The article responds to an article in The Age, “Coalition would scrap Curriculum” saying Federal Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne is prepared to scrap the new national history curriculum. The article says Pyne thinks there is to much emphasis on Asia, indigenous culture and sustainability in the history curriculum, and not enough on Christianity, Greece and Rome, and the English Bill of Rights and English Civil War.
There’s plenty to criticise there. Australian students need a good grasp of indigenous culture and the deadly and destructive effects that white settlement had on it, and of the history of Asia. Sustainability – we can do without that, thanks very much! We could replace sustainability with a discussion of how humans have moved away from being at the whim of nature every moment of the day.
However, the response in Crikey is arrogant, dismissive and, frankly a joke. Taylor’s lowest moment is when he says the English Civil War is “arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume).” Anyone with even a basic knowledge of how bourgeois Parliamentary democracy works knows that this is ridiculous. Most of the assumptions behind it come directly or indirectly from that Civil War. The most important tenet of parliamentarism – the idea that only the parliament, not the executive on its own, may tax – is a direct result of the war and the main issue it was fought over. You can’t understand the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, which lead to the sacking of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, without understanding that crucial point.
But the bad thing about Taylor’s article is not just that he is wrong, but that he is in a position to affect the curriculum of Australian schools but clearly has contempt for democracy. He implies that Pyne’s threat to scrap the curriculum and start again is an example of the “arbitrary rule of one”. Of course, Pyne will never be in a position to change the curriculum unless he is part of a government elected in the closest thing we have to a democratic election. Does Taylor really contend that elected Governments have no right to change public policy?
Taylor’s contempt for outsiders interfering in work only he and his priesthood should be allowed to carry out is revealed in another passage, where he discusses criticism of the new curriculum: “I read it and dismissed it as someone who doesn’t know much about how education or history works.” Not because it was wrong, or misguided, or suggested a poor use of scarce classroom time, but it came from an outsider.
What’s worst of all about this article is it carries on the smarmy pseudo-left habit of congratulating themselves that they must be right, because the slightly more right-wing ruling class party is against them. This is part of the nature of the bureaucratic pseudo-left; they push the line that their work must be done behind closed doors because evil right-wingers and the stupid populace they fool are too dumb to know what’s best for them. There is no sense at all of actually trusting ordinary people, of welcoming outside debate or being ready to submit their decisions to the judgment of the great unwashed.
We need to keep attacking the pseudo-left with this – with the idea that, while they parade their moral virtue, they are utterly unwilling to actually try to win public debates.