Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Oh for God's sake it's too hot for this kind of nonsense.
Have just seen the PM on ABC TV evening news, banging on in his Australia Day address about how Australian history, 'along with other subjects in the humanities', is being taught in that nasty amoral po-mo relativistic way and a stop ought to be put to it at once.
Now, I would be willing to bet a biggish fraction of my extremely modest assets that Howard couldn't give you an accurate and detailed definition of post-modernism even if you offered in exchange to put Costello and all the Nats on a slow boat to Easter Island. I wonder which heroic RW culture warrior wrote the speech for him, or provided the notes to his speechwriter. Whoever it was, Howard was reading very carefully from his script at this point. Postmodernism was clearly not a theme on which he felt confident to extemporise.
He is absolutely correct in his claim that history in this country, and the history of this country, should be taught better, and taught more. But he and his speechwriter are completely wrong in blaming an abstraction called 'post-modernism' for the fact that it isn't. Maybe he should, for example, have a look instead at the relative amount of funding going to private and public schools, or at the workplace conditions under which dozens if not hundreds of teachers a year collapse into an extended period of stress leave. Postmodernism is the least of anybody's problems.
Whoever wrote the speech needs a bit of a lesson in clear thinking, too: there's a doozy of a mixed metaphor in there. Australian history, said the speech, is taught as a 'fragmented stew of themes and issues'. A stew is not fragmented; on the contrary, the point of a stew is to combine things.
On the other hand, the PM obviously relished the phrase and had lots and lots of fun saying 'fragmented stew', so maybe that's the most important thing.
What the PM wants, as one exasperated-looking history teacher pointed out when asked to comment, is to wind the clock back several decades: to reinvent, as with the wheel, the time when Australian history was taught as a triumphalist grand narrative of grand middle-class white male triumphs.
Which is, after all, like, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. As everybody knows.