University degrees:

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Who needs four uni degrees or even one for that matter?”  (yesterday, item 13). Adam Creighton needs to reflect on the last time he saw an Australian worker digging a hole with a shovel or sweeping a street with a broom. His suggestion in his article that the range of jobs performed by Australians may not have really changed is simply idiotic.

Underpinning his support for Tony Abbott’s statement that only the “right” students should continue past year 10 is the obvious question of exactly who are the “right” students, and how they would be selected. In the past we had such a system in this country and the selection was made on the basis of social class. He makes no alternative suggestion.

He criticises continuing school education on the grounds that it may not be perfect, another fatuous argument. He makes no mention of the suite of accountability and performance measures that are progressively being introduced.  Nor does he mention the skill shortage in this country that presumably will magically resolve itself without education or training.

In comparing the skills acquired 100 hundred years ago with those required today he mentions only the acquisition of low-level computer skills. The education system of 100 years ago was designed to produce marginally literate process workers. The current education system for all of its faults recognises that producing citizens who have such process skills that will allow them to compete on a global market with the rubber sandal makers of Pakistan is not the best outcome for our society. There is much, much more that is done in our classrooms to equip students to operate in a modern rapidly changing economy, competing on a global stage.

He suggests that the lack of growth in productivity in Australia is somehow related to our education system, while his colleagues of a similar political bent believe that it is primarily due to our industrial relations system, and the most likely cause is related to huge investment expenditure that has yet to result in a profit.

There is no question that we have problems in our education system, but this contribution takes us nowhere.

Geoff Coyne writes: Adam Creighton’s critique of education is about the level of discussion that one hears in public bars after one too many drinks.

According to Creighton (M.Phil Oxford), education standards have not only not improved, they might be lower than 100 years ago, as exemplified by low standards in English and mathematics. Many courses in secondary and tertiary institutions offer society no economic benefit. The longer time people spend in education lessens their economically productive life.

Where is the recognition of personal growth and development from education? Of the social benefits to society from a better educated population?

Creighton might be better served by resuming his former (economically productive) position of award winning checkout operator at Woolworths, instead of writing such ill informed critiques from his office at the Centre for Independent Studies.

Peter Lloyd  writes: Adam Creighton of the Centre of Independent Studies is absolutely right. Since universities were handed over to market forces, education standards have declined. Getting numbers in has meant passing those who shouldn’t, and offering courses in “what people like” rather than what the economy needs. A look at the TV guide will explain why we had so many law courses in the 1990s, and many police-forensic courses now.

Enlightened central planning would go a long way toward improving this situation, as would removing the influence of organisations that incubate these individuals who have three degrees but only the most rudimentary general knowledge. Organisations like, say, the think tanks whose proliferation and insidious spouting of vested interests contributes nothing to the national good.


Andrew Tiedt writes: Re. “The Power Index: lobbyists, GetUp’s Simon Sheikh at #4” (yesterday, item 10). Was disappointed to see Crikey/The Power Index mindless repeat Simon Sheikh’s claim that GetUp! has 587,000 members.

As (I thought) everyone knows, anyone who signs a GetUp! Petition is automatically counted as a member, which means the figure of 587,000 drastically overstates their true reach. It would include me, given I have signed a few of their petitions, even though I don’t get their emails and disagree with many of their positions.

According to the GetUp! website, in the last year a little over 70,000 people have actually donated money — probably a far fairer reflection of the community’s engagement with the group, although presumably many of those 70,000 only donated to support a particular campaign or issue.

Don Rothwell:

Steve Crilly writes: Re. “Would uranium sales to India breach a key Labor treaty?” (yesterday, item 11). How on earth did you end up with “ANU Professor of International Law Nicholas Rothwell”?

Professor Don Rothwell, whose name is on the document that Bernard Keane is quoting, is on TV and radio all the time.