Curriculum — natural progress or conspiracy?

by Crispin Hull on January 18, 2014

THE Labor Party, teaching unions, education academics, and P & Cs have all been accused of moving the national curriculum to the left. The curriculum has become too “secular”, “Asia-oriented”, “left”, “progressive”, “new age” and “politically correct”, to use the words of former Liberal staffer and teacher Kevin Donnelly who has been appointed by Education Minister Christopher Pyne to an inquiry to review the curriculum.

Pyne now wants to reverse the trend. He wants students to learn more about Australia’s Christian and British heritage. He is being applauded by commentators in The Australian, and condemned everywhere else.

But it is not the creators of the exisiting curriculum who have carried an agenda to move it in a political direction, rather it is Pyne.

Pyne wants the curriculum to propagate his narrow view of the world. Previous development of the curriculum was not by deliberately engineered political acts. Rather it was a natural evolution to reflect the changes in Australia and the world.

Australia has in fact moved closer to Asia. Britain and the US have been replaced by China and Japan as our major trading partners. More Australians travel to Asia than Britain and the US. A higher portion of immigrants now come from Asia.

Australia has in fact become more secular. Every census reveals a lower percentage of the population practicing religion or even nominating themselves as holding a religion.

Australia has in fact become less Christian as the portion of people with other faiths grows.

Australia has in fact become more progressive. Equality of opportunity and support for it has spread and the law of the land promotes it. Discrimination on grounds of disability, race and sexual orientation have become unacceptable and unlawful.

Australia has in fact become more politically correct if by that term you mean that rampant racist, sexist and homophobic conversation has become more socially unacceptable.

Australia has in fact become more progressive and politically correct if by those terms you mean recognition of wrongs done to Indigenous people and legal and other steps to redress them.

The changes in the formal national curriculum have merely reflected these changes. They were not some concerted, deliberate plan to subvert Australia’s Christian British heritage. The importance of that heritage has been waning without conspiratorial help from the Labor Party or the left.

Bear in mind these societal changes were not instigated by the Labour Party or the Greens. They were general trends.

Menzies signed the treaty with Japan. Fraser began Indo-Chinese immigration and passed the Northern Territory Land Rights Act.

The changes are not only reflected in formal education. As new teachers come into the system, they, too, infuse these changes into their schools – in the way the schools are run as well as what they teach.

In short, Pyne is the political creature. Pyne is trying to turn the schools into propagators of an out-dated and unrealistic view of the world.

And that is the fundamental problem here. Christopher Pyne cannot bear that society has become better, more tolerant and progressive. He would rather see it more hidebound and monocultural.

Abbott should move him from a social portfolio where the Tories like government to meddle to make things in their own image, to an economic portfolio where they want government to do nothing. That way he would do less damage.

DOT DOT DOT

THERE is much merit in Tony Abbott’s view that the betterment of Indigenous Australians can be achieved by economic self-help.

This week I came across a case of petty bureaucracy doing its best to stifle that trend.

In Badu Island about halfway between Thursday Island and Papua New Guinea, there is a quarry owned by the Badu Island Foundation Ltd. It employs up to 10 people and produces aggregate for roads, drains and harbours throughout the Torres Strait.

They want to buy some better plant and equipment to expand and become more efficient. So they applied for a loan to the Commonwealth’s Torres Strait Regional Authority.

The authority has imposed an absurd and unacceptable condition on the loan – that the directors give personal guarantees for it. That may be standard for small private companies, but unheard of for a public not-for-profit company. The directors have no personal interest. They are just being good citizens serving on a Indigenous foundation.

Obviously they are liable for negligence or malfeasance, but not for commercial failure.

The authority says the condition was imposed by the Australian Government Solicitor. The AGS says, no, it was put into the loan document on instructions from the authority. Impasse. Buck pass. The documents support the AGS view. But the upshot is no loan money.

The quarry has a positive cash flow and is a successful business. Some extra finance would enable it to get better. The lives of Torres Strait islands would be improved as road-making capacity would be improved.

Otherwise, the extra aggregate would have to come from a whitefella quarry via Cairns 800km away.

This is a small example, but if it is in any way indicative of the hurdles put up against Indigenous businesses, small wonder we have such trouble improving Indigenous living standards.

DOT DOT DOT

If the Commonwealth has a debt crisis, why are 900 Australian Tax Office jobs being axed and the ATO proposing that big accounting and law firms be allowed to sign off on large corporations’ tax compliance?

This is bound to cost more in the long run. The big accounting and law firms will do what they always do: charge big and play the tune that their paymasters call for.

But since when did the Coalition want effective, efficient government when it comes to gathering tax from their rich mates?
CRISPIN HULL
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times on 18 January 2014.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

rick cooper 01.18.14 at 1:01 pm

What a load of pretentious arrogant obnoxious tosh from someone with a snotty nosed upper class name like Crispin. Your ridiculously exaggerated generalities Mr Hull are only overtaken by your play the man and not the ball neanderthal nonsense so typical of Christian loathing, Britain hating verbal garbologists who spruik from on high a contemporary version of regressive small ‘c’ communism on private web sites, while living off the taxes, income and comfort of capitalism. Not one of your claims about Pyne could possibly advance the argument to retain that grossly politically biased logorrhoean object of ridicule which you have the temerity to call the national curriculum. One and one equals asian aborigine and pi r squared equals Labor history perhaps ? Clearly you are just another vertically obsessed Fairfax journalist (God, aren’t almost all of of them), meaning you are up there, and the vast majority of us are down here in the intelligence stakes, while you and your curriculum illustrate not the slightest idea of why kids go to school, instead being obsessed with forcing your own deluded with grandeur fanciful poppycock on said impressionable kids. Please also next time hit the embedded spell check in your poisonous social engineering keyboard. The respectable newspaper of the centre in Australia has an ‘n’ on the end of it’s name.

Ralph 01.18.14 at 3:43 pm

“But it is not the creators of the exisiting curriculum who have carried an agenda to move it in a political direction, rather it is Pyne.”

This is nonsense. Nobody in their right mind can honestly argue that Stuart Macintyre, who designed the history curriculum, isn’t a left-wing ideologue deeply hostile to Australia’s British heritage.

The reality is that modern Australian – its institutions, culture, way of life and polity – is a British creation. It is only right that this is reflected in the curriculum.

As for Mr Hull’s claim that “Christopher Pyne cannot bear that society has become better, more tolerant and progressive,” I would argue that Australia was a better society fifty years ago. If a permissive, debauched, decadent, atomised society is Mr Hull’s idea of “progress”, I’d rather go back to the bad old “Dark Ages” when Christian morals still governed society, people actually knew and spoke the same language as their neighbors, notions of respect, honesty and self-restraint still applied and the family was still at the centre of everyday life.

Kevin Rattigan 01.18.14 at 5:24 pm

Totally agree with your remarks on Pyne and the National Curriculum. Another effect of these Tories, as you rightly label them, is that one withholds even constructive criticisms of details of the NC lest it give them further excuse to tear down the whole edifice.
On the Torres Strait quarry and the ATO changes, the old “penny wise: pound foolish” epithet applies. As a farmer, I manage a small environmental reserve for which I receive a tad over $100 per annum in exchange for the work required and the loss of production from the reserved land. At the beginning of the scheme I signed a comprehensive agreement to abide by the conditions prescribed by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and each year signed a simple certification that I continued to do so. Two years ago I was informed that from now on I would be required EACH YEAR to make a multi-page Statutory Declaration encompassing all the conditions of the original agreement and sign it before a JP. This was all in the name of “accountability” (and almost certainly because of an example of probable rorting of the scheme alleged by a well-known Liberal Senator, though the Department would not concede that). Being long-in-the-tooth and experienced in the ways of bureaucracy, I was able to revert to the original arrangement in my “special case” after writing a stiff letter to senior persons. My lengthy attempts to explain to more junior staff that this sort of pettifogging turns off farmers already suspicious of anything to do with “government” and “environment” fell on deaf ears.
Finally on the criminally insane proposal on the ATO – it must have emanated from some small-government ideologue, the Tax Commissioner is not that stupid – does no one remember that Arthur Andersen, then one of the four biggest accounting firms in the world, signed off the audit on the Enron scam year after year? Sure, AA was wiped out in the eventual scandal, but not before massive financial damage had been done.

Robyn Lewis 01.19.14 at 11:57 am

If Christopher Pyne had his way schools would be expected to sing God Save The Queen every morning in assembly.
Christopher it is time to move on and expand your horizons.
Like so many people Christopher thinks because he went to school he knows everything about education.

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