Books are better for student study than digital detritus

(The rather savage article below is an editorial from "The Australian" newspaper (our national daily) of 22 October. Nice to see good sense in such a widely-read source)

"Yesterday The Sydney Morning Herald quoted HSC students denouncing critics of Year 12 English courses - we think they meant us. Apparently because "the media lies" it is important for young people to know what the reptiles of the press are up to, the students said. Presumably by studying episodes of the D-Generation's Frontline TV series, which is on the NSW syllabus. Or the book jacket that students in that state can study. Not the book, just the cover and publisher's blurb. Or any of the modern movies that are on course lists around the country. Or blogs and other digital resources, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission website - which is also set for study in NSW, even though the organisation no longer exists.

Using literature to learn how to critically analyse what authors are up to should be a core component of any English course. But the world is not short of good books suited for the task. Books - not blogs, not digital ephemera, but books, the artefacts that really inquisitive students will find behind the paperback cover set for study. Reading a whole book takes time and discipline, and it is about the best way imaginable to learn how to analyse authorial intent and interpret their arguments.

But all that examining the ATSIC site will do is expose students to propaganda from an organisation that in the end represented only itself. There are all sorts of objective sources that set out the condition of indigenous Australians that could be provided to support any of the many books by Aboriginal authors about the poison of racial prejudice. The study of ATSIC is irrelevant. And The Australian believes that studying the D-Generation for advanced English courses betrays the educational interests of students and will appal parents who want kids to develop a love of literature. And if students are really interested in analysing the motives of powerful organisations, here is a question to critically consider: "The study of senior school English is shaped by a contempt for the Western canon and a belief held by education theorists that all texts are equal. Discuss.""

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