Two or three times a term, the staff association turns on a morning tea and from out of hidey holes we teachers emerge in great number to make like fur seals and consume in a single sitting their body weight in party pies and mini quiches.

On the most recent occasion, some of us were made to ponder the 70 “milestones” in the teaching of Australian History. (How many miles to Babylon? Three score miles and ten. Is there is a connection?) Mr Howard and his attack dog Julie Bishop would like it that we all share the vision splendid. So just where, then, does the vision and the current curriculum diverge?

Consider this: a Year 9 student will, at semester’s end, have investigated the prehistory of the Aborigines, considered the merits of the case for the Portuguese discovery of eastern Australia, followed the dotted line of Cook’s voyages, learned of the conditions prevailing in 18th century England prompting the removal of felons to the ends of the earth, the problems associated with such a transition, the fiendish subtlety of the concept of “terra nullius”, the greed of those who grabbed the land, the greed of gold miners and their racist agenda towards the Chinese, the greed of the colonial administrations and the subsequent spot of bother at Bakery Hill in Ballarat.

All this, naturally, points forward to a time and a concept of nationhood which the now-Year 10 student of history will see develop and deepen as the new nation moves away from empire through two world wars and an economic depression. And then how in the confusion of subsequent wars, both military and cultural, Australians were led to question their very identity. But these last are properly the domain of the Year 11 student who will complete his survey of the last fifty years of a turbulent 20th century with a consideration, from the Australian perspective, of terrorism and self-determination and religious fundamentalism and economic rationalism and protest movements and oh dear God if there are not sufficient milestones to go to the moon and back we will all go “he”.

And at the end of it all, when students of Australian history are able to gauge the reliability of historical accounts, checking for omission and prejudice, obfuscation and spin, we history teachers seriously wondered whether this is really what Mr Howard wants. For Australian history as it is currently taught in most schools will do nothing less than show up the humbug of a government which trades not in historical truth but ignorance, fear and prejudice.

The lessons of history are not the same as a history lesson. Mr Howard should be careful what he wishes for.