This week National Curriculum Review publish. The reviewers called for greater emphasis on Western literature in the English classroom. We were former teachers of primary English and high school English and we wondered what Ken Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly thought about the books our students read in English classrooms.
What Is Western Literature Exactly?
It is not surprising that the call for Western literature to be emphasize is so common, as Donnelly has argued in the past. No amount of political correctness about the importance and value of Asian and indigenous texts can change the fact that English as a subject is centre on the Western tradition’s enduring literary works.
What is the literary canon according Donnelly? The Bible is the main focus, alongside Dickens and Shakespeare. Students are already familiar with a wide range of Western canonical texts and contemporary texts from Australia and around the world. The NSW Curriculum, for example, suggests that texts by authors such as Dickens and Eliot, Hemingway or Kipling be use in years 7-10.
Victorian Year 12 students expect to interact with Western canon giants like Shakespeare and Bronte when they study for the VCE. Barry Spurr, a Poetics and Poetry Professor at The University of Sydney was select to review literature in English curriculum. Some of his suggestions made it to the final report. Greater emphasis placed on the introduction and handling of literature from Western literary canons, particularly poetry.
Spurr Believes That
Over-emphasis placed on 21st and 20th-century texts results in a unbalanced curriculum and certainly not one that is rigorous with respect to the discipline as a whole. He continues to state that.
The study should cover Middle English lyrics, Chaucer’s works, and current literature. It must also include ancient texts from the Bible and classical world that have been an invaluable influence over the development of English literature through the centuries.
This is the position that the reviewers support on page 159. They claim that. For Western literature appreciation, it is crucial to have a solid knowledge of the Bible. Donnelly previously argued that the Bible is essential in schools. This raises the question of whether the review is free from ideology.
Choosing High-Quality Literature
The Australian Curriculum currently does not have any prescribed literature. The curriculum authority (ACARA), offers advice on how to select literary texts. Schools and teachers are the best in deciding which texts to use in their learning and teaching programs. Submission by the Australian Association for the Teaching of English to the review was positive about the current situation.
Schools have the professional freedom of implementing the curriculum with texts they deem appropriate for their student population. Primary English Teaching Association Australia submitted a submission that also supports the flexibility of the curriculum for teachers to choose context-appropriate literature.
The curriculum becomes more prescriptive if it is call for to place greater emphasis on the Western literary canon. This is contrary to government rhetoric regarding school autonomy. This prescriptive approach to text selection has the focus of so-call culture Wars and was previously confine to secondary schooling.
This review is unique and most troubling. It suggests that historical literature study should start in the Foundation year. Students will benefit from memorizing and reciting the texts to aid in their ingesting. The rich vocabulary of simple Medieval lyrics, and the imaginative conceptions of traditional fairy tales, myths, and legends. It is not clear whether six-year-olds should recite and memorize Medieval poetry.
It Time For More Literature, And Less Imagination
Although the English curriculum may not perfect, it contain some innovative and ground breaking features that have lost in the frantic fights over skills, phonics and ideological warfare. One of these features is the intertwining three content strands – Language Literature Literacy.
Submissions to the review by the Australian Literacy Educators Association praised the curriculum and stated: Literature is central to the English curriculum. This ensures that learners are immersed into rich language and that students are inspired to write.
The Reviewers However Claim That
In the primary years and middle years, children should not be encourage to create their own literature. Instead, they should learn how to read literary texts (fiction and non-fiction) and use them as examples of good writing. It begs the question if the NAPLAN Writing Task will be continue to be sat for Year 3 and 5. The composition of persuasive and narrative texts is an example of children creating their own literature.
Spurr’s Analysis Reveals That
It is important to keep the notion of students as creators of English literature under control. Alison Robertson of the South Australian English Teachers Association described this position as crazy because text comprehension and composition go hand in hand. Teachers must be treated with professionalism and respect in order to learn from their students and select the appropriate literature to include in their English programs. This is already support by the curriculum.