International Association of Educators   |  ISSN: 2834-7919   |  e-ISSN: 1554-5210

Original article | International Journal of Progressive Education 2007, Vol. 3(2) 30-51

“Whole language” and moral panic in Australia

Susanne Gannon* & Wayne Sawyer

pp. 30 - 51   |  Manu. Number: ijpe.2007.008

Published online: June 15, 2007  |   Number of Views: 46  |  Number of Download: 277


This paper examines the media and political landscapes within which “whole language” is currently constituted in Australia. Through surveying the themes and rhetoric deployed in media texts over recent years, we consider  how  “whole language” has been taken up as part of a wider media campaign around education generally. We consider how this campaign has been instrumental in constructing a moral panic around literacy education in particular. We begin with an overview of how the literacy standards of Australia's young people compare on international measures with young people elsewhere. We consider how the media has bundled  these with populist concerns about literacy pedagogy and other educational issues to create a sense of national crisis about education. We argue that the  sociological concept of "moral panic" provides a useful and systematic theoretical framework for reading these discursive tactics of the media. Finally, we examine how a National Inquiry into literacy responded to this panic by reinscribing a familiar – and unhelpful- binary between “whole language” and phonics-based instruction. In the title and in the body of the paper we keep “whole language” in quotation marks to remind the readers that use of the term in the media texts that are analysed differs widely from its usage by literacy specialists.


How to Cite this Article?

APA 6th edition
Gannon*, S. & Sawyer, W. (2007). “Whole language” and moral panic in Australia . International Journal of Progressive Education, 3(2), 30-51.

Gannon*, S. and Sawyer, W. (2007). “Whole language” and moral panic in Australia . International Journal of Progressive Education, 3(2), pp. 30-51.

Chicago 16th edition
Gannon*, Susanne and Wayne Sawyer (2007). "“Whole language” and moral panic in Australia ". International Journal of Progressive Education 3 (2):30-51.

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