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For Birthday Letters, the approach I have suggested is to find texts with perspectives on the same personalities and situations as the core text (Hughes, Plath, their marriage, her suicide). The Justice Game is a different type of text. Although Robertson is undeniably a strong personality and there are certainly texts with conflicting perspectives on the cases discussed, related material that explores a contemporary issue works well for this text.

The criteria I am using to select issues and texts is as follows:

1. The issue must reflect a conflict between differing attitudes or value systems.

2. One of the suggested resolutions for conflicting perspectives on the issue must be a change in the law.

3. Texts which represent the issue must acknowledge (if only to dismiss) perspectives that conflict with the composer’s own.

Examples

Issue: The wearing of Burqas

(thank you to the Year 12s whose argument in the computer lab yesterday inspired the inclusion of this issue)

Summary: The reasons for opposing the wearing of the burqa range from its perceived status as a symbol of female oppression to security fears. France has banned it and other European countries are considering following suit.

Memoir: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

News Report: Is Islam on Trial?

News Article: Muslim woman ‘right’ to question cops

News Article: Australia may use fingerprints to ID burqa wearers

Opinion Piece: Is that a feminist under your burqa?

There are many others, on both sides of this question. Use the Google News tab to get up to date articles and opinion pieces.

Issue: British Libel Laws

Summary: In 2008 author and journalist, Simon Singh, published an article in The Guardian, which criticised chiropractors. He was sued for libel by the British Chiropractors Association. This raised not only the question of free speech but also the out-dated nature of British libel laws.

Opinion piece: Beware the Spinal Trap (Singh’s original article)

Opinion piece: English Libel Law is a Vulture Circling the World

Press release: Update on BCA v Simon Singh

Blog post: Judgement: BCA v Singh (great legal perspective)

Issue: Boat People

Summary: Refugees sometimes come to Australia in boats (often small, unseaworthy, dangerous boats) looking for asylum. Due to popular and political pressure, these refugees are confined in remote detention centres or sent to nearby (or not so nearby in the case of Malaysia) countries as part of the so-called Pacific Solution. Some Australians feel that this treatment is inhumane.

Television series: Go Back To Where You Came From

Opinion piece: The lawful presence of ‘illegal arrivals’ on ‘illegal boat

Opinion column: You call this even-handed? Refugee series is strictly for the gullible.

Other issues worth exploring include: Julian Assange and Wikileaks; International Law and the War on Terror; Google Books and Copyright; Apple’s App Store and Censorship.

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Students of HSC 2011. You’ve already tackled one of the modules and probably completed at least one internal assessment. Not really happy with your result? I’m here with good news: don’t panic, it’s not too late to start transforming yourself into a top band English student.

How did you spend the Summer break? Did you read voraciously? Did you compose fifteen practice “belonging” essays under exam conditions using Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall as a related text? No? Not to worry, as I said, it’s not too late.

So what can you do now?

Step One: Read

Does that mean rush out, buy Wolf Hall and spend a week immersed in Tudor England? No. Wolf Hall is a great book but it’s over 600 pages long. Put it on the list to read after your exams are over. At this stage reading for English needs to fall into one of four categories:

a. Core text. Before you complete any assessment task you should have read/viewed your core text at least three times.

b. Additional readings. Your English teacher will probably give you a booklet or a brick of additional or suggested readings for each Module. Or, he or she may take the History teacher approach and throw sheafs of paper at you each lesson. Don’t let those hours at the photocopier go to waste, take the time to read the articles. Many of them will not only give you new perspectives and helpful contextual information but also show you good essay structure.

c. Related material (familiar). One good approach, when choosing related material for the Area of Study and Module C is to choose a text you already know well. Try to avoid texts you’ve studied in previous years, too many schools do the same texts and many set English novels from the junior years of high school are too simplistic for the HSC. However, if you have a favourite novel or film that you’ve read or viewed multiple times, try approaching it with new eyes. If you can make a list of techniques and how they convey a sense of belonging (or not belonging, or history and memory, or conflicting perspectives) then chances are it will work for you. Writing about a text you already like can also lead into exploring Belonging through textual engagement. I’m going to write about that more in a later post.

d. Related material (new). Any new related material–and by new I mean a text you have never read or viewed before–needs to be short. Good choices include: newspaper articles, speeches or monologues from plays (especially Shakespeare – great for techniques), short stories, essays (magazines The BRW and The Monthly are good places to look), graphic novels, advertisements (check out the ones that air during the Superbowl each year, they usually have a solid narrative, clear message and easy to spot film techniques) and websites. This list is not exhaustive, it’s just a little inspiration for students who don’t know where to start.

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