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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

that old chestnut « Previous | |Next »
October 11, 2007

Having failed to impress the electorate with everything else he's tried, Howard has returned to that perennial favourite, the history wars. He's going ahead with the plan for compulsory, uniform history as a stand alone subject in years 9 and 10. State education funding will be linked to their adoption of the history plan as envisaged.

The states aren't showing too much enthusiasm so far which is pretty much what you'd expect. No reports yet on what year 9 and 10 kids think, and it's probably best not to hold our breath waiting for them to be consulted.

Howard's on much safer ground with this than with health. Maybe.

He knows his lines, he's got backup from a reliable stock of talking heads - some with plausible claims to authority, the committees have sat, the reports are in, the costing's been done and the corporate speak package is ready to go.

Education is Labor territory but history is Howard's. He's experienced at talking about the future through the lens of the past, which gives him an opportunity to get genuinely misty eyed about current issues from a safely historical perspective. He can do nationalism with a straight face.

Julie Bishop's not the best salesperson you could hope for, but Howard can do this one by himself blindfolded with his hands tied behind is back. People don't seem to be terribly bothered when state funding is tied in with various schemes, so what could possibly go wrong?

| Posted by Lyn at 2:52 PM | | Comments (3)


Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald makes some observations on a history of the present:

The Prime Minister is about to call an election with the polls indicating the likelihood of his political annihilation.He has chosen this moment to redefine one of the most deeply entrenched features of his political identity. His well-known hostility to symbolic acts of Aboriginal reconciliation is suddenly abandoned. By promising a referendum to add a "statement of reconciliation" to the preamble of the constitution, Howard is offering a purely symbolic act.

Why so? He an image problem as he is seen by many voters as stale, out of ideas, lacking a purpose yesterday's man. Secondly, much of the country no longer seems to listen when Howard talks. This second problem does not allow him to address the first.

Hartcher observes that Howard tolerated with equanimity Aboriginal activists turning their backs on him, but now it seems the broader electorate is turning its back, Howard is seeking an urgent reconciliation.

is the problem that history is taught? Or that it is compulsory? Or is it linear upbeat kind of history that is being taught?


I turned on the news last night all wound up about the history thing, prepared to be sickened by his references to the black armband view. Instead I was totally gobsmacked at that stuff about reconciliation. It's a little bit late to be coming over all sincere and caring now isn't it? After a decade of systematically pulling apart the few achievements that have been made he now understands his mistake? Ugh.

I'd be very surprised if anybody was taken in by it. Anybody who didn't already intend to vote for him anyway.


History is taught as either a stand alone elective or as part of SOSE - Studies of Society and Environment. As part of SOSE it's embedded in the study of Australia as a whole, so kids might study the history of an environment like the beach for example, and consider the geographic and social aspects as well. So they might consider their local beach in terms of how local Aborigines used it, how it fits into the local ecosystem, whether its geography has changed over time, how it fits into their own lives, what beaches mean to Australians, who gets to use them and maybe the changing value of real estate there.

In this example the beach is used as a theme, the idea being that the various aspects have some contemporary relevance for students.