20 April 2006

A very modern model of a postmodernist Prime Minister

Today Mr Howard waded into the debate about English teaching in Australia with some
trenchant comments:

"I share the views of many people about the so-called postmodernism ... I just wish that independent education authority didn't succumb on occasions to the political correctness that it appears to succumb to," he said.

"We all understand that it's necessary to be able to be literate and coherent in the English language, we understand that it's necessary to be numerate and we also understand that there's high-quality literature and there's rubbish.

"We need a curriculum that encourages an understanding of the high-quality literature and not the rubbish."

But the Sydney Morning Herald online puts the PM on the back foot by quoting Professor Margaret Sankey of the University of Sydney, who asserts that the PM's "moral relativism makes him postmodern":

"He takes lots of different moral standpoints on different occasions. It would be very hard to work out what his particularly moral unitary approach was, because there are core promises and non-core promises," Professor Sankey said.

"There's a lot of shading and ducking and weaving."

Professor Sankey said she didn't understand what Mr Howard meant when he criticised postmodernism in the classroom on ABC Radio in Brisbane earlier today.

"I'm at a bit of a loss to understand why he is saying that. I would really think between you, me and the gatepost that he didn't know what he was talking about."

But she said she didn't want to prejudge Mr Howard.

"I wouldn't like to presume what he knows; maybe he's a covert literary theoretician."

I'm intrigued by the black and white-ness of the PM's distinction between "high quality literature" and "rubbish". I'd like him to give some example of each and to indicate which of them he's actually read (or in the case of plays, seen performed).

George Orwell once wrote about an intermediate category called "good bad books". I'm sure most readers would be able to compile their own lists of books which fit somewhere in this grey area.

No comments: