I have just finished reading Kim Rubenstein’s comprehensive and gripping account of the events of 1980 that led to the forced retirement of the highly respected, visionary and much-loved Joan Montgomery.
I congratulate her — not only on writing such a significant historical record of Montgomery’s contribution to the education and lives of the girls who were fortunate enough to attend PLC during her time as principal, but also describing the enormous influence that education at PLC played, not only in the lives of the staff and students but also nationally.
Of course, the book is much more than an account of the conflict between church and school and the consequences of essentially one man’s will to assert his power over others. I view the book as a struggle between noble ideals and self-interested ambition.
As a reader with a passion for theatre and the art of acting, I am fascinated by human nature and the many aspects of character motivation. Rubenstein’s tribute to Joan offers an appreciation of an exceptional educationist and a woman of inestimable intelligence, integrity, compassion and humanity. At the same time, her depiction of Max Bradshaw presents him as the antagonist, driven by belief and ignorant assumption of the Presbyterian church’s role in the education of young women.
The Vetting of Wisdom contains the elements of a powerful drama : A noble protagonist faced with the opposition of a manipulative antagonist. There is irony, conflict, antithesis and, at its core, a story that educates, provokes and illuminates.
While this book plays a crucial role in recognising Joan Montgomery’s achievements and the important place in the history of the school and education in Australia. It also offers the impartial reader like myself an insight into human behaviour and the universal conflict between justice and injustice, fairness and unfairness and decency and mal-intent.