English Curriculum and Citizenship in South Australia from the 1920s to the 1950s

Year: 2000


Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The four decades following WW1 are significant precursors to what is commonly understood as a renaissance from the 1960s on, when English teaching attained new agency with regard to curriculum reform. The 1970s are particulalry regarded as an extended moment of paradigmatic change, ushering in the so-called 'New English' as a distinctive curriculum innovation in English teaching and the practice of schooling. Interestingly, this period of New English or Language Arts teaching in primary schooling in the 1970s re-articulated discourses of child-centredness and developmentalism which were prominent in English teaching in the 1920s. Thus the years from the 1920s to the 1950s represent a fruitful site for examination of how different, often contradictory and intersecting discourses shaping and informing English teaching were sustained, suppressed, rejuvenated and re-articulated in the pre-'New English' period.

This paper outlines the nature and scope of primary and lower secondary English curriculum in South Australia from the 1920s-1950s. It constitutes an exploration, in one local site, of the role of English curriculum and the English teacher in shaping the character of the student and promoting a suitable form of citizenship. It reports on an ongoing study that draws on methodological perspectives and resources of curriculum history as well as historical approaches related to the work of Michel Foucault.