Sunday, December 29, 2013

Why I hate being educated

There is a big part of me that hates the fact that I am educated, just as there is a large part of me that dislikes the fact that I’m an idealist.

But in the words of the great Tom Stoppard, “You can’t unstir the jam from the custard.” It’s the second law of thermodynamics  - that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium.” 

This analogy, in plain language - once you have taken on education, you can’t get rid of it. It’s there for life. Incorporated in your being – just like the jam in the custard. At a basic level, it’s the information you assimilate to read, write and count. At a higher level, it forms your opinions and helps to make you who you are.

In my case, I got to study literature, arts, philosophy, history, with a bit of sociology, psychology and anthropology thrown in for good measure. Oh, put in the mix some French and instructions on how to learn languages and I made it through high school with decent marks in Maths, Chemistry and Music.

This makes me reasonably literate, thoughtful, able to do sums without using my fingers, have an appreciation for things I can’t see, an appreciation for patterns and themes.

My education has equipped me to see these things on a larger scale. It's been really helpful in the work that I do now - instructional design, business analysis, technical writing and systems testing.

This is not to say that I’m over-educated. I have a very ordinary degree, obtained in the early nineties. Over the years, I’ve topped up my education with a couple of Certificate IVs and diplomas - practical skills that have let me change and grow in my career. 

My undergrad grades are nothing to write home about. Going through university when there were no fees to degrees was an absolute privilege. I say this unreservedly. I was the last in a group of people who didn’t pay university fees (okay except in my last two part time years, a necessity after a bout of glandular fever in my third year).

Twenty years ago I had no idea why I was studying Arts, however now I look back and I know that my education has provided me with:

·         A desire to think for myself
·         The knowledge that I don’t know everything
·         The desire to keep learning
·         The need to keep improving my skills
·         A view of the world that extends past the screen door on my flat
·         A love of the finer things in life
·         The ability to laugh at myself and my foibles

I picketed outside of parliament house, objecting to the introduction of HECS in the late 80’s feeling that education, all eduction, primary, secondary and tertiary, is a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy. 25 years on, I find that our current tertiary education funding schemes not bad at all - that you can get the education and pay later is fine. Take that away and I'll march again with the students. 

That was in 1988. Mandela was still in prison. The Berlin Wall was still intact. Bob Hawke was running the country. Margaret Thatcher was beginning to have some problems. Interest rates were at 17%.

Suddenly I feel rather old.

Arts students have long been berated as the bludgers of the academic world. Why not study something useful like Law or Economics or Medicine? Other than not getting the marks, I got to study things I enjoyed.
It’s helped for me in ways I could never fathom. It’s given me a bigger picture view – the knowledge that there is so much more out there to learn, appreciate, decipher and treasure. Unfortunately, when it comes to funding, Arts subjects are the first to have the thumb screws applied. Remember when languages and music and art were offered in government schools? 

Maybe it’s at times like these we need more people to study and appreciate humanities. People who can see the value in learning about history and literature and philosophy. It used to be the case in the Renaissance, when humanity came out of the dark ages into more enlightened times. Why aren't we continuing with this enlightenment?

It also makes me very angry when I see that people of the world don’t have the same access to the opportunities that I had when I was growing up.

Why? I get to apply what I've learned to what I'm seeing. If you don't give all people a wider education, how will they get to know what else is out there? I get to see how my education has helped to form what I think and how I think about it.

Well I’m sitting here looking at the newspapers every day seeing a nightmare of Orwellian proportions unfolding before my eyes. (Literature, ethics)

Misinformation and propaganda fill the screens. Barely a day goes by without me muttering the words. “Just keep drinking the KoolAid, it only gets better.” I wonder if these people know about what I’m referring to?  Well, sometimes I think we’re in our own continent sized Jonestown – Murdoch and Abbott our versions of an uncharismatic Jim Jones. (History, sociology, religion)

I’m finding myself in arguments, discussions and the occasional knock down fight. I refuse to believe that the bulk of the population will sit by and allow people to be mistreated, ignored and treated like cattle on a ship bound for the Middle East for the sin of trying to flee for their lives. Where people are humiliated, given no access to legal aid, medical attention or enough water. Where the facilities make third world camps in the Sudan and Ethiopia appear luxurious. Where people are stripped of medications, family members, legal assistance, hope. When people are dehumanised and treated like numbers. My country doesn't do this to people, does it? (History, sociology, ethics, psychology, philosophy)

Unfortunately, reports from the independent press are relating these stories on a daily basis. 

I’m not buying it. I get the need to balance the books. There is no problem with taking responsibility for your own finances and your own life, just as our country needs to be careful with finances. There is some comprehension that big business is the saviour of all of us? What saviour wants to dredge and dump near the Great Barrier Reef? Or log in wilderness areas that have been set aside for their specialness? (Ethics, philosophy, economics, science)

What government calls itself an infrastructure government but has so little foresight as to not see telecommunications as infrastructure? Or public transport for that matter? Or heath? Or child care? Or aged care? Or manufacturing? (Economics, science, philosophy, planning, common sense?)

It really is shit being an Australian at the moment.

The other thing I said I’m not happy about being an idealist either.

Me, Myers Briggs puts me somewhere between an INFJ and an INFP. I've been swinging more toward the latter lately. An idealist who ha a strong belief that if you dream it, you can be it.

I'm and idealist who really believes that if everybody puts their mind to the problem was can find a solution. I really believe that if you get enough people speaking out about injustice and equality something will be done.

I fervently hold the belief that governments should be afraid of the people, not the other way around. I also believe that if you get enough people with the common good in mind, you can move mountains.

So here is me, sitting here, angry at a country that used to strive to be kind and good and smart and forward thinking, and I see a government with a large vat of cordial ready for the people to drink with the promises of numbing their pain.

It doesn't work like that. My education tells me that were about to come to a tipping point where maybe, finally, we can see some sense.

For if we can't learn from the past, how can we not repeat the mistakes of the future.

Nazi Germany can't be seen as a good thing. The rhetoric coming from the Australian Government at present is akin to a lot of their policies.

Group brainwashing, thanks to Mr Murdoch and his publications - think Orwell's 1984 and Jonestown - not something I want to be a part of.

It's time for the idealists and the educated to start shouting loud so the days of misinformation, callousness and cruelty can come to an end. It's time for some leveled compassion, new ideas that encompass everybody, not just the privileged.It's time to look long into the future, not just for the three years of a term of government.

It's time for people to start thinking for themselves and questioning what is right for all.

The time for passively sitting by and letting things happen stopped in Australia at about 10 pm on Saturday, 7 September 2013.

Get out there and make a difference

(I'll crawl off my soapbox now and go see some kittens. If you can't change the world, kittens will always make you feel better.)

1 comment:

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Very interesting post. As a scientist/mathematician I have been guilty of looking down at "art" students and thinkers in the past (in my university years at least).

Now I am older and wiser I wish I had involved myself more in those disciplines. I have moaned about this before on my own blog.

All I can say is that with age comes wisdom and people tend to see things from a better perspective.

Great post, Pand.

And yes - kittens will always make you feel better - as long as one of those kittens isn't a psychotic hellcat of course.