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“I welcome this corrective in our national sense of self,” said John Howard last year.

Rather as though my country’s public face could only be saved by immediate rhinoplasty. And today he’s divulging the predicted “after” shots for history’s most extreme make-over.

In an effort to spare fragile teen intellect from fragmented learnin’, the kids’ homey reckons that history can be taught as a clean and linear narrative. And, post procedure, like totally make YOU feel good about being YOU.

As I write, sitting on a copy of The Fatal Shore for good luck, J Dogg is disclosing the finer points of a new history curriculum in years nine and ten. And then, he’ll spend all afternoon arguing with state government and, of course, the Maoist Ideologues that apparently masquerade as teachers.

John “No Po Mo” Howard has been banging on for quite a bit regarding his conquests in what some call the Culture Wars. And so, of course, have his mates. You will recall, of course, the moment of creative recruitment that led Brendan Nelson to the helm of edumucation.

Under the purview of the man who Never Voted Liberal in His Life, cappuccinos were stamped out for good in university cafes. He had a real thing about caps. Not, to the best of my knowledge, that any self-respecting student has ordered this antique beverage since Dylan went electric. But he had a thing about coffee, chardonnay and “post modern mumbo jumbo.”

His successor Julie Bishop steadfastly burned and raved til close of day. (Bishie, that’s a Dylan Thomas line, if you missed it. Which you may have considering the parlous state of edumucation.) She doesn’t fancy Critical Theory or PoMo either. If she could summon the name of Derrida, I imagine, she’d spit out her cappuccino as she uttered it. (This is something the late thinker would, no doubt, have found tres ironique.)

Now, I’m all for a hasty return to studies that do not include, for example, references to the MC Hammer made-for-television movie. (It is called Too Legit and YES there’s a pivotal scene where his wife lets out his pants thereby changing the courses of fashion and popular music forever. And YES he stars as HIMSELF. A feat few celebrities have attempted.) Howard and Bishop are right: Kids are thick and they can’t spell.

However, Howard seems instructed by one of Hammer’s central tenets. Viz. U Can’t Touch This. For Howard, the culture wars are simple: it’s the absolutists versus the relativists. And the absolutists vote for the coalition and the relativists are stinking Trots.

This is just broken and divisive thinking. Recently, I had occasion to interview Clive James who described himself as “culturally conservative and politically progressive.” Naturally, I bore everyone I meet with this story and have begun to describe myself along the same lines. Mostly because I’m a w-nker. But also because it’s a useful counterpoint to this ridiculous “culture war.”

One can, rather easily, mourn the loss of the things schools used to teach while guzzling chardonnay (so out it’s BACK) and being a pinko. And, of course, acknowledging the critical relativism of post-modernism might have been just a little bit useful. (Although I’ve had more than enough Cultural Studies, thanks. I’m sick of people from Sydney University defending television programs they obviously don’t watch.)

The culture wars are just a load of wedge-building balderdash and any true progressive who bothers to counter these arguments head on is a nong.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

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