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The Forum > Article Comments > Nostalgia and the grand narrative > Comments

Nostalgia and the grand narrative : Comments

By John Harrison, published 23/11/2011

There is nothing representative about democracy when the bulk of our political representatives got there as staffers and insiders.

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Agree with much of this, however there is one point that I think needs some clarifcation (in my opinion at least, as an ex-university lecturer). Universities are not there to teach, they are there to guide students to enable them learn by themsleves. Once universities fell into the trap of putting resources into teaching (often at the expense of research, because funding was tied to student numbers not quality of outcomes) they were on slippery slide downhill and have started to become extensions of secondary schools.

When I went back to university to do a postgraduate course and found a multi-choice and short answer section in a couple of my exams I nearly fell off my chair. There is no place for these in universities.

Don't get me started on basic skills. Back in 2000 when I left after spending 3 years working there, the writing skills of school leavers were often appalling - I wonder if they have improved since then. What this meant was that valuable time was spent doing the job of the school system rather than getting students to learn to learn themselves.
Posted by Phil Matimein, Wednesday, 23 November 2011 2:05:23 PM
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Wow an 'academic' complaining about the useless focus of our higher learning institutions.

Wonders will never cease. But hang on a minute it's all John Howard's fault and not at all the responsibility of the people who actually organise the effort. That figures.

Of course the writer is blinkered and assigns the lack of funding, lack of language emphasis, lowering of standards of communication and thinking skills, the subsequent teaching secondary and university skills shortage, the loss of focus on institutions concerned with vocational training and the failure of public administration solely at the federal level of politics.

That's not correct! The issues the writer raises simply are state issues. The blame for these problems should be assigned to that level. ie the past 10-15 years of inept labor state regimes that have 'dropped the ball' on secondary education issues. That's where the problem lies. It is not on the federal governments.

The problem with tertiary education is not that it is now more concerned with teaching but that it is teaching vocational degrees rather than encouraging thought. That stupidity was started under Whitlam and continued intensely under Hawke and Keating, all of whom desired to see every child with a University Education.

The fundamental change is that we need to change this direction by focusing on the importance of teaching traditional non-tertiary vocations at non-tertiary institutions... not at Universities.

But of course then people like John Harrison wouldn't be able to become University Lecturers in Journalism and Communication nor be paid to do paid research into 'new ways of learning using digital mobile media'.

That sort of research should be left to the private sector non-social entrepreneurs.

I know these ideas are extreme but I'm not a socialist and am concerned about creating wealth by making money.

It astonishes me that an 'online alcohol moderation initiative' can in any way be seen as entrepreneurial.

No I don't have a Uni degree so you'll just have to forgive my poor expression, spelling, communication and thought skills.
Posted by imajulianutter, Thursday, 24 November 2011 8:08:18 AM
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I worked for a university a few years back that had beautiful waterfront property which was mainly used for administration. The buildings where teaching occurred were located out of town and were very run-down. When I asked why was the university not selling the pricey prime real-estate and using the money for research and teaching facilities it was explained to me that "prestige" buildings were required to "compete" with the big universities and attract fee-paying students.
The same university was running courses that attracted paying students such as "wine science" and "forensic science" because these topics were either sexy (due to popular TV) or seen as lucrative (due to booming industry). The fact that these skills were virtually useless in the real economy was irrelevant to the marketing types that clearly saw universities as primarily a business.
These types are particularly adept at using committees and sub-management to avoid accountability and any real responsibility, whilst maximising personal power. True pros and "hands on" types are not welcome in these places!
I see the same issue in all levels of public enterprise and private enterprise: Adult daycare is everywhere! Part of the problem is the old "Peter principle" and creating organisations based on career paths rather than function...job security is paramount when mortgages grow and real wages shrink. Another part of the problem is the demographic bump...the grey ceiling holding back genuine change. IT is just not understood by most senior folks, and the devil is in the details they can't be bothered with.
The lost Howard years are gone, but it looks like it will take a crisis to push both our major parties to become credible again. Hopefully the looming financial mess may invoke some honest, sane leadership.
Posted by Ozandy, Thursday, 24 November 2011 12:01:20 PM
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Here's another few facts the biased author completely overlooks when launching his attack on politicians.

Nearly 80% of politicians of one party come from staffers and insiders.
The other party draws 24%of it's politicians from that source.

Now which party holds or has held the reigns of power in most of the parliaments in this country for most of the last 10-15 years.

There's the problem. People like the author can't see what the rest of us can see.

We have all realised the problem is the party comprised mostly of staffers and insiders with their contemptible spin and we are in the process of chucking them all out ... at all levels.

We are finding the other party pretty good in WA, VIC and NSW despite a massive media anti campaign and the silliness of other comentators and our academics.
Posted by imajulianutter, Friday, 25 November 2011 12:18:17 PM
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