Curriculum ignores history value - The Centre for Independent Studies
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Curriculum ignores history value

Twenty-first century history is being made each day. The news is full of  statue-toppling anarchists and clueless looters, politicians making life and death decisions on COVID-19, increasing cyber crime and human rights abuses, loss of respect for longstanding international conventions of the sea and air … and the list goes on.

As times like these, there can be a realisation of a desperate need for knowledge and skills to examine ourselves and our past to reassure ourselves that people are capable of great goodness.

Only the sophisticated, inquiry-based study of human history can do this.

Down Under, reviewers of the Australian Curriculum have a tiny window of opportunity to make History the go-to subject that will finally stand tall alongside English, Mathematics and Science as signalled when those first four learning areas were prioritised back in 2011.

Unfortunately, like foreign languages and the arts, Australian education places History in the category of ‘nice to have’ but without widely accepted value ‘in the real world’.

This subject area suffers from some of the same issues as STEM and languages – too few highly trained teachers, and too little public support for intellectually rigorous education.

At its very best, the study of history — more than any other area of the curriculum — produces analytical thinkers, researchers with academic integrity and deep curiosity, competent writers and thoughtful debaters who marshal the evidence to explain the past, the present and the possible future.

But Australian education is reaping what we have sown — a weak, disjointed curriculum, lacking a powerful overarching national narrative (see Singapore for contrast) and clear, high standards.  This is particularly evident in History, with its inconsistent delivery, small enrolments in Years 11 and 12 and minimal alignment with the separate subject of Civics and Citizenship.

So who will write the history of these strange times? As the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. And history does tend to be written by the winners.

The revised Australian Curriculum needs to be a winner, especially in that most precious field of History.

This is an edited excerpt of an opinion piece published in Spectator as Will generation lockdown write good history?