IN the US it's known as the culture wars; the battle between a liberal-humanist view of education based on the disinterested pursuit of truth and those committed to overthrowing the status quo and turning students into politically correct new age warriors.
The editorial in the latest edition of English in Australia, the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, provides ample evidence that the culture wars have reached our shores and that those seeking to control our schools prefer indoctrination to education.
Wayne Sawyer, the president of the NSW English Teachers Association and chairman of the NSW Board of Studies English Curriculum Committee, bemoans the fact that the Howard Government was re-elected and cites this as evidence that English teachers have failed in their job.
This also sounds familiar.
In the postmodern classroom, literacy is defined as social-critical literacy and texts are deconstructed to show how disadvantaged groups, such as girls and women, are marginalised and dispossessed. Ignored is the aesthetic and moral value of great literature.
The result? Traditional fairytales such as Jack and the Beanstalk and children's classics such as The Magic Far Away Tree are criticised for presenting boys as masculine and physically assertive and for failing to show girls in dominant positions.
The English classroom was once a place to learn how to read and write. In the edubabble much loved by teacher educators such as Wayne Martino, this more traditional approach is considered obsolete and, as an alternative, the English classroom must be "conceptualised as a sociopolitical site where alternative reading positions can be made available to students outside of an oppressive male-female dualistic hierarchy – outside of an oppressive phallocentric signifying system for making meaning".