English teachers hit back

25 04 2006

Karren Phillip, president of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, has posted a response to the PM’s remarks on the AATE website.

She has also submitted the following Letter to the Editor of The Age:

The Prime Minister seems to be misinformed about the ways English teachers are treating texts in Australian classrooms. (‘PM canes ‘rubbish’ postmodern teachingThe Australian, 20 April 2006).

Australian English teachers respect the enduring values and traditions of Australia’s cultural heritage. There are no competing agenda in our classrooms. We continue to value and teach ‘high quality literature’ and to ensure that our students can discriminate the literary from the dross of popular culture. However, to ignore the popular texts that students consume daily,and not give them the critical skills they need to question these texts, would result in a ‘dumbing down of the English syllabus.’ English teachers have a responsibility to ensure that Australian students understand how powerfully our literature (the canonical and the popular) shapes our understanding of our Australian identity.

It is time for federal politicians, led by the Prime Minister, to cease their snipes at state curriculum. They are undermining the efforts of hard working English educators. Surely their job is to support us?

The love affair between contemporary directions in English teaching and the Right is nothing new, of course. And Howard’s comments come in the wake of a shitfight over upper school English that has been taking place in WA.

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