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More on the curriculum review

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 23 October 2014

An edited version of the letter below was published in The Australian of Thursday 23 October 2014. The underlined words were deleted and the bracketed ones inserted. The letter was the second of two under the heading "Hardly fascism".

Barry Spurr and the Australian Curriculum

Some people are suggesting (suggest) that Professor Barry Spurr’s input to the review of the English component of the Australian Curriculum should be disregarded because of the racist and sexist language used in a series of emails.

Irrespective of whatever other import they may have, those emails are (That is) not the main issue in relation to the curriculum review. Most of his input should be disregarded because many of his comments go beyond the reach of his expertise. Being a literary scholar with particular knowledge of Donne, Milton and T.S. Eliot doesn't (does not) automatically make him an expert on teaching English in primary and secondary schools. Some of his views on poetry would be relevant for Years 10-12 but beyond that they have no special significance.

Spurr is of course perfectly entitled to his personal views on the school level teaching of English but they should not be elevated by an inappropriate claim of expert status.

Taken as a whole, Spurr’s report seems to be based on the erroneous assumption that the whole purpose of school-level English teaching from Year 1 on is to produce the sort of undergraduates he would like in his university literature classes.

It needs to be asked why Spurr and Dr Fiona Mueller were selected out of the hundreds of similarly and better qualified people to be considered as two “subject specialists” by review panellists Kenneth Wiltshire and Kevin Donnelly.

Perhaps the process was similar to that by which Donnelly was appointed by Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

As far as I can see, Dr Mueller has significantly less relevant experience than I do.

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

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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