Posts Tagged shakespeare

Damn lies and misinformation: Daily Tele and the new Stage 6 English

New Stage 6 (senior secondary) syllabuses were released today in NSW, and the media circus was on point.

The worst offender for misinformation was probably the Daily Telegraph, with Bruce McDougall’s piece ‘NSW Education: School syllabus shake-up promotes the classics, Shakespeare and Austen back for the HSC’ riddled with unnamed sources and incorrect claims.

Author image created using Trove map resource and Bard portrait

Among the claims are:

  • That “Shakespeare is back” (he never left – he remains mandatory study in Advanced English)
  • That “Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad will become mandatory for Year 11 and Year 12” (impossible to know until the text prescriptions are released later this year, and unlikely to be true for all courses)
  • That the Area of Study is “criticised by students, parents and teachers” as being tied to “woolly concepts” (name your sources or go home).

Disappointingly, NESA president Tom Alegounarias seemed to add fuel to the fire with this misleading statement:

  • “In English, for example, Shakespeare or the equivalent other aspects of great literature will be mandatory.” (Shakespeare is ONLY mandatory in Advanced English, and always has been, and ‘great literature’ i.e. texts from the Western literary canon have always been studied in other courses)

Once again we heard this old chestnut:

  • “Education chiefs said they had listened to sustained criticism from employers and businesses that many school leavers applying for jobs lacked basic skills in literacy and numeracy.” (does this reference to ‘sustained criticism’ mean complaints about this dating back to the early 1900s, which perennially persist despite amazing growth in youth literacy rates?)

It was a frustrating read.

Especially given that NESA had fed the media machine with statements before making the syllabuses available on their website for teachers to see first hand. PDF versions of the material didn’t come online until lunchtime, leaving busy teachers with sense of panic about navigating disparate web-only resources.

One can only hope that these spurious claims work to galvanize the profession in the coming months, as we create new resources and share fresh perspectives on the syllabus change. If conversations I had online with colleagues today are anything to go by, there is still hope for this. We are already interrogating more important aspects of the changes to consider implications, including:

  1. The inclusion of a ‘multimodal presentation’ assessment (will this be more than a speech-aka-essay-read-aloud with a dose of death by Powerpoint to boot?)
  2. The categorisation of English Studies as an ATAR eligible course (what will the impact be on Standard enrolments?)
  3. The increased ability to forgo completed any study of digital or multimodal texts in Advanced English (congratulations NSW, you just got a ‘Literature’ syllabus in disguise!)

Stay tuned for more analysis in weeks to come.

(Author image created using Trove map resource, Bard portrait, and news quote.)

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Returning and some thoughts on the canon

Hello all; apologies for my patchy appearances in the bloggosphere and twittersphere lately.  After a short trip to San Francisco over the holidays (which I would like to return to with some thoughts on at a later date) I am home, back at school, and about to get stuck into the hardest two months ever, probably, in my life – finishing my PhD thesis.

I was working on this today, adding to my ‘Background’ chapter with some more thoughts on the influence of the canon in English curriculum.  In doing so I came across an article by Anne Waldron Neumann, “Should You Read Shakespeare?” (in Meanjin v.56, no.1, 1997: 17-25).  It was an enjoyable read, covering all of the arguments for and against bothering to read Shakespeare.  In particular I enjoyed the opening lines:

‘Should I read Shakespeare?’ So you probably ask yourself each morning as you stare at the mirror, toothbrush in hand.  Or, if you do not, many older and possibly wiser heads are asking for you: ‘Should you read Shakespeare?’

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Shakespeare Searched

Thanks to @heyjudeonline for the link to a site called Shakespeare Searched.   The database is helped by the Folger Shakespeare Library, and you can use it to search for words or themes by play or by character.  You can search within plays, or search through all of the Bards works.

Here is an image from my screen after searching for Macbeth, then browsing through quotes containing the word traitor:



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