The newly proposed changes to the Australian curriculum, which removes references to the nation’s democratic and Christian heritage, have been strongly criticised by experts and educators, with some calling the proposed changes “radical left-wing.”
The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) revealed its proposal yesterday to increase the amount of content on culture, history, and perspectives of Indigenous Australians throughout the national curriculum.
Bella d’Abrera, director of the Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, called for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to reject the “radical” new curriculum.
“ACARA’s extreme proposal would completely remove all references to Christianity, to Ancient Greece, and to the freedoms given to us through the values and institutions of Western Civilisation,” D’Abrera said. “This is basic knowledge that every Australian school child should be taught.”
Under the proposed changes, the term invasion will be used when students are taught about the history of the First Fleet and European settlement, and in Year 9, students will learn to analyse the “impact of invasion, colonisation, and dispossession of lands by Europeans on the First Nations Peoples of Australia.”
Education Minister Alan Tudge had concerns over some proposed changes.
He said he did not want students to be turned into activists and that he just wanted students to be taught the facts.
“I think we should honour our Indigenous history and teach that well,” he told Sky News. “Equally, that should not come at the expense of dishonouring our Western heritage which has made us the liberal democracy that we are today.”
Historian Geoffrey Blainey had the same sentiment as Tudge and said indigenous history should not be taught at the expense of classical and Western civilisations.
“Ancient Rome surely did at least as much as Uluru to shape the modern Australian way of thinking and living,” Blainey told The Australian.
However, d’Abrera said the changes might mean students could be learning historical lies, noting that students will be taught the discredited “Dark Emu” version of history, which says that Indigenous people had sophisticated political, economic, and social organisations.
Further, she noted that proposed changes would mean Year 8 students would no longer be taught about the fundamental freedoms that enable participation in Australian democracy—including freedom of speech, association, and religion.
Instead, high school students will be taught to participate in democracy through the “use of lobby groups,” “standing as an independent,” and “direct action.”
“This is licensing children to unlearn the freedoms of our democracy and is turning them into political activists,” she said.
Meanwhile, Indigenous advocates are welcoming the proposal saying they had been pushing for change for decades.
National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition’s coordinator Haley McQuire told SBS News she was “ecstatic.”
“Beyond just reconciliation, this is really about justice—telling the truth about history and really grounding young people in the foundations of this country is essential to our future,” McQuire said.
‘Perplexing’ Maths Curriculum Proposals
The new curriculum will also delay teaching kids how to tell the time and basic multiplication tables by one year—a change Tudge called “perplexing.”
“They are saying that times tables should be taught in Grade Four rather than Grade Three. Not sure about that,” Tudge said. “I want to see the standards raised, not diminished.”
ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said students were “good at knowing the rules of mathematics, but not good at understanding the reasons for those rules.” He wanted children to understand the principles behind multiplication before reciting the tables.
Glenn Fahey, a research fellow in education policy for the Centre for Independent Studies, told The Daily Telegraph it was “crystal clear” that rote learning was important for maths as well as spelling.
“Some educators have got a resistance to these techniques because they feel it can be boring for students,’’ he said. “But this material is necessary as a foundation for some of the interesting inquiry-based topics.’’