Bri Lee’s Book Review Who Gets to Be Smart



Who gets smart will baffle a number of public figures, and one has the feeling that Lee is ready for the fight that follows; the Lee at the end of this book is not the same Lee who once thought of writing “Brains”. Instead, she is furious. Almost 100 years after Woolf gave us A room of your own, most of us are always kept away from the establishment. Yes, more rich white women are admitted now, and yes, more scholarships for all are offered, but the structure has not changed. Most people are still denied that “rare and expensive passport” for privilege and power.

Exploring what this means in Australia, Lee focuses his intellectual rage on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who personally praised himself for suggesting to the late Paul Ramsay that he should “devote most of his fortune to something. thing like a Rhodes scholarship based here in Australia. ”. And so Lee, known for her scathing one-liners, is saving her best for Abbott. As she writes, “$ 50 million can give you access to a lot of beds, I guess, but not necessarily the ones you blunder the most.” Lee makes sure Abbott’s performance as a Rhodes Scholar also takes a beating.

Who gets smart is research driven, and some type of reader will miss some form of endnotes. Much of it seems like a good old school book search, with a few interviews added. It is an intriguing question whether Lee’s method naturally defaults to written research. One area of ​​interview-based research reportedly added to the work is the lived experience of people with disabilities in secondary and tertiary education in Australia. Lee talks to parents of children with disabilities and pulls evidence from the ongoing Royal Commission, but since people with disabilities are less likely to be published, personal interviews remain essential.


Lee asks us to rethink our own prejudices about education, but she also calls us to fight with her. What we raise our children to believe often supports institutional biases by influencing how we are socialized to reward “smart”. Lee unexpectedly reviews Davina Bell’s 2018 children’s book All the ways to be smart. Tackling children’s literature demonstrates the scale of the argument it is mounting. According to her, the way we are all socialized to need validation into being “smart” hurts us all and it’s not something we should be telling our children.

Lee’s debut, Eggshell skull, gave him a platform to advocate for criminal justice reform. Who gets smart is a whole new avenue for Lee to flex his public intellectual muscles.

Who becomes intelligent, Bri Lee, Allen & Unwin, $ 29.99.

Astrid Edwards is President of the Melbourne Writers Festival and Coordinator of the Associate Degree Program in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT University.



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