful means by which to win the revolution without firing a shot.
Indeed, we already have plenty of examples of Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s scheme of taking over a culture by means of the “long march through the institutions”. What we see here is simply more of the same. No bullets will be fired, but the overthrow of a culture will be just as assured as if a full-frontal violent revolution took place.
This is what is known as the culture wars, and the history wars are but one part of this. The secular left seems to never rest in its attempt to capture the West for its agenda. Those concerned about this struggle over the soul of the West need to be just as diligent.