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Miranda Devine is a Hack

Miranda Devine writes in the SMH today that English teachers have lost the plot, and criticises the English Teachers’ Association for hating books, plays and poems, and language in general really.

Hmmm.  I wonder, what is more likely…

  • That English teachers hate books, OR that they think students need to know how to understand and create spoken and visual language as well?
  • That English teachers hate books, OR that they LOVE books, as well as films, poems, webpages, plays and TV shows?
  • That English teachers hate Australian books, OR that they LOVE Australian books…AND films, poems, webpages, plays and TV shows!?
  • That English teachers don’t want students to read books anymore, OR that they LOVE it when students read books, but don’t want politicians and journalists dictating when and where books are used in their teaching program?

Devine quotes author Sophie Masson, who believes that English teachers have a “subconscious hate and envy of writers” – this is of course why we all hate books, and are hell-bent on destroying LIT-RIT-YOOR for students today.

Masson is also quoted (as speaking on behalf of all English teachers), because some teachers have told her at writing workshops that the HSC is too hard.  Devine describes with horror that “there is a huge burden on [teachers] to comply with curriculum rules and what has to be accomplished in a year.”  Well, yes.  I agree – but this has less to do with having to teach ‘theory’, and more to do with what we are forced to cram into the HSC year because politicians insist on setting the bar so high to protect the reputation of NSW’s ‘world class curriculum’!  If parents want an easier HSC, they need to tell the politicians…they will get my support, but Devine is likely to slam them in the SMH for want to ‘dumb down’ they syllabus…

Speaking of dumbing down, Devine also quotes her mate Big Kev Donnolly, who along with Devine perhaps has a subconscious hate and envy of good English teachers who sees any attempt to teach spoken or visual language as “social activism”.  At what point will the Sydney Morning Herald stop giving air to journos that are so out of touch??

If the English curriculum only covered written language – books, poems and plays – it would be a very disengaging subject indeed, not to mention totally irrelevant in our contemporary world.  Miranda Devine is of the opinion that ‘words are words’ whether in a book or on a screen.  How utterly ignorant. If Miranda Devine is serious about encouraging a love of language (as I truly believe she is, in her own misguided way) she would be better off getting behind English teachers who want to teach MORE language forms, not LESS.

The ETA’s response to the Board of Studies’ proposal to ‘Strengthen Australian Literature’ actually argues the following:

  • ETA members do not believe that there is any need to impose further restrictions on professional choice and judgement than those that are already in English syllabuses.
  • ETA members believe that any definition of ‘Australian’ needs to see Australia in a global context , and to take account of Indigenous and multicultural perspectives.
  • ETA members feel strongly that a definition of literature with a restriction to the print medium is imprudent, reductive, short-sighted and, most importantly, undermines the integrity of current English syllabuses.
  • ETA members believe that the amendments to the K-6 English syllabus do not provide the richness of direction required for non-specialist English teachers particularly in the areas of what could constitute literature and the kinds of creative responses it may inspire. They also think that teacher professionalism needs to be acknowledged by specifying their involvement in the development of recommended text lists.
  • Members are particularly concerned at the narrowing of the definition of literature in the syllabus [to mean only print texts – books, poems and plays] and believe that strengthening the inclusions in the syllabus restricts the capacity of teachers to effectively support weaker students.

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