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Genre theory approach

28 August 2009
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If Kalantzis and Cope are agin it, I am for it. Thus it was with bitter glee that I skimmed through C & K’s The Powers of Literacy: a genre approach to teaching writing to see their assessment of the teaching/learning cycle driving the Sydney School genre approach.

Having just heard the historical context of the Sydney School approach simply expounded by Prof Jim Martin, as part of an introduction to the Language Companion project (SLATE), I was disgusted to see C & K’s sideswipe-in-lieu-of-argument (p. 191):

As a large part of the ‘wheel’ approach has been derived from early work carried out in a middle-class school with the majority of students from English-speaking backgrounds, it is not surprising that the joint negotiation strategy proved successful.

Right, so make sure you never try anything out with middle-class children, as it will de-legitimise your theoretical approach. I wonder we bother sending the petits bourgeoises to school at all.

This strategy, however, did not directly translate into the classrooms of working class and NESB students where genre-based approaches were being implemented.

No, as you would expect, the theory needed to be developed for the new audience and new purposes. Note the carping ‘directly’ in this sentence – I think this must be Cope writing, because the comma density is less hysterical. C & K then follow up this observation with zero evidence that the approach is not translatable to the new environment.

In these classrooms many of the students come from backgrounds where learning and meaning are not necessarily a matter for negotiation.

Oh, right. So we won’t make any attempt to open this possibility up to them. Many of them come from backgrounds where nobody in the family has significant paid employment – so let’s not help them acquire any job skills or aspirations either.

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