This is not a chicken and egg problem

Judith Brett – Emeritus Professor of Politics at La Trobe University – has an op-ed in The Age today.  She is singing the praises of humanities degrees and also putting the boot into the Coalition.

She is not wrong in emphasising the value of a humanities education. But … as she points out – Australian universities are failing in that regard.

Across the country, many of Australia’s humanities and social science departments are imploding: minimal language teaching; faculties without philosophy; English departments with no subject on Shakespeare, let alone Australian literature; visual art departments studying no art history prior to 1900; politics departments with nothing on America and barely anything on Australia; and so on.

I think that is an accurate description. Who is to blame for this sorry mess. This is where we disagree – the universities themselves are to blame. Who does Judith Brett blame?

The hostility of the Coalition to the humanities is deep-seated. As one senior university manager told me, ‘‘Every interaction I have with Canberra turns into a diatribe about Marxist feminist identity theorists crushing academic freedom.’’

This obsession with the culture wars and identity politics is distracting the Coalition and its right-wing supporters from the main story. It is not identity politics but the shrinking of humanities and social science faculties and curriculum across the country that is the biggest threat to our young people’s education, preventing them from studying the cultural riches of the past and knowing much about world history.

It is not Coalition hostility that has led to the decline in Humanities education – the decline in Humanities education and the rise of identity politics and various forms of ‘critical theory’ is what has given rise to that hostility.

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41 Responses to This is not a chicken and egg problem

  1. stevem says:

    It was not the Coalition or the right that went crazy at the idea of introducing the Ramsay school for western civilization. The idea that

    The hostility of the Coalition to the humanities is deep-seated

    is disingenuous, the hostility comes from within the education system itself.

  2. max says:

    Ever since the days of ancient Egypt, priesthoods of various denominations have had an alliance with the state. They trained the next generation of literate bureaucrats.
    The state wanted literate bureaucrats. The priesthood wanted state support. It was a convenient alliance. It still is. In our day, the priests are priests because they are certified by the state to do the training. This is called academic accreditation. The priests are agents of the state.
    All of this has rested on a myth: the myth of classroom education.

    Australia’s universities are bloated with money, intellectually corrupt, and totally unable to prepare kids for today’s world.

    Maxwell Newton, “The Failure of Education,” Australian Penthouse, March 1980, pp. 44-52.

    The lies they teach our children: Vipers in the nation’s classrooms

    All around the country, teachers are giving our children a diet of intellectual poison.
    Greg Sheridan, The Weekend Australian, February 2-3, 1985, p. 1, 12.

    Peter Farrell compares Australian universities to nursing homes

    Peter C. Farrell, “Australian universities: A critique,”
    Engineers Australia, August 24, 1984, pp. 42-47.

  3. Roger W says:

    As one senior university manager told me, ‘‘Every interaction I have with Canberra turns into a diatribe about Marxist feminist identity theorists crushing academic freedom.’’
    I wonder why…
    Couldn’t possibly be because that is what is happening in today’s universities. No, must be those nasty Coalition people who just don’t understand.

  4. candy says:

    I tend to think Julia Gillard is responsible for a lot of this. Standards in primary schools slipped down in her time and never recovered. She put a lot of emphasis on girls being victims of sexism and misogyny and making kids scared the earth was about to burn up and kill them all, and not near enough attention to a proper education and it has just exploded into what it is today.

  5. Roger says:

    …the shrinking of humanities and social science faculties and curriculum across the country… is the biggest threat to our young people’s education…

    The biggest threat to our young people’s education is teachers.

    That’s the reason why parents who actually want their children to study the riches of our cultural past seek out alternatives to mainstream education, including home schooling, which is booming.

  6. Sinclair Davidson says:

    I tend to think Julia Gillard is responsible for a lot of this.

    I think the problems with humanities education long predate Julia Gillard’s tenure as education minister.

  7. Leo G says:

    It is not identity politics but the shrinking of humanities and social science faculties and curriculum across the country that is the biggest threat …

    How should we address the victimhood of the faculties, but by better defining the threat with more funds for identity politics in the curriculum?

  8. Bad Samaritan says:

    max (10.55am) I like the suggested linkies since they’ll no doubt accord with my already-formed opinions, but I’m afraid I am unable to read Penthouse for the articles. Is this some kinda irony?

  9. gavalanche says:

    arts and sciences are university. period.

    arts=
    history
    religion
    philosophy
    literature
    languages

    sciences =
    physics
    chemistry
    biology
    mathematics
    geology

    jungian psychology is the bridge between the arts and the sciences
    that explains why JP stands out.

  10. cuckoo says:

    Every interaction I have with Canberra turns into a diatribe about Marxist feminist identity theorists crushing academic freedom.

    Yes…and?….

    Surely the most accurate and concise statement to ever come out of Canberra.

  11. cuckoo says:

    I was recently at a lunch where almost everyone except me was some kind of progressive/left, late-career humanities academic. The kind of people who hated Tony Abbott, loved Turnbull, hate Trump, despise Trump voters, hate George Pell and think he ‘got away with it’, etc. But gathered amongst themselves, they each told their tales of woe and outrage at having to deal with and knuckle under to their clueless ‘woke’ students, and wondered how long it could last. They were particularly scathing about pronouns.

  12. Dr Faustus says:

    I tend to think Julia Gillard is responsible for a lot of this.

    I think the problems with humanities education long predate Julia Gillard’s tenure as education minister.

    Anyone wanting someone to blame should perhaps examine John Dawkins and the Hawke/Keating Government. That appears to be the kick-off point for the current crop of undergrad degree factories, bobbing along on low-effort/low-return research of the ‘critical theory’ kind – and spreading the tertiary dollar thin.

    And another thing, decline in standards is certainly not just a humanities thing. The STEM sector has also been affected by the technical equivalent of cutting Shakespeare off the syllabus.

    You have to shuffle the pile to find a newly minted engineer who is competent in mathematics.

  13. Scott Osmond says:

    So every interaction turns in to a diatribe. Great the SFL’s understand that there is a problem. Now grow a pair and stop complaining and do something. You do know that you have been in power for 18 of the last 24 years? and you wonder why voters like myself are wandering off to look for a party that will actually do something.

  14. JohnJJJ says:

    Uni’s should go back to: grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry and music.
    Everything else is a trade and best taught on the job.
    Anything else is a scam and racketeering.

  15. areff says:

    Exhibit A: Professor Bruce Pascoe.

  16. Ragu says:

    “the decline in Humanities education and the rise of identity politics and various forms of ‘critical theory’ is what has given rise to that hostility.”

    No doubt. Check this shit out

    In Australia most research is conceived, conducted and interpreted by non-Indigenous people who are largely of middle class Ango-Celtic origin. Consequently, the research decisions made reflect the social norms, values and beliefs of the non-Indigenous. This has lead to a lot of research that effectively stigmatises Indigenous people, thus reinforcing racism.

    The reasons for this not only reflect the dominance of the biomedical model of health, which was conceived in Europe and the United States, but also Western neoliberal culture that values individualism over collectivism and regards individual responsibility as the pathway to good health. It is at odds with the Indigenous perspective on health. Imposing such beliefs and values through prioritising this type of research is, arguably, racist.

    Read it all if you feel you would like to chuck up.

    The statistical analysis accompanying the piece is equally enlightening. They revised the numbers to find MORE racism, by racially excluding a whole bunch of people.

    The Lowitja Institute almost completely gives it all away from this in their deficit discourse crappola

    A focus on a limited range of indicators and targets can at time eclipse the reasons underlying statistical differences. This includes lack of access to appropriate health services, structural inequalities, racism in the provision of health care, as well as the different values and life choices made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that at times fall outside mainstream norms.

  17. Simple Simon says:

    It is not Coalition hostility that has lead to the decline in Humanities education – it is the rise of identity politics and various forms of ‘critical theory’ that has done so.

    Fixed it for you.

    So long as you argue in the terms laid down for you by the Left you will lose.
    Stop doing so.

  18. Simple Simon says:

    PS–It should be ‘led’, not ‘lead’.

  19. Tom says:

    Everything that happens this year in Australian politics is about the 2022 federal election — especially for academics, who see themselves as gatekeepers of the narrative.

    They’re incandescent with jealousy and rage that Australia’s doesn’t have a corrupted voting system like America’s, which would remove the need for politicians to even pretend they’re serving the public.

    Academics lead the push to abolish democracy. Much better to have rule by unelected, self-appointed “experts” like them.

    Their fascism is showing.

  20. miltonf says:

    Brett just sounds like another marxist don who’s been around far too long

  21. mundi says:

    Just like how women will be the big losers of this gender redefinition… the old style history and humanities is big loser to the modern made by social pseudo science topics taught in universities.

    You can get a useful historian degree majoring in gospel of western civilisation, but you will be able to get a degree in gender studies majoring in the poverty of eldery windows.

  22. Roger says:

    I think we are seeing a concerted effort on the part of the Australian prog-left, led by the ABC, to ensure Morrison & Co. lose the next election. Having witnessed wht their fellow travvelers achieved in the US, they are flexing their muscle here. Morrison is being held responsible for everything from the collapse of educational standards in universities to a drunken young woman being allegedly raped in Parliament House. As bad as the Morrison government is, these are not their failures.

  23. miltonf says:

    One of the many bad things resulting from Canbra meddling in higher ejucashun is the plague of lawyers that is crippling the real economy.

    Consider 1970 – SU, UNSW, MU, Monash, UQ, Adelaide, UWA, UT- 8 law schools.

    Think of all the additional diddly squat bum institutions that annually churn out these parasites and mischief makers.

  24. Roger says:

    Consider 1970 – SU, UNSW, MU, Monash, UQ, Adelaide, UWA, UT- 8 law schools.

    2021 – 38!

  25. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    The Left loves to redefine the meaning of words. Now “humanities” means boilerplate Marxist and green-progressive propaganda.

    If you want to study humanities the only place in Australia you now can do so is from home via your internet connection. Read all the classics. Forget universities, they’ll feed you mindless rubbish and charge you for the privilege.

  26. JohnJJJ says:

    Think of all the additional diddly squat bum institutions that annually churn out these parasites and mischief makers.

    The most interesting part of the profession of lawyers is that they can create their own need and expand it. Very smart and now used by specialist around the world. A lawyer can make a contract so obscure, convoluted and full of double negatives ( in the interests of the client of course) that only another lawyer can understand it. It is similar to hiring a dentist to destroy your teeth so other dentists can have work.
    One of the more attractive parts of the Shari’a is that the law must be understood by the average Bedouin.

  27. H B Bear says:

    If we could the humanities and the Coalition how is that not a win-win?

  28. H B Bear says:

    * could destroy

  29. Spurgeon Monkfish III says:

    one senior university manager told me, ‘‘Every interaction I have with Canberra turns into a diatribe about Marxist feminist identity theorists crushing academic freedom.’’

    To be added to the ever expanding file of “Things that never happened”.

  30. Frank says:

    Judith Brett – Emeritus Professor of Politics at La Trobe University.

    You think this one is unaware of what is happening in universities? To pose the question is to have it answered.

  31. Pyrmonter says:

    As yet a further example of the decline …

    When I began studying Economics and then Law, I wanted to keep up my High School German. The university then sported two Professors, a Reader, at least 4 Senior Lecturers, 3 Lecturers and a permanent Tutor in German Language and Literature. Checked last year – only the Tutor (an old apologist for the DDR) is still on staff, the Department has been dissolved and it appears no-one studies it. It wasn’t the only thing I studied (and other areas are obviously more financially rewarding) but … the idea that no-one in a G8 university now opens up works by Fontane or Duerrenmatt or Boell is quite dismaying.

  32. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Roger, @miltonf

    I’m waiting for that bubble to burst. It’s a scandalous waste of student’s energy.

    @Stevem

    I’m not persuaded on the Ramsay issue: while the opposition to it comes from people whose judgement I distrust, I’m not convinced the ‘survey of the horizon of ‘Civilisation” is a better way to educate than a traditional undergraduate education in a language, in Philosophy etc. It smacks of the sort of ‘1000 facts’ books that used to be popular gifts for children in the 70s and 80s: good for answering trivia questions, but I’m not sure much else.

  33. Entropy says:

    Anyone wanting someone to blame should perhaps examine John Dawkins and the Hawke/Keating Government. That appears to be the kick-off point for the current crop of undergrad degree factories, bobbing along on low-effort/low-return research of the ‘critical theory’ kind – and spreading the tertiary dollar thin

    Quite effing so.

  34. The Sheriff says:

    Roger says:
    April 9, 2021 at 1:05 pm
    Consider 1970 – SU, UNSW, MU, Monash, UQ, Adelaide, UWA, UT- 8 law schools.

    2021 – 38!

    how many of the new rubbish law factories actually produce good lawyers let alone senior judges or QCs? We should turn back the clock to 1970 and both society and economy would be better off with fewer idiots with rubbish ability getting a law degree

  35. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    Humanities degrees ? Since when did we need a deree to prove we were human ?
    Bloody interferein acamadics.

  36. Nob says:

    I second what Tom said about 2022 elections.
    This is the campaign.
    How they envy the appearance of COVID in trump’s re-election year!
    How they hate the humiliation of losing in 2019 when they already had the champagne uncorked!

    If they could extend COVID and use it as an excuse for massive increase in postal voting they would.

    I’ve been predicting since the upsets of 2016 that the left’s next campaign would be against the secret ballot. “The Australian ballot” as Americans used to call it is under threat.

  37. billie says:

    Across the country, many of Australia’s humanities and social science departments are imploding

    darn those consequences!

    however, like a turnbull or rudd, it’s always someone else’s dark plans thwarting them, not because they are poisonous scumbags or their utterly unpopular and unwanted designs on society

  38. Ozman says:

    The now deceased Aaron Russo says that Nicholas Rockefeller told him that the Rockefeller Foundation funded the feminist movement, and this no doubt spread into the humanities.

  39. Ozman says:

    max says:
    April 9, 2021 at 10:55 am
    Maxwell Newton, “The Failure of Education,” Australian Penthouse, March 1980, pp. 44-52.

    Maxwell Newton measures bullshit tertiary schooling:

    What is there to show for the great boom of the Seventies on Australian tertiary education?

    There is an army of graduates in “liberal arts, business studies and teacher education” who will simply have to be absorbed into the various Public Services, including the State teacher systems.

    There is nowhere else for this unshod, tattered army of unemployables to go. Only in the Public Service (including the State teacher system) can these unfortunates be given the sort of salaries they have been led to expect, but which they manifestly do not deserve.

    Sinclair has a point about the era of debased humanities preceding Gillard valueless contribution to education. She emerged from it.

  40. Boambee John says:

    Maxwell Newton measures bullshit tertiary schooling:

    What is there to show for the great boom of the Seventies on Australian tertiary education?

    There is an army of graduates in “liberal arts, business studies and teacher education” who will simply have to be absorbed into the various Public Services, including the State teacher systems.

    There is nowhere else for this unshod, tattered army of unemployables to go. Only in the Public Service (including the State teacher system) can these unfortunates be given the sort of salaries they have been led to expect, but which they manifestly do not deserve.

    Maxwell Newton knew the ostrich?

  41. a reader says:

    It really should be called Hypocritical Theory because all exponents of it are hypocrites.

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