This opinion piece by long time Education writer Kevin Donnelly appeared on ABC’s The Drum today.
While I accuse this piece of being riddled with misleading arguments and logical fallacies that highlight Donnelly’s hard-right ideology with no respect for reason or evidence, a more thorough analysis of his piece will have to wait.
What I want to draw attention to is the justification for Donnelly’s piece being published in the first place. Aside from his long-standing career as a conservative education commentator, his pieces on The Drum finish with “Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of Education Standards Institute.”
Director of Education Standards Institute? And he’s a Doctor? Wow. Sounds very prestigious. But when you wander over to the Educational Standards Institute website, there are a couple of things that immediately seem out of place.
Despite being named an ‘Institute’, the website only talks about Kevin Donnelly, and in many places the website is written using the first person pronoun ‘I’, suggesting that the ‘institute’ consists of only Kevin himself.
Then on the ‘about us’ page, you find this line: “ESI is a trading name for Impetus Consultants Pty Ltd, ABN 73 737 609 643. ” So first of all, this ‘Institute’ or self described ‘think tank’ is actually a manifestation of a business, meaning that if there actually is anyone else working with Kevin, or for Kevin, they are actually an employee of Impetus Consultants. Seeing as an ABN is provided, we can easily look up that business for further information. Lets see what the ABN lookup can tell us about this company…
It seems that Impetus Consulting, and therefore Education Standards Institute, are entirely owned by the K Donnelly Family Trust. So what does that make the Education Standards Institute?
It makes it a fraud. An obfuscation. A misdirection. It means that the Education Standards Institute is about as valid as an educational organisation as McDonald’s short-lived effort to get ‘heart tick approved’ meals on their menu was as a health campaign. If you look up Donnelly or Impetus consulting online you will find no shortage of criticisms of his hard-right views on social issues, as well as the large amounts of money he has been paid from the Liberal party and from companies like Phillip Morris, donations which seem to coincide with Donnelly publishing books that argue strongly in favour of Liberal party education policies, and his “I’ve got the power” educational packs that encouraged children to ‘make up their own minds’ on issues like smoking without providing information about the actual dangers of cigarettes. In you haven’t seen the movie ‘Thank you for Smoking’, now would be a good time.
So anyway, it seems that the ‘Education Standards Institute’ is nothing more than a prestigious sounding front, a sham, to attempt to validate the opinions that Donnelly spouts on behalf of clients of his consultation company. You’ll note on the ABN register that his company is not registered for tax-deductible donations, so any income he receives is going to be ‘for services rendered’.
He has deliberately tried to create an image of prestige to try and make the ultra-conservative opinions that he spouts seem like they’re coming from a third party. You’ll also notice that his biography always says that he was a teacher for 18 years, and also says that he is a Dr. but it never says what he is a doctor of. Surely if he held a Ph.D. in a field of research even remotely related to educational policy and school achievement he would be touting it from every conservative media platform that comes his way. While it may be an earned title, I suspect that this reference in educational matters is just another distraction used to give his opinions further air of authority. And after some time looking around online, I still don’t know what he has achieved to earn that title.
He has crafted a facade of educational credibility, one which appears to have been heavily criticised since the birth of the trading name that is the Educational Standards Institute, and my claim is that he would not have seen the need to craft such a facade if his intentions were genuine. In my opinion, his voice is, and has been for some time, just another distraction trying to muddy the waters of important issues with the selfish interests of businesses and conservative political ideologues.
EDIT: It appears that Donnelly did complete a Ph.D in an educational field in 1993, and his thesis was a critique of English teaching in Victorian schools. His thesis can be found here.
Thanks to Greg Thompson (@effectsofnaplan) for finding this.