VCE Outcome 3: Language Analysis Essay

I’m not convinced by the facts (or lack thereof) of Mr/Mrs “Name and School withheld” argument in “The Case Against a National Curriculum”. It seems rather silly to assume that the National Department of Education would ignore entirely the “differing needs” of Australia’s 3.3 million students. Instead, the article appears to be an obvious attack on Canberra.

The writer successfully presents the argument for diversity in education using two deliberate language techniques: those of repetition and the use of words with strong connotations. In the first paragraph they emphasise how education, students and teachers are “not the same” by repeating those three words throughout. The point is thus made clear that lesson content must respect different needs. Later, the writer contrasts two states of curriculum management using terms of strong connotative value. In the first state, as when decided by schools and teachers, we realise “diversity”, “choice” and “real innovation”. These positive descriptions are immediately juxtaposed with those for a national curriculum that is of “a single mind-set” and results in “stagnation”. The reader is inclined to look favourably on the former state of affairs, and to think badly of the government’s stagnant solution. All these sentiments and different states, as presented through the use of both techniques, are evident in the accompanying cartoon which depicts a variety of individuals entering the national curriculum “factory” and exiting either as faceless corporate clones, with their independent qualities bled out of the system, or as unfortunate waste or sewage.

The image of students as part of a mass-production industry is not original, and nor are the sentiments expressed by the writer. The Pink Floyd factory was the extraordinary image presented in “The Wall”, and was a deliberate cry for teachers to “leave those kids alone”. The title expressed a metaphor for the ways in which individual freedoms were deliberately suppressed. In the original version the school and curriculum system was part of the machinery of repression, but in the letter presented for the analysis our writer backs the role of schools “in a free society”, which are/is described as sharing the “happy” qualities of “choice”, “independence” and “diversity”. The fight against “The Wall” of governance shares all the same fears and ideologies of the original film-clip from the 1970’s, with a different focus for criticism.

The writer’s argument though is hardly convincing, despite its persuasive elements. The comparison between curriculums, as presented in a paragraph that is deliberately comfortingly introduced with the appeal “It makes sense”, doesn’t seem to match the kind of distinctions a national curriculum intends to enforce. The fact is that in recent years the information superhighway has in many ways outpaced the Federal government, who continue to struggle to keep up, and the freeway of the internet supersedes many geographical limits. The new curriculum therefore does not dictate methods, but standards. The “single mind-set” typified by a “bureaucratically dominated, Canberra-controlled” government is a false, if often appealing, stereotype. It’s equally ignorant to consider “rural education programmes” and “urban studies” as representative of the genuine “diversity” of content demanded of teachers. Overall, it’s weak to fire cheap, obvious, non-factual shots at our government for their failures to provide a perfect curriculum, while at the same time ignoring the real problems demanded of education.

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