Guest post – Kevin Donnelly

Here’s a guest post by Kevin Donnelly (who as many readers will recall, is an educationalist who has written extensively on curriculum issues, especially regarding the teaching English in high schools). Also see the various posts about education policy in the Troppo archives, in which Kevin has actively participated.

Education culture wars revisited

by Kevin Donnelly

Are the culture wars over and have the PC new-age warriors won the day?

Judged by events in NSW schools the answer is ‘yes’. Some 150,000 year 7 students recently sat an examination where, in one of the questions, the accepted way of dating events before the birth of Christ (BC) was replaced by Before the Common Era (BCE).

The reason? Apparently, the designers of the exam feel that the use of Before Christ might offend or distress people of other religions. In the same way that some schools banned Nativity Plays before Christmas, the argument is that as Australian society is multicultural, Christianity cannot be considered privileged. The move to cultural relativism means that all cultures must be equally valued.

Ignored is that Australia’s history, legal and political systems have arisen out of the Judeo/Christian tradition and that our culture is steeped in the Christian ethic. Also ignored is that the very values on which tolerance and acceptance of diversity are based are the very values most commonly associated with the Western tradition.

What about putting together a list of PC examples in education, beginning with:

  • Banning Little Black Sambo as it denigrates coloured people.
  • La Trobe University English Department no longer teaching Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress as it treats women as sexual objects.
  • When teaching Shane at a boys’ school, being told by a mother that it unfairly stereotypes men and women as, while the men engage in a competition to dig out a tree trunk, the farmer’s wife makes lemonade and cookies.
  • The feminisation of the curriculum, especially the way maths is now taught with a greater emphasis on written and verbal skills – in which girls do better.
  • Sophie’s examples of how literature is now not taught.
  • The emphasis on social critical literacy and education as empowerment and social action – see the Wayne Sawyer editorial in English in Australia (unfortunately removed by the AATE).
  • Non-competitive, non-graded assessment as failing is bad for a student’s self-esteem.
  • History disappearing to be replaced by Study of Society and the Environment with a left-wing focus on multiculturalism, the environment, indigenous studies, gender, peace studies and the class war.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Clearly the Culture Wars continue as evidenced by the very vigorous discussion of this topic and indeed Dr Nelson’s interest in an enquiry.

I don’t want to debate it again, as I feel I made my position clear last time around and have nothing to add to it (which is in substantial disagreement with Kevin’s) but Ken, can I suggest that you link to the relevant archive in the body of the post so that readers can easily access the several posts and extensive discussion that took place a couple of weeks ago?

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/cat_education.html

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

Surely the solution to this is to break the curriculum monopolies (or near monopolies, some schools offer the IB) in each state. Curricula could be provide privately, and franchised around the country – solving the problem of families that move without introducing a disastrous national curriculum. If parents want Wayne Sawyer deciding what their kids learn they can have him; if they don’t there would be alternatives available.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

While Kevin Donnelly lists some truly appalling examples of educational malpractice, his implied solution seems to be to replace the current system with a centralised imposition of his own, presumably centred around ‘Judaeo Christian values’. Though even under a more minimal state there will continue to be some role for government in certification or at least approving educational subsidies based on some minimal criteria that perhaps emphasises results, I agree with Andrew that greater experimentation, competition and choice is the answer, not less. A pox on the houses of both the traditionalists and progressives who wish to centralise their own agendas into a nationally imposed curriculum

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

BCE has been used in academic circles (historians and like) for quite a while. It isn’t a bad thing that it’s moving into the school system.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

“BCE has been used in academic circles (historians and like) for quite a while. It isn’t a bad thing that it’s moving into the school system”

As an atheist, if I were a parent, I wouldn’t give a toss either way. Obviously adding the E adds some inefficiency to typing but other than that I don’t understand why either side is making such a big deal out of this.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

What Jason said.

On the latest “outrage”, I think CE/BCE are simply more sensible and logical abbreviations than BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini), which are based on unreliable dating anyway.

I don’t really care if “BC/AD” offends anybody, but I do care that we arrive at a standard that is acceptable at the level of lowest common denominator.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

I read all this the first time around but didn’t comment because I was sick and lacked the energy. as I’ve argued in several threads, po/mo is a problematic type of theory. however I see no need to engage in some sort of moral panic about its use in schools. traditional curricula were also driven by “theory” – it’s just that it was a more conventional type thereof and often dared not speak its name. I agree with Jason and Fyodor – we need a plurality of approaches, not some new centralisation derived from right wing PC.

I’d like to see Kevin respond to two points:

* Mark’s contention that po/mo theory is actually right wing and Chris’ on the same thread that Kevin’s real enemies are liberals (as he appears to be a conservative);

* Have you any evidence for the claims you make about PC excesses? off hand, they sound like urban myths or isolated instances endlessly recycled by op/ed ppl like Devine, Akerman, Bolt, Albrechtsen to bolster the mirage of PC in Australia for polemical purposes. I agree with the comments made by Mark on an earlier thread that PC as such in Oz is largely an invention of the culture warriors (and the evils of Clover Moore and Xmas are a case in point) and taken outside its American (and sometimes British) context.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

“the feminisation of the curriculum”

I’m disappointed in this post because I thought Kevin would provide evidence for his assertions. I’m no educationalist, but such reading as I have done when this issue hits the news suggests that it’s a very complex one. Kevin’s got a Phd, he’s an educational consultant – well come on then, Kevin, please refer to evidence and academic research, so we can judge. all I read is ideological assertion so far.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

“As an atheist, if I were a parent, I wouldn’t give a toss either way. Obviously adding the E adds some inefficiency to typing but other than that I don’t understand why either side is making such a big deal out of this.”

I don’t think that it is a big deal, but rather if you can synchronise academic terms with terms taught in classrooms at next to zero cost, then it is probably a good thing.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

What I don’t understand with this BCE/CE push is–just what ‘common’ era are they talking about? Why, just the very same as before–ie it’s dated from the birth of Christ. It’s hardly ‘common’ to Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, or any other religion. All it is is a ridiculous and hypocritical fig-leaf. After all, why on earth should anything be dated from the birth of Christ, if we’re going to be really fair dinkum here?

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

Sophie, precisely. it’s just a convention – everyone knows that Christ was probably born in 3 or 4 BC. but the point is that Jews, Muslims, etc have different systems – and often different reckonings of when the year starts (as in the Julian calendar used in Russia til the revolution, or the Chinese calendar). but at the same time as it’s just a convention, why bother bringing Christ into it (no doubt someone will make a parallel with Xmas but that is a separate issue). since our cultural heritage is Western, then it’s by convention a common era.

I can’t see the fuss, myself. it’s usually associated with claims that we have “a Christian heritage” etc which is true for Australian culture broadly understood but from which little necessarily follows – particularly in a country which is highly secular and where fewer than 10% of people attend religious services of any kind regularly. they can use AD and BC to their heart’s desire in Church schools and I’m indifferent to that, but I see this as a wedge for the cultural warriors to re-open the whole “Christian values” thing and to impose compulsorily certain putatively common values on secular public schools.

maybe kids could recite John Howard’s preamble about mateship or whatever it was? seriously, though, the debate about values in schools has the potential to be hijacked by religious minorities and that’s worth fighting against IMO.

blank
blank
2022 years ago

I always say that CE stands for “Christian Era”, and BCE for “Before the Christian Era”. It’s still based on the estimated birth date of JC.

Can we get rid of July and August, as they are named after dead, white male, mass murderers?
January, March, April, May and June are named after Roman gods, and must be offensive to somebody.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are named for Nordic and Roman gods, so they must also be offensive, too.

It may not be PC, but there is something very odd in a situation where boys in every state do worse than girls in Year 12.

NSW is the worst state for this. In 2002 there was not one HSC subject where the boys’ average mark was higher than the girls’.

ref: http://www.spinneypress.com.au/216_book_desc.html

Considering that the retention rate for boys at Y12 is 10 percentage points lower than girls, one would expect the “dumb” boys would have left, thus raising the average ability of those still in the system.

I don’t have a reference for it, but in SA girls get Merits (20/20 in Yr 12) at about twice the rate for boys.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

To be fair to Kevin he has written a book on this subject (‘Why Our Schools Are Failing’). I believe the book or substatial chunks of it are online and in previous threads Kevin has provided links to to it (or them).

BCE doesn’t do a lot for me, not least because I don’t understand what ‘Common Era’ is supposed to mean. What ‘era’? And ‘common’ to whom? Whereas I do know what Before Christ and Anno Domini mean. And In the Year of Our Lord has a lovely poetic ring to it, which for me is a good enough reason to keep it. BCE sounds kind of thin and grey, the sort of term a bureaucrat would come up with.

However, it’s not something I would get all wrapped around the axle over.

BTW, don’t both Judaisim and Islam have their own calendars? Can’t quite see them changing for the sake of not offending. and a good thing too, IMHO.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

“don’t both Judaisim and Islam have their own calendars? Can’t quite see them changing for the sake of not offending. and a good thing too, IMHO.”

I thought that BCE etc was introduced so that historians etc from a range of backgrounds (including Jewish and Muslims) could collaborate without going in circles about what dating systems to use.

James Lane
James Lane
2022 years ago

“La Trobe University English Department no longer teaching Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress as it treats women as sexual objects.”

We can conlude, then, that La Trobe University’s English Department has no sense of humour.

I was taught “Coy Mistress” in my HSC in a mixed class, and both boys and girls thought it hilarious, as, no doubt, Marvell intended.

Doh!

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

“Ignored is that Australia’s history, legal and political systems have arisen out of the Judeo/Christian tradition and that our culture is steeped in the Christian ethic.”

Which is the Judeo bit exactly in our culture, Kevin? Is it just the bit that prefers BCE instead of BC? Or is there more?

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Terms of convenience! B.C and B.C.E are just easy to use and have nothing to do with Christ.

“Australia’s history, legal and political systems have arisen out of the Judeo/Christian tradition”
This is simply incorrect. Greece, Russia, Germany and England both have Judeo/Christian traditions. There is no one “Judeo/Christian tradition”
Our is far more an English tradition than a Judeo-Christian one.
I will extend wbb’s point and cliam that “Judeo-Christian” is a furphy of a term.

I would have thought it would be extremely important to expose kids to examples of women being denigrated, black people being denigrated etc so that they know what it is (“To kill a Mocking bird” anyone?).
What the heck do you think the central messages learnt from studying WW1 are? (1) War is horrible. (2) War is horrible. (3) The dudes in the trenches are not the ones making the decisions. (4) War is horrible.
Stiff shit if someone gets squeamish about it.

God knows with what trepidation the PC warriors must view Art classes!

If you treat kids with kid gloves they become useless people because the leap to adulthood is that much more abrupt, sudden and disorienting.
An adult can deal with someone on the street racially denigrating them, whereas a kid can’t. A women can standup to sexual stereotyping whereas a girl can’t.
Find me anyone who thinks you can’t turn a kid into an adult without knocking the corners off.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Well said, Harry.

I think what’s lurking behind a lot of this stuff is some sort of imagined nostalgic world where clean and crewcut young boys sat perfectly straight behind slate desks gazing at maps of the world coloured red and wondering at Shakespeare’s glories. Not that it was ever like that. Go back to Eton in the 30s and have a look where the Philby mob came from.

Schools these days have incredibly diverse student populations. My brother, who attends an inner city Catholic private high school, has kids there from about 30 ethnic backgrounds, some refugees, many first generation immigrants. Chris made the point before that the world has actually changed and all the talk about Judeao-Christian culture (a term actually invented in WW2 btw) won’t change it back. And it was never like how people picture it.

And on the AD/BC thing, I largely agree with yellow. What, pray tell, happened to the Lockean virtues of tolerance that are part of our culture? Suddenly we’re Christian and stuff everyone else. I like the ring of “The Year of Our Lord” too and quite fancy dating prefaces by Saint’s days, but that’s just my preference.

A former Federal Labor MP once explained to a motor mechanic (ALP member) at a bbq I was at when the mechanic was getting all steamed up about “we (ie the Keating gov’t) lost because we pandered to PC” that it was simply politeness to call people what they’d like to be called. End of story. There’s a lot of sense in that.

I also share yellow’s scepticism about the veracity of these (I’m sure isolated) examples of so-called PC excess. It’s about as convincing as Miranda Devine blaming Clover Moore for the Macquarie Fields riots. I made this point before Christmas too – most of the time those taking the only decisions not to have nativity pageants are store owners – the free market or at least business not leftie hordes of pollies and elite latte-sippers.

I remember when I was a kid our Parish Priest forbade us to go to Christmas Carols at the local shopping centre because they were “protestant”. Is that the world we want to go back to? I’m sorry, folks, things have moved on.

If you want to make an argument that Christian values are normative, then do so. But you’ll find in a secular society where many people’s ethics and lifestyles are derived and grounded differently, that you’ll encounter a lot of disagreement. And so you should – the point of living in a free country is that nobody gets to impose their religious symbols and moral values on anyone else. I’m sure you could join Cardinal Pell in Poland or wherever still resembles a Catholic theocracy if you can find it. But he won’t be joining you – he’s too busy along with the Whitlams attending lunches in honour of Princess Mary.

david tiley
2022 years ago

Why do our dates refer to a Base Civil Engineer?

Sorry, I googled the definition. I suppose “common era” refers to the fact that the dates are now “commonly accepted” in Asian, African and South American tribal cultures so it has completely outgrown Bethlehem. Fair enough to accept reality.

Kevin is pointing to a particularly doctrinaire approach to curricula and seems to be saying: see, those nastly leftists are teaching socialism in the schools. At least, that is how the Feds are interpeting rhetoric like his.

I don’t think it has much to do with evil socialists. The po/mo story to me is yet another attempt to construct an illusory left by which real people can be denigrated. At the soft end this is the use of straw man arguments; at the hard end it is witch-hunting which becomes persecution. Let’s not forget that when Australia was settled neither Catholics nor Non-comformists were allowed to go to University, join the public service or hold an officer’s rank in the army. We are still very close in historical terms to accepting blind prejudice and discrimination as a basis for public behavior; anyone over 50 can remember a sectarian childhood; we are actively involved in a time when belonging to a union will ruin your career.

If you have a sense of history – which Kevin values so much – you ought to remember these things. A dark and savage past so close to the surface. We ought to be very careful about demonisation. Of the Right, as much as the Left.

I don’t believe the po-mo cultural wars stereotypes. Instead, I see a curricular past which is usually captured by some mindset or another. In my own youth in the 60’s it was unpleasantly reactionary.

The point is not the ideology but the capture. We ought to be asking why our schools policy has so little to do with children, and so much to do with what we want to do to them. Even now, after a generation of rhetoric about “child-centred education”.

Personally I think that secondary education in particular tends to be characterised by narrow-mindedness and insularity on a policy level. I have seen a lot on this debate in the last few weeks, particularly from Ken, Jen and Sophie, that suggests the current curricula in secondary schools are demented, with a madness that spreads across many different education departments.

It’s not the evil leftists. Its the mindset behind the process. Quite frankly, I don’t know what it is, but it involves a collapse of common sense (aka Occam’s Razor) and a serious departure from the needs and world view of students. Bureaucratic centralism and managerialism are part of the story.

The biggest swathe of evidence for this madness is seen in several hundred thousand households across Australia, whose kids are in the final year of high school and competing to go to university. In Victoria, we call in HSC.

It seems to involve the total takeover of households by pimpled imperial tyrants, who are in turn tortured with artificial learning, to prove in arbitrary ways they are fit for particular tertiary courses.

A process which you can now circumvent with cold hard cash.

I know I have covered a huge swathe of policy, worth looking at in detail. I am trying to indicate that something very bad is going on, and this debate is a very interesting symptom.

And, as an aside – I too think our heritage is basically Euro-Christian, created from a collision between Semitic monotheism, the Greeks, the Romans and a whole heap of tree worshippers from the misty north and west. But I honour and celebrate our multiculturalism as well. And while I draw lessons from Gallipoli, I want to know what was happening in Cambodia in 1915. To me, that’s history.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

“particularly from Ken, Jen and Sophie”

Jen’s actually pretty relaxed about the NT English curriculum, having taken a long hard look at it. I only had a glance, but I agree with her it doesn’t look anywhere near as bad, prescriptive and po mo/PC as the NSW document. Here in the NT I suspect it depends on the individual predilections of teachers as to exactly what emphasis is put on aspects of the curriculum. I’m a little more relaxed about rebecca’s school progress too, after having her in here in the office next door to me at CDU for 3 hours yesterday doing homework and study during her free periods. It seems like she’s finally decided to settle down and work during year 12 (not before time).

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Maybe we could inaugurate a new kind of debate: defend such vestiges of the poetic as remain in everyday life, and sod the politics, which we will never agree about anyway. The real enemy is the tortuous and contorted languages of modern bureaucracy and managerialism. These really do constitute what Baudrillard (post-modernist par excellence) described as a ‘simulation’.

I’d be happy to defend Nativity plays and celebrations of Advent on the basis of poetics. And ‘To His Coy Mistress’. And Shakespeare. And Conrad. And Brunelleschi’s Dome of Florence Cathedral.

Ken M. said:

“I thought that BCE etc was introduced so that historians etc from a range of backgrounds (including Jewish and Muslims) could collaborate without going in circles about what dating systems to use.”

Happy with BCE for historians, if that’s the case. Sensible compromise. Still, arbitrarily taking sturdy, familiar, reliable old ‘BC’ out of the general cultural mix does seem a bit like the landlord changing the wallpaper without consulting the tenants.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Yay! bring back “Little Black Sambo”! Let’s take to the streets. Whatta we want? “Little Black Sambo!” When do we want it …

Good stuff. As well as being racist, let’s be sexist. And fair dinkum, fancy teaching about the environment … gimme a break … the friggin’ environment … pc gone barking crazy, clearly. Everyone knows the environment was given to us by god to rape and pillage. What’s to teach? Moonbats! Out with peace, of course. Pure leftism that. Howler monkeys! Who the hell wants peace, except evil lefties? we want more war! Let’s teach the kids how to make war. Something useful at least. That’ll make real prayer-saying meat-eating right-wing men of the little blighters and blightesses.

I can see a whole spanking new future opening up behind us. How about bringing back knighthoods? Getting rid of them was just pc gone troppo. Kids need roll models to put them in their place. Giving women the vote was also just gender crap. In fact, the whole democracy stunt was just a left-wing ideological relativist empowerment indulgence designed to undermine people’s objective betters. The problem with the working class today is that they not only don’t say their prayers, they have too much money and don’t work hard enough, which means their superiors have to pay too much tax. It’s all gone to pot. The fabric of society is crumbling. Marco Polo was a bloody lefty. He should never have been let outta Italy to bring back all those impurities. From now on, no passports for lefties. It went straight down hill after they introduced those blasted arabic numerals. Damned Muslims. One minute you let in arabic numerals, next minute christ him bloody self is in the bin and the natives are getting restless. Bring back Latin.

Kevin has shown us the way. I’m going off to read Little Black Sambo right now, with the wind in my hair … the Western Tradition is rising anew, whatever the Western Traditon is … must look it up … I’m sure I used to know … someone must know … does it include eastern europe, where they are all a bit suss, if you know what I mean? Russia’s out. Not sure that Portgugal should be counted either, or Ireland, let alone pagan Scandinavia. More insidious every-culture-has-its-own-values relativism at work here I think. From now on the only culture to be taught must be based only on what rich white blokes from ex-roman empire christian majoritarian countries where english is the dominant language, and their colonies and ex-colonies, think, I reckon. That’ll sort out those damned pcers. Everyone and everything else can just get back in their inferior box … onwards …

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Best wishes on your eventual complete recovery from the current attack of acute moral panic, cs. Fun to read, though, and excellent therapy!

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

I didn’t realise posting Kevin’s piece would bring such enjoyment; sort of like throwing a leg of mutton onto a nest of meat-ants.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

And here’s my guilty confession: until Jillian Skinner raised this in the Legislative Assembly the other day, I’d just assumed that BCE stood for “Before Christian Era,” so I couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about.

Little Black Sambo is an excellent guy. I won’t hear a word said against him. His cleverness in outwitting the tigers and making them turn themselves into ghee is straight out of the Ramayana. The people who banned it couldn’t grasp the fact that kids would judge Sambo on his extraordinary resourcefulness, not on what he looked like.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

Nabs is going to have to work very hard to beat cs for the best comment award this year :)

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

speaking as a one-legged lesbian-identified femonazi that is :)

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Right on Geoff. Niggers can be resourceful. Damned tricky little beggers, as my grandfather always used to say. White folks need to remember that, and get the message while they’re young, or next thing you know … yes, the slippery slope to the total westerm moral decay we now see all around us. I’m with you sir.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Reminds me of an old episode of “It ain’t half hot, mum” :)

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

[sings] “Land of hope and glory, the land of the free…”

Britons never ever will be slaves!

Rule Brittania! Brittania rule the sea!

The Brits do symbolism and songs better than we do [cf – as Chris knows, Ranger & Hobsbawm, “Inventing Tradition”] – at Princess Diana’s funeral we had:

“I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above, entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love: the love that asks no question, the love that stands the test, that lays upon the altar the dearest and the best; the love that never falters, the love that pays the price, the love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago, most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know; we may not count her armies, we may not see her King; her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering; and soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase, and her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.”

With a brilliant setting by Holst.

What have we got – something about “mumble, mumble, girt by sea”…

When I was in primary school in the 70s, aside from reading text books which asserted that “Aborigines are a primitive race who are dying out”, we used to have “God Save the Queen” played over a tannoy every morning at 9am and we had to stand and salute. Oh, and once a week, we had playground drill where we had to do some pseudo-militaristic “left, left right left” thing. What was all that about? Saving *Queens*land from the dreaded Commie Fraser regime? At least my grade 3 teacher was aware enough to send us home when Gough got sacked. Though in nice middle class Kenmore, my mum’s VW Beetle got a rock thrown through the back window because of the “Shame, Fraser, Shame” sticker…

Educational nostalgists of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but the Deputy Principal’s pork pie hat and black suit on Anzac Day!

I was caned in Grade 1. I guess we should bring that back too…

cs
cs
2022 years ago

And those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys with their, tut-tut, po-mo should immediately be expelled from the Obviously Very Great and Unbelievebly Gloriously Objective Western Tradition … speaking of which, I still can’t find where I wrote down what that is … bloody filed it using those dang-blasted Arabic numerals … it’s all the towel heads’ fault, I tell you …

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

ps – even with constant God Save the Queen, the glories of the British Empire, military drill, etc etc I still turned into a lefty! Funny thing, that, once upon a time we used to have a vibrant Labour movement in this country and Keynesian economics and regulation of the labour market and Curtin and Chif and the light on the hill even with Imperially Sound (TM) Education inc.

I’ll go with Archbishop Mannix in 1916, let’s stop celebrating Empire Day in schools!

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

what we need to teach kids in schools is the 8th law of thermodynamics – all troppo threads have a tendency to descend into entrophy after 24 comments :)

cs
cs
2022 years ago

You just don’t get it Mark. Mannix was Irish, and therefore by definition dodgy and clearly outside the Western Tradition – almost French, who everyone knows are beyond the Western pale.

I’d prove all this to you, if I could just find where the definition of ‘Western Tradition’ is written down. How can you be a true fundamentalist without a fundamental text, I ask you that?

Except in that we wouldn’t want to be reduced to a text would we? Bit too po-mo that … gee it’s confusing.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Canon, Chris, it’s all about the Canon. What’s in the Canon? Is Plato? No, hang on, Rafe tells us he was a proto-totalitarian. Literary canon, maybe? Dickens? Hang on, he was critical of Victorian social structures. Austen? Eliot? They put into question the position of women? I don’t know, Chris, maybe it’s the Da Vinci Code that tells us the secret?

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Harold Bloom’s ‘The Western Canon’ is a good place to start, if you can forgive his occasional lean towards hysteria. Me, I forgive it. (Naomi Wolf probably wouldn’t, but then she had leans of her own, especially where Bloom was concerned.)

cs
cs
2022 years ago

I think the ones who know just hum it between themselves. The tune to ‘WT’ apparently sounds uncannily like ‘I Should Be So Lucky’.

Are all Slavs out, btw?

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I think it was more Bloom leaning on Naomi, Rob.

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

yeah, Rob, I don’t think Bloom’s being sued for sexual harrassment is a matter for casual levity.

I’ve just reread Kevin’s post and Chris’ comments.

Little Black Sambo is racist crap. Racist crap. End of bloody story. What possible educational value does Dr Donnelly think it has? There’s a massive difference between Marvell and some fucking stereotypical “put the darkies in their place” vile piece of hateful nonsense.

I can see why Chris was getting steamed up. if I’d noticed this in the post in the first place, I would have been too. I now am.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Ah, yes, the ‘lean [ha ha!], bony hand’, wasn’t it? Good book, though, don’t you think?

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

yellow, is Bloom actually being sued? I didn’t know that. Interesting to see what comes of it.

Actually (wildly OT as always) I like Wolf. Thought ‘Fire With Fire’ was one of the best feminist tracts ever.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Rob, Bloom is being sued, or Harvard is at any rate.

I saw his anthology of poetry the other day but I think I already own most of the poets he excerpts.

Wolf is a bit uneven – in her writing – and her advice to Al Gore probably wasn’t her best moment.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

“I didn’t realise posting Kevin’s piece would bring such enjoyment; sort of like throwing a leg of mutton onto a nest of meat-ants.”

Ken, I think Kevin did no service whatsoever to his cause by talking about “Little Black Sambo”. I think a large part of the reason why people are frothing at the mouth (with a great degree of justice IMO) is this exceptionally ill-chosen example, which as yellow says is “racist crap” and thus indefensible. He ought to explain himself. Why forcing kids to read racist trash is a good thing is totally a mystery to me, and it tends to undercut the rest of his argument (such as it is) as well as being highly offensive to anyone whose sense of justice is offended by the promotion of racism.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

*Harvard* is being sued because Bloom put his hand on Wolf’s leg at a dinner party? Oy vay.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

And it happened, what, twenty years ago? Doesnt’t this strke you as faintly ridiculous, Mark?

What happened to the ‘shame, Dr Donelly,shame’ remark?

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Doesn’t. Strike. Donnelly. Sorry, I’m a pedant who likes to get the spelling right.

Geoff  Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Right on Geoff. Niggers can be resourceful. Damned tricky little beggers, as my grandfather always used to say. White folks need to remember that, and get the message while they’re young, or next thing you know … yes, the slippery slope to the total westerm moral decay we now see all around us. I’m with you sir. Posted by cs at March 4, 2005 09:52 PM”

I fear you’re wildly overstating my motivation here Chris – or having a self-revelatory moment perhaps. Whatever, I don’t think that anyone could find the narrative of LBS, racist. The objections have generally focussed on the names – “Sambo” had deeply perjorative association for African Americans (although the story was ostensibly set in India) – and on Helen Bannerman’s original illustrations; “naive” to say the least. “Little” and “Black” juxtaposed with “Sambo” created a nexus that, I totally agree, is undeniably negative in terms of stereotyping, but it was written in 1899. The good news is that the timeless, tale of a little kid succeeding against the odds has been updated as “Little Babaji.” And it’s very popular apparently. Have you, Mark or yellowvinyl actually read either version?

BTW, the quickest way to turn a civil discourse into an uncivil one are stupid and unfounded imputations of racism in respect of fellow commenters. My original post was pretty tongue-in-cheek but my sense of humour has been under significant siege ever since.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

I’ve discovered, trhough conducting this blog over quite a while now (latterly as a “co-editor” with you, or however one describes the role), that often the best way of focusing discussion and encouraging tight, incisive comments and strong, interesting posts is to inflame passions by chucking a piece of provocative polemic into the mix. Otherwise we tend to remain in a comfort zone, amiably musing about our own obsessions with a bunch of complacently like-minded readers (because others got bored and drifted away).

This tactic doesn’t always work, I’ve found; frequently my own efforts are far too patently and artificially provocative. But Kevin’s piece worked a treat, partly because it’s sincere and can only be confronted as such. It provoked a really good comment thread with a couple of passionate and amusing pieces by cs, and an eloquent (and somewhat persuasive) defence of Little Black Sambo by Geoff Honnor.

And Kevin’s piece also provoked your excellent Ghost of Dr Mannix post of this morning, not to mention its comment thread which is one of the best (and most moving) that Troppo has even hosted IMO.

Blogs need to be dynamic places of contestation/conflict if they’re to produce accessible, interesting posts and conversations, and sometimes the leg of mutton on the ants’ nest is an effective way of promoting that end. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want the sort of cretinous conflict Tim Blair engineers, because it’s inimical to even semi-intelligent thought. There’s a happy medium somewhere, and that’s what I try (with variable success) to achieve at Troppo.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Hi from Dr D,

Good to see the response. Evidence of the impact of the culture wars and feminism on education can be found in the chapter ‘Education and the Culture Wars’ in the book. A pdf version can be found at:

http://www.mrcltd.org.au/content.cfm?PageID=PubsMonographs

Irant
2022 years ago

It is good to see that in the culture wars we have imported the myth of ” Judeo/Christian tradition.”

Next will be idea that the 10 Commandents are the basis of out legal/ethical system (Costello has already argued for this). The interesting thing about this issue in the context of the US is that a most of the commandments would be unconstitutional if they actually were integrated into the legal system.