I have written many times before about the “long march of the left” through our institutions. It seems that march is now almost complete with our schools, our universities, government bureaucracies and even our corporates awash in political correctness and identity politics. (Here in Queensland even our newly appointed Chief Judge has declared that she will encourage the use of preferred pronouns to show respect in the courtroom!)
My own naivety, in retrospect, astonishes me. I was surprised in the 1970’s while completing an economic degree externally from the University of Queensland in order to graduate that I seemed compelled to learn as much about the history of communism as I did about economics due to the particular ideological bent of my lecturer.
I was pragmatic about this because I read widely and conversed frequently with those with all sorts of ideas and opinions. I was therefore egotistical enough to believe I could make up my own mind about such things.
By this time my older children were in school. They, it seemed to me, were being inculcated with the same values and traditions that I had encountered at school. We had been taught that Australia was a free country, underpinned by traditional Western values. We were proud of our largely British heritage that had brought us the Westminster form of democracy. We were not ashamed of our colonial past but viewed it as a stepping stone to a modern progressive Australia. We were patriotic, revered and respected those who had fallen in defence of our democracy and were happy to celebrate Australia Day in recognition of the first European settlement of Australia.
But after another generation, schools also have been captured by the anti-West, anti-colonialism trope.
Let me illustrate with a personal story. A woman I know has a ten year old daughter. (She has asked me to maintain their anonymity.) She told me that when they recently visited Townsville her daughter was astounded to find that the local university was called the James Cook University. When her mother asked her why, she was surprised at the response. The daughter told her mother that her teacher had taught her that Cook was a “bad” man. Subsequently the woman and her daughter visited me. The little girl is fond of books and reading. She was strangely drawn to a book on one of my many bookshelves titled The Great Explorers. While her mother and I talked, she opened up the book and found a chapter on Cook which she read. She seemed reasonably impressed by Cook’s achievements. This obviously disconcerted her.
As a result I asked her what she had learned about Cook at school. She said basically she had been taught that Cook had committed atrocities against Australia’s indigenous people; he had kept a slave and was responsible for the colonisation of Australia.
Now I enjoy history (hence the presence of the book my young visitor read along with many more such historical titles).
From my, albeit limited understanding, Cook had minimal contact with indigenous Australians and only took limited action against them when necessary for self-defence.
He certainly didn’t keep a slave. Sir Joseph Banks brought a Tahitian Polynesian named Tupaia aboard the Endeavour in July 1769 on the outboard journey from Plymouth when they overstayed in Tahiti. Bank recommended that the man be allowed to sail with the Endeavour because he was a famous navigator with an extensive knowledge of the Pacific Islands. As well as that, he was fluent in many of the Polynesian languages which would facilitate discourse with natives they might encounter on their return voyage of discovery. Initially Cook resisted having Tupaia on board arguing that they could not afford another mouth to feed. He only relented when Banks (who had considerable wealth) agreed to pay Tupaia’s way. I can only assume that the girl’s teacher believed that the Tahitian had been kidnapped and forced aboard the Endeavour against his will (as was common during the later “blackbirding” expeditions that brought Kanakas back to Queensland to work the sugar cane fields}.
Finally it is ludicrous to associate Cook with the colonisation of Australia. He was long dead before a decision was made to send off the “first fleet” to establish British settlement in Australia. Mind you Banks had a hand in this, recommending to the Lord of the Admiralty that Australia provided a good opportunity for British settlement.
Now it is possible to believe the girl’s teacher had an appalling knowledge of history, and that is probably true. But more than likely she was happy to distort what little knowledge she has of history to support her anti-colonialist and indigenous victimhood ideology.
We have known for some time that the left has taken over many of the non-technical faculties of our universities including Faculties of Education.
Let me share another personal story with you. A young woman I know, on completing High School, enrolled to undertake a degree in teaching at our local university (University of Central Queensland). Some months after she had started her studies I asked her how it is going. She frowned and said, ”Not very well.”
“Why? What’s the problem?” I enquired. “Have you learnt anything about teaching?”
“Nothing at all,” she replied. “We have spent the whole time so far studying diversity.”
Not surprisingly she abandoned the teaching degree soon after.
Now, while anecdotal reports might gain your attention, more rigorous investigation is surely required before we can be sure that our assumptions might have valid foundation.
Shortly after I commenced writing this essay I came across an enlightening study conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs. Bella d’Arbrera, whose work I greatly admire, is the director of the IPA’s Foundation of Western Civilisation Program. She reports that the IPA has analysed 3713 teaching subjects offered by 37 Australian universities.
An article in the Australian newspaper reported that:
One third of all subjects relate to what the IPA describes as ‘woke’ theories of identity politics, decolonisation and social justice.
Just one in ten subjects relate to teaching children how to read and write and learn mathematics.
Teachers, in short, are being taught how to indoctrinate children in ‘woke’ ideology rather than the basics of proper education. Their influence is pervasive and promotes many leftist positions.
For example, with regard to the Voice referendum, Colleen Harkin who is National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow at the IPA in personal correspondence wrote:
Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, I received an abundance of emails and calls from concerned parents providing examples of outright bias and indoctrination their children were exposed to in the classrooms around the country, about the Voice to Parliament referendum.
Photos of classrooms full of ‘Yes’ posters, schools offering one sided speaker presentations, (the ‘Yes’ case only of course), teachers making their own ‘yes’ voting intentions known to the students in their charge, even colour-in activities for young children of “Sorry Starts with Me” and “I say Yes” so that they would go home and tell their parents how to vote, was all par-for-the-course.
And of course in many classrooms, rather than learn about the real achievements of Cook, Flinders, Sturt, Leichhardt and many more who paved the way to create modern Australia, our children are being taught the manufactured and discredited history pedalled by the like of Bruce Pascoe.
Colleen Harkin, quoted above, further writes:
At a time when so much negativity surrounds our heritage, remembering the often-herculean efforts displayed by our early people is an invaluable reminder to appreciate the framework by which much of our national character, values and attitudes have been constructed.
As some have said, the real tragedy of the Australian education system is that it has been taken over by those who have little interest in teaching our children how to think, but who are obsessed with teaching them what to think.
In recent weeks we have seen a grotesque manifestation of this phenomenon with the so-called “strikes” of school children to go to pro-Palestinian demonstrations. As journalist Peta Credlin rightly points out most of these schoolchildren would struggle to find Gaza on a map, and certainly very few of them would have any knowledge of the foundation of Israel and its history.
Is it any wonder that the educational outcomes for our children have been in decline for decades when it seems many of our teachers are more interested in indoctrinating our children into leftist causes rather than imbuing them with the basic knowledge they need to take a useful and productive role in society.
The left are winning the culture wars that conservatives seem reluctant to contest. Unless we have the courage to stem this tide we are dooming future Australians to a future far removed from our past where our traditional values are trashed and the minds of our children are manipulated to ensure their subservience to radical socialist ideals.
Ted Scott AM was awarded an Order of Australia in 2004 for his contribution to industry, and was named one of Australia's top thirty business leaders in 2001 by AFR's BOSS Magazine. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics and had a successful career in management in the electricity generation industry in Queensland, managing many power stations. Ted is a writer and the author of several books.
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