Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another way of looking at it. Graeme Turner and critical literacy

Is it just me, or does Graeme Turner sound a little like a leftist, more reasonable (and repentant) thinking man's Kevin Donnelly? A case of arriving at the same end point but from a different direction?

A kind of liberal humanism that is hard to argue against.

Seems to happen to many old lefties?

To be fair (to colleagues in Qld and those in other parts of Australia) the use of critical literacy has a different flavour in different parts of Australia. In Qld, the influence of particular academics, meant that critical literacy, or particular versions of it, have been pushed in curriculum documents and the like as far as it could go.

Interestingly, one of these academics, the very interesting Dr Wendy Morgan, has recently co-written a book with Ray Misson (Critical literacy and the aesthetic, 2006, NCTE) where she makes the case for the bringing together of the critical and the aesthetic. At first this move always seemed a little odd to me, not because it was a strange idea, but because I had always thought this was what critical literacy was, that you could have, and needed to have both of these elements.

NSW and Victoria are different ball games.

Not enough time at the moment to unpack Turner's assumptions and argument about critical literacy, but his recent article in the 'International Journal of Cultural Studies' is an interesting read:

Turner, Graeme. (2007) Cultural literacies, critical literacies, and the English school curriculum in Australia. International Journal of Cultural Studies 10(1): 105-114.

In this article he makes some claims that should be challenged, such as:

The ‘critical literacy’ approach, as established in Australia, is a mode of discourse analysis developed by theorists from the discipline of Education and enthusiastically taken up by state education bureaucrats influenced by the branch of systemic linguistics identified with Sydney Professor M.A.K. Halliday. The success of this alliance is evident in the fact that the critical literacies approach has been placed at the centre of every senior English syllabus in the country. Displacing the previously dominant disciplinary formations – literary criticism, primarily, and, more recently, although to a lesser extent, media and cultural studies – its current pervasiveness has sparked widespread debate about its legitimacy, its usefulness, and the pedagogic consequences of its contemporary deployment through subject English in Australian secondary schools.

I'm not sure on what Turner bases his claim that critical literacy is at the centre of the Victorian and NSW senior English syllabi, as in my humble experience, this is simply not the case. In fact, a quick search of the new Victorian senior English Study reveals not one mention of critical literacy. There are some references to students' 'critically analysing' texts but it would be a long stretch to say that these are at the centre of the study. This is to say nothing of the important difference between curriculum documents and teacher practice.

To say that critical literacy is at the centre of senior English documents is one thing, but to claim that this is because it has 'displaced [the] previously dominant disciplinary formations' literacy criticism and media and cultural studies, is to replace a largely misunderstood pedagogical approach ('critlit') with two others, equally misunderstood. To claim that literacy criticism and/or media and cultural studies have ever been orthodoxies in the majority of English classrooms in Australia (or even in curriculum documents) would be very difficult to substantiate.

Most teachers worth their salt draw on a repertoire of pedagogical approaches, theories of language, literary and social theories, and curriculum theories to inform their practice as English teachers. To suggest that critical literacy exists outside of literacy criticism, or outside of media and cultural studies approaches, is to rip critial literacy out of its context.

Interestingly, Turner does not mention Paulo Freire or the way that Freire draws on Marx, Lukacs, Althusser, Gramsci etc. Instead he traces critical literacy to Richard Hoggart's work. This is unsurprising really, given Hoggart's (and Turner's) important connection to the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies.

Anyway. Maybe I'll get back to this another time.

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Our education failures

Bazza Jones on the state of Australian and Victorian Education. Sums up the state department like this:
The Victorian Department of Education and Training is strong in management and weak in strategic thinking, creativity or imagination. It has failed to address major problems in Victorian education.
He also gives an interesting definition of education:
"Education is a combination of processes, both formal and informal, that stimulate the growth of mental capacity, influence the potential of humans, aim at individual development, understanding, and independence, encompass the teaching of specific skills and nurture knowledge, judgement, values and wisdom, transmit culture and social adaptation, but also encourage exploration, self-discovery, using time effectively and learning for a lifetime, strengthening self-image, and encouraging creativity, balance, open-mindedness, questioning, respect for others and humane common sense."



It would take real guts for society to fund schools properly

More from Catherine Deveny on public schools.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Schoolboys plotted massacre online

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If you want private education for your kids, pay for it yourself

Catherine Deveny's thoughts, in response to Shane Maloney's gutsy straight talk to the nobs and toffs at Scotch.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Language and Education - Vol 21:3, 2007

Exciting news. A special issue of Language and Education has just been published: Young people's engagement with digital literacies in marginal contexts in a globalised world'.

To all my colleagues, congratulations. It's a great, stimulating read.

Sue and I have a paper in this issue called:

Negotiating digital literacy practices across school and home: Case studies of young people in Australia
ABSTRACT In this paper, we suggest a view of young people’s digital technology use as negotiated social and literate practice. Rather than emphasising the boundedness of school and home spaces and literacy practices, we argue that young people’s practices that develop around their use of digital technologies flow across these spaces, making simple distinctions and binaries about use in each domain problematic. To help illustrate, we present ethnographic case study snapshots of 15–16-year-olds from contrasting schools in and around Melbourne, Australia. In our thinking, we bring together insights from a range of work in the hope of prompting a reframing and rethinking of the relationship between home and school and the other spaces young people inhabit and create. We use Bakhtin’s ideas about ‘dialogic negotiation’ and Bourdieu’s notion of habitus to suggest that texts, meanings and practices do not emerge wholly from one social/physical domain but are traced and sourced from the whole life world of experience. In this framing, young people’s engagement with language, learning and technology might be characterised as a dialogic negotiation of a complex range of texts and practices that flow across and between school, home and other spaces.
If you want a copy and can't get it from the website let me know.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Informing ourselves to death?

Been reading some classic Neil Postman stuff. This is from a speech given in 1990:

The computer and its information cannot answer any of the fundamental questions we need to address to make our lives more meaningful and humane. The computer cannot provide an organizing moral framework. It cannot tell us what questions are worth asking. It cannot provide a means of understanding why we are here or why we fight each other or why decency eludes us so often, especially when we need it the most. The computer is, in a sense, a magnificent toy that distracts us from facing what we most needed to confront -- spiritual emptiness, knowledge of ourselves, usable conceptions of the past and future. Does one blame the computer for this? Of course not. It is, after all, only a machine. But it is presented to us, with trumpets blaring, as at this conference, as a technological messiah.

Through the computer, the heralds say, we will make education better, religion better, politics better, our minds better -- best of all, ourselves better. This is, of course, nonsense, and only the young or the ignorant or the foolish could believe it .... it is only a machine but a machine designed to manipulate and generate information. That is what computers do, and therefore they have an agenda and an unmistakable message.

There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

School teacher fined over Microsoft piracy

It seems that teachers are all maoist, pinko, tree-hugging sleepers with a bent for software piracy.

Seriously though, this kind of deliberate attempt at bringing down the bill and melinda gates foundation can only end in tears for all of us. I denounce this senseless act of decency.

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Brave new world or virtual pedophile paradise? Second Life falls foul of law

Sick, seedy stuff on SL.

Reminds me of something Pippa Norris says in her book Digital Divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and the internet worldwide (CUP). Not the divide stuff, the key point about internet as 'real world' mirror, utopia or something else?

‘Even if the basic digital divide shrinks gradually over time, it is naive to believe that the virtual world can overturn fundamental inequalities of social stratification that are endemic throughout post-industrial societies’ (2001: 17).

The text of Norris' book is here.

Thanks, Pippa.

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Nine in 10 US babies watch TV

About 90 per cent of US children under age 2 and as many as 40 per cent of infants under three months are regular watchers of television, DVDs and videos, researchers said on Monday.

They said the number of young kids watching TV was much greater than expected.

"We don't know from the study whether it is good or bad. What we know is that it is big," said Frederick Zimmerman of the University of Washington, whose research appears in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

A second study suggested excessive TV viewing could lead to attention and learning problems down the road.

The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that children in the United States watch about four hours of television every day. They recommend that children under age 2 should not watch any and older children should watch no more than 2 hours a day of quality programming.

But 29 per cent of parents surveyed by Zimmerman and colleagues believed baby-oriented TV and DVD programs offered educational benefits.

"Parents are getting the message loud and clear from marketers of TV and videos that this is good for their kids. That it will help their brain development ... None of this stuff has ever been proven," Zimmerman said in a telephone interview.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Teacher fury at rating website, or ...

student's get some much needed payback?

Have those teachers who are complaining about websites such as ratemyteachers forgotten that they are in the business of passing partial, half-formed, and powerful ratings on their students?

This whole beat up is a good example of how many 'grown ups' just don't get (understand) how young people interact with each other and new media.

Robert Marley sang, 'Slave driver the tables have turned ... catch-a-fire you're gonna get burned'

Bring on ratemypolitician

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