Breaking news: In an exclusive report in the Daily Telegraph, the Coalition review into education is complete and Christopher was right. We need to go back to basics, use phonics, and rewrite history.
“History should be revised in order to properly recognise the impact and significance of Australia’s Judaeo-Christian heritage.”
Firstly, how did the Telegraph get hold of a report that has not yet been released? Could it be because the men who produced it both publish articles in Murdoch papers? Always wise to keep in the good books should the consultancy work dry up.
Secondly, how did two men finish a report into the National Curriculum in a few months when it took the experts years and tens of thousands of submissions?
Thirdly, how much did it cost to get them to write up what Christopher Pyne said would be the result before the review started?
And finally, do these guys actually understand what Judeo-Christian means?
In January, Christopher Pyne promised “balance” and “objectivity” when he launched a two-man review of the Australian national curriculum. He appointed business academic Ken Wiltshire and education consultant Kevin Donnelly as reviewers.
Immediately after the announcement, a startling element of religiosity entered the discussion. Donnelly, who runs a one man Education Standards Institute committed to “Christian beliefs and values” which is owned by the K Donnelly Family Trust, announced in an ABC TV interview that government schools needed more emphasis on religion and more recognition of Australia’s “Judeo-Christian tradition”
He was chief of staff for Kevin Andrews when he was shadow education minister and in the 1990s worked for tobacco company Philip Morris on developing an educational program for school children.
Writing in the Punch in 2010, he warned about the impact of voting Green in the Victorian state election.
“Government and other faith-based schools will also be made to teach a curriculum that positively discriminates in favour of gays, lesbians, transgender and intersex persons,” he said.
In 2011, Donnelly argued that Christians and Muslims do not accept the same values and beliefs, and expressed concerns about a booklet written by academics to help Australian teachers include Muslim perspectives in the classroom. He was upset that the book did not convey:
“…what some see as the inherently violent nature of the Koran, where devout Muslims are called on to carry out Jihad and to convert non-believers, and the destructive nature of what is termed dhimmis – where non-believers are forced to accept punitive taxation laws.”
He is a vocal critic of educational strategies designed to help students appreciate that there are multiple valid worldviews and perspectives.
“Add the fact that students must be taught ‘intercultural understanding’, with its focus on diversity and difference, and are told to value their own cultures and the cultures, languages and beliefs of others, and it’s clear that the underlying philosophy is cultural relativism,” he wrote in the Australian earlier this year.
So what do Donnelly and Pyne mean by our Judeo-Christian heritage?
Quite frankly I have no idea.
First used by early 20th century biblical scholars, as a theological term it is based on the supersessionist view that Christianity is regarded as a religion that has superseded its (outmoded and irrelevant) precursor, and consequently, a redundant Judaism is regarded, in condescending fashion, as a religious anachronism.
During the early1940s, the term Judeo-Christian was used in America to show solidarity with Europe’s persecuted Jews, and was recycled after 1945 by Christian apologists anxious to convince surviving Jewish communities that the Holocaust was a ghastly cultural aberration.
Both scholar and major US Jewish theologian Arthur A Cohen, in his 1969 The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition and US Rabbi and author Jacob Neusner in his 2001 Jews and Christians: The Myth of a Common Tradition have pointed out at great length that the idea of historic Judeo-Christian harmony ignores, amongst other matters, a 2000-year narrative of theological antipathy and a millennium long narrative of violent persecution of Jews in the name of Christianity.
Cohen comments as follows:
“I regard all attempts to define a Judeo-Christian tradition as essentially barren and meaningless … at the end point of the consensus when the good will is exhausted, and the rhetoric has billowed away, there remains an incontestable opposition.”
The term was revived by Reagan as part of the Cold War Christian rhetoric against the ‘godless’ Soviets.
In Australia, it rarely appears until 2001. Until September 11, it appears Australians didn’t give a fig about Judeo-Christian values. The political intent driving its use changed from one of inclusion to one of exclusion in the post-September 11 era, when it most often signified the perceived challenges of Islam and Muslims.
Monash academic Sue Collins finds that the “Judeo” element is merely tacked on for political expedience:
“The term has become a kind of shield for undeclared conservative interests which really want to privilege, and actually mean, the Christian tradition, but are conscious this would be politically counter-productive.”
Perhaps before they presume to rewrite our National History Curriculum, these gentlemen may want to do some research into the shaky foundations on which they want it based.