An article appeared in The Australian on Wednesday that I’ve been thinking about for a couple of days. English teachers in New South Wales are opposing moves to strengthen the study of Australian literature. Following a review of the NSW syllabus, the proposed changes include exploring ways to improve the presence of Australian literature in school English and ensure the study of more Australian books, poems and plays. The ETA’s believe this "confers a superiority over the literature of other cultures”. They also object to giving privilege to print literature above other forms ie film, television and websites.

The ETA made its submission after consulting with its members (1,800 teachers and about 300 faculties). While the ETA executive officer Eva Gold says that the views expressed in the submission were representative of the whole membership, they only received about 43 responses.

I’ve been mulling this over for a couple of days now. My personal view is that Australian literature should be an important part of our English syllabus. It is our national literature and should be treated as such without losing sight of the importance of the wider English canon. As for the privileging of print literature over other forms, who’s to say where print literature will be in a decade’s time. There is enough debate in the publishing industry about the death of print. But if the syllabus is going to move with the times, it should evolve enough to include all of the other forms of literature that are surfacing and maybe that means a subject has to be made to include all of the new media.

But that’s just my opinion, I’d love to hear your thoughts…


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2 Responses to “Teachers oppose Australian Literature”

  1. Graham Storrs,

    Maybe your headline should have been ‘Teachers Don’t Care What They Teach’ – 43 responses out of 1800!

    Seriously though (as if that wasn’t serious enough) despite the fact that I strongly believe Australian writers should be read by Australian readers, I’d have problems recommending that Australian books be given more air-time in Australian classrooms until the people who decide what those books should be get their heads out of their a*ses.

    The problem is that so much Australian ‘literature’ is out of touch with the realities of life for Australian people. While our literature drones on about aboriginals and stockmen, real Australians are living high-stress, urban lives where part-time service industry jobs and reality TV shows play more part than bush tucker and horses.

    It isn’t that Australia doesn’t have fine writers who are in tune with the world they actually live in, its just that their voices are lost in in all the romantic nonsense people here think we ought to be paying attention to.

  2. admin,

    43 responses out of 1,800 is tiny.
    But I don’t think the problem in schools is Australian literature that is too “out of touch”. For example, you’d be hard pressed to find a Patrick White novel on any Australian syllabus. I think it is that schools don’t seem to make enough room for kids to learn about the extent of Australian writing. Something that doesn’t just cover Australian literature as it used to be but Australian writing as it is now. Speaking from personal experience, I didn’t realise how much great Australian writing there was out there till I was at university. And it was only because I had taken a class specifically on Australian literature.
    I’d love a teacher to comment on this because I haven’t been at school in a number of years, so it would be interesting to hear what is being taught now.

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