Conservatives like Tudge think they need history, but not historians

Conservative politicians and historians are always doomed to conflict, write Paul Divers and Dr. Dean Aszkielowicz.

ON SEPTEMBER 2, Minister of Education Alan Tudge He stated that he wanted the standards in the school history curriculum to be removed. Instead of summarizing his vision for improvements in learning and teaching standards, Tudge instead complained that an upcoming national curriculum update would reinforce an already very negative view of Australian history taught in schools.

For Tudge, curriculum needs a positive, optimistic and forward-looking view of our history. These sentiments were later echoed in an opinion piece by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Australia on September 30.

In other words, two of the leading Conservative voices in the country would prefer that historians and history teachers stop doing their jobs in the name of patriotism.

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Tudge and Abbott’s line of criticism is familiar among conservatives in Australia. Interpretations of the state of history are similar to the “history wars” of the 1990s and early 2000s. The history wars were an ongoing debate among politicians, academics, teachers and public intellectuals about how much of the school curriculum and the broader discipline of history should focus on difficult chapters in Australia’s past.

John Howard, then the opposition thought that the balance sheet of Australian history fell on the side of heroic success. Howard also mocked those who wore “black armbands.” approach to history which considers the history of Australia after 1788 as consisting of: “imperialism, exploitation, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination”.

Tudge and Abbott are, therefore, playing some of the band’s old hits. They want history to be taught primarily in a way that celebrates how Australia has become wealthy, liberal, free and egalitarian.

The problem with this way of thinking is that these proud achievements in Australian history are the result of a struggle against darker parts of the country’s history. The wealth of many Australians is the result of labor unions fighting low wages and widespread exploitation. Granting the suffrage to women and later Indigenous Australians were undoubtedly positive achievements, but could only happen because these people at one point did not have those rights.

Similarly, the decision mabo Declaring terra nullius invalid happened because terra nullius was thought to exist. Historians deal with change, and no history is complete without questioning how we move from one state to another – even if that makes some parts of the story bleak.

In reality, the attack on so-called “black law enforcement” history is not about correcting history, but about getting it right for the purposes of Australian nationalism. Tudge’s comments on September 2: instructive at this point. At Triple J and Sky News, he narrowed his focus to one of the most important days in the Australian calendar: Anzac Day.

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Of particular concern was that the proposed school curriculum was based on the belief that the meaning of Anzac Day was debated among Australians. Tudge claimed that most Australians consider Anzac Day sacred and its meaning is indisputable. He argued that only the fringes of society bothered to think critically about what that day meant and the circumstances under which Australians made their military sacrifices.

In fact, critical thinking on Anzac Day has been mainstream in Australia for at least 60 years. Alan Seymour’s 1958 play One Day of the Year – reflecting the binge drinking associated with Memorial Day – has long been included in the high school English curriculum.

Historians and history teachers deal with Anzac Day as with any other event in the nation’s history: through critical analysis of the evidence. Institutional Australia and some powerful forces in politics reject or ignore this scientific Anzac Day association that supports national myth-making in favor of a simpler version of events. Political figures and companies are happy to use Australia’s genuine interest in commemorations and genuine interest in veterans for their own purposes.

Myth-building is important to all politicians because all political parties tell stories to voters. These stories need to rally support for the party’s agenda by creating a sense of shared identity with the electorate. They can be stories about progress, solidarity, the environment, or many other things.

Yet no political group has invested more in the past than conservatives: their stories, in general, are always about a great and proud man who needs to protect what he has at all costs.

Historians intervene in this story by presenting evidence and analysis of events that can raise complex and strange questions. This can often be a source of frustration for conservatives. A day like Anzac Day is not only part of Australian history, but a key touchpoint for the country’s conservative vision. It’s easy to understand why they don’t like to see its meaning discussed.

Australian conservatives are worse off than those in Europe and America. The long histories of some European democracies, the short but dramatic history of the United States, instill in many citizens at least some sense of proud tradition. distinguished historian John Hirst He wrote that historians in Australia often had a hard time convincing people to be interested in the creation of the nation.

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Most Australians have only minimal knowledge of the Federation and have to remember their early school days to tell stories from colonial history. There is no Battle of Trafalgar or even a Battle of Britain in Australia.

It was not founded by revolution, nor does it have certain founding fathers, famous documents, or famous intellectual movements. National sentiment is often patchy. There is very little choking when the national anthem is sung (if indeed people are accompanying). Sure, there are moments of intense national pride, but these tend to pop up as episodes, and once it’s over, people just move on with it. Australians are not that nationalistic – when it comes to the past or the present.

Most Australians know where they come from but they are not living in the past. They think they are lucky to live in a thriving and prosperous country, but they are not so paralyzed by sentimentality that they will be blinded to its historical or contemporary problems.

Conservatives here don’t have much to work on to strengthen their political narrative. Therefore, they want historians to interpret historical events with the whip of national sentiment. But the history profession in Australia has often proven to be resilient. Historians have won the history wars and will see Tudge’s new attack.

Historians will continue to be a thorn in its side, rather than an instrument of national myth-making.

Paul Divers He is a PhD candidate and temporary teacher with a BA in Law and History at Murdoch University.

Dr. Dean Aszkielowicz He is a lecturer at Murdoch University.

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