As a subject in Australian secondary schools, English has undergone significant changes in the past twenty years. It has played a major role in general moves to humanize the curriculum by emphasizing the value and significance, for the classroom, of students' experiences. Attention to the role of language in learning and of language across the curriculum has been compatible with the redefinition of English, and the resultant emphasis on language and language matters has contributed noticeably to the individualization of school learning. The result has been that the total language environment of schools has become much more an object of critical attention.
However, this 'personalism' and 'individualism' within English curriculum matters have not been without some cost; in this chapter some of the implicit dangers associated with a language study which focuses on the person rather than on socio-cultural contexts will be addressed. In addressing English in this way, some parallels will be drawn with self-esteem projects within secondary schools. As with English, self-esteem programs have played an important role in the secondary school curriculum and have focused attention on areas that had previously been neglected. As detailed by Pam Jonas in Chapter 11, important political work with girls has resulted, and many schools and classrooms have altered policies as a result of the impact of the self-esteem literature.
Projects which are couched in personal and individual terms need, however, to be scrutinized carefully. While for many educationists, English and its adjacent discourse of self-esteem offer classroom opportunities to make critical assessments of the way in which gender or race or class are constructed culturally, there is nothing explicit in the discourses which promotes these opportunities. While the personal and the