Sunday, July 09, 2006

I finally “get” Kevin Donnelly

It’s a tough contest, but Kevin Donnelly surely must take the honours as the Right’s most over-exposed opinionator. (FWIW, the “Left” counterpart winner would be a dead-heat between Peter Craven and Philip Adams; I say scare-quotes-Left, because their over-exposure alone vitiates anything and everything they might have to say: bullies and hogs ain’t no Lefties, period).

Objective over-exposure is one thing, and who really knows why the Oz gives up so much space for Donnelly to say the same thing, over and over again? (Much the same point applies against Craven and Adams.) But for now, I’m interested in the “inner” Kevin Donnelly - what makes him tick, given that his obsessiveness on the schools-and-PC issue seems to leave my own boomer-hating’n’baiting corpus in the dust. Being bitter when one is 42, unemployed, assetless, highly-educated, and with no mainstream media “in” is at least semi-rational in my (admittedly biased) opinion.

Donnelly, in contrast, is 60-ish, not short of a quid or a million-dollar home, and has acres of newsprint apparently at his free beck and call. So where does all his bottomless bile come from? Especially given that he doesn’t have a personal stake (= children currently at school, AFAICT) in his pet issue either.

Some revealing snippets in yesterday’s Oz* help solve the mystery. Donnelly, these days the epitome of Melbourne’s blue-blood, boomer-and-older heartland, grew up in a housing commission house in Broadmeadows (a tough outer suburb of Melbourne). Unlike his co-escapee from Broady, Eddy McGuire, Donnelly did not get a ticket out courtesy of an elite private school education, nor (unlike Mark Latham, this time) an elite public school education (selective public high schools are much less common in Vic than NSW). Donnelly feels, to this day, that he nonetheless received a quite strong education at his local high school:

Strangely enough, the 60s were a time when teachers knew that working-class kids could think, and that education needed to be challenging and introduce students to unknown worlds and new experiences and emotions”.

Yep, that’s real strange, Kev. Donnelly is, of course, incorporating by reference the received Culture War Time-Frame, under which the Left hijacked much of the West, including its schools, around that late 1960s. Under this time-frame, the last 30 or 40 years have thus been toxic, and quite uniformly so, for the West’s general well-being – but this startling fact has only been generally realised quite recently.

Or does Donnelly permit a chink to pierce this usually-impregnable time-frame? It would seem so, given this:

On graduating, my first job involved teaching migrant children from Melbourne’s western suburbs. As English teachers . . . one year we ditched Shakespeare in favour of Puberty Blues [the 1979 novel by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette]. The argument was that the book was contemporary and exactly what young students would want. After several weeks discussing the book, our classes switched off.” [Donnelly then goes on to his money-shot; viz that he did then get his students’ attention back, by switching from Sydney teen/surf culture to ancient Greek tragedy.]

Donnelly’s short-lived experiment with teaching Puberty Blues would have happened in 1980, at the earliest. Eureka! A boomer-Right culture-warrior has just admitted that he was fucking up young Xer minds, way after the 60s, albeit only briefly so.

This is important because it clearly shows: (i) how the Donnelly of 2006 is over-compensating for the Donnelly of 1980, and (ii) how he is indifferent to the fate of a whole generation who were sold up Shit Creek, decades ago. By his own curricular flicking from Puberty Blues to Medea, Donnelly’s presumed conceit is that Xers at large still got the sort of quality education he got in the 60s. This is laughable, of course, as well as contradictory with the received Culture War Time-Frame.

So which one is it, Kev? The boomer-Right were powerless to do or say anything until recently (yeah, right), or that the boomer-Right (= you) committed as many culture-war-crimes on my generation as did the boomer-Left?

* "The Forum - Kevin Donnelly on classic consciousness" Australian 8 July 2006

This is very interesting site... » » »
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