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Baart Groot 25052014

Young People Never Had It So Good


A Reply to conservative media on the issue of tertiary education

“Get a Job”, “Bludger”, “Can I have fries with that?”
These literary gems and many more of their ilk are commonplace in the
commentary sections of right wing media of Australia and undoubtedly around
the world. They reflect the conservative belief that those who undertake
tertiary study are unappreciative, lazy, unwashed layabouts who don’t
deserve the privilege of higher education, unless they are studying
economics, law or accounting of course.
This attitude is demonstrated without any sense of irony throughout Tom
Elliot’s offering to the gibbering masses posted on May 24
th
2014. In it he
laments how thirty years ago only twenty percent of the population entered
into university, insinuating that this is actually a good thing and that an
uneducated population is best. He then pumps up the rhetoric by saying that
now fifty percent of school leavers enter the tertiary system. His weasel
wording distracts us from the fact that this fifty percent also includes those
studying at TAFE, private tertiary business colleges and other award course
providers.
Elliot also harps on about the lack of quality in that most hated of professions
for the conservative, a breeding ground for anarchists, socialists and greens
supporters; education. Elliot states that the ATAR required for education is
below 50. I was myself shocked to read this and sought to find out how this
was even possible. In searching I came to realise that no university initially
offered places in teaching to students with ATARs below 50 and that those
receiving places with such low scores did so after the initial rounds or as a
result of adult entry which has no ATAR score attributed to it.
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But what conservative journalist ever lets facts get in the way of a good rant
attacking the teaching profession?
Just for a moment, let’s have a look at why people with an ATAR below 50 or
no ATAR at all would be able to enter higher education.
It is often conveniently forgotten that Universities are now businesses and that
they are expected to make profits, it is difficult to do so if you do not have
enough students paying fees. In order to offer teaching to those who achieved
the requisite ATAR (Which for education actually hovers around 70 for those
interested, less for Catholic or Private Universities) a minimum number of
students needs to be enrolled. We know that currently teaching is a female
dominated profession, speculation suggests that many males are too scared
to enter the vocation as a result of the tragic abuse scandals of recent years.
We can also speculate that teaching attracts people who are not only focused
on the academic welfare of their fellow humans but also on the emotional
welfare of our youth, this being increasingly necessary as teachers shoulder
more of the burden of providing support than they traditionally needed to.
Most people who enter teaching do not do so for big holidays or a huge pay.
Those few misguided souls who do tend to leave quickly, crushed under the
weight of responsibility, ethics and study required to provide quality education.
Teachers are for the most part energetic, caring and disproportionately
involved in the welfare and success of generation after generation of our
youth. If you haven’t been to school in the last two or three decades this may
surprise you, in fact I imagine that many of the biggest critics of teachers have
not spent much time within our schooling system and are looking at it through
the cracked, scarlet coloured lens of raging shock jocks whose greatest
enemy is a discerning and educated mind.
Elliot and others also take great pains to snidely remark on the variety of
courses available to tertiary education students. The ANU Bachelor of Cultural
heritage is named as one viable for conservative scorn. I would ask the
following of the sniggering conservatives who laugh at such academic studies.
What have you yourself contributed to society? What lessons have you
learned that can be taught to future generations? In between chasing the all-
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powerful dollar and carping on about the woes that assail your unappreciated
efforts have you provided anything yourself that could be remembered as
noteworthy to future generations? In my opinion the contribution of
conservative commentary to society equals that of Salacious Crumb in
Jabba’s Palace.
Maybe having some learned minds who understand our cultural heritage
might not be such a bad thing. We certainly seem to have enough
economists, accountants and lawyers whose memories stretch back only as
far as the last opinion poll or stock-market crash and unfortunately seem
unable to learn from these experiences in any case.
Without an appreciation and understanding of the past we are doomed to
make the same mistakes over and over again. Conservatives seem to forget
that it was conservative policies and capitalist extremists who have led to the
stock market crashes and global economic recessions of history, not Arts
students studying Cultural Heritage.
The final point I wish to comment on is the false argument that students are
arguing simply about HECS/HELP fees being increased. While the increase
itself is concerning and looks to be little more than a blatant money grab gifted
to Universities in exchange for their acquiescence the real issue is how the
HELP debt will be managed.
Previously HECS/HELP was indexed and rose according to our economy, this
meant that once students earned enough money they could begin paying off
the debt in a reasonably economically pain free manner. Minister Pyne’s
changes mean however that interest on the debts will be accrued at 6% per
annum (Compound I believe), beginning from the day the course begins.
To add insult to injury let’s not forget that those of us who can pay the fees up
front attract substantial discounts.
Not so those whose families do not have large amounts of money to spend on
education, borrow the fees, get an education and by the end of it you have
yourself the equivalent of a first mortgage.
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Therein lies the hypocrisy of the government and its conservative supporters,
they wish to deregulate the tertiary education to improve its business
opportunities yet make education unaffordable for a great many, they decry
the decreasing standards of students yet ignore that it is the most
conservative universities who have the lowest ATAR requirements.
In one short statement the conservative media and the government’s agenda
can be laid bare.
Discredit education systems, yoke the poor to debt, promote an elitist
conservative agenda and pour scorn on all who protest.