Since Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s weekend comments on the significance of the Bible in forming “such an important part of our culture”, there has been a flurry of commentary on the place of the Bible in the new national curriculum.

On Sky News’s Australian Agenda program on Sunday, Ms Gillard said that:

“It’s impossible to understand Western literature without having that key of understanding the Bible stories and how Western literature builds on them and reflects them and deconstructs them and brings them back together.”

Political opponents and other public commentators have been quick to seize on this statement and highlight what they perceive as a contradiction between Ms Gillard’s support for the Bible as an essential Western literary document and the failure of the draft national curriculum to recognise this fact. The contradiction is underscored by the national curriculum being an initiative of Julia Gillard herself when Education Minister in the Rudd ministry.

Queensland MP Peter Slipper rose in the House on Monday to ask the Prime Minister to indicate where in the government’s draft national curriculum the Bible is mentioned (read the House Hansard here from p. 52).

This was followed up by an article on The Punch opinion website by Shadow Minister for Education Christopher Pyne and Member for Aston Alan Tudge, who ask whether the national curriculum fails to give “Australian students the keys to understand Christianity, Western culture and literature, and Western civilisation generally” due to a cursory examination of the Bible.

This view is supported by Chris Berg, who is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, and the editor of The National Curriculum: A Critique. In an article on the ABC’s The Drum Unleashed, he argues that, “Just as the history of the Middle East can’t be understood without Islam, the history of Western Civilisation can’t be taught without reference to the West’s dominant religion”.

The Australian Christian Lobby likewise agrees that any national curriculum should take proper account of the religious and cultural contexts in which contemporary Australia came into being. This does not mean proselytising in public schools, far from it.

What it does demand is an honest account of the way in which Christianity, and its holy book, the Bible, have come to influence and shape Western society, culture, politics and the arts, and the way in which this has subsequently impacted the formation of modern Australia.

You can learn more of ACL’s position on the role of the Bible in education by reading our earlier submission to the consultation for the draft national curriculum, available here.