History Education for the Citizens of the Future
Dr Carolyn Holbrook, Deakin University
The discipline of History has always been concerned with educating the citizens of the future. For the first decades of Australian nationhood, this largely consisted of inculcating young Australians in the virtues of British imperial liberalism—the kind of citizenship education that sent 60,000 young men to their deaths in World War I. The relationship between the History discipline and the nation-state has fractured over the last several decades, but the importance of instilling in young Australians the skills to be active and informed citizens is no less urgent. How should we respond, as History educators, to the multitude of challenges our young people will inherit, the flood of disinformation and the rise of alarmingly sophisticated artificial intelligence, threats to democracy and declining faith in democratic systems, the crisis of housing affordability and the climate emergency? I argue that academic historians need to orient our research more explicitly to the challenges of the present, and to be more prominent advocates for the value of historical knowledge. We must also rediscover our interest in class as a category of analysis, in response to the dramatic rise in equality. As will be argued, tertiary educators can benefit by increased communication with our colleagues in the secondary system about the needs and interests of the citizens of the future.
Dr Carolyn Holbrook is a historian at Deakin University. Her research includes the history of Australian federalism, the concept of national security, anti-tobacco campaigning, Medicare and memory of World War I. Her most recent publication is Lessons from History: Leading Historians Tackle Australia’s Greatest Challenges, co-edited with Lyndon Megarrity and David Lowe (NewSouth, 2022).