Clark, Anna: Teaching the nation

Clark, Anna

Teaching the Nation: Politics and Pedagogy in Australian History, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Vic., 2006

Starts from Prime Minister’s Howard’s well-known remark in 2000 at Gallipoli that ‘history was not being taught as it should be in Australia’s schools. There was, he said, ‘perhaps a little too much of an emphasis on issues rather than on exactly what happened’ and this had made Australia’s history less able to inspire its youth. (pp. 1-2) (Howard’s remark received sympathetic treatment here.)

The author goes on to look at case studies of curriculum development and standard setting in secondary school history. She detects changes in stance among politicians, for example, then New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, moving from a position close to Howard’s to the opinion in 2004 that ‘[o]ur history is not a single story… Many stories comprise the Australian experience.’ (p. 164) She notes a forerunner to Australia’s ‘history wars’ in the United States in the 1990s and quotes the American historian, Gary B Nash:

Students may … come to understand that challenging a hoary set of meanings is not unpatriotic but in fact captures the richness of American history… The discussions [about national standards in history] are healthy and should go on, but we can’t expect complete agreement. This is a country where I hope we have no official history. (p. 63)

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