The Old Oxonian

I was checking out Alexander Downer’s bio the other day, as one does, and came across this:

“Alexander Downer was born on 9 September 1951. He was educated at Crafers Primary School, Geelong Grammar School, Victoria; Radley College, Oxford, United Kingdom; and the University of Newcastle on Tyne, United Kingdom. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Politics and Economics and is a Doctor of Civil Laws (honoris causa).”

I wondered if casual readers might not risk getting the wrong impression. Might some people not conclude that Radley College was a honey-hued ancient pile associated with the University of Oxford? Would it matter if they did? Indeed, would Alexander be all that concerned?

Radley is actually a high school located at Abingdon in Oxfordshire, albeit quite close to Oxford University but a bit like Marrickville High is close to Sydney Uni.

Filled with a certain foreboding about the intent of Alexander’s somewhat less than perfect clarity here, I have to say that I was less than impressed to discover that the award of Alexander’s honorary doctorate (honoris causa is Latin for, “hopefully those not totally conversant with the ancient tongue might not twig”) is claimed to have predated his illustrious Parliamentary career:

“Qualifications and Occupation before entering Federal Parliament

BA (Hons) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

Doctor of Civil Laws (honoris causa…& etc”

But it wasn’t. It was awarded in a no doubt glittering ceremony at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne on May 4, 2001. Alexander, a former vice chancellor and a noted high-jumper were all honoured that day. Given that he’s useless at the high jump I’m assuming that he got it because of his occupation in Federal Parliament. But…..it’s all in the way you read it, I guess.

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Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Relax, Geoff. Nobody – but nobody – would believe that Alexander Downer would get admitted to Oxford, let alone get a degree. Let us not forget that Malcolm Fraser – an intellectual giant in comparison – just scraped through with a third.

As for the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne, an honourary doctorate from that institution is about as prestigious as an honourary doctorate from the University of Tempe-on-Cook.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

Really Geoff, Radley College has a lot more to do with Oxford University than Marrickville Senior High Scool has to do with Sydney University. Unless of course you consider that Radley probably employs Oxford Graduates on its staff and, while I don’t know for sure, I’d punt that the Education Faculty of Sydney University has produced the kind of education theorists that have made Marrickville the kind of school that the Downers are lucky enough not to be forced to send their children to.

I have no idea about how Alexander and Malcolm compare on the mental abilities I do know that the only people who ever had any time for Fraser were a large lump of voters who hated Whitlam’s guts and quite rightly so. Whitlam was a mental giant compared to everybody or so he and the ABC reckon. So much for brains. Malcolm has seemed to lost a lot of support since those days but he is pleased to count Dave Ricardo among his fans, even if only obliquely.

We must all of us who work in the tertiary ed sector note that on the off chance we are dispensing honours, Dave does not want an award from any grotty red brick university, or sandstone either. Like all lefties at the trough, only the best will do.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

Only somebody who works in a university could interpret my post as supportive of Malcolm Fraser. Oh, well.

As for who does support Fraser, one of his few remaining supporters in today’s Liberal Party is none other than his former staffer, Alexander Downer, who is on the record, recently, as describing Fraser as “a great Prime Minister”. No revisionist thinking for our Alex. Now that may be because he is incapable of any kind of thinking, revisionist or otherwise, but nevertheless he said it.

And, James, as for whether I would accept an award from a university where you work: maybe I would; I think I’d quite enjoy seeing you bow before me.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

I wouldn’t say you’d be the most worthy recipient Dave but you wouldn’t be the most boring speaker either.

Craig G
Craig G
2022 years ago

Radley College was the old school of some of the original Genesis members (including Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks).

On that basis alone it’s nothing I’d brag about.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

It’s a good thing no-one is raising the question of “Doctorates” granted to Australians far less intellectually equipped than Downer, or we’d run out of space.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

” “Doctorates” granted to Australians far less intellectually equipped than Downer ”

That could well be an oxymoron, Norman.

There’s Peter Hollingworth, perhaps, … anyone else?

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

You may have a new definition of “oxymoron”, Dave; but more importantly, if you consider Hollingworth a good example of the least intellectually endowed recipients of a doctorate, I feel you’ve remained blissfully unaware of who has been receiving them.

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

I agree with you Norman but it is very easy to dismiss PhDs on the basis that you can get one with less than optimal intellectual endowment. To complete a majore piece of work requires more than intellectuall endowment and I am glad it is so.

Comments about the brain power of the Downers or the Frasers, the Reagans and the Downers of this world I have heard many times before. I remember who these so called morons are long after Ive forgotten who it was that dismissed them.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Spot on James. Hatred all too often replaces analysis. Had I been a U.S. citizen, for example, I wouldn’t have voted for Bush, and I don’t think he’s an intellectual giant; but I’m amused by the number of people with significantly less mental ability than him, who sneeringly dismiss him. It makes me think of mice ridiculing a hippo, because it’s not big, oblivious to the fact that they’re hardly elephants themselves.

William
William
2022 years ago

Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks went to Charterhouse, not Radley.

Charterhouse is a famous public school like Winchester, Eton, Harrow and Radley.

Like George W Bush (BA (Yale), MBA(Harvard))Alexander Downer is someone of average intelligence who has succeeded thanks to his father, and is not the sharpest knife in the drawer regardless how many qualifications he has.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

They may not be intellectual giants, William, but they’re both well above average, which admittedly doesn’t say very much for them, and most certainly way ahead of most of the people who deride their intellect.
This last point is, of course, equally true of most of those who deride leaders on the left of politics.

William
William
2022 years ago

How about above average for people (discounting the advantages of top schools), but significantly below average for politicians.

And as for questions of character?
Bush: Behavior after outing of Valerie Plame
Downer: Mick Keelty as spouting AlQaeda propoganda

I’m not claiming a window on their souls, but very poor form is the best I can say.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

Having had my ‘progressive’ left colleagues arrange for an ex Painter and Docker to take an interest in me and my family, at a time I declined to cover for a dishonest but ‘loyal left’ colleague, perhaps my expectations aren’t as absurdly narrow as some, William. Perhaps I shouldn’t shock you by revealing that politicians regularly do far far worse than the “evil” acts you list?
The P. and D., by the way, died in gaol after being sentenced over a successful contract killing. But he always supported anti-war causes.