The expression ‘culture cringe’ was coined in 1950 by literary critic A. A. Phillips to describe the cringing assumption that anything that is Australian is second-rate. We thought we’d got rid of ‘cultural cringe’ in the 1970s—but now it’s back with a vengeance. Academics at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education have declared that our schools are ‘part of a system of colonial rule’ that is ‘deeply embedded’ with ‘structural racism’. In other words, they’ve declared Australia to be shamefully and morally second-rate. Their message is that only international standards—set by such bodies as Black Lives Matter—should be allowed to rule in this country. Perhaps their shame over being Australian, and their obsequious cultural cringe before imported ideas, doesn’t speak for most of us—but they have certainly breathed new life into A. A. Phillips’ old coinage.
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