The Woke Erasure of all That’s Good About the West

How English is defined and taught as a subject illustrates how successful politically correct woke ideology has been in infecting the nation’s schools.  With learning how to read and write, drawing originally on the works of the South American Marxist Paulo Freire, the focus is very much on what is described a ‘critical literacy’, which argues learning a language, and education more broadly, must be emancipatory and liberating.

The true purpose of education, in Freire’s words, is to allow students

… to perceive themselves in dialectical relationship with their social reality … to assume an increasingly critical attitude toward the world and so to transform it.

In 1974 Freire toured Australia, and since that time academics in charge of teacher education and professional bodies such as the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE) and the Australian Curriculum Studies Association have championed his radical philosophy.

An editorial written for a 2004 edition of English in Australia, bemoaning the re-election of the conservative Howard government, illustrates how pervasive this Marxist inspired approach to English became. The author, Wayne Sawyer, argues teachers had failed to adequately teach critical literacy and must redouble their efforts, as Howard being re-elected proved students were easily duped and unable to think clearly. Sawyer argues,

What does it mean for us and our ability to create a questioning, critical generation that those who brought us balaclava’d security guards, Alsations and Patrick’s Stevedoring could declare themselves the representatives of the workers and be supported by the electorate?

Critical literacy and associated feminist, gender, sexuality and post-colonial theories have also had, and continue to have, a significant impact on how literature is now taught.  Before the cultural-Left’s campaign to take control, literature was generally restricted to those novels, short stories, plays and poems that had something significant, profound and lasting to say about human nature — how people interact and relate to the wider world, how we perceive and cope with the myriad challenges and issues we have to deal with as we journey through life.

Literature, especially Greek, Roman, Celtic and Norse myths, fables and legends, also deals with the predicaments, heroes, archetypes and feelings that underpin much of Western culture and that speak to our inner emotional and spiritual selves, what YB Yeats refers to as Spiritus Mundi. Such archetypes and myths deal with love, betrayal, courage, sorrow, forgiveness and the need to find a more spiritual and transcendent sense of meaning in what is an often unforgiving, transient and challenging world.

Instead of a focus on the moral and aesthetic importance of literature, one where students learn to understand human nature and empathise with others, the emphasis is now on deconstructing so-called texts in terms of power relationships and critical theory. In a paper delivered at a AATE national conference, Maria Pallotta-Chiaarolli argues that the English classroom must be re-positioned as “a site of deconstructionist and interventionist strategies when challenging/resisting dominant discourses of marginalistaion and prejudice”. Examples of prejudice include “homophobia, heterosexism and AIDS-discrimination” along with “racism, ethnocentrism, classism and sexism”.

How history is taught in schools has also been dramatically redefined to make it politically correct and woke. While no one is suggesting that schools and the curriculum should embrace an overly celebratory and positive approach, what the Australian Geoffrey Blainey describes as a “three cheers view of history”, what students are presented with unfairly undermines and critiques both Western civilisation and Australia’s foundation as a penal colony and its evolution since 1788.

As detailed by Stuart Macintyre in The History Wars, more radical approaches to teaching history emerged during the heady days of the Vietnam moratoriums and the rise of the counter-culture movement. Macintyre writes,

In the 1960s and 1970s, critical approaches to Australian history questioned established interpretations of settlement and progress. Historians pursued voices frequently absent from the national narrative. Social historians of feminist, migrant and Aboriginal perspectives challenged the exclusiveness of traditional historical approaches.

How history is detailed in the Australian national curriculum from the preparatory to year 10 illustrates how successful the cultural-Left has been in redefining the subject. Like other subjects, students are told in the history curriculum Australia is a multicultural, secular society characterised by diversity and difference and where various cultures, ethnic and race groups interact and live.

Even though Australia owes much to Western civilisation, Judeo-Christianity and Enlightenment values such as rationality and reason, the curriculum promotes a relativistic stance where all cultures and histories are treated equally and deserving of recognition and respect (except, of course, European). Even worse, it’s possible for students to study history across years seven to ten without ever learning about ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, medieval Europe and epochal events like the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution.

Three of the cross-curricula priorities informing history, in addition to other subjects, are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, sustainability and Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia. While there are literally hundreds of references to indigenous history, culture and spirituality, the impact and significance of Western civilisation and Judeo-Christianity is treated in a superficial and fragmented fashion.

Christianity is rarely, if ever, mentioned, and while the dark side of Western civilisation is emphasised (including slavery, mistreatment of women, the ‘stolen generation’, mandatory detention and the civil rights movement both in Australia and America), indigenous culture and history are presented in a positive light and beyond reproach.

In relation to Asia, and similar to the way indigenous culture and history is treated, students are presented with a sanitised picture. It is a picture that ignores and air-brushes from history the millions starved, tortured and killed under dictators Mao, Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh. Whereas Australia is a Westminster, parliamentary democracy where people’s rights and freedoms are protected there is also no mention in the national curriculum that the majority of Asian countries are totalitarian, single-party regimes where property can be confiscated, and people imprisoned and denied the rights we take for granted without any protection or recourse.

Cultural relativism and identity politics prevail, ignoring the reality that Australia’s political and legal institutions and much of our language, literature, music and art are inherited from Europe and Ireland and the United Kingdom. While the numbers are diminishing it’s also true Christianity remains Australia’s mainstream religion, and that the nation’s political and legal institutions and way of life are indebted to Christianity.

This is an edited extract from Kevin Donnelly’s The Dictionary Of Woke, to be launched in Sydney on  September 20 by Chris Kenny, the host of Sky’s The Kenny Report.  Bookings at  

8 thoughts on “The Woke Erasure of all That’s Good About the West

  • Daffy says:

    “dark side of Western civilisation is emphasised ” Alas, what is not mentioned, ever in the world of woke, is that Western Civilisation is the only one (with tentative exceptions in some Greek and Roman writers) that has been self-critical and constantly renewed itself. Thanks in part, of course, to Christian influence, it extirpated slavery from its own shores (Great Britain and the USA most notably), it provided the place where the rights of women could be recognised and asserted, it shook off the racism that prevails in many non European-influenced places, it provided the ground for trade unions to emerge, and so on! The Woke ( Wusses Obsessed with Konfected Enmity ) insist on living in the long gone past, while ignoring that the past undid itself to land us in the place where the whole world wants to live in the Anglosphere, despite the tendenious fake moralising of the…WOKE.

  • Macspee says:

    Maybe some African history could be include so that the role of chiefs in raiding weaker tribes in order to capture people to be sold as slaves could be learned. Of course never mention the role of Islam in maintaining the slave trade.
    When demands are made for reparations by the descendants of former slaves they are not directed at the sellers who rounded them up for the profit to be made.

  • rosross says:

    What people overlook is that the Western world is in essence the modern world, the most developed world, for good and ill.

    That does not mean the Western or modern world has it all right or is devoid of deep and sometimes dangerous flaws, but it does mean it stands as a goal for less developed nations. Otherwise, why on earth do we spend billions every year trying to help those living in less developed nations become more developed and join the modern/Western world?

    Who can seriously argue that the Maori invasion and colonisation of New Zealand in the 14th century when they in essence, killed and ate their way to power, was somehow superior to the British occupation and colonisation from the mid 19th century when they sought to negotiate and work with the peoples they found living there as opposed to skewering them and setting up a mighty barbecue of the defeated?

    Who can seriously argue that the many waves of primitive peoples who colonised Australia, killing those they found, apart from a few useful females, as stone-age peoples were wont to do, were all superior to the arrival of the British with their policy of befriend, assist and learn from those they found?

    Sure, colonisation is a tough gig but the British knew that having survived and thrived despite being colonised a dozen times. The argument that the more developed British and Europeans were somehow culpable when colonisation was still important in the times, in ways primitive peoples were not and are not is the worst kind of racism. It is like saying Aborigines and Maoris were little better than animals and so cannot be judged as humans in ways the Anglo-Europeans could be.

    Then again,, we really do live in an age of fools so why should I be surprised?

  • cbattle1 says:

    Indeed, Macspee, pre-colonial sub-Saharan West African culture was based on slavery (at best you could call it serfdom), and the rulers, elites and elders, etc were only too happy to be part of the Atlantic Triangle Trade.
    Back in the early 70’s, I read a local newspaper in Tanzania where a black African Christian minister/pastor had an article published that was admonishing his fellow Africans for their part in the historic slave trade. Tell it like it is, Amen!

  • Farnswort says:

    rosross: “Sure, colonisation is a tough gig but the British knew that having survived and thrived despite being colonised a dozen times.”
    Those decrying the British colonisation of Australia refuse to acknowledge that the arrival of settlers and migrants from elsewhere was inevitable in the age of sail and intercontinental travel. There is an absurd notion that the entire Australian landmass should have been set aside as some sort of giant forbidden zone – a continental reserve – where the various Aboriginal tribes could have lingered in a permanent dreamtime state, forever undisturbed by the outside world. This ignores the reality that, in the absence of the British, another European power would have likely planted settlements on the Australian continent. We know the French, for instance, harboured their own ambitions. And if not for Europeans, then an Asian power would have certainly claimed Australia at some point.

    As Geoffrey Blainey observed in “The Story of Australia’s People: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Australia”: “For ages the Aborigines had relied heavily on isolation. It was their asset and their liability, and gave them long-term control of the continent. But if their isolation were to end, as it ultimately had to end with a shrinking world, their whole way of life could be fractured. Even the arrival of a few thousand permanent settlers, whether from Europe or Asia, would be like the first tremors of an earthquake.”

  • rosross says:


    Well said. It was never going to last. They were lucky it was not the Maoris who arrived as they did in New Zealand in the 13th century. They killed and ate their way through the local population. What a blessing were the British by comparison.

  • cbattle1 says:

    Yes, well, that is pretty much an immutable natural fact; from ants to humans, survival depends on the ability to defend your territory from all others.

    If the Maori became too populous in NZ, they would have hopped to Norfolk Island, then Lord Howe Island and finally to any suitable spot on the East Coast of Australia. Who’s to stop them?

    If Australia had a climate like South-East Asia, the Malay people would have developed a rice growing civilization here, displacing the Aboriginal people, as they did right across the arc of the Malay Archipelago, up to and including the Philippines.

    Imagine the eventual and inevitable colonisation of this continent by Tsarist Russia or Imperial Japan, if the British or French didn’t take up the option? Why can’t these basic truths be taught?

    It is amazing how few have ever read the journals of Cook, Banks, Tench, etc…….. they should be required reading at school, as they provide the knowledge of the foundational basis of the modern nation of Australia.

  • lbloveday says:

    Interesting to me that gives Australia’s rice yield per hectare as the highest in the world.
    ALP/Greens will soon put an end to that.

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