Our texts lists are (mis)representing us | Alex Bacalja

Our texts lists are (mis)representing us | Alex Bacalja

As a country, we might want to think of ourselves as many-degrees removed from the atrocities that occurred during the Frontier Wars, the women who fought for the most basic of human rights ,and members pf the LGTBIQ* group, whose activities and lifestyles still sit uncomfortably with many around the world. But like all Western, liberal nations, however, orthodox ideas, characters and themes become vapid, old and eventually lose their allure. Empires cannot last forever. What readers are then searching for is that kaleidoscope of new worlds, characters and voices that represent them. This was the mission of University of Melbourne academics Alex Bacalja and Lauren Bliss. In terms of diversity, the research pair’s 10-year analysis of text lists from the Senior Victorian English Curriculum leaves a lot to be desired. After analysing 360 texts , the researchers could only find two print-based texts by Indigenous writers – one being Larissa Behrendt’s novel, Home. What about a poetry collection from Ali Cobby Eckermann, a brilliant poet who experiments with a range of form and meter, and has received international acclaim? The research project also shone quite a sad light on digital and audio texts still being treated like encumbrances and "kiddies' games" So, why do these outdated tests from the school cannon still get studied in Senior English in Victoria? For Bacalja, the issues of teacher familiarity and resource availability come into play, but they are peripheral issues if such a movement gained more momentum. Finally, Bacalja explains how conservative voices tend to influence - indeed takeover - the debate, saying "a backlash can be expected when teachers try to introduce new, more challenging texts into the curriculum,” Bacalja concluded.

Duration: 13 min

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