Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

On War and Remembrance

Since I took up studying teaching, all that half-silly/half-sinister commentary that happens from time to time alleging Australia’s school children are having their brains filled with left-wing propaganda – especially when it comes to history – has become a bit more directly relevant for me. Although it’s pretty clear that fact-free fumigating by some random politician – even a random Education Minister – has little direct effect on what is taught in classrooms, it does have its effect on what some adults think is taught in schools, and on public conceptualisations of history (especially if they didn’t get a decent history education).

Sometimes the arch-conservatives who assert a left-wing bias to history teaching assert that all would be fine if we just stuck to the facts. I’m fully in favour of teaching and learning being centred on facts. The problem for those arch-conservatives is they don’t like some of the facts that get revealed when students are encouraged to go looking for them.

John Menadue has posted a piece on his blog in the lead up to Anzac Day, supporting more honest history – which I’d say means more facts, less fact-free rhetoric. The notion, asserted by the current Education Minster amongst others, that there isn’t enough emphasis on the ANZACs at Gallipoli in the current national curriculum is the sort of blatantly wrong statement that would get a student a big fat F (or at least a ‘must try harder’) on their report card.

Meanwhile, there are many other facts in the history of war in Australia which get very little mention. Menadue’s piece gives a good insight into some them, including the role of Australians in the Maori wars, which I hadn’t previously been aware of.

You can read it here – http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=816

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. paul walter

    Just thinking the other day about the social studies textbook we had at primary school. More and more its come home to me that something my outlook was based on in some respect was if not conscious empire propaganda, at least a romance rather than history.

    Aborigines for example..apart from the buddy story about Jacky Jacky and one of the explorers the history of aborigines and their interection with colonials was a deep dark space, it was only about settlers and explorers.

    Nor did we learn in any meaningful ways about the Surrey Hills slums and the lifes of workers and women, although we were told Australians at Federation was supposed to be healthy and well fed.

    In history, we know William Wallace was executed by King Edward the Third, so England could move on to better brighter things, but how meaningless until you find out it wasn’t a TV execution, all clean and legal, but a dreadful execution driven by spite and the urge to consolidate the power of a King over a conquered people.

    We also learned about Clive’s conquest of Bengal, a few thousand soldiers up against a Bengali army, but we never found out except under our own auspices that that conquest was accompanied by organised looting and caused a famine that killed millions of people, this caused by the same sort of people who get such a wrap in books like Pride and Prejudice and the movie or TV versions thereof.

    In short, we learnt about heroic things, but never looked at another side of human natuire we also needed to know about.

    Revisionism doesn’t help a society adjust to reality, currently we look at the T-Party in the US or ourselves and Hansonism and wonder if we are not back in the seventeenth century. People bought up on with romantic myths don’t adjust easily when their illusions are blown away, as my generation found during the Vietnam conflict.

    Blow the white armband and its alibis and gildings of the lilly to convince people things are ok and the people running things are ok when theyre not… nothing good can come of a nation with its head held in the sand.

  2. Lorikeet

    I think both adults and children get plenty of information about past wars whenever Anzac Day comes around. There is always a flyer in my letterbox from the federal MP, complete with a recipe for Anzac Biscuits.

    On national television, we get several days worth of various inputs including interviews and vision of Anzac Day parades.

    I think schools still commemorate Anzac Day and there are also displays in shopping centres to remind everyone of what it is all about. I think too much emphasis on war could result in Australian students getting an F in other subjects.

    I would like them to be taught that the pen is mightier than the sword and that governments should negotiate with each other, rather than sending young people to war as sheep to the slaughter. Then if national leaders still want to fight it out, they can do their own individual duelling and take a bullet or bayonet themselves.

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