Agenda-driven activism has subverted the teaching of Australian history at the nation’s universities, with gender, race and class politics dominating two-thirds of subjects on offer.  Australian history is no longer taught as a study of past events, according to a report by the Institute of Public Affairs.  It argues students are more likely to be exposed to disconnected themes, or “microhistories”, presented through the lens of identity politics, than key concepts explaining Australia’s development as a modern nation.  An audit of the 147 Australian history subjects offered across 35 universities showed 102 were preoccupied with identity politics. Of those, 13 subjects were solely focused on gender and sexuality, race or class.

ANU’s Sexuality in Australian History examined “how an understanding of sexual diversity in the past can illuminate current debates in Australian society”.  Monash University’s History of Sexuality 1800 to the Present had topics that included “the construction of masculinity and femininity, courtship and marriage, heterosexuality and homosexuality”.  In comparison, four subjects featured democracy as a major theme, three covered industrialisation, and capitalism was the focus of just one subject.  Prime ministers appear to be largely overlooked, but Queensland senator Pauline Hanson is mentioned in the descriptions for three subjects.

The report’s author, Bella d’Abrera, said the audit highlighted that students were not being taught basic concepts explaining the origins of Australian society, including its successes as a modern nation.  She said historians had instead “recast themselves as political activists” and students were being “politicised in the classroom” as a result of the courses that were available to them.  “Historians occupy a special position because they have a unique ability to shape our society and to shape the future, but they should not attempt to rewrite the past,” Dr d’Abrera said.

“By reframing Australia’s past using the lens of identity politics, they are warping history to fit their own agenda.”  The report highlights how indigenous history has been framed around common themes of resistance, colonisation and the frontier wars.  Twenty-nine of the 57 indigenous history subjects offered focused on indigenous-settler relations “in terms of violence and conflict rather than co-existence and co-operation”.  Dr d’Abrera said many Australian history subjects were better suited to the disciplines of politics, sociology or anthropology.

She said there was a dearth of subjects that discussed Australia’s economic and political development since 1788 and only one subject looked into the cultural conditions in Britain that led to the development of our liberal democracy.  No subject mentioned “the fact the Australian nation had benefited enormously from the Western legacy”, Dr d’Abrera said.  She said this shed new light on the opposition that the Ramsay Centre has come up against in its bid to establish degrees in Western civilisation at several Australian universities.

After rejection by ANU and a push-back from academics at the University of Sydney, the Ramsay Centre recently signed up the University of Wollongong as a partner for a course and scholarship program planned to launch in 2020.

Bachelor of Arts student Oscar Green took the University of Queensland’s The Australian Experience during his first year of study expecting to be introduced to issues around Australian history and culture.  Instead he was disappointed by a “disproportionate focus” on race and gender and “revisionist approach” to studying the past.  A Victorian university student says her education is being “suffocated” by identity politics, revealing that she was instructed to use the adjective “enslaved” instead of the noun “slave” and was marked down for referencing a quote featuring a racial slur in a historical essay.

Theodora Pantelich recently completed her first year of a bachelor of arts degree in history and Russian at the University of Melbourne, and was surprised by the influence of identity politics in her course.  “When I began to study history at university, I was surprised that it was being taught through the lens of identity politics,” she said.  “Rather than teaching students factual information, lecturers seem more concerned with approaching their analysis of history from Marxist perspectives.  “The obvious problem with this approach was that this leads to a total abandonment of objectivity, with historical facts being viewed merely as constructs rather than self-evident truths.

Source: Compiled by APN from various reports

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