John Howard may have just this morning charged into the education debate but a fierce argument has been raging in The Australian for months about
the teaching of literacy and literature, particularly in NSW,
Queensland and WA. SKEGGS Darlinghurst, a private girls school in
Sydney, has been singled out for an exam paper which asked Year 11
students for a Marxist interpretation of a Shakespearean
text. But poor old SKEGGS is not alone.

Take this question from the Tasmanian Certificate of Education English-Studies 2005 exam paper:

Explain how a particular literary theory such as post-colonialism or
feminism added to or detracted from your understanding of the conflict
explored within a particular text.

Today in The Australian, University of WA convenor of European
Studies, Associate Professor Peter Morgan, asks whether students have
studied the various “isms” they are being asked to use.

Morgan says that if literary analysis is the aim “then surely students
should be introduced to the literary text at a level which they can
manage at their age and intellectual development?” Morgan – who’s not
a member of an Education faculty – goes on: “As teachers we should not
encourage our students to pretend to know more than they do and to use
jargon to hide what they don’t know.”

Peter Fray

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