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The Forum > Article Comments > Mediocrity and laziness in our universities > Comments

Mediocrity and laziness in our universities : Comments

By Tara Brabazon, published 27/10/2005

Tara Brabazon argues Australian universities should stop wasting time with talk of generic competencies, mission statements and strategic plans.

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Posted by Timkins, Thursday, 27 October 2005 10:07:44 AM
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As one who has gained a history and politics degree during his retirement as well as an elective in macro-economics as part of a post-grad in geographical politics and history, and as a free-thinker, there is much concern about the lack of historical and philosophical knowledge these days, not only in the young, but also in our politicians, including our present Prime Minister.

An example is the meagre knowledge of British and American incursions into the Middle East since WW1. This is especially so since the Anglophilist illegal occupation of Iraq, as many political philosophers are now calling it. Indeed, it seems that our leaders these days, including the Americans, seem to be so wary of encouraging the discussion of Middle East problems based on past historical accounts from proven writers.

The worry is that particularly in the Schools of Humanities, that potential students will be warned off as being unpatriotic for them to be involved in such studies. Better to study the precepts of neo-liberal style marketing, allied with the so intriguing dot-com means of communication as well as what even Maynard Keynes predicted, the coming thrill of casino capitalism.

Maybe certain lecturers do appear to be not following the line of government reasoning concerning the Middle East crisis right now, but the proof is there that they have a thorough knowledge of past events, which surely must be encouraged in young people bright enough to be among our future leaders.

Finally it is obvious the only way to gain a knowledge of past events, as the great Roman historian Tacitus exuded, is to read about those past events, and not from the hearsayers nor from our leaders, but from the masters.

George C, WA - Bushbred
Posted by bushbred, Thursday, 27 October 2005 11:45:49 AM
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To say that all should have a PHD is ludicrous.

I as a university student who has finished 3 years ago, and although industries are different I found that Academics did not teach me as well as those hardened industry people. They have been in the cut throat world and conquered, which holds more weight than a person sheltered in Academia.

I respect gratefully the PHD, and on the surface I can see your feelings as an academic, but many of the most prudent, savvy and intelligent people did not attain a few bits of paper that enables them to perform the role, they have the nouse to do it.

My best lecturer by far was someone who was out there at the coal face, was successful in the real world (which is far more competitive and not a level playing field, which further illustrates his ability) and can now go back and give something to his students, first hand.

'Experience & Expertise' I would rather someone build me a boat who has built many boats before, than one who has got a piece of paper to say they can.

There are plenty like me who has intitutionalised people telling me that uni was the only way to succeed in life, and even then, i never was taught how to own the ladder, just climb it, they taught me how to be a soldier and work in the corporate army.

Remember small businesses are growing exponentially in Australia, yet that does not correlate to universities flavouring thier curriculum with it. Society is changing, students needs are changing, are Academic's mindsets?

If i was a Software guy, I would much rather be taught from Bill Gates the drop out, than any other person with any amount of PHD's.

If your passion is academia, research should come with the territory. If you dont want to do it, dont. If it is medoicrity you are worried about perhaps academics should only research instead of teach. Leave the inspiring to those who have run the marathon, not those that have read about it.
Posted by Realist, Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:40:24 PM
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Tara,

mmm.. where to start?

1. So what about lecturers who are already good teachers and who are appreciated by students and other colleagues. Should they suffer a year or so of learning about Piaget, Blooms taxonomy and how to make paper boats and sing nursery rhymes?

2. Most good lectures are already feeding current research into their content and assessment. They already do research and itís applied. Itís called 'teaching'.
But Iím someone that reckons good teaching inform good research.
The trickle down effect of research into teaching is ok as long as the research funding is there. Have you ever got a sore bum and computer headaches from writing proposals after proposals after proposals Tara? As for research frameworks they do exist here in Oz. See: http://www.dest.gov.au/sectors/research_sector/policies_issues_reviews/key_issues/research_quality_framework/rqf_preferred_model.htm

3. Doctorates do make for good scholarship (sometimes) but more than often you want someone in lecture theatres who can inspire students to learn and present them with real world perspectives. Having a clone of a doctoral supervisor trying to find themselves after a few years of trying to write (give birth to?) a thesis no one will ever read won't produce good teachers.

Overall, your ideas have some merit but I think a few semesters of teaching classes of 500 students would bring you back down to mother earth. I give you 18 out of 30 which is a pass grade
Posted by Rainier, Thursday, 27 October 2005 12:53:52 PM
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It is easier to learn the practical side of things in the workplace than in university. University is there to teach you the fundamental theory behind your discipline, which helps to develop generic skills such as problem solving. I had to learn higher mathematics such as differential equations, laplace and fourier transforms at uni. How often do you think that I would have to use them in the workplace? Doesnít matter it developed problem solving skills which are needed in the workplace. Academics are the only people suitable to teach the theory; you will learn the practical side of things in the workplace.
Posted by MechEngineer, Thursday, 27 October 2005 1:06:27 PM
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From one who has spent most of his 85 years battling in the bush, where you do learn a few things, especially in bush pubs, a few years in the military also encouraging one the better to be a free thinker. But to the forum contributors, did not intend to steer opinions the wrong way.

But what one does find it tough to learn, is what should be happening in world affairs. Again, as the Roman historian Tacitus implied, it is not from life experience, nor from leaders from whom we learn about the mistakes in history, but from the masters.

Tacitus was referring mainly to the Ancient Greeks, from whose thinking, incidently, we have our democracies. So please give credit to publications like the Great Books and suchlike, which do give examples of the gains and misgains of politics and history.

Most of our politicians, including both Howard and Beasley should take time to read such books a bit more, where they would learn far more than they ever would through life, as well as political experience.

George C, WA - Bushbred
Posted by bushbred, Thursday, 27 October 2005 1:55:46 PM
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