The current Australian Government is moving towards the implementation of a national curriculum for all government-supported schools.
Under Australia’s federal system, education has traditionally been a State responsibility. The new national curriculum is being introduced through co-operative arrangements between the Commonwealth and States. According to a report in late December 2010, progress is slow. Only the Australian Capital Territory is expected to teach the new curriculum in 2011. Nationwide implementation is not anticipated before 2013.
Delay may be no bad thing. It provides time for more public debate. I think we need it.
A national education curriculum is quite possibly a good idea. Australian States and Territories have set their own curricula until now. Why should bureaucrats in Brisbane, Perth, Sydney or Hobart be better placed to make wise decisions about curricula than a single, better-resourced group of national advisers? On the other hand, the consequence of unwise choices made for the nation as a whole are more serious than a poor curriculum at the level of a single State.
Whoever does design school curricula – and at whatever geographical level they operate – what really matters is the quality of choices they make. I presume there will be extensive consultation with the community as a whole and in particular with academia, the teaching profession, parents etc as the curriculum is finalized – but that’s likely to bring in a wide diversity of opinions. Hard decisions will have to be made; selection is inevitable. Those entrusted with setting a national curriculum have a heavy responsibility to choose wisely.
As in other countries such as Britain, Australia’s organized Jewish/Zionist Lobby has been pushing hard for compulsory ‘Holocaust education’ for some considerable time. It’s efforts seem to be reaching a crescendo. The Lobby wasn’t happy with Education Minister Simon Crean’s apparent refusal to make an unequivocal commitment last July. By August it seemed slightly more reassured it would get its way.
EJAC President Robert Goot; 'gratified'
In mid-December 2010, J-wire reported success: “The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has welcomed the mandatory inclusion of the Holocaust as a topic of study in the latest version of the National Education Curriculum for Year 10 history.” The Jerusalem Post picked up the story on December 19th, claiming: “The Holocaust has been included in the national education curriculum in Australia for the first time.” Those most recent reports may be accurate, although they seem to have been barely mentioned by the mainstream Australian media. Perhaps Israelis are better informed about changes to Australian educational policy than most Australians? (Most, but not quite all).
In any event, a press release issue in February 2011 quoted the Tasmanian Education Minister, Liz Thorp, as follows: “The Holocaust and studies of World Wars 1 and II are now part of the mandated curriculum for History under the new Australian Curriculum to be implemented in 2013″.
Any lobby group, of course, is entitled to promote legal objectives. But the rest of us are equally entitled to resist partisan proposals if they impinge negatively on the community as a whole. I believe this is one such case. Inclusion of mandatory, dogmatic, one-sided ‘Holocaust education’ in the curriculum would be a very poor quality decision for reasons I hope to explain. Australians have a popular word for something of poor quality. We call it ‘bodgy‘.
My objection to compulsory ‘Holocaust education’ in the national curriculum is different in kind from complaints I’ve noticed by other commentators. Kevin Donnelly’s article in the Australian Conservative – The Rudd/Gillard education revolution: an evaluation - is a case in point. Dr Donnelly writes:
Every subject in the national curriculum has to be taught through a PC prism involving Aboriginal, environmental and Asian perspectives. As a consequence, the history curriculum ignores Australia’s Western heritage and the significance of the nation’s Judeo-Christian values and beliefs.
Much of the new curriculum, not surprisingly given the march of postmodernism and deconstruction through the Academy, also embraces the view that there are no truths or absolutes as how individuals perceive the world is subjective and knowledge is a cultural artefact.
In the 29 pages of the first draft of the kindergarten to year 10 history document, Christendom is mentioned once and Christian also once, but only in the context of studying other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism and Islam.
In the science draft teachers are told that Western scientific concepts are on the same footing as indigenous views about science. The geography curriculum adopts a similar relativistic approach to knowledge when it argues that students should be taught that indigenous concepts of the land are just as valid as Western concepts, on the basis that,
“By understanding Indigenous conceptions of their interrelationship with nature, all students can learn that there are other ways of thinking about and interacting with the environment and its resources that those informed by a Western capitalist tradition”.
Writing from a traditionalist, right-wing perspective, the author makes points that certainly merit consideration, although I suspect he’s engaged in some hyperbole. I share some of his concerns, but not others. I don’t propose to debate them here. But I have little doubt the considerations he raises shall feature in the mix of considerations as the curriculum is finalized and reviewed – notwithstanding his grumbles about the dominance of postmodernist relativism. There’s no de facto cultural taboo in Australia that prohibits raising the concerns he expresses and pressing them in public debate.
Debate about the inclusion of ‘Holocaust education’ is an entirely different matter, Indeed, debate about the ‘Holocaust’ in contemporary Australian mainstream culture is so far removed from real debate it’s not really appropriate to use the word at all in this context. There are debates – around the margins – but the essential historical paradigm of ‘The Holocaust’ is typically asserted to be quite unquestionable.
Yet claims by many mainstream commentators that there is no debate about ‘The Holocaust’ are factually untrue. Like it or not, some of the most basic facts of what’s called ‘The Holocaust’ are in dispute. I mean, in this instance, simply that the facts are disputed. It’s a plain matter of fact. Whether they should be disputed is a different issue. That’s a matter of opinion.
On historical matters in general, the western intellectual tradition holds that dispute IS legitimate and that no historical queries should be disallowed. History is an academic discipline which actually makes progress through debate. In a broad sense, history may be regarded as a science, albeit different in focus from ‘hard sciences’ such as physics. Historians apply (or should apply) the same basic scientific approach to their subject matter; they should gather data relevant to a given line of inquiry, formulate hypotheses and subject these – along with the data on which they’re based – to open, rational debate, cross-checking, testing and potential falsification. Furthermore, the goal of historical research is fundamentally akin to that of other sciences: all seek to add to the common store of human knowledge by establishing more of the truth.
‘The Holocaust’ is treated quite in a quite different way by the Jewish/Zionist Lobby – and because of the strong political influence of this Lobby, it has come to be treated quite differently by western societies as a whole. It’s now the norm for the mass media to treat ‘The Holocaust’ not a historical topic appropriate for open discussion, but as a set of verities that shouldn’t be subject to critical examination except by approved insiders.
If that’s truly the case, ‘The Holocaust’ cannot reasonably be taught in schools as part of modern history. The subject may still havc a place in the curriculum within religious studies (in which ‘The Holocaust’ would be studied as a form of modern religious movement) or in sociological studies (viewing it as a cultural and political phenomenon). But if the veracity of the historical subject matter is not open to debate, it’s not history. No debate, no history. Simple as that.
Have I overstated the dogmatism of ‘Holocaust enforcers’? I think not. In 2011, the open expression of opinions contrary to the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative is punishable by law in more than ten jurisdictions worldwide. A significant number of Europeans languish in jail at this moment for no other reason alone than their stated skepticism about the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative. Australia, to date, has no direct equivalent to such legislation, although in one extraordinary series of court cases a few years ago the Human Rights Commission successfully prosecuted Dr Frederick Toben, founder of the Adelaide Institute, for publishing a website of political and historical opinion, following a formal complaint from Jeremy Jones on behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
Anyone challenging the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative has zero access to the mass media. There’s a similar black hole in academia – and the publishing industry plays its part in censoring dissident views on this sensitive topic. When I last visited a major Australian city I checked inside a few major bookshops to see if any of the many books critical of the official Holocaust narrative were available on the shelves. They were none.Clearly, we don’t have open debate on this topic in this country. In truth, it’s the exact opposite! The Jewish/Zionist Lobby has long been trying to stifle debate about ‘The Holocaust’ and has worked hard – and continues to work hard – to destroy the very possibility of fair and open debate.
In English-speaking countries, the expression commonly used to label and excoriate critics of the official narrative is ‘Holocaust Denial’. This is typically portrayed in public discourse, not as a set of debatable opinions, but as a malignant pathology.This quotation from Holocaust ‘expert’ Professor Deborah Lipstadt, whose best-selling book Denying the Holocaust may soon feature prominently in the mandatory teachers’ materials, if not on Year 10′s reading list, shows how this quasi-medical branding is applied:
“In the 1930′s Nazi rats spread a virulent form of antisemitism that resulted in the destruction of millions. Today the bacillus carried by these rats threatens to ‘kill’ those who already died at the hands of the Nazis for a second time by destroying the world’s memory of them…”
The malignancy of ‘Holocaust denial’ is thus associated with other, equally vacuous terms of abuse such as ‘anti-Semitism’. A recent trend has been branding skepticism about ‘The Holocaust’ with the unpleasant label ‘Hate Speech‘.
Readers may notice I insert ‘The Holocaust’ and ‘Holocaust Denial’ in inverted commas. There’s a reason for that. In my opinion, they’re inappropriate terms, designed to mislead. I can’t stop others using these labels – but do avoid using them myself in normal circumstances. If the expressions themselves are the topic of discussion, I wrap them in inverted commas as a reminder I consider them artificial constructs that do more to obfuscate than clarify the underlying issues.
No one suggests ‘The Holocaust’ is a signifier that represents a single event. It signifies a multiplicity of events that allegedly occurred over several years in a variety of locations – and the specifics of some these allegations has changed over time. Consequently ‘The Holocaust’ is not amenable to a simplistic acceptance v denial analysis. It’s not a black and white matter of rejecting or accepting 100% of the officially-endorsed narrative of the day. There’s clearly room for many shades of gray. The Jewish / Israel Lobby has managed to obscure this rather obvious reality.
More than that, ‘denial’ is surely an inappropriate term when referring to any kind of skepticism about historical events – even relatively discrete and unique occurrences.
Jewish-Roman conflict during the Roman Empire; were the casualties exaggerated?
A largely forgotten and somewhat less sensitive historical example may make the point. The Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote that during the brutal Kitos Wars of the early second century AD, Jews in Cyprus massacred 240,000 non-Jewish Cypriots. This figure has been repeated by some historians – but others doubted the accuracy of the figure. I rather doubt it myself. Should I be branded ‘Kitos Wars denier’ or a ‘Cyprus massacre denier’? Clearly if every historical difference of opinion was to be reduced to a simplistic belief/denial false dichotomy, the study of history would descend into complete farce.
Significantly, the terms ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Holocaust Denial’ are quite recent in origin.For schoolchildren in the 1960s in English-speaking countries, the label ‘Holocaust Denial’ didn’t exist. It’s true the word holocaust was widely used – but it was almost invariably uncapitalized and applied most frequently to the much-feared prospect of a nuclear holocaust. Jon Petrie’s carefully documented paper The secular word HOLOCAUST: scholarly myths, history, and 20th century meanings, published in 2000, provides a useful retrospective account of how usage of the term holocaust evolved. He notes: “In the USA of the early 1960s, about 15 years before the word had become closely linked to Hitler’s Judeocide, the word’s principal referent was nuclear catastrophe.” (See also a 2006 version of Petrie’s article)
As someone born in the 1950s and educated in an English-speaking country, I received no ‘Holocaust Education’ as such in school. As far as I can recall, no-one of my age-group did. But I was required to attend history lessons. I recall on more than one occasion being regaled with stories of horrifying Nazi atrocities during World War Two. My favourite history teacher, who’d lived through the Second World War, discussed them in some detail. What’s more, these stories were a staple of TV and radio, newspapers, magazines – even boys’ comics.We learned, for instance, that the bodies of Jewish inmates were processed into soap and lampshades. We were informed of mass gassings of unfortunate Jews in concentration camps such as Dachau and Buchenwald in Germany.
When, a few years later, the term ‘Holocaust’ (capitalized and used to mean specifically the fate of Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Europe) came into widespread usage, it subsumed the horrifying content we’d already been taught. Like most of my contemporaries, I barely noticed the changes in terminology which took place incrementally over several decades. By 2011, most English-speaking people of my age or older have probably forgotten that the term holocaust was rarely capitalized four decades ago – and usually signified other phenomena than the fate of Jews and other minorities in Nazi-occupied Europe. I’d guess even fewer young people are aware of that.
I chose with some care the three examples of specific stories I was taught in school (lampshades made out of Jewish skin, soap made out of Jewish body-fat, gassings in concentration camps within Germany) – because all three claims have since been largely abandoned by ‘reputable’ academic authorities on ‘The Holocaust’.
Establishment ‘Holocaust’ scholars no longer claim mass gassings occurred in any concentration camps on German soil. They no longer allege lampshades or soap were manufactured from the bodies of internees. It is now almost universally recognized those particular stories were allied wartime propaganda for which no hard evidence has subsequently emerged. The continuing insistence of some survivors that they did take place is something of an embarrassment to the ‘Holocaust establishment’.
The first Auschwitz Plaque
Post-1990 Auschwitz Plaque
Moreover, the ‘Holocaust’ narrative continued to metamorphose after the term ‘Holocaust’ came into being. The classic example is the replacement, around 1990, of a plaque at Auschwitz commemorating the murder of more than four million inmates by the Nazis, with a new plaque commemorating a total of victims just over one million. Despite this huge downward adjustment in estimated deaths, the ‘Holocaust establishment’ continues to insist six million Jews were murdered during ‘The Holocaust’. Some things don’t change!
These revisions to the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative typically came about under pressure from scholarly critics of the official narrative. One might say the story has now been pruned back to hypotheses that can less easily be falsified. But that’s not how ‘The Holocaust’ is presented to the public. Quite the reverse! The set of stories we’re now told comprise ‘The Holocaust’, on the authority of the most prestigious ‘Holocaust’ scholars of this era, are typically asserted as long-established fact, supported by superabundant evidence and queried only by very nasty, diseased people with perverse motivations. Here’s one example (emphasis added):
The existence of the Holocaust is not a matter of debate. The Nuremberg trials and the news reports and newsreel covering the liberation of the German concentration camps established the fact of the Holocaust. Despite such documentation, there are those who deny the very existence of this horrific scar on world history. Indeed, denial activity has increased in scope and intensity since the mid-1970s. Given the reality that the Holocaust soon will no longer be a “living history,” such an increase in its denial is frightening. The Allies liberated the concentration camps almost sixty years ago; eyewitnesses of the Holocaust—victims as well as victimizers—are now elderly. Their first-hand, personal accounts of what happened in the concentration camps soon will cease to exist. To prevent a monstrosity like the Holocaust from occurring again, these accounts must be kept alive.
It was not only school-kids in the 1950s and 1960s who were told stories about alleged Nazi atrocities some of which are now accepted by establishment ‘Holocaust’ scholars as untrue. The Nuremberg Trials, held shortly after the end of World War Two, heard the same tales. They were adduced as part of the evidence at Nuremberg, on the basis of which many of the accused were convicted and executed.
The irony of France’s Gayssot Act of 1990 could not be greater. It provides for a prison sentence of up to a year as well as a maximum fine of €45,000 (and payment of damages to the Jewish community) “for anyone who publicly disputes the reality of one or more ‘crimes against humanity’ as defined and ruled on, essentially, by the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg in 1945-1946.” During the Nuremberg Trials, making soap and lampshades out of Jewish corpses was presumably regarded as a ‘crime against humanity’ – so it seems this very peculiar legislation is an attempt to enforce belief in historical opinions no longer held even by guardians of ‘Holocaust’ orthodoxy! French intellectuals have always had a reputation for subtlety of thought, but that contortion is surely impossible to fathom. Even so, the law was upheld on appeal.
I concede that IF skeptical background material and critical perspectives are also introduced to students in ‘Holocaust studies’, inclusion of ‘Holocaust studies’ in the history curriculum might well be useful. ‘The Holocaust’ receives huge attention in contemporary Australian media and culture, so scrutiny and better understanding of this part of history would be a useful part of anyone’s education. But there are no indications that’s what’s intended.
Ideological schizophrenia in western civilization
On past experience, skeptical views are likely to be rigorously excluded. I doubt any ‘platform’ will be granted to the revisionist school of historians – critics of the official ‘Holocaust narrative’. Indeed, compulsory ‘Holocaust’ education may well lead to increased demands on Government to censor the Internet and enact yet more restrictive prohibitions on so-called ‘hate speech’ and ‘racial vilification’ – so students are shielded from dissenting views.
It all amounts to an attack on the fundamentals of the Socratic tradition. Compulsory one-sided ‘Holocaust education’ is a Trojan Horse in modern western culture. It’s a back-door way to re-introduce religion masquerading as history and impose it on future generations.
Australia’s Jewish/Zionist Lobby would be well-advised to quit while it’s ahead. Its preferred ‘Holocaust’ narrative already dominates our airwaves, screens, magazines and bookshelves. That’s what I’d call ‘ahead’.
By pushing for compulsion within the national education system, this powerful Lobby risks a severe public backlash.
The backlash probably won’t be led by teachers or academics, most of whom are too timid, conformist and mortgage-conscious to jeopardize their careers standing up for intellectual freedom.
Resistance will come from the kids.
Doubtless their school Internet connections can be monitored for evidence of ‘thought crime’ – but that just makes resistance to tyranny more of a challenge! Youngsters are experts at getting round silly and irrational restrictions imposed by compromised, shifty adults.
In a contest between youthful curiosity on the one hand and censorious adults on the other, bet on youth.
Kids can spot bodgy dogmatism and have a marvelous talent for pricking adult pomposity and mystification.
Thank goodness for that!