Sunday, February 12, 2006

More from Kress

During the holidays, I was alerted to an article by Gunther Kress called "English in an era of instability: aesthethics, ethics, creativity and design" which I liked very much. Although he takes a long time to develop his argument it is very cogent and I found it very timely. In my new role as faculty head I don't want to just be involved in the practical day to day routines but be thinking about, and encourage others to think about, the bigger picture. (That's definitely been one of the attractions of the edublogosphere). I find that other teachers like to do this as well, but unless we make time for this sort of thinking the pressures of daily life can swamp us. Anyway, back to the article that I was so impressed by. He begins by asking 'what is English for?' which regular readers of this blog will recognise as a niggle of mine as well. I would recommend that you read the whole article; it is published in English in Australia 134, but here is a quote that summed up what I liked. "...there is an absolute need for a subject with the task of relating the world of inner work and action with the outer world of social and cultural work." He explores the meaning of curriculum and its relation to learning and the needs of 21st century students in a world of globalisation and the ubiquity of multimodal communication. He sees that "both meaning and the resources for making meaning are made by individuals in the exercise of their interests, in their transformative use of culturally made existing resources..."
This is particularly relevant in the world that our students find themselves in. This morning in The Age there is the launch of the Victorian Premiers Reading Challenge for children from Prep to Year Nine. Our students will be invited to participate in the challenge in which the students are to read 15 books in a period of seven months and record their progress online. It will be interesting to see what they make of this. There are over 2000 books suggested for Years Seven to Nine and a brief look at them made me wonder at both the inclusions and what has been left out. I'm looking forward to seeing how our students take up this challenge and talking to them about the meaning they make of it.


  1. I love the idea of the Premiers' Reading Challenge. Steve Bracks has done us an excellent service - I do not think it would have happened under Kennett. I hope the Sevens, Eights and Nines enjoy their reading. I'm glad it has been extended from Preps to Twos this year.

    I've always wondered what English is for, so your article could be a revelation to me. The PISA and the TIMMS have interested me a great deal too. I find it intriguing that if Australian 15-year-olds were corrected for spelling and grammar many would have failed the PISA. I hate it that the failures of the systems - any systems - are always blamed. They are there to expose flaws from which we find the raw material to correct them.

    Will say more after I have read Era of Instablity. Any rate, it's better than Donnolly on a hot day.

  2. Jo, we've had the Premier's Reading Challenge here in SA for three years now and I've always wondered how the book lists were made up. As you point out, there are many, many worthy books that are not included on the "official" list. In the first year it ran here, I think only a couple of kids in my Year 6/7 class completed the challenge because the books they wanted to read (Harry Potter was really big) were not on the list. So they couldn't be motivated to participate. On the other hand, last year our oldest son completed the challenge in his first year of school without borrowing a single book from the school library - he had enough from the list on his own bookshelf to qualify (Dr.Seuss, Mem Fox, Pamela Allen & Richard Carle to name a few). I suppose that shouldn't be a surprise when both parents are teachers!