Daily Archives: September 20, 2008

Recidivist bore now writing for the Sydney Morning Herald

I refer of course to Miranda Devine, who cites in support of her diatribe about English teachers, and the NSW English Teachers Association in particular, just two people: Sophie Masson, one of Quadrant’s better writers whose son seems, from what I can tell, to have had a bad HSC English experience, and, of course, Kevin Donnelly who gets all sentimental about the admittedly superior Western Shane — the book not the movie. From this, with a catch-all almost cliched allusion to Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” and a few very selective and occasionally distorted quotes* from two submissions the NSW ETA made to the Board of Studies warning against narrowing the range of English Studies and assessment, Miranda asserts English teachers have lost the plot. I can’t be bothered rebutting her or even quoting her further. She’s been here before. See for example The HSC English moanings of Miranda… — a post from January 2007.

I am prepared to quote the Bible though: As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly. That’s Proverbs 26, and I thought the 16th century Catholic translation most apt for Miranda’s case.

Go to Posts Tagged ‘Miranda Devine’ in Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07, and also for a wider view of English Studies go to the Archive for the ‘English studies’ Category here on Floating Life.

Treat Miranda’s ranting with great caution. It is a tissue of prejudice and opinion from end to end with hardly a fact to fly from. It is journalistic laziness of a rather obvious kind, concocted over a cup of coffee after a chat to a couple of mates.

Instead, read the ETA’s submissions for yourself. I thought them worth uploading. They are far superior to Miranda. At least they seem to know what they are talking about. So it seems to me anyway, but what would I know? I only taught English for around forty years…

  1. The NSW ETA response to proposals on Australian content
  2. ETA on HSC exam and assessment proposals

* For example, Miranda mocks the ETA for only having 43 submissions to back their proposal, neglecting to mention that some, perhaps many, of those submissions were from English Departments, not individuals.

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Posted by on September 20, 2008 in awful warnings, culture wars, education, English studies, literacy, literary theory/criticism, right wing politics


The unexamined religion…

… is not worth believing?

You will find relevant tags and categories in the side bar, and I also refer you to On the awkwardness (and fatuity?) of discussing religion, a post from January 2007, and to the relevant part of the Links Page here. All that is hedging around what may be a can of worms, if you will forgive the mixed metaphor.

I was drawn to this topic by Why I don’t envy Mormon apologists, a thoughtful post from a few days back on Runtu’s Rincón. This is a newish blog from “the heart of Zion in Provo, Utah.”

When I was an “apologist” (read: rationalizer) for Mormonism, I used to talk about the “shelf.” You know, there were things that we couldn’t quite explain, so we put them on a shelf, figuring that eventually God would sort it all out, and we’d see how everything fit together.

Somewhere along the line, the shelf collapsed, and I’m happy to say I don’t have a shelf anymore. Once you acknowledge that Mormonism is not what it claims to be, there is nothing about the religion and its claims that is so difficult to explain that it must go on the shelf until God explains it. But for the apologists, holy crap, what a shelf…

I don’t see this as a bitter post, and you really should read it. Mormons, for whom as people I have respect, do have a problem compared with other fundamentalists in the Abrahamic tradition. It is impossible for a Mormon to engage in any kind of real scholarship on their additional holy book, as there is no trail to follow. All they have is a translation, allegedly, of texts which can no longer be examined. I don’t envy Mormon apologists either. My own feeling, I’m afraid, is that The Book of Mormon belongs to the canon of 19th century American fiction, or pastiche. At least the many texts which make up the Bible, not to mention the ticklish question of the Quran, have a provenance in some cases even firmer than that of some of the Greek and Roman classics. Critical study of that provenance does not deliver what fundamentalists desire, however, as it shows an evolving set of human texts rather than the much desired infallible word of God. While there are many questions of detail to be settled — room for scholarship of the best kind — there is, it seems to me, no doubting that conclusion. Those who resist this scholarship, it seems to me, delude themselves and others.

All of this is in my view consistent — and do note this insistent qualification — with a humble theism. It’s terribly undramatic, I’m afraid, but there you go, and there I am.

As I said, explore what I have said before, and check the links. This is a work in progress, and certainty is not the goal. In fact, I rather see certainty as something of a problem, indeed as a very great danger. Some people are so certain they are willing to kill others who are less certain, or whose certainty does not match that of the homicidal zealot.

We could all do with being more rather than less postmodern in such matters.

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Posted by on September 20, 2008 in Bible, challenge, Christianity, faith, faith and philosophy, humanity, interfaith, Islam, pluralism, Pomo, religion


In-house news spot for Saturday 20 September 2008

Report on activity since last Saturday.

The gift of a digital camera has enabled me to make Ninglun’s Specials the photo blog (with extras) that I wanted it to be. The content is very much local at the moment, but my local is someone else’s exotic, so that’s OK. I think the technical quality of the pics is improving too.

Top posts in the last seven days on Ninglun’s Specials

  1. Sequel: Art Monthly Australia July 2008 30 individual visits
  2. First fruits from the Casio: Surry Hills 30
  3. 10. But is it art? Responses to the Bill Henson Controversy 24
  4. Surry Hills 8: Belvoir and Buckingham St 19
  5. Chinatown 1 18
  6. Top poems 2: John Donne (1572-1631) 14
  7. Chinatown 2 10
  8. DSL collection – Chinese Contemporary Art 10
  9. Top poems 1: The amazing web site of Shakespeare’s Sonnets 9
  10. Family stories 1 — mother 8

Top posts on Floating Life

  1. NSW Local Government Election 2008 / Sutherland 148
  2. Sarah Palin 146
  3. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 —  “The Angel’s Kiss”  139
  4. Sitemeter has changed 77
  5. Local government elections today in NSW, 74
  6. 2008 Beijing Paralympics Games – ABC (Australia) 65
  7. The Great Surry Hills Book Clearance of 2005  47
  8. Dr Nelson looks forward to a diet of jam 44
  9. How good is your English? Test and Answers 28
  10. Bigotry is not confined to the religious 24

Top posts on English/ESL

  1. How should I write up a Science experiment? 366
  2. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 266
  3. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 113
  4. Workshop 02 — NSW HSC: Area Study: Imaginative Journeys 67
  5. In the Wild: Brave New World and Blade Runner 57
  6. Scaffolding 45
  7. From my personal site: The Secret River 44
  8. What tense should I use when I write about literature? 41
  9. How can I improve my essay grades, especially in exams? 41
  10. How can I write better short stories? 36
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Posted by on September 20, 2008 in blogging, site news, site stats, updates