Tuesday, July 06, 2004

History Wars, again

I’ve probably said something to this effect before, but since there’s a prime exhibit in today’s Oz, I’ll say it again. The whole concept of the History Wars is ludicrous: the side opposing the establishment/Left (whatever you want to call them) lacks the basic intelligence to fire a single salvo – on target, at any rate.

Thus Gregory Melleuish’s little rant today. Now, if I were Melleuish’s faculty dean, I’d be scratching my head how I’d ever given such a halfwit a job. Melleuish’s logic is breath-takingly scattered. Look at this:

[For] far too many [high school students], Australian history is a giant turn-off. In conversation with many of these students the word "boring" often crops up. In many cases the experience of the compulsory civics-Australian history subject in Year 10 in NSW is the cause of their disenchantment.

Who would have thought? You take a nasty initiative of the Right – the Howard Youth movement, aka compulsory civics – combine it with Australian history to make it at least semi-palatable to the students (and, it should be said, to the Left-leaning mass of the teaching profession), and the result is "boring". Well, blow me down. As to what academic historians did to “own” this little mess is left unexplained by Melleuish, of course.

Or even worse, there is the story of the lecturer in Australian history who simply placed a copy of "Who Weekly" in front of her students and stated that this would form the basis of that week's lecture.

Even worse for Melleuish, that is. What’s his point – that the academic historian establishment have spent so much time plotting against their lone-crusader exposers that they cannot properly teach their regular classes? That Who Weekly is “boring”, too? Or is it that Who Weekly is “politically correct”, too? Or is it, as Melleuish surely implies, both boring and politically correct? (Which sounds like an improbability, but who knows - maybe the Howard government's not-shy-of-spending-a-dollar (or 130m of them) ad agency bought the rights to a whole issue of Who Weekly, and then proceeded to makeover that week's issue as a feature on civics, civics, school flagpoles, and more civics.)

The unfortunate fact is that Melleuish is not boring, at least not while academic historians give him the courtesy and status of being one of them. I say it’s time to pull the gloves off; as the David Irving imbroglio showed, the normal rules of polite academic exchange can be exploited by someone who has nothing to lose by doing so. Such a person must, by definition, be of mediocre intellect at best, because they [need to] genuinely believe that they need no other authority in their arguments.

In short, the Melleuishes of academia are slow-release suicide-bombers, using their insider position solely to kill and maim* – kill their own careers and mental balance, and to indiscriminately take everything down, that they possibly can, in the process of so doing.

* (and get on the news).

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