No amount of Gonski funding can educate our bogans

Mathew Cummins writes: I was surprised that Dr Alex Douglas’ “bogan” comments didn’t get a mention in Crikey yesterday, so here goes. Essentially he said that Tasmania was a state with a lot of people who “wear Ugg boots, watch Big Brother and consume rubbish food, tacky clothing and [live] empty lives”.

He was emailing in reference to another PUP member, but I want to pick up on his theme rather than the particulars that lead to the comments. At first I thought Douglas was speaking about Queensland, and he struck a chord with me.

I have just returned from working in a western Queensland mining/cattle town where my neighbours earned very good money for jobs that most people could learn in six weeks: truck driving, low-level drilling, OH&S services and the like. Even the supposedly educated engineers and teachers in the town seemed to be all on Xanax or clones from some failed space invasion. They owned motorbikes and speed boats for recreation. They spoke about the commercial TV shows with rare animation. The only interesting hobby seemed to be beer brewing, which they had down to a fine art.

Conversations were always about those favourites of gregarious dills: food shows, clothes, shopping, real estate prices and the internet. The election threw them into a spin, for they were either the children of miners who vaguely knew they should defend the Labor Party or they were new to large amounts of money with no clue that they were the recipients of a lucky time — not the  deserving aspirants of the Liberal Party. In either case they just didn’t care all that much.

Douglas mentioned that their lives are empty, and it is this point that really struck me, because they pass this lack of interest in ideas onto their children. There is no conversation around the dinner table of large matters. No books on the shelves that couldn’t be bought by the kilo at Kmart. The older children are pleasantly stupid — already stuck with the high ambition of playing in a rock band, working in the mines or on a station. The reality is that they usually end up at the Woollies checkout or clerking at the Target store. I was particularly struck that in a local  high school of 600 children there was only one class of year 12s specifically looking at university.

We are as a nation currently in angst about our educational rankings — around 15th, with the Chinese ranked first. These parents and their offspring are the ones we are talking about. Children are almost totally reflective of their parents’ ambience and they have all stopped thinking (or more likely, never started) and their children reflect this. “Dad didn’t get past year 10 and he’s doing alright!”

No amount of Gonski money will fix this lack of academic ambition. Only a complete revolution in what society values and encourages will urge the next generation to aim a little higher than riding unlicensed motorcross bikes over public parks. Chinese parents are not perfect and indeed may be as shallow in their pursuit of education as ours are in hedonism, but they at least get their children to the point where they can make a decision from knowledge rather than pig-ignorance.

NZ Nationals have a lot to crow about

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Stop cheering the NZ government for good economic management ” (yesterday). Spruiking is part of the political game. Michael Ganley made some points about the claimed overselling of the merits of the current New Zealand government and underselling of his government. No surprises so far.

The relativism he makes with Australia I think is faulty. I had a look through the economic indicators in the recent Economist, and basically Australia is doing well relative to most of the world. New Zealand is not that far behind. The fact both are not climbing up from vast depths of economic decline relative to other nations should be noted.

You don’t have to travel much in either New Zealand or eastern Australia to be struck by the huge number of New Zealanders working in Australia, before or after the GFC, and the lower wages and living standards in New Zealand.

The NZ Nationals can reasonably argue economic and fiscal success. NZ Labour will seek to argue otherwise, but John Key can argue it well and contrast favourably with much of the world. On that he will be on comparatively good ground to spruik his case.

Howl down the News Corp stalking horses

John Gleeson writes: Re. “Standing up to Murdoch” (yesterday). I couldn’t agree more with Roger Somers, except to remind him that the inane attacks by Bernardi and the pathetic crew at News Corp are stalking horses testing the water before contemplating further moves to emasculate the ABC.  Even with an abundance of excellent journalists, everyone concerned with the future of the ABC and of free speech in this country needs to be active in defence of our rights.  The idea of the likes of Bolt, Sheridan and Co dictating what the truth is should be howled down by everyone.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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