Australia Embraces Politically Incorrect Captain Cook
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
SYDNEY, Australia – Two centuries after he dropped anchor in Botany Bay, Captain James Cook has sailed into a political storm in Australia, the country he put on the map.
Once honored as an Australian hero, the 18th-century English navigator has been sidelined – even vilified – in recent decades in a nation embarrassed by its bloody colonial past and the cruel treatment of its indigenous population.
But the Australian government vowed yesterday to reverse the tide of political correctness that swept Cook, who claimed Australia for the British crown in 1770, and other European “colonizers” from the national school curriculum.
The federal education minister, Julie Bishop, announced that there will be a radical overhaul in the way history is taught in Australian schools that will see a return to the narrative form of history, free of political interpretation.
“Every schoolchild should know when and why Captain James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, who was our first prime minister, why we were involved in two world wars, and how federation came about,” she said.
Ms. Bishop accused politically correct educators of hijacking history, presenting Australia’s past through a filter of Marxist, feminist, and Green interpretations.” There is too much indoctrination and not enough pivotal facts and dates,” she said.
Her comments echoed the views of Prime Minister Howard, who recently called for a “root and branch” overhaul of the way history is taught in Australian schools. He also wants to see pupils saluting the Australian flag at morning assembly, a practice last seen in the 1960s.
In some parts of Australia, history is no longer taught as a separate subject, but has been absorbed into a broader social studies program. In Western Australia, history is part of a program called time, continuity, and change. In South Australia, it is part of the society and environment studies unit.
Mr. Howard said history should once again be a compulsory part of the syllabus, for at least some of the time a child is at school.
Well-known for his love of British institutions – especially cricket, the monarchy, and the Westminster system of government – Mr. Howard told a radio audience that schoolchildren should have “some understanding” of British and European history, the Enlightenment, and the influence of Christianity on Western civilization.
Although the education minister has commissioned two historians to map out how history can return to the national curriculum, the Canberra government faces stiff opposition from the Labor-controlled state governments who run the schools.
The federal government, however, is likely to have the last word since it funds the state school system.