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  Issue No 37 Official Organ of LaborNet 29 October 1999  




Letters to the Editor

Education an Asset for All

Dear Editor,

I feel I must reply to the letter by our comrade who agrees with Howard on education.

The first prime minister to complain about educated people benefitting more financially was Bob Hawke. His response was to facilitate a self-fulfilling prophesy by making the higher-pay purpose of higher education more significant than it should be: apart from the notorious introduction of fees, through merging training (CAE) and education (university) institutions, and welcoming the involvement of private industry.

Even if higher education were merely about job-training I would still be inclined to disagree with him, although I reserve my opinion as I need to consider further argument. For example, one argument against fees in a job-training model of higher education is that we have an effectively privatised senior high school. In other words, why should current financial means be an obstacle to access to quality employment? This explains why current students can "live with" (postponed) HECS at the relatively modest levels it operates at now, because they do get an employment benefit.

However, to see higher education as job-training is too banal. Higher education is one of those institutions, like an independent media, an independent trade union movement, an independent judiciary, public beaches, parks and gardens, and financial assistance to the arts, that are all expensive but expensive as investments.

Before Hawke introduced industry involvement on a massive scale, universities were a major source of independent ideas. To some extent they still are, despite the influence of industry. Universities were also a place where bright young people could develop and discipline their intellects, with positive repercussions on the culture, politics, ideas and creativity of the community as a whole. That is, the more educated individuals there are, the better off we are as a community. Without education, we would be living in a dull, selfish, ignorant, cut-throat, poor, inefficient and antiquated social, political and economic environment.

There are two consequences of the sort of thinking that Hawke, Howard and now our comrade are setting forth.

First, as I have said for the decade since the amalgamations, we should separate education from training. Whilesoever we fuse the two, arguments such as Howard's and Hawke's will always cloud the importance of education as a good unto itself.

Second, although we pay for the education of our bright, we don't make much

use of the investment. Indeed, most of us feel threatened by the intelligent. For examples, (i) it is notorious that intelligent politicians such as Kim Beazley need to "dumb it down" to appeal to the electorate, (ii) I advocated a good idea within the CPSU a few years ago and was ignored, but now the idea has been taken up by the ACTU - shorter working hours, not just to save jobs but to give us time to do other things (I am particularly keen on people having time to be citizens), and (iii) intelligence is the only attribute that it is not socially acceptable to say you have.

The last example is particularly interesting. I wonder if your correspondent is one of the millions transfixed by sportspeople bragging about how good they are, yet treat as arrogance someone saying simply "I'm intelligent"? The irony is that we could do with a lift in the general physical fitness of the community, but we happily spend millions of taxpayers money on sporting elites; instead of local sporting facilitiesand general adult physical education. I don't hear your correspondent complaining about that!


Jon Shapiro

Secretary, NUS NSW Branch 1987-8


*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 37 contents

In this issue
*  Republic: Yes, It's Time
Opposition leader Kim Beazley invoked the spirit of '72 when he launched the ALP's Republic campaign.
*  Interview: What Price a Just Republic?
Magistrate Pat O’Shane is far from happy with the republican model. But she still believes a Yes vote is her best chance for genuine constitutional reform.
*  Economics: Who the EFIC are you?
If you have not heard of Export Credit Agencies, don't be surprised because it seems they're not too interested in letting the public know what they do.
*  Unions: Old Habits Die Hard
With the release of its blue print [email protected] the ACTU seems to know where it wants to go. But again it has failed to face up to the underlying structural issues preventing it from getting there.
*  Legal: Second Wave: Reith's Non-Right to Strike
Peter Reith has called his new laws the Workplace relations Amendment (More Jobs Better Pay) Bill 1999. If legislation is to carry these new, colloquial titles then the ‘More Control, Less Freedom’ Bill would be a better title.
*  International: Wahid’s New Team
Indonesias new government is blemished by Suharto-era appointees but an advance for reform, says Indonesia’s trade unions.
*  History: They Fought Them on the Airwaves
Radio broadcasts were an important weapon in the long-running struggle for equal pay.
*  Satire: Revealed: SOCOG Reserving Gold Medals for Tattersalls
The scandal over the secret allotment of premium tickets for the 2000 Olympics escalated today with the news that members of Sydney’s elite Tattersall’s Club will receive Gold Medals without actually competing.
*  Review: What The Age Wouldn’t Print
Some time before Monday 18 October, Age editor Michael Gawenda saw red and then got out his blue pencil. An article, heavily critical of Robert Manne, written by Overland editor Ian Syson, was pulled by Gawenda.

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»  Guest Report
»  Sport
»  Trades Hall
»  Piers Watch

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»  An X for President - Feedback
»  Republican Soapbox
»  Education an Asset for All

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