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Barry Spurr's contribution to the Australian Curriculum review

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 22 December 2014

Under the heading "English expertise", a version of the letter below appeared in The Australian on Monday 22 December 2014. Underlined words were deleted and the bracketed ones inserted.  They also rearranged my four paragraphs into three and removed the quotation marks. Having deleted the words "about whom there have been no allegations of racism" in the final paragraph, the paper failed to remove the now unnecessary preceding comma.

Barry Spurr and the review of the Australian English Curriculum

Ivan Kennedy (Letters, 20-21/12) avers that, from his personal experience, academic Barry Spurr is not a racist, and that therefore there is no need to "revisit" his contribution to the review of the English component of the Australian Curriculum. Kennedy (This) misses the point.

The publication of some of Spurr's emails served to focus public attention on his involvement in the curriculum review as a commissioned "subject specialist". But, whatever people may think of their content and whether they were serious or not, those emails are not the real reason that Spurr's recommendations about the school English curriculum should be accorded little weight.

The review report contains no detail about the process by which Spurr and Dr Fiona Mueller were chosen out of all those in the country who could legitimately be considered to be experts on the content and teaching of English in primary and secondary schools.

In addition, there is no evidence to indicate that the views of Spurr and Mueller, about whom there have been no allegations of racism, can be regarded as generally representative of the views of the many others in the country who have a similar degree of expertise. Spurr and Mueller are perfectly entitled to their opinions, but those individual opinions should have little influence.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)
Stafford Heights, QLD

Author: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
Tags: Curriculum matters

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