Howard and the History Wars

I suppose I should preface my remarks by saying that History is one of my teaching subjects, so I’m likely to think it’s important. And I do. But I’m unconvinced that it should be compulsory in the senior years, and if they’re going to legislate for story and a return to narrative in history the, who’s story? and what narratives? Pretty much another case of Government wanting to turn education into indoctrination. From THE AGE today:

Does your child know when James Cook sailed up the Australian coast? That’s what Education Minister Julie Bishop is asking kids she meets. Hardly any have the answer, which is confirming the Government’s view that Australian history has gone missing in our schools.

Governments like to call “summits” on every damn thing. Still, the August 17 one-day Australian History Summit might at first blush seem an odd enterprise. Not, however, if you are John Howard and your agenda includes fixing how Australia teaches its

It mightn’t match his industrial relations obsession, but Howard has been preoccupied with history teaching, which he sees as part of the “history wars”, for a long time. (Remember, Janette Howard is a former history teacher.)

Howard’s most recent Australia Day speech urged “root and branch renewal”. For many years, he said, fewer than a quarter of senior secondary students had taken a history subject, and only “a fraction” of those took Australian history.

And “too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of themes and issues”. As well, history had “succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated”.