Our Task

Education is a ground where our cultural battles will be fought

Topics

Justice Politics

Today, crazy notions spread like wild fire and become wilder as they spread, often claiming the authority of science, and using the muscle of popular mass culture to cower most people into acquiescence, if not belief. We are indeed in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s much bigger than COVID: it’s a radical and possibly fatal divergence between reality and imagination. Truth doesn’t matter anymore: you are what you think you are, and there’s no mercy or forgiveness for the person who tells the emperor that he’s naked.

Education, and particularly secondary education, is a ground where battles may be fought and lost, battles of such importance that the whole outcome of the greatest of great wars could be decided there. So-called identity politics when transferred to the school curriculum are deeply divisive, setting man against woman, black against white, young against old and rich against poor. Splitting society up into rival warring groups (for that’s what it amounts to) overlooks the connectedness of historical events. For example, it is impossible to understand the British and the French without some knowledge of the Greeks and Romans; and it is impossible to understand the situation of Australian indigenous culture without some knowledge of the English, Scots, and Irish who played, for better or for worse, a major role in bringing about the fusion that is our modern nation. One example might suffice: the recording and preservation of many of the aboriginal languages was almost entirely the work of scholars writing in English and using Roman script. And speaking of writing, it was Christian missionaries who took on the task of teaching aboriginal people and sharing with them “all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” in the days before governments interested themselves in mass education.

So, it is our task, and has always been our task, even in the face of the most relentless and too often vicious opposition, to impart to our children the best which has been thought and said (in Matthew Arnold’s words) without fear or favor, without regard to partisan calculation, without being bullied by popular notions of political correctness.

 

David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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