Noel Gough No Country For Young People? Anxieties in Australian education (2008)

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Title
Noel Gough No Country For Young People? Anxieties in Australian education (2008)
Language English
Time Added 10th February, 2018
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Australia is often portrayed as a place in which young people are in jeopardy. In 19th century literature and art, the recurring motif of a child lost in ‘the bush’ became an increasingly significant dimension of European settlers’ experiences of Australia, whereas during the latter half of the 20th century analogous cultural narratives shifted towards urban environments and the plight of young people endangered by their parents’ generation. In contemporary popular culture, Australia’s cities and suburbs are places where children are aborted, abandoned, exploited, murdered or never conceived. Like the bush-lost children before them, these ‘at risk’ young people symbolise adult fears of self, society, and the future. My concern is that the most common public policy response to these persistent fears and insecurities is to retreat to a politics of complexity reduction. Many politicians and public opinion leaders see teachers and schools as being in the vanguard of people and institutions dedicated to Australian children’s educational ruin, and simplistically seek to ‘protect’ them with blunt instruments such as back-to-phonics literacy and a national curriculum. I argue that Australia’s young people are much more seriously endangered by the symbolic violence of those who position them as docile receptors of whatever schools and teachers serve up to them, and who treat them as passive screens upon which to project their own anxieties.

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