The Australian Curriculum is a dismal and defective document that sucks the lifeblood out of learning, I argue in The Australian this morning.
But conservatives will have to muscle up if they want to drive a stake through its heart.
Kevin Donnelly is on the right track – sort of – when he draws attention to the omission of teaching about Australia’s Judao-Christian heritage.
It is an imprecise argument, however, and an invitation to misinterpretation which his critics have gleefully taken.
The curriculum’s central error is its failure to acknowledge the influence of the Enlightenment on the history of modern Australia.
Australia was the scene of the Enlightenment’s most audacious experiment: an attempt to build a civilisation from scratch by applying scientific knowledge and liberal thinking.
European settlement makes no sense unless it is considered in the context of the European Enlightenment, yet the curriculum mentions the Enlightenment three times over 699 pages, and then only in passing.
By contrast, the words sustainable and sustainability – expressing sentiments hostile to the Enlightenment’s spirit of progress – are mentioned 139 times.
Students should grow up in a world of infinite possibly. Instead, the curriculum’s obstinate obsession with sustainability and its Malthusian consequences limits horizons and constrains young minds.
The curriculum’s melancholic reference to lunar exploration is emblematic of its miserablist, pessimistic outlook.
Neil Armstrong’s first words on the moon – “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was a triumphant expression of human ingenuity, industry and audacity.
For the sustainablists, however, it was charged with deep foreboding. Year 10 History students will study:
The growth and influence of the environment movement within Australia and overseas, and developments in ideas about the environment (notion of ‘Gaia’, ‘limits to growth’, concept of ‘sustainability’, concept of ‘rights of nature’)…
… recognising the historic impact of the pictures of Earth taken during the Apollo 8 mission and how they influenced people’s view of the world.
Can the curriculum be rescued? In The Australian today I ague not, but I’m open to persuasion.