Australian Commentary (8)

The new Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, wants to make changes to the way curriculum is taught in Australian schools. He is concerned that curriculum has had a left-wing bias, has been pro-union and anti-business, and that its anti-Christian.

So, he’s employing two known conservative educators to assist him with making changes to Australian curriculum, nationwide. One of these, Kevin Donnelly claimed recently that

Australian history was being neglected, but [he] supported the major themes in the current curriculum – Asia, indigenous culture and sustainability – while saying students needed a stronger grounding in the nation’s Western tradition.

“I’m all in favour of indigenous, Asian and environmental perspectives, but what I’m concerned about is that in focusing on those three we’re undervaluing the contribution of Western civilisation and Judaeo-Christian values,” he said.[1]

Well said, Mr Donnelly. I agree with you. Yours is a commendable approach.

But here’s the critical issue. Will it make any difference? Probably, hardly any.

Why is that?

When governments around the world began to take charge of education in the nineteenth century, they progressively removed the decision making process from parents. They set up Departments of Education to oversee everything: school, curriculum, conditions, wages, policies. In fact, everything about education became subject to the Department.

By 2014, it’s all been settled. Parents have been tossed unceremoniously into the back seat, if indeed they get to come along for the ride at all. All has been made subject to Departmental policy, subject to the Minister.

Now, the Minister wants to set about a process of changing everything from the top down, and he will have a job on his hands. He will have to convince bureaucrats, thousands of teachers and their volatile, stubborn, godless unions, not to speak of countless millions of largely indifferent parents.

This is what I suspect will happen. Even after two terms of government totalling six years, there will be little change. Why? Because the Department will resist, teachers will resist and 80% of parents won’t care, one way or the other.

Christopher Pyne could spend millions over these years, and hardly anything will change.

Now, if Mr Pyne really wants there to be significant educational change for the better in Australia (and perhaps he does), this is what he could do: close down the Federal Department of Education, resign from his position, and send budgeted monies over to Joe  Hockey to repair the blown-out deficit. That would save us billions.

He could say to the many tertiary institutions around Australia, “You’re on your own.” He could say to the various Departments of Education around Australia, “You spend your own money. Don’t come running to the Federal government for cash.”

And he could encourage Australian parents to home school their children, with no State or Federal Departmental assistance. That would be the way to radically improve the educational levels of Australian students.

He’d in agreement with the former US senator, Ron Paul, who in 2007 commented that

parental control of child rearing, especially education, is one of the bulwarks of liberty. No nation can remain free when the state has greater influence over the knowledge and values transmitted to children than the family…The best way to improve education is to return control to the parents who know best what their children need.[2]

Is this likely to take place? Of course not.

Christopher Pyne would laugh at it, 80% of the community would wonder where the Liberal Party dug up Mr Pyne from, teachers would sneer at the suggestion, and Departments of Education would reject it out of hand because it threatens their employment.

And the institutional Church, charged by God with the task of being “…the pillar and support of the truth” (I Tim.3:15), would think this was a very radical idea, despite the fact that parental responsibility for education is rooted in scripture.

Conclusion:

Educational standards are falling in Australia because parents haven’t obeyed the God of the Bible. We’ve a lot to learn in the Church at present about parental responsibility for education, not to speak of the roles of government.

Salvation will never come from government departments. Historically, governments since before the days of the Pharoahs have generally been opposed to the knowledge of God. Salvation comes to people by the grace of God, when they obey His commands.

About 1890, Robert Dabney commented that

The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth. It is the one business for which the earth exists. To it all politics, all war, all literature, all money-making, ought to be subordinated; and every parent especially ought to feel every hour of the day, that, next to making his own calling and election sure, this is the end for which he is kept alive by God-this is his task on earth.[3]

So here’s the fundamental issue: are you ready to obey the God of the Bible?


[1] ‘We have to Learn from the Best, says Kevin Donnelly,’ David Crowe, “The Australian,” 11/1/2013.

[2] Ron Paul, quoted on http://www.lewrockwell.com, 2007.

[3] Dabney, quoted in Bruce Shortt, “The Harsh Truth about Government Schools,” 2004, p.356.