Tossing a grenade in the culture wars: The Australian at it again.
Ok, I don’t often go for a full spit on the blog, but this has really got my goat. On the front page of the Weekend Australian on 28 March, Justine Ferrari had an article titled ‘Teachers Bid to Downgrade Literature’ purporting to report the response of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English to the National Curriculum Board’s National English Curriculum: Framing Paper. (The response can be found here) Now I actually had cause to read both the Framing Paper and the Response the other day. Ferrari has taken plenty of quotations from the Response, but has selected them for their supposed controversy and in a way that makes it seem as though there is an unbridgable gap between the positions of the National Curriculum Board and the AATE. In their full context, what the AATE argues for in many instances is a change of emphasis and expansion of focus. The AATE also devotes attention to indicating areas where the proposed curriculum is likely to run into practical problems in the implementation. Ferrari ignores the considerable amount of common ground between the two bodies.
Now, I don’t necessarily agree with all of the points made by either the National Curriculum Board or the AATE in these documents, but I find Ferrari’s reporting of them to be extremely unhelpful. As the report stands, it fuels perceptions of stereotypical, confrontational positions in a culture war that The Australian seems to be doing its best to perpetuate. This is hardly conducive to the negotiation of complex perspectives and subtle distinctions that will be necessary to successfully achieve a national curriculum. It certainly doesn’t help the public, who are supposed to be the paper’s constituency, to gain a deeper understanding of the issues.
It is not that I am surprised to see this happening in The Australian, but I didn’t expect it to be so blatant when the sources are so easily checked. It does have the appearance of being deliberately inflammatory.