Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Education Revolution - An Evolving Farce

It was billed as the biggest shake-up to Australia's education system.

The 'Education Revolution' - as Labor and the Gillard government had billed it.

It began with the early Rudd times. A laptop for every school child, as it was the 'toolbox of the future' - despite the fact that we still need industries that use real toolboxes.

If you just ignore the fact that Australia's manufacturing sector is being systematically deconstructed and shipped overseas, that is.

Heck, even the call centres are increasingly outsourced.

The laptop per child scheme proved to be somewhat useful, if not dreadfully wasteful, and the computers were criticised for being under-powered and not pre-installed with all the software a student would use.

Then the Global Financial Crisis hit, and the infamous 'School Halls' program was instigated as a means of sugar-boosting the economy.

These aren't necessarily bad ideas - they were just perhaps good ideas that were poorly executed at the cost of the public purse.

The 'Schoolkids Bonus' is the latest example of trite measures to bolster educational standards... at least, I think that's what it's for?

Who knows.

In terms of higher tertiary education, it exists in Australia as mostly a privatised business, a juggernaut of dreams, promises, and flashy marketing material aimed at the naive young person.

It's hard to ignore the fact that the overwhelming majourity of Australia's university graduates originate from higher socioeconomic backgrounds; it's almost expected that a child from a lower socioeconomic background will have the future of a service station attendant for the rest of their lives.

Either that, or an alcoholic.

There is some sugarcoating and inspirational language of 'no child left behind', but the fact of the matter is that the rigid class structure of Australian society is still alive and kicking strong.

It's even being taught in the universities as fact.

A young paramedics student recently informed me that in a psychology class they were all asked to raise their hands if they identified themselves in either the upper class, the middle class, or the working class.

An episode of 'Housos' was played in the tutorial, and was used as serious example as to how all lower class people look, act, and behave.

The differences between the upper and lower classes were emphatically highlighted, and how everyone should avoid being working class or (heaven forbid) lower class at all costs.

At first I thought it would have been to show students the type of people they might come across in their career as a paramedic - but no, the emphasis was that the lecturer herself was upper class, and everyone should aspire to be the same.

I too recall a 'politics 101' subject during my journalism degree that preached to a similar song book, namely that lower class students should not go to private schools; they would not be abreast with the finer points of the upper class, and therefor would not fit in.

Universities themselves are by and large degree factories that skim the fat from government for 'education'.

Want a degree? Not a problem! Sign your life away, inherit an education debt, and hope for the best.

There is no guarantee that a suitable job for your degree will be waiting for at the end of it all, but that doesn't matter - all you need to care about is if you have enough alcohol since you're living away from mummy and daddy.

Then there are the professional students.

They wised up long ago that they will most likely be unemployable at the end of their degree, and so are moving on to a second, or perhaps even a third, racking up an education debt that they will likely never pay off.

The Baby Boomer generation enjoyed free university education - nowadays it is somewhat a mark of honour to be laden with owing the government tens of thousands of dollars for learning three years' worth of junk.

This younger generation, my own and the one coming up behind me, are very apt at rolling over and playing dead to please the Baby Boomers and pledging to follow their rules of work and education.

By doing so, they are not fighting for the entitlements that their parents had, such as free tertiary education, or lower property prices.

Many young people are so ignorant that they just believe that expensive higher education is how it's been since the dawn of the dinosaurs, as is high petrol prices, high rental prices, high property prices, and all the rest of it.

But hark, you're getting a degree - you surely will be able to secure a full time career able to pay for all the middle class goodies your mummy and daddy have, won't you?

Perhaps, maybe, if you're lucky.

After all, Australian universities are churning out an awful lot of graduates, both the good and the bad, and you'll be competing with them all out there in magical employment land.

Chances are that you'll at least briefly end up on the unemployment cues, and the horrid 'job support' services network that it entails - either that, or you can get mummy and daddy to pay your trip around Southeast Asia to help you 'find yourself' before you enter that fabled career you lie about wanting.

The system might be geared towards you getting an education, but after that, it's the devil's playground of chance of it actually meaning anything in the Real World that you heard about long ago.

It's a race to the bottom to become a wage slave, degree or no degree.

There are some that say a degree and university isn't simply about the piece of paper, that it's the experience, and that it makes society a better place if we have more educated people living in it.

If you've seen Australian television lately, for one thing, you would know otherwise; there really is no 'big thinking' going on among our youth.

Their vision is as short as conspicuous consumption and following in their Baby Boomer parents' fabled footsteps.

The revolution perhaps isn't being televised.

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