Universities, LNP Style.

Mr Turnbull is seldom economic with words but when it comes to education he has reduced the old style Abbottesque three-word slogan to a two-word slogan. The old ‘Stop the boats’ has become ‘Innovation Nation.’ This may sound like a step forward but it is the same old LNP following the same old policy of repeating simple slogans often. If the ‘fine print’ words of Malcolm Turnbull are listened to it is the same old LNP policy of screwing the general population for the sole purpose of giving to big business.

Malcolm Turnbull wants Universities to produce graduates that conform only to the demands of big business. He talks of producing graduates that are ‘relevant’ to ‘today’s world.’ If the sole criteria for a balanced healthy society were the performance of a particular narrowly defined task in exchange for money Turnbull would make sense. But is this all there is to life? Does a well-rounded education built around the ability to think and create mean nothing?

Good universities have been places where students are encouraged to push the limits with the understanding that as much can be learned for failure as from success even if it appears to lead nowhere. It does lead somewhere of course. It leads to a population that can think and create, that can accept that failure is not failure but a step towards future progress. It would be impossible to list all the failures of university research that have lead to accidental discoveries that have changed the world. It is not generally understood that the world we know today with all of its technological progress has come about largely from recognizing the accidental success inherent in failure.

Big business is not about exploring. It is about finding new ways of becoming more efficient at doing the same old thing based solely on the accountant’s bottom line. This is a recipe for stagnation. Over the years Australia has become extremely efficient at digging holes in the ground. Economically his has been a delight to accountants but now that there is an over supply of holes in the ground there is a problem. Turnbull’s Innovation Nation is not about filling in the holes of the past but digging new holes for Australia to fall into. The problem is that when big business is allowed to focus all of a country’s educational resources in one direction the rich diversity that guarantees the future health of the nation is lost. Malcolm Turnbull must not be allowed to focus all of their educational resources to fulfilling the dictates of big business. There may appear to be short-term benefits to the bottom line but would only be another disaster delayed for a few years.

Malcolm Turnbull talks of a nimble economy able to respond to change. The reality is that Turnbull style education policy destroys the ability to respond to change. They are focused only on the short-term interests of bug business that has never understood that tomorrow things will change.

Much of what universities teach and research may appear to be useless to the general public but nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Somewhere in our universities there are students and researchers working on totally useless projects that are going to lead to the happy accident that will cure cancer, MS and a multitude of other medical aberrations. Somewhere a happy accident is waiting to happen that will lead to a clean sustainable world with unlimited clean energy. What are our universities discovering with their useless research? We don’t know because it has happened yet. But when it does happen it will surprise everyone, even the researchers.

Big business is not interested in happy accidents because they are not conducive to higher share prices and returns to shareholders. Finding a cure for cancer and MS will be majorly detrimental to pharmaceutical companies bottom line. What will Clive Palmer, BP and Santos do when somewhere a university announces it has made an accidentally discovered how to produce unlimited clean power from a common renewable non-polluting source? The University won’t say it was an accident of course. They will say they have been working on it behind closed doors for years. These accidents won’t happen unless universities are allowed to carry out research and play just because they can.

Business relies on scarcity. They must have more of what others don’t have. This is crunch for our universities when they must decide if they are going to be educational providers that advance knowledge for all or are they gong to be instruments by which big business increases scarcity in the name of ever increasing profit.

Which way our universities go will depend on if the public allows Malcolm Turnbull to destroy our university system and replace it with a system of training human robots to be exploited by big business for profit, and to the detriment of society in general.

Australia. The land of Educational Minimalism

I came to Australia as part of the Ten Pound Pom scheme. I would like to say that the migration selection process involved some sort of test of intelligence or education levels but it did not. It was purely a physical selection process. Being physically capable of hard work for the foreseeable future and the ability to breed more physically capable specimens was the sole criteria. Not having a criminal record helped the process.

Australia has been built on physical labour. Generation after generation has earned a living based on physical labour and an educational level best suited to adding up a time sheet and signing it. This model has served Australia well in many ways with its abundance of sheep, coal and iron ore but these assets have fostered an attitude for many that education was low down the list of priorities. Who needs an education to be paid ridiculous amounts of money for digging holes in the ground and shipping the contents of the hole to China? It may take some time for Australia to understand that those days are gone and are unlikely to return, but that is that way it is.

Education has been downgraded to job training. Job training is basically monkey see, monkey do. With a few outstanding examples the Australian education system has been about producing clever monkeys. The latest pretence of an education revolution is the ‘Innovation Nation.’ A better description would be educational minimalism.

We have Malcolm Turnbull talking about Innovation and coding in the same sentence as if coding was is the answer to everything. Either Mr Turnbull knows nothing about coding or he is knowingly feeding Australia rubbish. Coding is a simple process that is quick and easy to learn. It requires the training of clever monkeys. There is nothing in coding that could require anything resembling innovation or any superior intellectual endeavour. Coding on its own means nothing.

If Australia is to have an education revolution it has to be more than training more clever monkeys. It has to be an intelligent and creative education system. Coding is not creative and requires very little thinking. It is a process of production, but who is going to think creatively about what to produce?

Thinking and creativity require a different type of education than has been the norm for Australia in the past. Creativity requires a very wide education and to be interested in everything. Clever monkeys are trained to do what they are required to do and no more. Creative people have to see the relationships between the seeming unrelated and this will often appear to be totally useless to clever monkeys. The current Australian education system is geared to the attitudes that if you cannot eat it, drink it, buy it or screw it then it is of no value.

The difference between the two models of education is that training teaches specific skills to perform a function and is its own end while creativity may posses certain skills but those skills are there to create a far larger goal. Creating a far larger goal requires a far greater range in education levels. The only way to create an education system that produces truly innovative and creative population is to have a very wide curriculum.

Rather than just teach science we need to teach what science is. The quantum physicist Richard Feynman said in one of his lectures that if something is not scientific it does not mean it is not true, only that it is not scientific. When we talk of science there is often a god-like aspect to our arguments. Science is very powerful but has multiple limitations. Malcolm Turnbull’s narrative that science is the alpha and omega of all progress belongs in the dark ages.

We need to teach how recognise fallacious argument. I used to wonder how politicians could get away with the arguments they put forward. Tony Abbott got away for years with totally meaningless three word slogans as a replacement any discernable argument of any substance. Does this make Australians stupid? I think not. I see it as an indictment of the Australian education systems that produces so many graduates that do not understand basic forms of argument and how to recognise a fallacious argument when they hear it. Mr Turnbull’s performance since his rise to power has not improved matters. Mr Turnbull just uses many more words and his delivery is much smoother in achieving the same intellectual amnesia.

We need to teach about the culture our first peoples and of peoples of other nations. Creative builds, it does not destroy. Building bridges to others peoples so we can create ways of living together for the benefit of all is creative. Clever monkeys build bombs. Clever monkeys lead race riots and call themselves patriots.

We need to teach what is required to protect our planet so that the human race can continue in balance with our environment. Creative people understand that finite resources will one day run out. The energy we need must be from a sustainable source. It is going to take an army of creative people to bring that about. Coding isn’t going to do it. In the mean time the clever monkeys continue to dig holes in the ground and burn the contents in the delusion that this can continue ad infinitum.

We need to first have a nation of well-educated creative and knowledgeable people, and then we can train them code if that is a skill they need to create whatever they are in the process of creating.

Scientists are useless unless they are creative scientists. Engineers are useless unless they are creative engineers. First must come the learning of how to think and create and then the specific training for roles they chose to fulfil.

But it does not stop there. A creative society is a wide and diverse complete society. We cannot ignore our cultural health or spiritual well being. Support for the arts and culture during the past few years has been decimated. More than that the Abbott government actively suppressed the arts and sought to bring our cultural lives under the control of the government. When an education is geared to training it has only one purpose and that is to train students to earn a living. The cultural health of a nation is the cohesion that keeps a culture intact. We cannot put a monetary value on cultural health so it is not a priority to many Australians, but if we destroy it our society disintegrates. Our education needs to maintain cultural well-being as a priority if we are not to lose cohesion as a society. Reducing universities to producing fodder for commerce and industry only adds to the decline in societal cohesion.

If Australia aims for well-educated creative population capable of thinking creatively how they use that creativity will be a matter of choice. If they need to learn how to code they will make that choice.

The current proposed paradigm being proposed by Malcolm Turnbull, teach kids how to code and the future will be perfect is simplistic in the extreme, and is based on the old model of producing clever monkeys. We need to have a real conversation about education. Do we want to create a cohesive society of people who can think creatively and make meaningful decisions, or do we only want job orientated students who can only act according to their training and allocated position in life? The later is another step towards Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World.