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To be the Clever Country, we need the appropriate history curriculum

By Brian Holden - posted Tuesday, 20 April 2010

As 1999 drew to a close, I was listening to talk-back radio and the listeners where invited to call-in with their list of the most important events of the 20th century. About 10 responded to this “history test”.

Every one included the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy in their list. Kennedy was just one individual, and on the day he died over 100,000 other humans died. He was not indispensable as the vice-president stepped straight into the job. In the absence of a proper education in the understanding of history, the media develops your history acumen for you.

If we understand history we can observe the evolution of man’s thinking. From this insight we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and gain a better understanding of where we may be going.


How not to be clever

My history instruction at school was almost entirely focused on our British heritage. We were excited by ours and the Brits’ military exploits. We were supposed to be fascinated by Australian politics - but were bored witless by it. We learned less about the USA than about Britain - even though at the time the USA was producing half of the world’s manufactured goods and consuming half of its energy. We learned almost nothing about Asia. The impression we were all left with was that white is by far the best colour.

I learned nothing on the history of the struggle of the common man to survive - when the common man was the social background of every student in the class. I learned nothing about our Indigenous people. I learned almost nothing of the history of technology - when without technology there would be no recorded history as we would still be living in caves and throwing stones at animals.

Why was I trained by the state for 10 years not to question to any depth? It was because the state believed that it cannot control a citizenry which probes too deeply. I was being mentally conditioned to get a job, to acquire a mortgage and to grimly hang onto the job to pay off the mortgage - and to support whatever war the state said was necessary for my family’s security. But such a state is automatically limiting its capacity to be clever.

Bob Hawke in his 1990 “Clever Country” speech was thinking of an increase in R & D - but not necessarily due to the efforts of the products of Australian schools. A high percentage of researchers in this country are from overseas. So, it was an increased funding for R & D that Hawke was really referring to. The man-in-the-street could be left at whatever level of clever he was at.

How to be clever

For more than 30 years Edward de Bono has been passionately and fruitlessly advocating for schools to teach children, not just the facts, but how to think outside the square. The 10 callers to the radio program would have been a representative sample of the general population. All 10 listed:

  • the coming of the computer;
  • the moon landing of 1969;
  • the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cold War.

Another 10 without media-molded minds would instead have listed:

  • after 150,000 years, modern man acquired a second brain;
  • after 3.5 billion years, evolved life became captured by another gravitational field;
  • after 4.5 billion years, man and not nature contributed a new form of energy.

All that in the 20th century! I will elaborate:

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About the Author

Brian Holden has been retired since 1988. He advises that if you can keep physically and mentally active, retirement can be the best time of your life.

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