Once preferred, now peripheral: the place of poetry in the teaching of English in the New Zealand curriculum for year 9, 10 and 11 students (2006)
AuthorsO'Neill, Helen Josephineshow all
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his (or her) feeling through words. This may sound easy. It isn't ... . It's the most wonderful life on earth. Or so I feel. e. e. cummings: 'A Poet's Advice'. (1-3, 27-28) Fifty years ago poetry was a key element in the English programme in most secondary schools. Today it is marginalised, with many teachers avoiding teaching poetry as far as possible. The consequence is a cycle of disadvantage whereby many students, never having studied, let alone attempted to write a poem in school, leave without having encountered literature at its most intense and concentrated. Since the study of poetry can also be avoided almost entirely in university English departments, such students will, in their turn, when they themselves become educators of the next generation, similarly avoid teaching poetry. This thesis investigates the pedagogical and curricular contexts within which English has been taught in New Zealand since 1945, and within which poetry has become increasingly marginal. Surveys of and interviews with students past and present, teachers and teacher-educators enable me to identify a range of reasons why this has happened, and a cycle of deprivation has developed. The thesis also identifies, however, ways in which the cycle of deprivation can be broken, and the teaching of poetry made central to the teaching of written, oral and visual language in accordance with the principles of the current New Zealand curriculum for the teaching of English.