Saturday, March 03, 2007

2007 election - the clever need not apply!

Last weekend, the Saturday Age carried an interesting op-ed under the title "Get smart, get beaten". The opinion piece articulated what many people have been saying: "the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, will never be Prime Minister, he speaks too well!" My entry is not an endorsement of either John Howard or Kevin Rudd. It is a critique of this kind of thinking.

According to Jason Koutsoukis, the author of the article, Kevin Rudd is on the examination table. The government is trying to find the best way to attack him. He further suggests that the Prime Minister has begun playing the "he's too smug" card. "The trick for Rudd then, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat with a pointy-headed reputation, will be to disguise how smart he is and to prove he has the common touch.

This is not surprising at all to me. Colleagues of mine who are life-long Labor voters have been telling me that Kevin Rudd could not be Prime Minister. I said that it was good to have people like him come to the fore, regardless of the function he will hold in Parliament, because he was quite an exception in Canberra - he spoke polished English. They told me that I had unwittingly stumbled on his biggest hurdle.

Going back to John Koutsoukis, "Australians tend to be drawn to leaders who seem to be one of them. People like Bob Hawke or John Howard". This is another point of intersection between the op-ed and what my colleagues have told me. One of them, who is close to Labor party personalities, added that Bob Hawke took elocution lessons so as to sound more like a working man prior to contesting the union leadership and, subsequently, the prime ministership. "He spoke differently when he was at Oxford".

So, it seems that, as a society, we conspire against the eloquent. Sport elitism is essential to our national pride, academic elitism is anathema.
If you are reading this in the US and think that things are not very different in your country, let me point this out to you: your sports stars may well be idolised beyond your academics, but your sports stars speak really well. Our sports stars sound like your rap singers.

I think I am due for a positive post. There are lots of wonderful things about Australia, its people and education system (or, more correctly, systems). I just had a few negative news stories coming my way of late.

Till next time,
Elias.

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