The Hirst Report: We don’t need no education

We don’t need no education / we don’t need no thought control.

It is unlikely that Pink Floyd’s chorus of disillusioned schoolchildren were singing about Christopher Pyne’s review of the national curriculum, but if they had been, it would have been not only prescient, but entirely appropriate. Not because education is bad – it’s one of the most valuable things that anyone can ever be given, and arguably the most valuable service our state provides its citizens. It’s not that people don’t need it, but an education system that serves as an ideological platform for washed-up conservatives to impotently rebel against society’s progression towards pluralism and tolerance hardly deserves the name “education” at all.

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Professor Stuart Macintyre of the University of Melbourne, the lead drafter of the National Curriculum, noted that it was a consultative process that took three years and, according to The Age, accepted over 4000 submissions in relation to English, maths, science and history.

Such a process will not produce a system that everyone is happy with, but it seems counter-intuitive to suggest that it produced a final product with such overwhelming political bias that it requires a complete overhaul. Particularly if that overhaul is to be conducted in a third of the time by two people, both of whom have very clear political biases, which they have taken upon themselves to spread liberally, with the very largest possible L, over the Internet.

Dr Kevin Donnelly, one of the two, regularly writes for ABC’s The Drum, including one article where he discussed why he thought it was that people lobbying for gay marriage had been so successful. He strangely did not consider the possibility that its success is because the campaign represents a step towards a more equal and just society, supported by a majority of Australians, tired as they are of small-minded ignorance.

No, apparently we have all been duped. It’s all in the language, see. People in leftist institutions (or at least institutions to the left of Dr Donnelly, which is presumably all institutions except perhaps for the lunatic fringe of the Liberal Party, 2GB and News Corp) have sneakily moved the boundaries of political correctness, so that now we can’t say the same old prejudiced things without being called out on them.

Damn! Donnelly characterises this new discourse by saying that “those who view gay/lesbian practices as unacceptable are condemned as homophobic”. If you’ll allow me to make my way to the soapbox, I would like to address Dr Donnelly directly.

Those who view gay/lesbians practices as unacceptable are homophobic, you troglodyte! You can try and disguise your prejudice and hate as the unexpressed opinions of some anonymous multitude, but it doesn’t distract anyone from the poisonous vitriol that you inject into public discourse under the pretence that it is some kind of reversion back to the good old days of common sense. Perhaps you don’t realise the pain this kind of pig-headedness creates. But that’s no excuse. The times which supported your revolting, narrow-minded world view have passed. And no one is mourning them.

Maybe Dr Donnelly will find a sympathetic ear in his new colleague Professor Ken Wiltshire. Wiltshire at least has the tact and common sense to avoid spreading the kind of repellent opinions Donnelly wishes to propagate.

However, as The Guardian notes, he did write an opinion piece for The Australian after the 2010 election, in which, he argued that the independents should side with the Coalition to create an Abbott minority government. In signing off this article with an Edmund Burke quotation, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” he did perhaps reveal a personal political bias.

If Christopher Pyne’s intention really is to stamp all of the politicisation out of the curriculum, why appoint someone who considers the possibility of a Labor minority government “the triumph of evil?”

Perhaps Christopher Pyne, Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly sincerely believe that the reason the curriculum has shifted towards “cultural relativism”, “sustainability” and “Indigenous Australia” (words which Pyne attempts to make as controversial as possible by spitting them at people) is that universities are full of proselytising left-wingers. Unfortunately for them, the change has been orchestrated by no one.

We are closer to Asia than Europe, and the next generation has tough decisions to make about the viability of the environmental and commercial practices we take for granted today. These things can’t be reversed by attempting to inculcate young kids with Anglocentric and antiquated world views. It is the nature of the times that they are born into that they will experience people from other backgrounds who live in entirely different ways. And, hopefully, they will be able to work with them to face the challenges of the future, whether they’re all “Judeo-Christian” or not.

 Ned Hirst

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