My attention was drawn to the current review of our school curriculum by education minister Alan Tudge's recent Triple J interview, when he raged against the proposed history curriculum revisions. He wrongly claimed they will teach 'hatred' of Australia.
Despite Mr Tudge's histrionics, it should be noted that nothing has yet changed.
The national curriculum is reviewed every six years by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which consults widely with practising teachers and curriculum specialists before putting the draft out for review. It is only then signed off by the federal, state and territory education ministers.
Mr Tudge's outrage is just the latest iteration of what became known as 'the history wars,' when then PM John Howard got all hot and bothered about what he erroneously claimed was the 'black arm band' view of history being proposed for an earlier revision.
Apart from saying that he doesn't want students to leave school with "a hatred" of their country, Mr Tudge has spent months campaigning against elements of the proposed revision. He has indicated that he believes Anzac Day should be "presented as the most sacred of all days in Australia" rather than "contested". It's not the heroism of our troops that is contested, Mr Tudge, but rather the gross political mismanagement of that totally unnecessary war.
The proposed revision is, in fact, quite wise. All it does is to rightly suggest that in year nine the section on the first world war includes "the commemoration of World War I, including different historical interpretations and contested debates about the nature and significance of the Anzac legend and the war".
The content may include "debating the difference between commemoration and celebration of war".
Mr Tudge latched on to one word to launch a scare campaign of the first order, saying that Anzac Day was "not a contested idea apart from an absolute fringe element in our society" (Guardian Australia).
The other issue that aroused the ire of Minister Tudge was the word 'invasion'.
To me, this looks like a sensible way of teaching critical thinking, which is surely an important part of any education. He also complained that year seven to 10 history "doesn't even mention Captain James Cook". He's wrong, for the draft curriculum documents do mention Cook in year four, during a section on the "causes for the establishment of the first British colony in Australia".
The other issue that aroused the ire of Minister Tudge was the word 'invasion'. There are, in fact, only two proposals that involve that word.
ACARA suggests students be taught that "people have different points of view on some commemorations", including that some "First Nations Australians regard 'Australia Day' as 'Invasion Day'". It also says that the colonisation of Australia by the British was "perceived by the First Nations Australians as an invasion".
Sensibly the new curriculum proposes students "recognise that people have different points of view on some commemorations and celebrations". Examples given are that "some First Nations Australians regard 'Australia Day' as 'Invasion Day'" and that non-Christians celebrate Christmas for other reasons.
Students in year four already study the impact that British colonisation had on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, such as dispossession and dislocation. The loss of lives through conflict, disease, loss of food sources and medicines are also covered.
Despite the truth of what is proposed, Tudge told Sky News: "I don't want students to be turned into activists. I want them to be taught the facts." Surely that is all that is being proposed, though Mr Tudge can't seem to grasp it.
In a refreshing contrast to Tudge's over the top polemics, Hayley McQuire, the co-ordinator of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition, told the Sydney Morning Herald: "It's really important that all young Australians are grounded in the truth of our past. This is actually about justice and healing."
And from those who need to know, year nine student Dujuan Hoosan, who gave a speech at the UN aged 12, said he supported the changes. "I feel really happy about those changes because that would mean we are actually telling the truth."
Yes, it is about the truth of our past. And of the need to encourage critical thinking.