A week of well-articulated rants

17 Jun

The idea behind this series of ‘well-articulated rants’ in which past and former students give their thoughts on the real value of the student allowance was triggered by an idiotic comment on facebook about students. The comment was nothing new, the same old ‘well why don’t they get a job and start contributing to society’ mantra that is often repeated but rarely elaborated on. However in the context of the changes to the student allowance system to which the person was referring, the comment took on new significance. It had become an opinion that the government had effectively sanctioned through their decision to cut allowances to post-graduate students. During the coming week, ElevenHoursAhead will be posting the thoughts of past and current students on the flaws in this new policy. The criticisms come from many angles ranging from the impracticality of the policy change and its unethical nature to broader concerns about the type of society it will contribute to creating.

I write this as someone who has benefited immensely from the student allowance system. Not once did I feel ungrateful, or like I was entitled to a free ride from the government. I wanted to work hard and to discover the world for myself, all I was ever asking was for the government to back me in this. I was the first in my family to do post-graduate study and it took me a long time to feel like I had the right to be there. Despite having a very supportive family who encouraged me in everything I did, there were always thoughts lingering in the back of my mind telling me that I was not smart enough to be there, that perhaps I was better suited to a less intellectual path in life. Ideas about who has the right to be pursing academic careers based on their family history and circumstances can work in subtle ways to direct the paths we take. So, there is something almost inspiring about having a government that says to you: “you know what, you might feel like you’re not smart enough to be there but we don’t care about your history, we think that you can really make something of the world and we want to support you in this”.

A common theme that runs through all of the posts is a profound feeling of anger and frustration at the dismissive way that the government has treated students and disregarded the value of equitable education in creating a progressive, fair, equal, prosperous and creative society. Therefore these ‘rants’ should not just be seen as rants, but as evidence of the ways that education benefits society through the creation of citizens who think critically, articulate themselves clearly and use what they have learnt to push for positive change.

So, please come back to EHA tomorrow for the first ‘rant’ from Kiri Stevens.

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