Tim Blair


New Criterion



Tuesday, May 13, 2003
UNCLE IS BY NATURE a dismal old snot, and doesn' t expect the world often to overturn its well-established ways of doing evil.

Like Media Watch discovering objectivity, the Gastropod integrity or intelligence, Pastor Lane the twentieth Century or Max-weird McCutcheon planet Earth.

So you can imagine my delight, or perhaps you'd better just let me tell you about it, when I picked up the Weekend Aus and, rushing past Christopher Pearson before he could remind me that I had failed to get him appointed to the ABC Board, I came across Bernard Lane's piece on history teachers and how they're dealing with the Windschuttle revelations. (Inquirer, page 24, and not, so far as I can see, on the website)

It seems that someone has arranged a confrontation between Windschuttle and two of the historians whose evidence on Aboriginal history in Tasmania evaporated in front of our eyes when the deep-delving Windschuttle checked the sources. That is, Henry Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan. The event is to take place at the Tramshed in Launceston this coming Friday.

Perhaps, after eighteen months the two disgraced historians will take the opportunity to explain themselves. Or perhaps they'll just hide behind philosophical obscurantism and personal attacks, like their historian colleagues.

I have no doubt that's what Robert Cudgels Manne will be doing in the book he's currently editing. It's title: Whitewash, on the fabrication of Aboriginal history. He doesn't pretend that his goal is to get Tasmanian history right.

"The purpose of the book is to show in how many areas Windschuttle is out of his depth". I hope his authors (he's just the editor) are clear that's their job. To challenge Windschuttle on the substance would take some real historical research. So far Geoffrey Blainey is the only one to have attempted that.

Now here's the cheery bit. Of the history teachers (school, not university) that Lane quotes, none seems interested in the intellectual gang warfare that Manne is so keen to lead.

Esther Davies, a history teacher in Canberra, dislikes Windschuttle's manner. But it does seem to her that teachers "take what Henry Reynolds says as gospel."

... other high school teachers willing to go on the record are by and large adherents of the revisionist history pionered by Reynolds. Unlike some academics, however, they welcome the Windschuttle debate and put their faith in the self-correcting function of historical argument.

The Left [has] perhaps run away to some textent with our history and the pendulum is swinging back for a touch and they don't want to let it go," says Sydney teacher Paul Kiem".

Kiem is among those enthusiastic teachers thinking about informal ways to introduce the Windschuttle debate into the classroom. Formal incorporation into the curriculum would take longer, as it would require elaborate preparation and approval by education authorities.

... Lynden Leppard, principal of Clarence High School in Hobart, is among thsoe teachers who will encourage students to seek inspiration in the Windschuttle debate... "This is a matter of trust and faith in the story we call hsitory, which is different to the story we call fiction," he says. When he finished Windschuttle's book, he was left with a troubling question: "Have I been screwed by historians - people I trusted? I felt cheated. I believed facts that are not substantiated [on Tasmanian history]."

It seems that history teachers throughout Australia are enthusiastically making use of Windschuttle to get a debate going.

While their "professional" colleagues are busily trying to suppress it, or cravenly keeping their heads down.

As Uncle has said before; give it time, give it time.