Education moans and giggles

01 Sep

The giggles first. I am really looking forward to Summer Heights High — that’s Graeme Blundell’s preview in The Australian.

IN a local television industry characterised by meretriciousness, intellectual timidity and corporate contempt for viewers, Chris Lilley may be the closest thing to a comedy genius. Lilley’s award-winning We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year is already part of the sublime lineage of TV mockumentaries that includes The Larry Sanders Show, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kath & Kim and Extras, all of them unconventional comedies that unfold within a mock documentary format with a lateral twist on reality.

in Summer Heights High, an occasionally quite savage new series, Lilley goes back to school to send up pretension, intellectual vanity, political correctness and do-goodism in general.

Playing all the characters, he captures some of the wonder and most of the horror of life in the public-school system, a foreign continent of coruscating slang, brutal bullying, profanity, delusional teachers, recalcitrant students, racism, homophobia and crushed innocence.

Bring it on! ABC Wednesday 9.50: this is the web site.

That is so wicked, and so recognisable! Oh dear me… Rabbit, this is a must-watch. 🙂

The moans now, which are not really moans. There was a meeting in the city the other day which is reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Educators round on English syllabus. At first sight I thought, “Here we go again!” But I was wrong. When I saw who was at that meeting I knew this was a new development: Paul Brock, Ros Arnold (now back in Sydney it seems), Robert D Walshe, and Graham Little, “who wrote the 1972 NSW English syllabus for years 7 to 10” — my friend G. Now I have just rung Graham to get the good oil on this: why were the “golden oldies” summoned? — and they were summoned.

It seems some are waking up to the tyranny of testing, of standardisation, and are working towards an English syllabus driven by the human rather than the measurement agenda. This is an excellent development. I hope it leads somewhere better than where we are now.

It isn’t a matter of not being able to teach literature, however. In the Years 7-10 syllabus one can teach as much literature as one likes, or as much as one’s class can take, and still fulfil the course requirements. When the kids are not being sent to the phrenologists, that is…

In today’s Australian (and he never seems to be online) Imre Salusinszky, referring to the August round table on OzLit, mounts a Harold/Alan Bloom attack on current school English syllabuses. He says literary experience “for its own sake” should be the object of school English study. That sounds good, and I don’t entirely disagree. However, that pure simplicity hides a whole host of problems which the current NSW HSC Advanced syllabus rightly seeks to address, even if getting the balance right has been a problem. I have dealt with this on numerous occasions: for example here and here.

Beware of the siren song of “literary experience for its own sake” unmired by questions of whose literature, for whom, how, and why. It is always hiding something. The message often is: “Receive. Regurgitate! Do not question!”

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One response to “Education moans and giggles

  1. Denys

    September 2, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    “Wicked” is a good thing then. I think Chris is a genius.

    I will pray to the public transport gods in the hope that I make it home from work in time.

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