Secondary English: hybrid subject or coherent discipline?

ScholesIn my last blog post I talked about my current thought that English teaching in schools is missing a sense of itself as a discipline, as a way of knowing the world with its own methods (ways of gaining knowledge) and forms (ways of disseminating that knowledge). I added: ‘This is an argument which, obviously, I need to think much more about, both to test out its robustness and to tease out its implications.’

For the last couple of days I’ve entered the (temporarily?) disorienting labyrinth of journal articles on the nature of contemporary secondary school English. I’ve read Robert Dixon (2012), Professor of Australian Literature at Sydney University arguing that school English is a multidisciplinary subject, not an academic discipline. I’ve read Ray Misson (2012), recently retired from the School of Education at Melbourne University, suggesting that at the core of English teaching is the use and study of language, but that what this means in the classroom necessarily changes over time; an appropriate emphasis on popular texts and critical literacy in the 90’s, a coming to terms with digital literacy in the early years of this century, and so on. Then I read Mark Howie  (2008). past President of NSW ETA, bringing a post-structural perspective both appreciating and critiquing Sawyer’s idea that there’s no single idea at the heart of English teaching, but instead each English teacher ‘writes’ an eclectic version through his/her programming.

These are all perspectives which challenge my current thinking about the potential benefits of thinking about secondary English as a discipline, a specific and unique way of knowing the world.

In this attempt to test the robustness of my thinking, I’ll absorb more over the coming days. I’m currently making my way through Volume 15:3 of Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education, a special edition called ‘English in the Antipodes’, with articles by Bill Green, Phil Cormack, Annette Patterson, Alex Kostogriz and Brenton Doecke.

Anyone want to join me in discussing one or more of these articles?


Dixon, R. (2012). “‘English’ in the Australian Curriculum: English.” English in Australia 47(1).

Howie, M. (2008). “Problematising Eclecticism and Rewriting English, .” Changing English: Studies in Culture and Education 15:3, (3): 339-350.

Misson, R. (2012). “Understanding about water in liquid modernity: Critical imperatives for English teaching.” English in Australia 47(1).

4 thoughts on “Secondary English: hybrid subject or coherent discipline?

  1. Pingback: Secondary English: hybrid subject or coherent discipline? | Birds fly, fish swim

  2. Pingback: English as a discipline: what does geneology suggest? « degrees of fiction

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