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.