“Academic freedom,” presumably includes as a minimum the capacity of “academics” to express freely their views on matters within their academic competencies. Sometimes it’s said that university teachers have it; but it is clear that Roderic Kefford, the headmaster of Barker College, an Anglican school in Hornsby, sees a limited role for it.
I read today his letter in the SMH (the headline of course is theirs):
Writers unblocked at Barker
Barker College unequivocally dissociates itself from remarks attributed to Sue Marks (“Keyboard kids losing art of writing”, July 28). Barker College students are highly competent and confident in writing essays and the kind of extended answers required in examinations conducted by the Board of Studies in NSW.
From year 3 onwards, they have abundant opportunity to develop skills in planning and writing extended pieces of work. The school’s commitment to educational technology ensures that all students have highly developed skills in the appropriate use of that technology.
Dr Marks is not the senior English teacher at Barker, and her remarks do not reflect the school’s position.
Rod Kefford Headmaster, Barker College, Hornsby
Oh my God, I thought. Someone must have been hauled over the coals at the headmagisterial study. What must she have said?
The senior English teacher at Barker College, on the North Shore, Sue Marks, says she has had top students forced to do remedial courses to get their handwriting legible enough for HSC examiners to read.
Barker’s Dr Marks said: “The process of writing – whether it be by hand, or on a computer keyboard – is closely connected with the process of thinking. Research points to the fact that thoughts are generated, not merely recorded, through the process of writing. So my fear, in relation to the rise of abbreviated forms adopted by many when emailing, text messaging and instant messaging, is that the capacity for deep thinking, fostered through writing, will be eroded.”
Dr Marks said it was not that writing using these technologies was inherently detrimental to deep thought. “In my view, as society becomes more and more dependent upon technology, it will become increasingly important for clear and cohesive writing to be taught in schools.
“If this is not the case we run the risk of students’ writing – and thinking – reflecting their text-messaging practices and becoming little more than a series of truncated ideas. Many of today’s students are quite capable of sophisticated thought, but as grab-bites become the norm in modern communication technologies, it is vital that the skills involved in producing thoughtful, developed compositions, reflective of higher order thinking, are fostered in our schools.”
The article has its own agenda, but those are the only views attributed to Dr Marks in it.
I wonder why Dr Rod Kefford bothered.