Always a lot of the last three around, not so much of the first — though there are times all four can coexist. Such seems to be the case with Paul Keating’s interview on last night’s 7.30 Report, which I did not see as I was watching the movie I tell you about in the next entry. The occasion of the interview was the launch of Unfinished Business: Paul Keating’s interrupted revolution by David Love, a book I wouldn’t mind reading. Keating, it appears, was in fine form.
KERRY OBRIEN: What, so Kevin Rudd does talk to you? Have you come in from the cold because Labor in opposition didn’t seem to know how to treat you, did they?
PAUL KEATING: The great pity for the post-me Labor Party is they gave — as this book today, the cause of our interview says — they gifted to Howard and Costello a two per cent inflation rate, a four per cent growth rate, a three per cent productivity rate, which they said thank you and stuck in their pockets. So now the Labor Party has come round to reality. You now have to deal with real things.
KERRY OBRIEN: How do you critique the first eight months of the Rudd Government?
PAUL KEATING: Um, solid. Solid but cautious. I think if there’s any problem the Government has it is that. When I say a problem I don’t any it’s a problem necessarily but it is to not have an over arching narrative in place. You know, I always talked about the internationalisation of the economy, the opening of the product financial and labour markets, the flexibility of the kind we have with all of our financial institutions, the exchange rate, wages. All of the Cabinet understood that, the message was always the same. We call that the narrative…
KERRY OBRIEN: Kevin Rudd has been painted as micro manager. Now whatever you and Bob Hawke were accused of as prime ministers I don’t think micro manager was one of them. Can a Prime Minister afford to engage in the small detail in running Government? In the end do you have to invest trust and significant autonomy in your ministerial colleagues?
PAUL KEATING: Absolutely. You can’t micro manage a thing like the Commonwealth…
Not entirely nonsense, that.
Pretty close to nonsense is Miranda Devine today psychoanalysing Liberal Party leaders (or leadership aspirants) in terms of sibling rivalry. It isn’t the worst thing she has ever written, and is quite innocuous comparatively speaking, I suppose. I should add I was #3 in our family…
Everyone’s favourite topic has surfaced again as the annual Great HSC Sacrifice of Youth approaches: The futile 13 years: lid lifted on HSC. Anna Patty starts with a suitably sensationalist hook after that shock horror headine:
MOST students can complete 13 years of school without having to demonstrate basic literacy and numeracy skills, says a leading educational assessment expert.
The chief executive officer for the Australian Council for Educational Research, Geoff Masters, says minimum standards of reading, writing and maths should be met by all students before they are awarded an HSC or equivalent qualification.
In his address to the council’s annual research conference in Brisbane next week, Professor Masters will raise concerns about Australia’s failure to ensure all students have reached basic standards when they finish school…
There is, Anna, a great difference between “demonstrating” something in accordance with some universal bureaucratic benchmark and actually being able to do that something. It strikes me as sheer hyperbole, and quite misleading, to suggest the most — what: 90%? 51%? — students get through to the end of high school without “basic literacy and numeracy skills.” In fact these days the poor mites are tested and measured to death through their thirteen years of schooling, much more so than my cohort was fifty years ago. We just had an Intermediate in Year 9, mostly internal and none of it “objective” or “standardised”, and a Leaving in Year 11. (I speak of course of NSW there.) No basic skills tests in Year 3, Year 6, Year 7, Year 8 and Year 10 in our day.
The article goes on to quote OECD figures showing “13 per cent of Australians aged 15 were below the standard at which students were considered to be at risk of not having the basic skills.” Let’s just take that at face value for the moment: I think you will agree that 13% is by no definition “most students.” Whether that figure is disgusting, or simply a reflection of what might be expected in the real world, and what it actually means, I have gone into before. Check the literacy tag in the side bar, and for a systematic discussion see an essay from 1998: Literacy on Ninglun’s Specials. Honestly, there’s not much new under the sun in this area; take it from one who has been around the education business for over four decades, whose familiarity with the issues through family connection and reading goes back more than a century.
It may be that Geoff Masters has something reasonable to say, but that seems to have been filtered somewhat in the Herald story.
Finally, I should mention that one of my favourite books on English Studies is the mock-critical collection The Pooh Perplex by Frederick Crews.
- Paradoxical Persona: The Hierarchy of Heroism in Winnie-the-Pooh (Harvey C. Windrow)
- A Bourgeois Writer’s Proletarian Fables (Martin Tempralis)
- The Theory and Practice of Bardic Verse: Notations on the Hums of Pooh (P.R. Honeycomb)
- Poisoned Paradise: The Underside of Pooh (Myron Masterson)
- O Felix Culpa! The Sacramental Meaning of Winnie-the-Pooh (C.J.L. Culpepper, D.Litt,, Oxon)
- Winnie and the Cultural Stream (Murphy A. Sweat)
- A la recherche du Pooh perdu (Woodbine Meadowlark)
- A Complete Analsis of Winnie-the-Pooh (Duns C. Penwiper)
- Another Book to Cross Off Your List (Simon Lacerous)
- The Style of Pooh: Sources, Analogues, and Influences (Benjamin Thumb)
- A.A. Milne’s Honey-Balloon-Pit-Gun-Tail-Bathtubcomplex (Karl Anschauung, M.D.)
- Prolegomena to Any Future Study of Winnie-the-Pooh (Smedley Force)
As Danny Yee says in the review from which I took that summary, The Pooh Perplex is very old (1964 — just in time to delight me during my Honours English year at Sydney University) but has had a 2001 sequel Postmodern Pooh. I couldn’t help thinking of Crews when I read Darwin to the Rescue: A group of scholars thinks evolutionary science can reinvigorate literary studies via A&L Daily about a week ago.
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