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Knowledge of Christianity should be an education priority, say Christian organisations


The national curriculum needs to be ‘re-balanced’, say two Christian organisations, with a new priority added to its cross-curriculum portfolio: Australia’s western heritage and its Judeo-Christian influence.

The existing curriculum includes three cross-curriculum priorities, embedded in all learning areas: Asia (and Australia’s engagement with Asia); indigenous culture; and sustainability.

But Christian Schools Australia (CSA), which represents 130 Christian schools and around 55,000 of Australia’s approximately 3.5 million school students, has told the National Curriculum Review panel in a submission it is concerned that while these three priorities are “vitally important”, they are often given undue weight in the classroom. It suggests a ‘re-balance’ must be made to prevent over-emphasis.

“While we may look forward to greater engagement with Asia, this should not preclude the recognition and analysis of the current and historical engagement with other parts of the world,” CSA writes, as an example.

CSA proposes adding a fourth priority to the cross-curriculum portfolio—‘Western/Judeo-Christian’ influences on our society—to help address these concerns.

In its own submission, the Australian Christian Lobby says the current curriculum does not accurately represent the influence that Christianity, the Bible and European culture has had in the development of Australia. It argues that while the focus on Asia, indigenous culture and sustainability is valuable, “none are as significant in understanding Australia’s history, its institutions, and its culture as the Western, and particularly the Christian, perspectives shared by most of its founders.”

ACL’s Queensland director, Wendy Francis, told Eternity that she agreed a re-balance of the curriculum was overdue. She also believes that the culture wars of John Howard’s era—when arguments over what to include of Australia’s history in the curriculum were rife—were never truly over, despite Howard’s claim of victory in 2006.

“It’s the history wars, continued,” Francis said. “There are still culture wars, and probably always will be. We do have a number of different cultures in our society, but overarching all of them is a Christian heritage…We’re not asking for a narrow perspective of just European Christianity, but neither do we think that should be understated.”

Francis says Christianity and its place in Australia’s history has been sidelined, pushed aside on political correctness grounds. But she also agrees with some criticisms levelled at the existing curriculum, that she says puts an extra burden on teachers to include the three cross-curriculum perspectives in every subject.

“But you can’t have those other perspectives, without including where you’ve come from…We wouldn’t go so far as to say Christianity has to come into every single topic, but neither do we think those three others should either. Just by singling out those three things, you’re ignoring something fundamental…[they] can’t be emphasised at the expense of other things.”

But will non-Christians resent having to learn about Christianity, and make the work of evangelism even harder? Francis says she doesn’t think so.

“We’re not asking for every school to become a Christian school—we’re asking for an understanding of Christianity because that in turn helps them to understand where we are. Without it…I personally think it’s affecting our sense of pride in being Australian. It’s casting a shadow on our history, and there’s much to be proud of.”