I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and found it really interesting. Good Reads describes it as:
Bri Lee, best-selling and award-winning author of Eggshell Skull, asks Who gets to be smart? in this forensic and hard-hitting exploration of knowledge, power and privilege.
In 2018 Bri Lee’s brilliant young friend Damian was named a Rhodes Scholar, an apex of academic achievement. When she goes to visit him and takes a tour of Oxford and Rhodes House, she begins questioning her belief in a system she has previously revered, as she learns the truth behind what Virginia Woolf described almost a century earlier as the ‘stream of gold and silver’ that flows through elite institutions and dictates decisions about who deserves to be educated there. The question that forms in her mind drives the following two years of conversations and investigations: who gets to be smart?
Interrogating the adage, ‘knowledge is power’, and calling institutional prejudice to account, Bri once again dives into her own privilege and presumptions to bring us the stark and confronting results. Far from offering any ‘equality of opportunity’, Australia’s education system exacerbates social stratification. The questions Bri asks of politics and society have their answers laid bare in the response to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, COVID-19, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
I will add Ms Lee turns 30 this year and I applause the way she goes after injustice in Australia with her writing. It is good to see young women as she is rising to the top.
I found it really depressing especially when figures are revealed of the amount of money Catholic and private schools receive from the government in stark contrast to public education. I believe that all children should have equal access to excellent education outcomes and those who struggle should receive the support they need. What is happening, as most of you know, the strong and powerful receive all the benefits our society has to offer at the complete expense of those who don’t get it.
Last week Fullers Book shop held the launch of this book in the Hobart Town Hall ballroom. It was filled to near capacity of interested readers as allowed during these Covid times.
However the week before this event Sydney locked down due to an increase of Covid cases in the community and the event was live streamed. The event was extremely competently run as Fullers hasn’t really done much of this at the time.
A big screen was set up, Heather Rose, an author of international repute, popular recently for books Museum of Modern Love and Bruny. and a fellow Tasmanian facilitated the interview. The manager/owner of Fullers got the ball rolling and it was set to go.
Heather Rose had really interesting questions for Bri Lee, the audience was very interested and at the end many questions were allowed. The technical side of the interview flowed like a wonderful Tasmanian wine. With energy, competence and efficiency thanks to Tim’s efforts.
The book is currently number 2 on the Fullers book sale list.
Here is a quick blurb I copied on Bri Lee’s web page: Bri describes herself as an author and freelance writer. Who Gets to be Smart, just came out in June 2021. It is her third book, closely following her popular book, Eggshell Skull that is a book about sexual assault and the justice system based on her own experiences. Fullers hosted the launch of this book a couple of years ago after its publication date and I also attended that. She is known for her investigative journalism, opinion, short fiction, essays, and arts criticism.
She is also qualified to practice law, but has no desire to. She has published peer reviewed research while she did practice. At times she gives lectures, keynotes, and other kinds of speeches. She lives and works on Gadigal land in Sydney, Australia.
I took a few points from this launch to share with you but there are many more in much more detail from the book.
One of the points she discussed was how long it takes to go from poverty to middle class. Most western countries, being educated results in two generations of schooling to get out of poverty into doing much better financially. The statistics for Australia are- four generations. A really depressing statistic.
20% of Australian children are not prepared when they arrive in Kinder. Their social skills, play, structure remains at a lesser level.
The government doesn’t encourage higher education. They raise the fees to attend courses such as arts, music, humanities, etc and lower fees for science and math. Not everyone is cut out for or wants to study science and maths. They do not seem to recognise education for the sake of education but only tie courses to jobs. I am happy I did not go through this system. In American I was able to spend the first two years of university studying a variety of courses and interests before I chose my major. I then spent the next three years in my chosen path.
Ms Lee asks, What are universities for if not to become educated?
She went into quite a bit of detail of the Ramsay foundation. Paul Ramsay established a monetary foundation that states on the website: Partnerships for Potential and Helping Australian Defy Disadvantage. However our conservative Liberal government (not to be confused with USA Liberal governments- complete opposites) railroaded the funds into programs of their own making, completely supplying the benefits to wealthy students in private institutions.
Our previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a Rhodes scholar (which is another interesting topic of the book) believes not all cultures are created equal thereby only supporting those he sees as important. eg White, rich Australians vrs. migrants, indigenous populations.
She also addressed the lack of transparency of governments and how tax dollar or foundation funds are used. Who knows? Not the people of the country. Currently numbers are showing functional illiteracy of males = 52% and females 47%. Do we believe this is appropriate?
I could go on for a few more pages but this is longer than I normally produce and I think you should just read the book. I might add that I don’t believe Australia is the only country in the world where this happens but it is certainly relevant to our “lucky country”.