Dr Gary MacLennan

I began teaching in 1964 at St Augustine’s Secondary Modern in Belfast I was an English teacher and I also did two years with a remedial class. I loved teaching English. We were all very influenced by David Holbrook’s English for Maturity, which had been a set text at my training college. I got a copy of the newly published English for the Rejected and both books heavily influenced my approach to remedial education. Someday I may attempt to get to terms with Holbrook (1923-2011) and his approach to English. By the time I began training English teachers in Brisbane in 1975, his work had fallen out of favour. It was seen as too romantic and too heavily influenced by psychotherapy. I recall writing in an essay that Holbrook acted as if the working class were sick and in need of healing, while I felt they needed an end to wage exploitation. I think I would be less harsh on Holbrook now. He at least had a concept of the aesthetic which owed much to F. R. Leavis’ emphasis on ‘reverence for life’.
I left Belfast in 1968 and went to teach in what was then Kano State in Northern Nigeria. I was teaching English as a Second Language and training teachers in an Islamic community. The acceptance and warmth shown to me by the Muslim teachers and my students have stayed with me, and have very effectively inoculated me against Islamophobia.
From Nigeria I went to Essex in 1971 and did my Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics. Essex was a bastion of radical thought at that time. There was an enormous slogan painted on one of the dormitory walls. It said Begin the Dialectic. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded very significant. When I returned to Essex in 1997 for a Critical Realist conference, I was disappointed to see that the slogan had gone. The Dialectic was now elsewhere.
After finishing my Masters I got a job lecturing in the Ulster Polytechnic. I enjoyed teaching as always, but Northern Ireland in 197-75 was an unhappy and very dangerous place to rear a family. Everyone’s life was defined by the sectarian Catholic-Protestant divide and it sickened me and I left to come to Australia in 1975.
I secured a job at the Kevin Grove Teachers’ College and that institution was to morph eventually into QUT. I was very fortunate to work with some of the best teacher trainers and academics that I have ever met. The late Clem Young, and Jack Talty were superb teachers and very generous with their help and advice to me. The approach to English teaching that they created was as good as any in the world.
In 1990 I went to China to work for a year in Guangxi Normal University. I taught courses in writing and Australian Film. By then I was moving out of English and into Media/Cultural Studies. When I returned to Australia it was to the new university QUT. I eventually completed a Doctorate on Left Wing Documentary Film in Australia. My supervisor was the brilliant academic Professor Stuart Cunningham.
From 2010 I worked as a researcher for Ian Mackie in the Department of Indigenous Education and Training. I enjoyed my time in the Public Service because Ian was putting together a novel and authentic approach to Indigenous Education. Real progress was being made until in 2012 the advent of the Newman Government led to the section being closed down. Since 20013 I have worked for Ian’s company Austeur Enterprises. We have produced a book based on Ian’s work as Assistant Director General and are working on a second one in which we intend to unveil a new approach which we have tentatively labelled Authentic Relational Education.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge my debt to the late Roy Bhaskar. His critical realism forms the bedrock of all my work. I was fortunate to get to know Bhaskar and to become a friend. He is sorely missed at the personal and intellectual level.