Curriculum History, English Teaching and Educational Change: Researching the Recent Past

Year: 2015

Author: Green, Bill

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Various commentators have pointed to the 1970s as a period of significant and even decisive change in Australian education, with particular bearing on curriculum and schooling. Indeed the period has been described in term of a ‘curriculum revolution’ (Connell 1993: 682). Yates, Collins and O’Connor [Eds.] (2011) provide a comprehensive account of the broader curriculum scene in Australia from 1975 to 2005, with Reid (2011: 47) in their edited book describing the 1970s as “a period of significant social and educational change”. While there seems to be some measure of consensus that this was indeed a momentous period, then, most of the work to date refers more to general curriculum developments. What is still unclear, however, is what all this means in terms of specific curriculum areas (i.e. school-subjects). In this symposium we focus specifically on subject English – English teaching and curriculum change, with specific regard to the latter part of the 1960s and the 1970s.
Such matters are considered explicitly within a curriculum-historical frame, which in itself presents a significant historiographical problem in terms of accounting for the recent past, raising a number of intriguing methodological issues and challenges. Among these is the crucial question of periodization – in this instance, why the 1970s, and indeed, what counts as the ‘1970s’? What does it mean to think historically about what are, in effect, still relatively recent events? Further questions arise as to why ‘English’ might be of more general curriculum interest and significance at this time. More generally, however: What are the distinctive challenges and opportunities associated with researching the recent past?