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August 10, 2014 | by  | in Opinion Politics |
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Politics

The University is a broken institution. You haven’t realised it yet, but that degree you’re studying ain’t gonna make you a millionaire. Maybe it’ll find you a quiet job in admin. Maybe it’ll get you into that Honours programme, which might maybe get you into a Master’s. Maybe after that, the dream job will be yours (Graduate Analyst, Department of Internal Affairs). But the hope that the bachelor’s degree guarantees its holder One Fulfilling Career was abandoned long ago.

Governments don’t care. They sermon us about learning to critically engage with civic society. They assert we are learning abstract thinking skills, and most importantly, we are Learning How to Learn. Know Your Mind. It’s bullshit, of course – bourgeois elitism that insists that the only legitimate politics is intellectual. It’s also inaccurate. We don’t want to know our minds. We’re just here to get a job.

Actually, I’m not. I arrived at Victoria University in March 2010 and I was smitten. I guess my adolescence was a bit rural. My Year 13 intellectualism focussed more on booze than beryllium, more dak than Dostoyevsky. The sudden stimulation of MATH 151 and PHIL 106 asked me to think in ways I didn’t know I could. I got really excited, I became involved in debating societies, and student magazines, and the youth wing of a political party. The party lowered its ladder and I climbed. Three years later, I was writing their policy on tertiary education.

This is a problem.

People like us cannot be trusted with the design of a university. We enjoy Thinking Critically About Social Phenomena. You don’t, not really. I know how excited you are when your classes are cancelled. I know you love it when you realise that last chapter of your textbook won’t be covered in the exam. But you don’t get to write the rules. We do. And so we pour even more kids into the meat grinder, looking for the few who enjoy the mulch. I guess the Marxists would blame it on our cultural capital if they weren’t so busy with their PhDs.

Last Tuesday, the Green Party announced their election policy for students. Higher education is failing us. The best they could offer was free bus tickets. I’m unsurprised – our political parties are staffed by people who don’t think of university the way you do, people who don’t care about whether university will find them a job. If you wanted to critically engage with civic society, you wouldn’t have studied that Management degree. You wouldn’t have skipped that 9 am Sociology tutorial and that essay wouldn’t still be idling in your Google Docs, a week overdue. You’re just here to get a job. That’s fair enough, but we’re not gonna help ya.

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