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Woolly phrases in the Australian Curriculum

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 13 October 2014

The following letter was submitted for possible inclusion in the edition of The Australian for Monday 13 October 2014 but, alas, it was not selected for publication.

Woolly phrases in the eye of the beholder

In reporting on the imminent release of the report of the review of the Australian Curriculum by Professor Kenneth Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly, Greg Sheridan cites “creative-thinking skills” as an example of the “woolly phrases” that need to be removed from the document (“Back to basics in new curriculum: literacy and numeracy to the fore”, 11-12/10). The General Capability he seems to be referring to is, in fact, called critical and creative thinking.

In an opinion piece published in this newspaper on 10 January (“Putting critical content back into curriculum”), Education Minister Christopher Pyne wrote that the reformed curriculum needed to focus on what he called “21st-century skills”. His list of these included both “critical thinking” and “creativity”. These do sound rather like what Sheridan condemns as “woolly”.

And yet, in an opinion piece in the weekend edition (“Christopher Pyne’s noble quest for academic rigour”), Sheridan goes so far as to suggest that Pyne might be developing into “one of Australia’s greatest education ministers”.

Are the same phrases only woolly when they’re used by people other than the minister?

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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