tongue firmly in cheek

July 23, 2006

Last Saturday The Australian featured an ‘interesting’ defence of critical literacy by conservative commentator, Christopher Pearson. He wrote enthusiastically that the aim of History in the school curriculum is to foster ‘the development of a speculative attitude towards the seeming certainties of the times’. A pretty succinct definition of critical literacy, is it not? Pearson appears to see such an attitude as somehow being a defence against the supposedly virulent influence of the ‘black arm’ band view of history.

It will not have escaped notice that The Australian (particularly columnist Kevin Donnelly and the editor) have been railing against critical literacy for some time now. Today, I had the following satirical letter to the editor published. It was largely cobbled together from language used in the paper over the last eighteen months.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19888124-21223,00.html

I was most disconcerted to read Christopher Pearson’s reckless advocacy of the post-modern scam of critical literacy in the secondary history curriculum through students developing a “speculative attitude towards the seeming certainties of the times” (‘Let history be the judge’, July 22). The eminently reasonable Pearson has otherwise been a bulwark against the new age, politically correct mantras of faux-Marxist educationalists who appear determined to dumb down the curriculum and make relativism the order of the day.  

The recent example of students audaciously satirising the Howard government’s new industrial relations laws in an impertinent rock eisteddfod piece suggests that encouraging critical thinking in schools, rather than the acceptance of received wisdom, will lead to the political hijacking of the nation’s classrooms by the worst extremes of progressivism.