ETAQ’s Grammar Guide: The Australian

13 June, 2008 in The Australian – Ferrari writes Grammar Guide for English Teachers ‘full of basic errors’:

ETAQ president Garry Collins said the mistakes were “relatively minor” and the association had published an article on grammar by Professor Huddleston in the journal and alerted readers through a newsletter to his longer critiques published on the website.

“Ideally the errors wouldn’t have been there but these things occur in the best-regulated households,” he said.

“If coming upon these couple of minor inaccuracies caused teachers to be having conversations about grammar in staff rooms then I would see that as not a bad thing.”

Mr Collins accused The Australian of reporting educational issues with a particular slant, representing minority views, and said highlighting the Words’Worth articles would hamper teachers’ engagement with grammar.

“It would be useful if the paper didn’t seize on minority views but try to report in ways which are relevant to what really does happen in classrooms,” he said.

Kevin Donnelly also gets a whinge in, as usual claiming our education system has been ‘dumbed-down’.  From his Op Ed Class-based waffle:

Many of those responsible for training English teachers and writing syllabuses are committed to a progressive, cultural-left approach to English as a subject, represented by functional grammar and critical literacy. As a consequence, not only do most Australian syllabuses fail to include a systematic treatment of formal grammar but many teachers lack the knowledge to deal with the subject.

Keep ideology out of school: Daily Telegraph

In the Daily Telegraph, Sunday 13th January 2008, Piers Akerman throws his support behind Donnelly and The Australian in criticising Allan Luke’s view on phonics. Read Keep Ideology Out Of School.  Extract:

…Professor Luke said there was “little recognition of the host of contributing factors identified in ethnographic, case-based and quantitative literacy research”, including such things as “home-school transitions and access, the variable impacts of community cultural and linguistic background; the effects of poverty; the increasing incidence of special needs, and the impacts of differential school resourcing”.

All well and good, but why should this lead to the rejection of a tried and proven method of teaching reading?

The clue is in Professor Luke’s explanation of his rejection of the evidence-based research that supports phonics.

He cites the same broad areas of cultural and linguistic background, poverty, special needs and so forth that now litter post-modern education studies.

Response to PISA/OECD: The Australian

More journalism that says nothing new and convinces noone with half a brain in The Australian, Friday 11th January 2008.

Justine Ferrari writes that Pupils do better with public testing: OECD

Kevin Donnelly chips in with the usual claim that Studies confound left-wing teachers (though in a recent paper Allan Luke appears far from confounded).

And the Editor agrees with all teachers I’m sure, claiming that Quality is paramount. Though his version of ‘quality’ just equals the teaching of phonics. So surprising.

New chapter: The classroom revolution: SMH

Miranda Devine SUPPORTING a revolution? Talk about champion of the cranky…

New chapter: The classroom revolution October 18, 2007

In Western Australia, one group of teachers became so fed up at having to implement outcomes-based education, a favourite of the English Teachers Association, that they managed to have it overturned this year. Their lobby group PLATO, People Lobbying Against Teaching Outcomes, persuaded the West Australian Government to reinstate the traditional syllabus, concentrating on literacy and numeracy.

Now a group of secondary English teachers from Catholic, government and independent schools in Western Australia have formed the English Teachers Forum, the ETFWA, in direct opposition to the English Teachers Association, because they are “concerned about the misrepresentation of English teachers and their views regarding the implementation and the efficacy of the English Course of Study”.

Skools prodyouse ‘illiterate’ stoodence: The Age

Jewel Topsfield reports in The Age on September 13, 2007; Schools produce ‘illiterate’ students:

AUSTRALIAN teenagers commonly complete secondary school without a firm grasp on how to construct a complex sentence, a Senate committee is believed to have found.

In a provocative report to be released today, the committee is believed to have expressed alarm at the fact that some students can go through six or more years of school and emerge functionally illiterate…

The inquiry, by the Senate’s standing committee on education, was announced in February, hours after Prime Minister John Howard said some school curriculums contained “incomprehensible sludge”…

The day the inquiry was announced, Mr Howard said the teaching of English had been allowed to drift into a “relativist wasteland”, and that text messages and Big Brother were robbing children of their cultural heritage…

The committee’s Labor senators, in their dissenting report, are believed to say the Government has commissioned 22 reports on standards and teacher education since 1998, but has failed to act on them.

They are also believed to claim the inquiry did not take into account the Federal Government’s failure to fund programs adequately or to provide constructive policy to raise standards.

Reading the riot act: The Australian

Here we go again?

The Australian, Editorial September 5, 2007: Reading the riot act: Critical literacy is about indoctrination, not education.

IT may surprise readers of The Australian to discover that they have been the victims of a campaign to create moral panic fomented by none other than this newspaper. According to an article published in the International Journal of Progressive Education by Wayne Sawyer and Susanne Gannon, 55 articles this newspaper published about literacy between April 2004 and August last year were part of a “vituperative” media campaign to create moral panic and demonise the “whole-language approach” to teaching English. In fact, The Australian is proud to have waged a campaign not just for three years but two decades, going back to the 1980s, to bring back phonics and ensure that children learn how to read.

It is telling that that the arguments in this editorial are so ridiculous…The Oz clearly remains high on it’s own ability to publish whatever rubbish it wants.  My year 8 debaters could pull this editorial apart in 5 minutes, if given a chance.

Literature as porridge: The Australian

Interesting disclaimer at the end of this one:

Imre Salusinszky is a journalist with The Weekend Australian and chairs the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. These are his personal views.

Salusinszky’s “comment” in The Australian on September 1, 2007. Literature as porridge:

As university specialists have ceased to be included on the state boards of studies, which shape curriculums and reading lists, two related developments have occurred. First, the cart seems to have overtaken the horse, with assessment and outcomes assuming precedence over content. Second, curriculums have come to be couched in a formidable bureaucratic jargon, an edu-babble that is inaccessible to mere mortals including, I suspect, most teachers.

Hmmm, last time I looked, University specialists were included at all levels of curriculum development…

Every picture tells a story: SMH

Also by Anna Patty on September 1st 2007 in the SMH, Every picture tells a story – so put those spelling books away:

CHILDREN will be asked to draw pictures instead of spelling words as part of a new strategy to improve literacy test results in primary school.

The Department of Education is distributing a new teaching resource to schools, encouraging teachers to spend more time helping students develop their oral skills before learning how to spell specific words.

Full article here.

Educators round on English syllabus: SMH

Anna Patty, Education editor of the Sydney Morning Herald reports on September 1st, 2007:

ENGLISH teaching in schools is in danger of losing its richness and emphasis on literature in its growing obsession with improving student test results, a group of education leaders believes…

Senior lecturers in English education at the University of Sydney, Jacqueline Manuel and John Hughes, hosted the meeting, which was attended by the NSW Board of Studies English inspector, Don Carter.

Dr Manuel said the meeting was held to address concerns that the quality of the English curriculum was being compromised, with a growing emphasis on basic literacy test skills.

Read the full article here. 

Dickens shines after dark: The Australian

Opinion column by Imre Salusinszky in The Australian, July 7, 2007. Dickens shines after dark:

A FEW weeks ago my two children and I reached a milestone: we finished reading David Copperfield. Or, rather, I finished reading David Copperfield aloud to them, a task that took nearly 18 months.

It’s hard to say how the experience of reading a work of classic Victorian realism, so slowly, in early life will stay with my children. But I was struck when, just the other day, my daughter referred to another girl as her “confidential friend”: the standard Victorian phrase Dickens uses to describe the awful Miss Murdstone’s official position in Dora’s life.

However, I firmly believe the experience has shown my kids something it may otherwise have taken them years to understand: that a story made of words, in the hands of a writer of genius, can turn into a world.