Former Prime Minister John Howard has chosen to launch a scathing attack on Australia’s national history curriculum, labelling it “unbalanced” and “bizarre”, during a public lecture at the University of WA tonight.
The new curriculum to be implemented in most States by 2013 also ignores the importance of British influences, Mr Howard has told about 800 people who were expected to attend the inaugural Sir Paul Hasluck Foundation lecture to mark the legacy of the former WA politician and governor-general.
“Choices have to be made in any curriculum and of course it’s impossible to satisfy everybody, but my fear is that if this curriculum remains unamended young Australians of the future will be denied a proper knowledge of our nation’s history,” he said.
Mr Howard said it was good the subject would become compulsory to Year 10 and that it would place more emphasis on indigenous and Asian history.
“Beyond those praiseworthy features there is much about the curriculum that I find unbalanced, lacking in priorities and in some cases quite bizarre,” he said.
Mr Howard said the conspicuous absence of Australia’s western heritage from the curriculum reflected a growing retreat from self-belief in western civilisation.
“It is as if the West must always play the villain simply because it has tended to enjoy more power and economic success than other parts of the world since 1500,” he said.
“In the process it further marginalises the historic influence of the Judaeo Christian ethic in shaping Australian society and virtually purges British history from any meaningful role.”
“Magna Carta, parliamentary democracy, the language we speak – which need I remind you is now the lingua franca of Asia – much of the literature we imbibe, a free and irreverent media, our relatively civil system of political discourse, the rule of law and trial by jury.”
“Indeed, some of the sports we play, these are all owed in one form or another to the British.”
Mr Howard said it was “bizarre” that study of popular culture such as ACDC and Kylie Minogue was considered more important to a Year 10 student’s understanding of the globalising world since 1945 than economic influences.
The curriculum also failed to provide balance to the “progressive left view” it reflected because it did not mention liberalism.
And there was no compulsory requirement to learn about Federation of the colonies in 1901, which Mr Howard believed was the most important event in Australia’s national history.