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On higher education (a Sunday reflection)

This piece was written and posted on the 17 December 2013 in response to what I saw as an “understanding” that existed (and I believe still does exist) between what could be called the higher-educated classes as against the low-educated working classes … that could be best described as a “consciousness of kind” between the commentators and writers from that “upper” educated-class.

Yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder against the higher-educated class and how they have either for too long dismissed or demeaned commentators and opinion pieces from the lower-educated working class as being badly written (in a grammatical sense), or too clumsily abusive or lacking the finesse both natural and nurtured by the respectable private school Alma Maters and the “masters” of those institutions toward their charges and wards as they coached them to graduation cap and gown … bully for you! But what has now evolved from that “exclusiveness” that spent years faffing and blustering about without result, is that the likes of Right-Wing idiots like Trump, Abbott, PHON have arisen to cynically fill the vacuum created by the “abandonment” of a whole social demographic who should benefit more from being led by educated political instruction than by the nose of bigotry and racism.

It went like this:

On Higher Education (posted on “The Pub” blog,  December 17, 2013).

Hello! … muy afficionados! … sit back and relax … it being Xmas, ol’ “ jaycee” is going give you a bit of a fireside chat!

BB. (Bushfire Bill), I see you have posted on the latest Andrew Elder piece. I posted there under “anonymous” (haven’t quite worked out the identity thingo yet!); that last post on the accusation of treason against the fourth estate … and I see as an aside “Cat Momma” under the alter alias of “Hillbilly Skeleton” has also resurfaced!

On that subject of treason, I recently wrote a piece called; “The Meaning of Treason” … I gave it to Fiona, here, who accepted it and sat on it for a couple of weeks, while BB put up a couple of pieces and I could see it was going to sit a while longer and I feared the ‘moment’ for such a piece’s impact would be lost as Abbott and the LNP regained its footing … so I withdrew it intending to extrapolate and represent it to another site … it was eventually accepted, ”keenly” edited and put up for three days on the Political Sword (1/12 /2013). As it was, Abbott predictably made another massive gaffe (who’d a thunk it!) and it went up at the right time.

But the piece is not the subject of this little discourse … The subject is the presentation of A Subject!.

BB, you wrote a post a couple of weeks back on the memory of a Brother at your Catholic College; Alma Mater “coaching” you in English essaying … and you stated; (wtte) that even though you had previously won prizes in writing, you feared the upcoming exams would be a challenge … and so you sought the “coaching” of this brother … and all went well!

I had a similar moment when attempting to learn Latin at Adelaide Uni (mature entry … that sounds salacious!) … I remember coming out from a tutorial, absolutely weary at the constructed complexity of the Latin grammar. I remember I counted one verb alone had 35 (I think) variations … and that probably didn’t include a future “shifting tense” ( I remember I cracked what I thought was a witticism about that being a bit like Arabic; ”…you know; the Bedouin and their shifting tents” … I thought it funny … the Latin lecturer didn’t). I remember standing in the sunlight outside the Wells Building and softly exclaiming to myself; “Who and why, in effing hell thought up such a complex grammatical labyrinth?” … (of course, the Romans themselves had a much simpler system, relying, I suspect, more on sound inflection and gesticulation … the Latin we learn is really Medieval Latin – constructed in the Catholic Monasteries – and as I was spewing on this thought, I looked up and followed the line of the buildings and the road-edges going away, away to a converging point as in the perspective in a drawing right across the (then) open courtyard dead straight to the front doors of the “University Of Adelaide Club”.

An accidental metaphor? Perhaps … but then it dawned on me … like, I suspect, it dawned on yourselves with many essays … this entire “education scheme” is a structure that is not necessarily about “learning” but more about “training”. Thorsten Veblen wrote (at around the year 1910) that the whole idea of higher education was really to filter out those who would be pliable and useful to the ruling class … the “leisure class” as he succinctly put it!  Your “Brother” did not teach you anything you did not already know, BB, but he did “train” you how to frame your writing to pass those exams … you were the more fortunate than I in that you were already part of an institution; St Johns … (I believe) … and were taken under wing (however reluctantly) and “skilled up”. I was from the “wasteland” … working-class/middle-aged male. I had only the enthusiasm … not the grammar! But I scraped through it all … just!

But here’s the rub: Having got that piece “The Meaning of Treason” up, it was not cross-linked to any other site that usually links The Political Sword. I saw one usual blog even linked TPS’s Xmas Cheer message! Sure, I would have liked to have seen the piece spread around, for its message rather than my vanity. Christ! … if futile vanity was all I had to boost me in my fading years, I’d rather “bare my bum in Bangalore” … but I do wonder why it was omitted … it was no more irrational or silly than any of the multitude of articles that make their way to the web. But there is one thing … and Ad Astra touched upon it when he first posted it … He said the charge of treason might make some “bristle” … and that is, I believe, where I crossed the line … and you can see it in Andrew Elders’ reply to my post there …

I had accused what could best be described as “The Fraternity” of higher education professionals, journalists and academia of a heinous crime … because there is seemingly a “common ground” understanding that is “trained” into select university graduates that (to put it simply) “one does not peach on a fellow” … one does not cross such a boundary of accusation as cannot be retracted.

To close … I remember sitting in a shell of a new building having smoko with another contractor there … the only one on this day – a tiler … an Italian … and being half-Italian myself – the conversation got around to children: “… and how many children do you have?” I asked. He was shelling a boiled egg … tilers, as a consequence of their occupation, have very short fingernails … and his short thick, calloused fingers were making a job of it … he sat silent across from me, the action in itself was an education, his fingers working on the egg and his tongue wetting his bottom lip … I thought he had not heard my question and I was about to repeat it, when he replied in a tired, fatalistic way; “I do not have any children … I have movie stars.” And he bit on the egg and stared at me … he didn’t have to explain, I knew, as I am sure you know, just what he meant.

And (bad grammar that, starting a sentence with a conjunctive!) I now use that metaphor to say that we, of the fifth estate, have few, real, Left-wing intellectual commentators, we have Grammatical Stylists …

Like many of us here and elsewhere on “progressive” sites, since the 2010 elections, I must have read thousands! … literally thousands of posts and articles, both encouraging the Left-side of politics and vilifying the LNP mob. So … taking the 2010 election result as ending in a roughly 50/50 Labor/LNP and the fact that the 2013 election ended in a LNP win, we have to conclude the intervening years and thousands of articles not only failed to deliver ONE extra vote to our side, but in fact we lost many. So whatever we argued for in those essays and articles, it was somewhat of a duffer! The argument didn’t reach the intended ears nor touched the intended minds … our direction was all wrong, it would seem.

I am suggesting we give a degree of consideration as to how we can reframe the discussion to draw in more readers.

I have an idea, but will hold off while we, I hope, give some thought on the subject.

I am going to cross-post this discussion (at least my part) to the Political Sword to see what they think.

* * * * *

Of course, things have changed for the better since the posting of that original Treason piece … thank Christ! Sites like The AIMN have a very flexible policy toward posting … even this piece is being put up on trust and many of us amateurs appreciate the opportunity to express our views without fear or favour. I was reticent to put this piece up, as it has the hallmarks of bitchiness about it … but I still think it is pertinent in the fact that there are still many who mistakenly believe that our society is best managed by that same exclusive educated middle-class that gave us the likes of Abbott and Turnbull: “Zombies in zoot-suits”. I have long called for the educated-intellectual working class to lead the revival of Australian society out of this upper-middle class joke of a democracy!

Good on you The AIMN! … Lest we forget.


  1. kerri

    Call me thin skinned but I, being the holder of a BEd, take exception to the anti educated snobbery that persists with critcs of this government. I grew up working class and under the wonderful governance of Gough, was able to enter university whilst living at home with mum and dad and receiving a weekly allowance of $10 in the late seventies. My sister did the same. We worked bloody hard to improve upon our parents and that is precisely what our parents wanted. Today I live a very confortable life but would not vote LNP if my life depended on it! I have one daughter working her way (very successfully) through uni and another who prefers to be a shop assistant. Currently I am spending roughly 3 hours a day ferrying a very bright nephew to the school where he has a scholarship as I want him to achieve the best he can. His parents have divorced and his father has been forced to live with our mother. Times are tough for him and it is the least I can do to support this boy and get him on the road to a better income.
    In the teaching profession there are few who vote right wing yet ALL have a tertiary degree. Many lawyers vote left again with their tertiary degree. I am sure there are many more educated people in professions such as journaliam and the medical profession. The main point of this comment is that I have seen many criticise and belittle education thereby setting a pretty poor example for their children and glorify the working class as honorable beyond the professional class thereby proving what the toffs believe about the left.
    An education does not make you a RWNJ nor does it make you an asshole!
    Eg; Noam Chomski? Julian Burnside? Karl Kruszelnicki? Even David Gonski?
    Similarly being an uneducated individual does not make you a left wing voter.
    If it did we could not possibly have been saddled with these half wits running the country as there are way more in the working class than tertiary educated.
    I am sorry but it is time to stop attributing evil to educational exceptionalsm and start recognising that dissing higher education makes the right more determined that the “great unwashed” don’t deserve it!

  2. guest

    Joseph, you know what the “Zombies in zoot suits” would call your lament: “identity politics”.

    It is a kind of class war – and there is danger in playing that game. It can descend into the closely related slogan: “the politics of envy”.

    We are told we should be respectful and should allow all people to have their say. But that does not mean we have to accept what is said or how it is said.

    The most outstanding example of problems of education vs ignorance is seen in the argument about Climate change. We see highly educated people denying that Climate Change is real; other highly educated people saying that Climate change is real but not so bad – and such variations that people become confused by the way ideology (conformity to a particular way of thinking) drives the way we think.

    Then there are those who rely entirely on native nous – what they think according to their experience, and sometimes it is not much.

    But if someone has much experience and accompanying knowledge then I would be willing to listen hard and and long, whether it be about medicine, science, engineering etc or about caring for my car or where would be a good place for a holiday or how to paint the roof…

    What annoys me is when someone says something not quite right and I politely tell them it is not right, then they start getting angry and accuse me of being a smart alec. Did I use the wrong tone? Did I discredit a pet idea? Did I embarrass them?

    It is frustrating when people are told they have made an error – even a little one such as a typo – and then they continue, even obstinately, to make the same mistake over and over again, as if they are past learning anything. We see it in our politics.

    So it does not help to complain that your 2013 missive was not published; or that Romans are to blame for their language being constructed in Medieval Monasteries and making it so complex; or that the people of the Adelaide Club are the same as all academics (some say academics are commies); or that there are no “educated intellectual working class” leading the Left of politics.

    In fact we get the ridiculous situation whereby Bill Shorten, well experienced in industrial relations, is called a sycophant social climber by Turnbull because he, Bill, is related to people of wealth. In other words, know your place, Bill. There is “identity politics” from the PM himself!

    In short, Joseph, if you think your Treason piece was a bit “bitchy”, it probably was. But I find your writing to be honest, from the cuff, with real experience and knowledge – and so often expressed with a touch of humour and a neat turn of phrase.

    Nil carborundum! Keep up the good work with optimism!

  3. Joseph Carli

    Kerri..Yes..I will call you thin-skinned…as those who I am calling for to stand up and be counted in the “Higher educated intellectual working class” are those who have come from a working-class background and have gone on to higher education, as against those who have skimmed through on a “safe-platform” of class-expectation.

    Not that I am dismissing those of the middle-class who have gone from private college to university of choice and are left-wing supporters…it’s just that it has to be admitted that there is a failure of communication to ‘connect” to those at the “coal-face” to get them on board..and it has to be at least entertained that it could be a language problem..

    I see a familiarity of procedure with many articles that while proposing change, would stop short at too radical change that could place a far-left political party in is why we see so much of this “both sides of politics” thingo played out all the time..yet we now have a far-right political party with its lobby groups totally screwing the nation and our “Higher-educated classes” seem to have no idea how or no intention of stopping it!…The unions are shouting out all the bloody time..John Setka, Sally McManus and Ged Kearney and others…but they have liimited public cred because of the continuous anti-union accusations from the Right-wing side of politics and MSM where are the judiciary?..not just a couple of Lefty lawyers…where are the heads of universities? where are the higher echelons of an outraged society that were always in our faces from a young age pontificating about the “fair society” and the memory of “those who suffered in the Great wars”…et-effing-cetera!

    I for one am sick to my back teeth of reading verbose, loquacious, well-framed essays on what is wrong and what WE as a society can do the alleviate the distress…I want to see more Norm Gallaghers and John Setkas and Sally McManus’s with the unions at the front of the argument for a better society…

  4. Joseph Carli

    guest..: ” So it does not help to complain that your 2013 missive was not published;”…It WAS published..edited somewhat but published …for 3 days!…it was the manner that the original crudely-written draft was received..a kind of patronising condescension that grates on the grit of the working class…that ; “we will decide what you will get outraged about and just how much outrage you will exhibit”…I get lots of things published…and with social media, I need not restrict myself to private blogs..that is the beauty of a truly democratic media..

    It is in the presumption of the language that many from the higher-educated use to overlook the fact that most of the working class DOES HAVE a clear understanding of the political situation around them..but we are not speaking the language that is most understood..Like my tiler with his succinct understanding of the behaviour of his gen Y children..the knowledge is there, but the means of expression without cruelty is not…so it is not long before goons like PHON / Abbott and co. are being advised by the likes of Textor et al on how to frame a conversation so that it fits the requirement..we have to change the conversation..

    And BTW..while I have confidence in Bill Shorten leading the party of my choice, I do keep in the back of my mind that small fact that he was the best man at Simon Breheny’s marriage…sure..that may not mean anything…but there is still too much cross-pollination of private-school chappies for my comfort.

  5. guest

    I am not sure whom you are talking about, Joseph.

    Who are the people who vote for PHON?

    Who are the people who believe refugees deserve to be locked away indefinitely?

    Who are the people who believe Adani will bring them jobs?

    Who are the people who believe if the build McMansions they too can enjoy the American/Australian dream?

    Who are the people who do not join a union but enjoy the benefits of union action?

    Who are the people who harass Muslim people and proudly claim to be of the Far Right nationalism?

    There are many people who do not have the more clear view you might have.

    There are people across the world who criticise the neo-con globalised slavery imposed on the world by a collapsing, greedy regime ruled by the 1%.

    The word is out there, no matter what the language.

  6. Joseph Carli

    guest..; ” Who are the people who vote for PHON?”…the last time I looked, I believe Malcolm Roberts got 70 odd votes and the person who will replace him got even less!…so I do not know who votes for PHON , but it can’t be many..and I could go on working my way through those points of yours one by one..but that would be futile..

    But this is why I was reticent about posting that missive..that it would turn out that I would be confronted more than the issue that most needs addressing…that of the failure of communicating our message to the voters that matter, rather than preaching to the converted for our own amusement.

    It would serve our cause better if we restructured the methodology of our communication to those voters to bring them onside..perhaps a more “familiar” form of “talking” about our politics, sprinkled with less internet links and more personal anecdote and conversing with the readers rather than lecturing on the topic.

    The politics of the future will need greater connectivity between voter and representative and as we do such, there will need to be greater confidence in our representatives and a common thread between us would create such confidence…Whatever we do, it will have to be different..and it will have to be on equal ground..

  7. guest

    OK, got it, Joseph. “…perhaps a more ‘familiar’ form of ‘talking’ about our politics, sprinkled with less internet links and more personal anecdote and example…like conversing with readers rather than lecturing on the topic”.

    And yet, you know, there are those who can pack a great deal of information, opinion and reasoning into a half hour lecture. I guess it all depends on the delivery and the mood of the audience.

    And I can appreciate a bit of ‘pub talk’, with all its informality and banter and personal experience. But that, too, can be just a matter of talking to your mates who think as you do.

    I would suggest that the AIMN forum allows both kinds of communication and a range in between. There are some who can convey a point in a single sentence. Others need a bit more space because they have more to say. But what impresses me is what people know – whether it is about facts not widely known, or information about things like MMT, or political facts from the past, etc etc.

    That is the kind of sharing iI like. And we are not far away from others who think the same and those who are turning away from the neo-con failure.

    Last election Labor missed by a whisker because Turnbull promised so much much but has turned out to be fizza. Some 22 weeks in a row the Coalition has lost the poll by a significant margin.

    So what is it that we can do differently? What is it we need to say – and how? Naomi Klein suggests we are all activists and just saying No is not enough.

    But the idea of a “common thread” between all of us is an ideal which seems to require some kind of mandatory conformity not generally accepted or practised..

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