A Guide to this Blog

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tiananmen Square: Ideology and Evaluation

Picking apart the myriad reasons for what happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989 can be quite a big ask, especially in light of the conflicting information in the historical record. At the time of writing it has now been nearly 30 years since the incident occurred, however, the establishment of a national history in keeping with China's ongoing political ideology means that some degree of historiographical analysis will be required from students looking to get an overall picture of this multidimensional event. 

In other words: the official and the unofficial histories of the Tiananmen Square incident are quite different from one another. 

Before engaging with the opinions of a wide range of historians, students should examine the various causes of the event itself. 

This can be looked at in three main ways:
  1. The reasons for Deng Xiaoping's opposition to the protests.
  2. The reasons for the protestors' opposition to Deng Xiaoping.
  3. The reasons for why the protests could ultimately be interpreted as a failure.  
Here's a sheet with 14 causes that can be sorted into the three above categories. Students can colour-code, cut-and-paste, or copy into a table. Click the link below to download.

Resource: Clash of Ideologies

Following this, students can then begin looking at a variety of evaluations regarding the incident, and consider how each historian has grappled with the above three categories of reasoning. These have been gleamed from various books about 20th Century Chinese history, all of which I would recommend. They are as follows:

Alexander V. Pantsov, author of Deng Xiaoping, 2016
Despite numerous pleas to return home, the rebellious youths did not want to abandon their protests, so the leaders of the nation had to choose between employing force and making concessions. And they made their choice, turning the streets leading to Tiananmen red with blood.
Deng Xiaoping retained his firm conviction about the necessity for dictatorship in the form of the unchallengable rule of the Chinese Communist Party. When confronted by a vision of democracy, he could only see the spectre of chaos. He dug in his heels and would go no further.
Many in the Party saw the market forces of economic reforms to blame, that the modernisation of the economy had opened China up to the 'rotten West' and that this was how bourgeois liberalisation contaminated the minds of the youth. The CCP, now with a new upcoming leader in Jiang, now condemned Deng's planned reforms of the future.
Immanuel C. Y. Hsu, author of China Without Mao, 1990
Elders who enjoyed privileges in the Party wanted to hold onto these privileges at all costs, and felt the need to defend the socialist order that had made their elitism possible. Killing protestors was not a concern as they were 'anti-party counterrevolutionaries' who deserved to be eliminated. Loss of tourism and credit was of small concern compared to the survival of the Communist leadership. Deng declared that he did not fear foreign opinion for this reason.
Accurate figures of the massacre are impossible - Western sources estimated 3000 dead and 10 000 wounded. One report from the New York Times said 400-800. A Chinese government spokesman told an NBC anchorman that there were no casualties - certainly no bloodbath. The Chinese government later admitted to 23 students dying accidentally, and that 150 brave soldiers had died, with a further 5000 wounded.
 Frank Dikotter, author of The Cultural Revolution, 2016
The leaders lived in fear of their own people, constantly having to suppress their political aspirations. Deng personally ordered a military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square. The massacre was a display of brutal force and steely resolve, designed to send a signal that still pulsates to this day: do not query the monopoly of the one-party state.
Ezra F. Vogel, author of Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, 2011
It's estimated that 100 000 protestors were in Tiananmen Square when the army moved in around midnight. Only several thousand were left waiting at 2 AM when the army reached the square. It's estimated that 300-2600 demonstrators were killed. Figures from Beijing hospitals show at least 478 dead and 920 wounded. Nearly 600 vehicles, including PLA trucks and armoured carriers, were damaged.
Maurice Meisner, author of Mao's China and After, 1999
Deng Xiaoping congratulated the police and the army who had crushed the 'counterrevolutionary rebellion'. And he offered condolences to the families of government soldiers who had died. He labelled the civilians as 'the dregs of society'. The government later released a figure of 300 civilian deaths which was mocked by eyewitnesses. It is estimated that 2000-7000 civilian deaths occurred. A nationwide wave of arrests occurred after the event, resulting in the incarceration of at least 1000, and the executions of 100s.
Resource: Assessment of the Tiananmen Square incident by Historians

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Evaluating the Cultural Revolution

After students engage with some of the terrifying history of this period it will be necessary to guide them towards offering their own evaluation of events. This can be modelled through source analysis of what historians say about the Cultural Revolution. Students should read over the following opinions; assess them for their content, and usefulness and reliability, and then arrange them into an order of personal agreement.

Craig Dietrich, author of People's China, 1986
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution took the whole world by surprise. Suddenly, China was at war with itself... Nobody could quite understand what was going on or why, partly because systematic reporting was impossible. Millions of students were on the march; entire cities were festooned with wall posters; mighty leaders were wearing dunce caps; thousands of victims were dying in pitched battles; foreign embassies were being mobbed, even burned to the ground. And always words, a Niagara of rhetoric, slogans, accusations, denials, directives, and, above all, Mao Zedong Thought. Clearly, it was a power struggle... Mao Zedong occupied the centre of this maelstrom. It was declared to be his personal revolution. Only gradually did it become clear that he had a rational purpose, albeit an audacious one.
 Richard M. Pfeffer, author of China in Ferment, 1971
The Cultural Revolution was really three things in one: an enigmatic multiple power struggle, wrapped in a crusade, and superimposed on a scattering of more or less spontaneous, more or less politicised student riots, strikes, peasant uprisings, mutinies, and palace coups.
Anne Thurston, author of Enemies of the People, 1987
The Cultural Revolution was an extreme situation characterised by loss - loss of culture, loss of spiritual values and religion, loss of status and honour, loss of career, loss of dignity, and loss of trust.
Maurice Meisner, author of Mao's China and After, 1999
Unity was to prove an elusive goal, and the nature of the victory was hard to define. The Cultural Revolution had begun with a wholesale attack on the Communist Party; it had ended with the resurrection of the Party in its orthodox Leninist form, albeit shorn of Mao's more prominent opponents. In 1966-67 a massive popular movement had flourished on the basis of the principle that 'the masses must liberate themselves'; by 1969 the mass movement had disintegrated, and selected remnants of it had been absorbed by old bureaucratic apparatuses. Much blood had been shed, but what had changed? The Cultural Revolution not only failed to produce permanent institutions of popular self-government but also failed to resolve the more immediate problems of political succession. One of the original aims of the Cultural Revolution was to 'train revolutionary successors'.
Alexander V. Pantsov, author of Deng Xiaoping, 2015
Strange to say, the nightmare that was the Cultural Revolution at least had the positive effect of restraining the potential for self-indulgence of the Chinese ruling elite.
Immanuel C. Y. Hsu, author of China Without Mao, 1990
Mao sought ideological purity through intensified class struggle and the purge of high party and government leaders and intellectuals.
Frank Dikotter, authorof The Cultural Revolution, 2016
The Cultural Revolution was about an old man settling persona scores at the end of his life. Mao had a great capacity for malice and revenge, and had little regard for loss of human life. Mao's ego meant that he saw little distinction between himself and the revolution - he was the revolution. If someone wronged him, they wronged China. Any dissatisfaction with his authority was a direct threat to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Most of the above information can be found on the downloadable sheet below. As mentioned earlier, students should analyse and engage with the opinions by comparing and contrasting their differences and similarities, and acknowledging possible reasons for bias. It would also be useful to link the content of the sources with the identified causes for the Cultural Revolution. For example, Dikotter's opinion just above links quite neatly with the idea that Mao's personality was a primary factor behind the Cultural Revolution.

I would recommend all of the above texts are great teacher resources for anyone looking to read up on the Cultural Revolution in support of the new Modern History Stage 6 syllabus.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Cutting Edge: A Report

Plenary Hall on Day 1
I attended the AATE/ALEA Cutting Edge conference in Hobart about two weeks ago and my head is still giddy with the pedagogical possibilities I experienced there. Each morning, I stepped out into the bracing stillness of the harbour's Southern Ocean air, looked up at the looming snow-specked rockface of Mt. Wellington, and smelt the collective woodfire of the street's chimneys.

The walk to Wrest Point Convention Centre was chilly but the scenery and ambience always made up for it.
View of Mt Wellington from Wrest Point
Where does one start with a conference attended by 1100 delegates, a conference that went for four days, a conference where 260 separate teachers and educational specialists shared their knowledge and ideas with one another? Many times I felt like a kid at a music festival with multiple stages, wrestling with the agonising need to make a decision about which bands to see. Gnashing my teeth whenever I noted that two or three or even four great workshops were up against each other.

Like many other attendees, I was spoilt for choice.

Day Zero: The extended pre-conference sessions gave me a chance to engage more closely with the pedagogy of international speakers Linda Hoyt and Steven Layne, who were both such enthusiastic presenters that one couldn't help but get swept away in the positive and constructive methodology they shared. Dr Layne spoke wonderfully about using feedback and community-styled classroom environments, and modeled how this works by getting those of us who attended the session to generate creative writing pieces and accompanying feedback.

Day One: My highlight for the second day (the first day of the conference-proper) was a session in which South Australian teacher and researcher Sarah McDonald discussed the problematic stereotyping that has contributed to the timbre of boy-focused literacy initiatives in Western education. Her ongoing research was both useful and thought-provoking. Another highlight for the day was the keynote from American high school reading specialist Cris Tovani, who turned the focus back onto the teachers in the room by asking them to consider what it is that makes learning compelling for them, and then showed the lecture theatre some useful strategies to get students interrogating the texts they read for greater depth of understanding - alluding to Super Six-styled skills of connecting, monitoring, questioning, etc.

Cutting Edge talk on the 100 Story Building
Day Two: Wayne Sawyer started the day with his inspiring delivery of the Garth Boomer address on 'Low SES contexts - What could they mean for 'English'". Among the many insightful points made, Professor Sawyer highlighted the concentrations of disadvantage in those of low socio-economic status, asserting that deficiencies in performance within the subject of English are always about class. I'm not going to do justice to his keynote address in the space of a paragraph, however, the inclusion of the Motivation engagement Education (MeE) framework - and it's 'Fair Go' principles - provided a lot of intellectual grist for the audience. Later in the day, I was also fortunate to attend a session on the Seven Steps to Writing Success presented by its creator, Jen McVeity, and in the space of just 35 minutes she managed to convey enough material for several lessons' worth of creative writing instruction. It was fantastic.

Day Three: The last day of the conference was another big one, with Israeli educator Dr. Adam Lefstein sharing his research on classroom practice. Dr Lefstein made the case for repositioning Professional Learning as something that should happen on the job rather than outside it, and spoke illuminatingly about the way discourse shapes our thinking as teachers, as well as the need for educators to focus on positive practice when observing each other (rather than the usual things in the classroom that can go wrong). Dr Lefstein lectured about a lot that really spoke to me, and I can see myself blogging more about him more extensively in the future. The final day of the conference was also the one in which my colleague Kira Bryant collaborated with me on presenting our own materials on teaching explicit creative writing skills in the classroom. I enjoyed it a lot. 

Presenting on Creative Writing strategies
I had to take this photo - I couldn't help myself!
I met so many great teachers at Cutting Edge and learnt a lot of great stuff. I'd like to once again thank the Copyright Agency for granting me a 2017 Scholarship to attend the Cutting Edge conference. I blogged a few times about it, and the links can be found here:

That's Wrest Point on the right
Some links of interest related to some of the presenters can be found here as well:
Linda Hoyt - Excellence in Literacy Instruction
Steven L. Layne - Passionate about Reading
Cris Tovani - Reading Comprehension Specialist
Elizabeth Birr Moje - Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan
100 Story Building - Creativity and Literacy for Young People

Wayne Sawyer and Larissa McLean Davies - Investigating Literary Knowledge in English Teachers
Angela Meyer - Flash Fiction
Jen McVeity - Seven Steps to Writing Steps
Rosie Kerin - Write Me: Workshops on English and Literacy
Adam Lefstein - Some useful articles on his research around classroom management and professional learning

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Getting to Grips with the Cultural Revolution

If I'm honest, History really only comes alive for me when it's challenging. The teaching of History should be a subject area that forces the student (and teacher) to take a long hard look at the 'facts' and question the accepted version of events. If you take a look at the new Stage 6 Modern History NSW Syllabus you'll see that the outcomes are very much geared towards facilitating this kind of historical thinking - the curriculum wants us to analyse sources so that we can better ascertain the nature of bias, the curriculum wants us to contest the 'official' narrative and engage with competing versions of events so that we can make our judgements, the curriculum wants us to gather up as much information as we can so that we can offer individualistic evaluations in response to essay questions.

Modern History isn't dry, it's something that should be passionately argued with.

The Cultural Revolution is one of two key focal points for the Change in the Modern World China option (Option B) and, as such, it's perfect fodder in regards to the aforementioned mutable nature of the syllabus outcomes. The Cultural Revolution is a notoriously tricky area of historical debate and therefore forces the student (and teacher) to create their own historical narrative in response to the available (and unavailable) information.

The first port of call is 'building the field', where students increase their knowledge of the historical period through increased engagement with appropriate vocabulary and, also, gathering an impression of the causes that could be attributed to the Cultural Revolution. Potential causes could be best summarised as the following:
  • The Sino-Soviet split: a clash of ideologies leading to China's increasing independence.
  • Tensions arising from Party Politics: Party members removing all references to Maoism from constitution in order to diminish Mao Zedong's power. Mao's role as 'honorary' Chairman led to ambiguity over leadership.
  • The Great Leap Forward: failure of this attempt to modernise China in one quick go had disastrous consequences for Chinese society, leading to widespread death, famine and corruption.
  • Permanent Revolution: the ongoing nature of class struggle in a Marxist society meant that elitism and revisionism needed to be prevented.
  • Mao's Personality: Mao sought to maintain the Cult of Personality that kept him in power, and would often test the loyalty of his comrades. Different factions arose in the Party in response to desires to be identified as Mao's potential successor.
  • Educational Reform: Mao saw the importance in harnessing the next generation as the future of Chinese communism, and aimed to control this through education and ideology.
The next step in teaching the Cultural Revolution is in getting students to dive headfirst into the narrative of events. This is incredibly difficult with the Cultural Revolution for a number of reasons:
  1. It's near impossible to know exactly why Mao started the Revolution.
  2. The Cultural Revolution happened on a huge scale, with millions of students ('Red Guards') spearheading the revolution in hundreds of independent movements that did not co-ordinate with one another.
  3. The Party fractured in ways that are hard to understand - those who feared ideological attack from Mao sought to influence the Red Guards to act in a certain way, deflecting blame towards their enemies. This resulted in civil disputes between different groups of Red Guards acting under the influence of different Party members.
  4. Mao remained largely aloof from the Revolution - once he had set the chain of events in motion he stepped back from direct involvement. It could be argued that he was keeping his own hands clean of any wrongdoing, however, the very nature of socialist revolution also demanded action from the proletariat (the students and workers) so it would not have made sense for Mao to have directly led them as this ran contrary to Marxist ideology.
  5. In the simplest of terms, China was plunged into chaos between 1966 and 1976.
It is therefore best to have students shape their own understanding by gathering information through independent research. The depth and breadth of information on the Cultural Revolution is so multitudinous, so contradictory, and so endlessly fascinating, that it would be a great disservice to prescribe a single narrative for students to follow.

The solution is to set students up with scaffolded research. Here is a guide that will assist students with assembling some key information alongside their own research.

Just for your awareness, here are some things that may come up in student research (or key words that you may find useful in directing them):

Bian Zhongyun: The first death of the Cultural Revolution. Bian was a vice principal of a school where the Red Guards rose up. Her mouth was filled with soil and her face splashed with black ink, and she was paraded around while wearing a dunce's cap before being beaten to death with nail-spiked clubs, and dumped into a garbage cart.

Other Teachers: Many authority figures in schools were the first targets for the new revolutionaries. The principal at the Third Girls Middle School was beaten to death, and the Dean there hung herself before she could face a similar fate. A Biology teacher at Beijing Teacher's School was dragged along the ground until she died, and then other teachers were forced to beat her dead body if they did not want to face a similar fate. Party member Liu Shaoqi set a quota (of 1%) for Red Guards in their targeting of teachers, which equated to 300 000 victims.

The Little Red Book: The level of fanaticism amongst the Red Guards was so intense that Mao's quotations (originally published in the Liberation Army Daily) were assembled as a little red book for all citizens to carry.

Massacres: In regional areas such as Daxing, local leaders (those that Mao had initially intended to target) murdered all the landlords and their families. 300 in total were killed in a co-ordinated night-time attack that utilised methods of stabbing, strangling, and electrocution to prevent what the leaders claimed was a chance of 'bourgeois uprising'. Even the children were included to ensure that no revenge could be taken in the future.

Rallies: There were huge gatherings in Tiananmen Square where Red Guards could catch a glimpse of Chairman Mao. The last of these took place in November 1966, and saw two and a half million teenagers gather in one day to see their great helmsman.

Destruction of the Four Olds: Many graveyards and temples were defaced and destroyed, especially in regional areas such as Tibet. Bodies of dead women were dug up in Confucian cemeteries and hung from trees, and over 10 000 graves in Shanghai alone were desecrated. In Zhengdang, ancient monuments were destroyed. Entire libraries, such as one in Zikawai, were also burned down as symbols of bourgeois culture, leading to the loss of thousands of 19th century books.

Shanghai: As one of China's most modern cities, Shanghai saw the eruption of some strange displays of Maoist outrage. At least 30 flower shops were destroyed as flowers were considered a waste of farmland. Cats were also targeted as they were considered symbols of Western decadence. Furthermore, many Red Guards saw the Revolution as an opportunity for looting, and some 30 000 'bad families' were forced to hand over property deeds - leaving nearly half a million people homeless. 704 people in Shanghai committed suicide in September 1966 alone.

The Vietnam War: The in-fighting between separate factions of Red Guards got so bad that weapons China meant to send to the Viet Cong were seized by various Chinese groups. The People's Liberation Army had to be mobilised away from the Chinese-Vietnamese border in order to help restore order in some provinces of China.

Guangxi Province: Rival Party members Lin Biao and Zhou Enlai waged war against each other in Guangxi in 1968 through the use of proxy forces of Red Guards. At least 80 000 were killed in several massacres.

Cannibalism: Rebels in Wuxuan began to practice cannibalism as a strange fusion of ritual and Marxist ideology, with at least 70 'capitalist' landlords publicly butchered and eaten alive. Mao ordered an end to this practice once he got word of it but, instead of punishing the cannibals, he sent a new statue of himself as a congratulatory present for those who had assisted with the Cultural Revolution.

Impact on the Arts: Intellectuals were the most badly scarred by the Cultural Revolution. Mao disliked intellectualism and saw it as useless in contrast to the practicality of his own view of socialism, which meant that artists and philosophers and the like were targeted by Red Guards. 1966-1976 became 'ten lost years' with no art, no music, no painting, no writing, no academic or scientific journals in China. It was a huge waste of an entire decade's worth of talent.

Ethnic Minorities: Also amongst the most persecuted were those who did not ethnically conform with the socialist Chinese majority. 800 000 Mongolians in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia were tortured - there was widespread sexual abuse of women, removal of tongues and teeth, and many burned alive. Only 10% of the population in Inner Mongolia were actually Mongol, yet 75% of those persecuted in the area were of this ethnicity, which made it look like genocide. Mao ordered a stop to this persecution but did not punish those responsible.

The End of the Red Guard: Unable to manage the independent actions of the Red Guard groups who had radically changed China's urban society, Mao ordered for all those who had driven the Cultural Revolution to be sent to the countryside for re-education through labour. Between 1969 and 1972 some 17 million of these youths were sent to live in villages, leading to mass suicide, poverty, and depression.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Write Right: Authentic Engagement with Creative Writing

This is my first time attending the AATE/ALEA National Conference and I couldn't be more chuffed! Kira Bryant and I are having a great time visiting Tasmania for the first time and want to say a big thank you to everyone involved in making the conference happen.

I would also like to personally express my gratitude to the Copyright Agency for granting me a scholarship to help make my attendance happen :)

Here are the resources that Kira and I presented.

Resource: Write Right PPT (our presentation)
Resource: Activity booklet (this accompanied our presentation)

*Please note that the activity booklet omits the short story 'Grandpa's Place' as this piece is scheduled to appear in an upcoming volume of the ETA's Creative Writing textbook series later this year.

Sizzling Starts

Jen McVeity, the passionate and engaging creator of the Seven Steps to Writing Success
The AATE/ALEA Cutting Edge conference has been a whirlwind adventure these last few days, with bravura performances from international keynote speakers like Dr. Steven L. Lang, Linda Hoyt, and Professor Elizabeth Birr Moje, and brilliant snapshots of the skills and understandings being taught across Australia by our own teachers and educational consultants.

One of the great 'snapshots' I got to experience today was Jen McVeity, the highly-esteemed creator and CEO of the Seven Steps to Writing Success - a model for chunking creative writing into discrete pieces to assist students with digesting skills for future use. The idea here is that:
Repetition makes writing skills into muscle memory.
As the session was a brisk 35 minutes long, McVeity used the time well to concentrate on just one of the 7 skills: Sizzling Starts

From the website, a sizzling start is described as "Start where the action is. Not at the beginning of the day where nothing is happening. Begin when the volcano starts oozing lava or as you walk in the door to the big disco competition". McVeity impressed this upon us in around three minutes before letting us try out some sizzling starts on our own. We were given five prompts with a minute each to write our attention-grabbing story beginnings. 

I decided (against my own better judgement) to undertake this activity by hand. 

I would describe my handwriting as resembling something a sloth would write if given a pen for the first time. Keep in mind that this sloth probably doesn't even know what words are. That's how my handwriting looks... I have a lot of trouble reading it even a few minutes after committing it to the page. 

But I digress. Here are the five prompts:

And here are my responses:
  1. I burped and fire enveloped the dinner, my mum screaming as tendrils of flame rippled across her best tablecloth as if on a slick of oil.
  2. Timmy cried as the shoe spun to a stop in front of him. His best friend Roger had just disappeared forever into the hollow of the tree. With a last gasp of hope, Timmy reached into the black yawning hole in the trunk.
  3. My phone exploded once again. It was one of those days - the sort where the car won't start, your computer crashes, and the toilet decides to fill up to the brim rather than flush. I hate technology.
  4. I never imagined I would be here, standing on this cliff. I'm afraid of heights but, you know what? A million dollars is a million dollars. Time to bungee-jump.
  5. Everyone hated Matt the Brat, especially when they found bits of him in their chocolate bars. Ms. Treving never imagined the excursion would turn out like this. 
As you can see, there isn't much you can get done in 1 minute per response, however, the rapid-fire nature of the activity forced me to keep practising the same thing with little room for drifting off-topic. McVeity compared it to standing in front of the tennis ball launcher while practising your backhand - the ball is aimed right at you so that you only have to practise the hitting of the ball rather than moving around to meet it. The analogy she's making here is that this is the aforementioned scaffolding provided by the prompts and chunking.

Resource from the workshop
I think my last one about Matt the Brat is my best attempt at a sizzling start in the rapid-fire scenario. There's something about humourous cannibalism that works as a great attention-grabber in creative writing. Obviously, I can't start every story with a character ending up in food eaten by other kids but, you know, I think the spirit of a sizzling start is there! 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Gender and Literacy

How often do we hear the phrase, "This would be a great text for boys", when discussing novel choices for teaching? I've been guilty of it, and many of the teachers around me have too. Maybe you have as well... I don't really know you, though, so I wouldn't want to say for sure.

Sarah McDonald talked about this at the AATE/ALEA National Conference today as being reflective of the 'Boy Crisis' fed to us by the media. McDonald is an English teacher, Vice-President of the South Australia English Teachers' Association, and an active researcher at Flinders University of gender construction in relation to the discipline of English. She identifies the 'Boy Crisis' as focused mostly on 'literacy and reading as markers for underachievement in boys', and outlines some of the problematic discourse that surrounds the deficit in the reading habits of young males. McDonald has also established a helpful timeline that demonstrates how this terminology emerged:
  1. Policies on providing equal learning opportunities for girls began to emerge in the 1980s in response to the 1973 Karmel Report.
  2. By 1993, data starts demonstrating that girls are ahead of boys in most areas.
  3. The media begins to ask "What about the boys?"
McDonald seeks to identify the ongoing issue in the conversations around this issue, and pinpoints this through the assertion that the way we approach literacy for boys is very much a perpetuation of 'constructions of hegemonic masculinity'. She substantiates this through analysis of websites designed to get boys reading, and the way they reinforce assumptions about masculinity and, in particular, assumptions about masculinity in relation to literacy.

The sites that McDonald cites are:
It's interesting as these websites are representative of a metanarrative that surrounds comparatively poor literacy rates amongst boys in Australia.

Celebrated Australian author James Moloney, in the first of the aforementioned websites, demonstrates quite a lot of the problematic behaviour surrounding boys and the practice of reading. This includes the positioning of mothers and female teachers as those to primarily blame for the construction of gender in this area. According to McDonald, Moloney suggests that 'boyish' texts centre around the gross, the dirty, the gory, and the curse-wordy, and that female adults play a big role in censoring this stuff due to their own value judgements in regards to this content. Boy-interests are 'subversive' and this is why they don't get to read the things they 'like'.

The problem here, of course, is that it's a generalisation. The attachment of particular genres to particular biological sexes is part of the construction of masculinity as a gender stereotype. In the presentation, McDonald hilariously points out the ludicrousness of the idea that a book about sport will appeal to those who play sport. It's laughable because anyone could see that the two activities have little to do with one another - playing sport and reading about sport are as closely related as going to the gym and conducting chemistry experiments on vitamin compounds. And that's not even taking into account the fact that the liking of sport shouldn't have anything to do with gender or biological sex.

Sarah McDonald's presentation today, whilst informative and intellectually stimulating, could have gone a lot longer - I just wanted to hear more about her research! The above information feels like the tip of the iceberg and she evidently had a lot more to speak about.

I don't know what the solution to the above problem is, but I do know that I will be thinking a lot more carefully about which texts "would be a great text for boys".