F for Fail in Civics and Citizenship

Dear Reader,

Some of you would have heard that late last year the New Zealand High Court ruled that its current voting age of 18 is discriminatory. This year, lawmakers in New Zealand are set to debate lowering the country’s voting age to 16.

On cue, the Greens and Teal Independent MP Monique Ryan renewed the push for the same to happen in Australia. [Read here]

So in my first Class Action update to you for 2023, I explore how prepared young Australians are to take on the responsibilities of ‘citizenship’ as they leave school. How well do they understand the complexities of our democratic system that they stand to inherit and will be taking forward?

I also take a quick look at how the ideological indoctrination hides in plain sight within the National Curriculum.

F for Fail on citizenship

Similar to NAPLAN, which assesses basic academic proficiency, National Assessment Program for Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC) is a test undertaken by a sample group of Year 6 and Year 10 students every three years that examines their understanding of the Australian democracy and system of governance, the rights and obligations of citizens and the social values that underpin Australian society.

The test is conducted by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority), which is responsible for developing and rolling out the National Curriculum and for holding national assessments such as NAPLAN.

The results of NAP-CC rarely gain much attention but the most recent results available from 2019 show only 38 per cent of Year 10 students were ‘at’ or above the proficient standard. [Read page 24 of NAP-CC 2019 report here]

On the release of the results, the CEO of ACARA David de Carvalho said: ‘It is disappointing that the results suggest our next generation isn’t demonstrating a sufficient level of understanding of the significance and history of our democracy and shared values.’ [Read here]

So let’s take a minute to understand what this result means. If only 38 per cent of Year 10 students are ‘at’ or above the proficient standard, what is the gap in knowledge for the rest of the 62 per cent of students? Here’s the answer.

They cannot really explain the significance of Anzac Day and relate Anzac Day to Australian national pride.

They cannot satisfactorily identify the importance of democracies for citizens to engage with issues.

They cannot recognise Australia’s ties to Britain or identify one role of the High court.

They do not really understand federal / state division of powers or the underlying principles of elections in which a majority government is formed.

They do not understand the role independent members can play in the formation of minority government.

They cannot satisfactorily recognise the principles that are at the heart of our democratic system and identify their historical origins.

But don’t be too alarmed. They can identify the names of the two houses of Parliament, identify that members of parliament represent people in their electorates – and most importantly – describe ways of protesting!

A survey that accompanied the NAC-PP test showed that the major concerns of students were ‘problems affecting Australia, particularly pollution, climate change and water shortages’ and there was ‘widespread agreement about the value of taking civic action’.

So after 10 years of schooling, young Australians have little understanding of our electoral system, consider pollution to be Australia’s biggest problem and think civic action is the way to go – little wonder that the Greens and Teals are so keen to get them voting!

Victorian curriculum ditches Australian Politics

Do students catch up in their understanding of Australian politics in Year 11 and 12? Certainly not in Victoria, where it seems the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority wants to give up on even trying.

The VCAA has conducted a major review of the subject and is about to release a new study design. Within this review, it is expected that Australian Politics will no longer be offered as a Year 11 and 12 subject in Victoria. Why? Because of falling interest levels – only 200 VCE students studied Australian Politics in 2022. So, the VCAA is planning to fold the subject of Australian Politics into Global Politics. [Read here]

But how does VCAA expect the subject to be popular, when so few students have a proficient understanding of our national political system? Yet, instead of addressing the education system’s failure to engage young Australians up to Year 10 in Civics and Citizenship, the VCAA is taking the easy way out by dropping the subject all together.

The push to integrate Australian Politics into Global Politics is just another step in the National Curriculum’s persistent ambition to promote ‘global active citizens’ at the cost of the nation. Unfortunately for young Australians, their rights and responsibilities only become meaningful and tangible through their national citizenships. Vague and undefined ideas such as global citizenship may sound glamourous but are ultimately disempowering – as they have no mechanism for individuals to be heard.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion = Critical Race Theory

A regular refrain you might hear from the defenders of the National Curriculum is ‘but you will find no mention of Critical Race Theory in the National Curriculum’.

An investigation conducted by an independent investigative reporting outfit Project Veritas has revealed how Critical Race Theory is sneaked into American curricula through the more innocuous sounding term ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ or DEI – and it is done quite purposefully. [Read here]

Admittedly, this is an American investigation, but it prompted me to look for how often the terms ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ appears in Australia’s National Curriculum. The answer: 330 times!

Australian parents should demand a thorough investigation into what exactly is being taught in the name of ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ to Australian students. And if it turns out, it is just another way of dividing Australians in the name of race, gender and other attributes, they should demand it be removed.

In conclusion…

As always, I’ll end with a quote that I have been thinking lately. This one is by the American hero General Douglas MacArthur and neatly encapsulates my concerns about the National Curriculum and its relentless push to make Australian students reject all that’s great about our nation’s history and heritage.

I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.

Thank you once again for your support and commitment to Class Action. You will soon hear from me about Class Action’s next Curriculum unit – and I promise you, it is fantastic.

Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow