OZ - The dumbing down of Australian professions

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The dumbing down of Australian professions

Why are our teachers so stupid? Why are our doctors so silly? Odd as it may seem, these are two manifestations of the same phenomenon.

And while as generalisations they overlook the fact that there are some intelligent teachers and sensible doctors, they both have a great deal of force.

The reason is simple: blame it on Menzies.

The greatest democratisation of tertiary education in Australian history took place as a result of the Menzies Government's introduction of the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme.

Before that it was virtually impossible for bright working-class kids to get into university other than through the teaching profession.

The only partial exception to this was the entry of mature students into the universities after the war as a result of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme which made places and subsidies available to soldiers who had fought in World War II.

Many of these had begun the war in dead-end labouring jobs, and they were intellectually awakened by the war.

The result was that teaching creamed off the best of the working-class and poor school students, and for some time we had what was probably one of the best teaching services in the world.

Our state schools were full of intellectuals and dedicated teachers who cared deeply about education and their subjects; many of them also after the war were convinced socialists or communists, and they laid the basis for the present structure of the teachers' unions.

But with Commonwealth scholarships, opportunities for entry into university were greatly expanded and in the '50s the first wave of the great expansion of universities and tertiary education began.

The quality was not all that high - we were recruiting academics of low quality from England who blighted the universities for many years.

Then came the Whitlam Government which removed the last elements of quality control, such that neither academic performance nor application to study affected progress at university; "free" education benefited the children of the middle class and was paid for by the poor.

From the '60s the baby boomers were glutting the schools, and a desperate search for teachers was going on.

As a former minister for education in South Australia, Hugh Hudson, once put it, in the '70s they were so desperate for teachers that they were taking them off the streets.

People like this are now the senior teachers of schools everywhere - in the NSW schools the average age of teachers is now 45, and rising every year.

They are tenured mediocrities or failures; many of them should never have been allowed into the schools.

Moreover, thanks to Menzies the quality of the teaching intake was declining even at the beginning of the '70s, precisely because of the improved access of the poor to university education.

It is a simple demographic fact that when the brightest working-class kids could become doctors, lawyers, bureaucrats or whatever, the average quality of the remainder of the pool which would go into teaching had to fall.

The result was very much the same as the famous quotation attributed to Kim Beazley's father: "When I joined the Labor Party its membership was drawn from the cream of the working class. Now it is the dregs of the middle class."

Now the Labor Party, especially in the inner suburbs, and the teaching profession are largely drawn from the dregs of the middle class.

Go to any Labor Party meeting in Balmain, Marrickville, Annandale or Drummoyne and you will see what I mean.

It is also true that in occupations in which hard work and intelligence produce a satisfying sense of accomplishment, union officials are drawn from the failures of the profession.

Look at any white-collar union - if you are good at your job you haven't got time to waste on this kind of thing.

That is why Public Service and teaching unions are so badly led.

By contrast, in the past, the blue-collar unions were the only available path to advancement for the energetic, bright young workers.

As a result, for years they were the best organised and most intelligently led unions in the country.

Then they began to recruit their staffs, and even their leadership, from the middle-class products of the universities (often their children) and began to deteriorate. Union leadership is rapidly becoming a hereditary caste.

And what about the doctors?

As a result of the extravagant underwriting of doctors' incomes by Medibank and Medicare, medicine became a financially attractive occupation open to everyone who could get to university; the medical faculties responded to the surge in demand for places by substantially upping the entry qualifications.

These days, to get into the best medical schools you have to have HSC results in the top 1 or 2 per cent.

But general practice these days is mainly a matter of pill-rolling, thanks to antibiotics and the pharmaceutical companies, and not at all intellectually satisfying.

However, both the learning and the practice of medicine are still very time-consuming.

The result is a medical profession full of academically intelligent but ill-educated, ill-read and bored GPs.

The worst of them go into medical politics - hence the uselessness of the AMA.

The best become specialists, and they are kept in short supply by the monopolistic entry restrictions of the specialist colleges, and inordinately long training periods.

The result, when they get through, is a small number of obscenely highly paid but very well-trained specialists.

(A mate from university days, now a leader in his field, owns seven Rolls-Royces.)

It is desirable that the brightest medical graduates should go into research or specialise.

Research is badly paid, so they specialise, earn huge amounts of money, and die rich and unhappy. Meanwhile, those in general practice lead lives of quiet desperation.

Of course, there are exceptions - I think of Dr Peter Goldsworthy, of South Australia, who is a writer and intellectual of the first rank while maintaining his general practice. But he is very unusual.

Padraic P. McGuinness


This article is of particular interest to me because I was a minor scholarship recipient as a migrant, and of a shared loathing for what is called the "American Curriculum" - the single most awful importation idea from over the big pond ever; except for Sesamy Street and the colonel's Kentucky Fried Chook.

Padraic P McGuinness makes a specialty of upsetting OZ hypocrits. He is often very controversial in his social commentary. He couldn't care less what anyone else thinks about his writing. This article is typical of his abrasive style.

I post this to contrast today's forum sundry persiflage...

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 15, 2000


What is a Menzy?

-- (Percival@SundrySundried.persiflage), April 15, 2000.

Menzies was the founder & Prime Minister of the Liberal Party after the second world war. He instigated the post war migration via his minister called Calwell to bring about the modernization of Australia by importing the workers. I am a just one of many of that mass migration to OZ.

When Menzies retired in 1966 (?) someone called Holt took office and he loved America so much that he offered to assist in Vietnam. He and LBJ went all the way! We've never forgiven Holt and it's lucky he drowned off a Southern beach or he might have been assassinated. Since then we have slid the American way being drowned out by ghetto blasters, dressing like a Simpsons cartoon dude and talking rap. Buggered if I understand.

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 15, 2000.

Just thought this gem may help;

"In 1948 I shared with thousands the gift of false prophecy. I was satisfied Tom Dewey would win the (U.S.) presidency; which goes to show what extraordinary results can happen in a country like the U.S. so backward as not to have compulsory voting." (R. G. Menzies, reported in New York 1960)


-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 15, 2000.


The dumbing down of Australian professions

Have a number of friends still in OZ. E-mailed them the article. Their response in a nutshell: Not bloody likely Or as I see it.

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), April 15, 2000.

This McGuinness report will grate the nerve-cells and is a point of view held by those who live in rare atmospheres - spoiled airs-n-graces mostly. If you reside in the country where it's a bit slower for contemplation, the view of the city gets blurred at the speed it's going at. My father retired as a teacher early, protesting the introduction of ideas and values at variance to his disciplined approach of preparing kids for the future.

Regarding doctors - well, I've personal notated as secretary certain interesting Liberal Party meetings that would make you wonder at the intelligence of certain quacks.

I hope this article really gets up some of them because in the 'land of wait-a-while' we're getting to wait a while...

Regards from OZ where that bloody KFC colonel is now playing basketball with popcorn...!Blegh!

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 15, 2000.


Here, I do live in a rural area. Can't see a house for the trees. At work, I am surrounded by Ozzies and Kiwis who have left. Must tell you something. Great folks.

Best wishes,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), April 15, 2000.


Sorry to bother you again re: this McGuinness article. For the umphteen time I've reread it and again ask why he wrote it.

The answer might well be a hardening of resolve by people of influence to get at the present incumbants. For example;
In South Australia, its leadership is publicly questioned by our richest businessman who has been recorded as saying that they are all ill-trained teachers and silver spoon doctors who never held down a real days work and no wonder the place is running rough.

This article by McGuinness will be treated as a joke in left-of- centre quarters, but it also shows you the right-wing drift and hard-ball politics coming to visit down under. That's why it was published. Not to be believable, but to continue an organised planned assault. The target of this assault are those liberal minded politicians and social engineers who are thought of as a liability. Hardball in OZ is not Yankee brash bravado - it's much more subtle and equally deadly.

I personally expect more articles like this will be coming shortly. The rebuttal of them will be made difficult because you'd appear to push against the flow. I also suspect that those who are capably trained to rebut and to debate will find it easier to retire into some enclave. Why make waves, eh? Ask certain Liberal Party backbenchers what happened to them in private last week. They won't be making waves again, that's for sure.

Meantime bliss is ignorance...

Regards from lalah-land

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 15, 2000.


The dumbing down philosophy has hit NZ as well. We used to have a very severe high school qualification system that ensured only the brightest could qualify to go to University. The weeding out process started in the 5th form (11th grade for those in USA) with the School Certificate Exam. It was graded so that only 50% of students could pass on their 1st attempt. Of those who didn't pass around 1/3 would leave school for unskilled work, and 2/3 would repeat the year.

The following year in the 6th form (12th grade)students could either take 6th certificate or University entrance exams. The 6th form certificate is effectively High School graduation, but in itself did not permit entrance to University, Only a pass in University Entrance allowed that. However, although a pass in UE showed that a student had the ability to study at University, it didn't automatically mean that he/she had all of the neccessary grounding to succeed.

There was an optional 7th form year (13th grade) where the courses were more alligned to university study, and a pass in either the University Bursary Exam, or University Scholarship exam was neccessary for entrance into courses such as Medicine or Law.

With all of this weeding out, only around 5% of New Zealand stsudents ever attained any university education, but at that stage a degree from Otago or Canturbury Universities was recognised world wide.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s the Labour Government started NZ's dumbing down by eliminating the University Entrance qualification, setting the school certificate exam so that there could be no failures, and raising the school leaving age to ensure that every stayed at school till at least the 6th form. They also stopped streaming in the schools so that the pupils who really wanted to learn would now be placed in the same classes as pupils who were just at school to fill in time till they were old enough to leave.

The overall result is that now we are seeing University Graduates applying for jobs, and presenting us with copies of their Master's thesis (which is always nicely bound and presented) that has the content I would have expected from a high school student. One young graduate we employed two years ago had an MSc (Physics) which had no reseach in the subject at all. It was on the history of physics, and at best should have earned him a BA (history).

-- Malcolm Taylor (taylorm@es.co.nz), April 15, 2000.

I've only just received one of your earlier diatribes from a friend in Washington State. I've copied some of it below; the remainder doesn't warrant a response.

'Tales of OZ

Several forum regulars have asked about Australia and whether I'd share some insights. As time allows I write stories about the Australia I know. Here's one.

The wonderful life in Australia is punctuated by the notion of 'average'. It is not the done thing to excel. To accelerate is downright anti-social and promptly squashed from an early age.

Brains are not a sporting prerequisite, so sport is exempt from the ethos of average, and sportsmen and women are highly regarded. Australians celebrate the mediocre and we are brought up to scorn the assertive. Don't make waves is the way to healthy long life Down Under, and sporting prowess is okay.

In Australia we also remember the failures. The bigger the flop the more it's remembered. Statues of the largest most impressive disasters grace our towns and cities. Queen Victoria for example and Kissinger, or Burke and Wills the explorers who successfully died.

In April we remember the monster flops. It's called ANZAC day and recalls the Australian and New Zealand Corps assault on Turkish coves and beaches during the First World War. It was a disaster and it has been made our national day of remembrance. "Lest We Forget" the gates to countless gardens proclaim and the plaques on marble statues pronounce.

Today soldier memorial halls stand empty in empty rural communities, a rusting memento to those who had no wish to forget.

Australia promptly forgot and embroiled itself in countless other failures that are remembered by marble statue and plaques.

Then we got an attack of the futility syndrome with Vietnam. The lads weren't given a welcome home bash. This was strange for a nation that requires little to have a boozy bash about. With Vietnam we lost our national sense of humour and I have picked up a few veterans from the grog abyss over time. Agent Orange did not only defoliate a foreign forest, it made a cocktail inside my friends who are now dead by adding more to it.'

You are obviously a sad and embittered person and life must be very difficult for you as you only seem to have the ability to view Australia (and life in general)through veils of cynicism.

ANZAC Day is a remembrance day for those who died as a result of the futility of war. It is not a day for remembering 'failure' as you have suggested.

Australia, along with the USA, treat its Vietnam veterans badly when they returned home. Did you bother to make the trip to Canberra when the Vietnam War Memorial was opened and there was a dawn service. I was one of the 10,000 or so who cared enough to do so.

It seems to me that you may be making excuses for your own 'mediocrity' or you are one of those unfortunate people who need to have someone or something to 'blame' for their own lack of success.

At no stage do you mention 'hard work'. It is as if you think Australia owes you everything and you owe it nothing at all. I'm glad that you are in the minority as otherwise Australia really would be in a sorry state.

-- Kerry Maszkowski (masz@southcom.com.au), April 15, 2000.

Thanks for your reply and insight. I think what we are witnessing is a return to tougher education and an expectation to perform from students. No more softly softly near enough is good enough; bleeding-hearts need not apply.

The education experiments is OZ are called the 'American Curriculum' and came via California early 1970s, and it brought open classroom learning pitched at shared speed. I might add school was boring.

This article by McGuinness sends a warning of attitude change. I'm unsure about the signals though.

It's a very interesting time because the migration office has been actively fasttracking those who wish to come, especially teachers and doctors.

Kerry Maszkowski,
I was self-employed at 17. I continue to do well. At one stage I employed 8 people of which 3 were Vietnam Vets, who were not well.

You may think I am a cynic, but I'm more a skeptic. That's earned the hard way. It's earned the working way when creditors play doggo and a property is lost. Yes, I'm distrustful, especially of the 'she'll be right blokes'.

I'm glad my one Tale of OZ irritates you. That's good. You'll be lots more irritated in the months ahead as the real stories of OZ come into play, stories about GST, inequity in rural regions and water/salt degradation.

Yup. Diatribe was on the floor of the House of Representatives when Paul Keating gave his 'stunned mullet' dressing down of the Senate - those unrepresentative swill for the Australian States. That was a performance none of the soft-boiled eggs we field today can match.

By the way, I've visited the Canberra War Museum thrice. It's one of the more moving experiences and recommended. The only thing that comes close is standing in Rotterdam gazing at the twisted contortion of a statue without a heart. Now that's emotional.

Playing it tough in OZ.

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 16, 2000.

Pieter You seem to have skirted around my questions/comments. How about addressing them first before we continue this discussion. The fact that at one time you ran your own business means little to me at this stage. I have lived in both rural and major capital city areas and I still can't work out why you seem to be so anti-everything. Re your 'unrepresented swill' comment, as you are aware, voting is compulsary in Austrlaia. Your cooment appears to be a 'red herring'. Pieter, are you a frustrated anarchist....you seem to be showing all the signs?

-- Kerry Maszkowski (masz@southcom.com), April 16, 2000.

"It seems to me that you may be making excuses for your own 'mediocrity' or you are one of those unfortunate people who need to have someone or something to 'blame' for their own lack of success.

At no stage do you mention 'hard work'. It is as if you think Australia owes you everything and you owe it nothing at all. I'm glad that you are in the minority as otherwise Australia really would be in a sorry state. "

These are your words Kerry. They forfeit debate. You played the person and not the message.

I'm just a storyboarder. I tell tales and do research assisting some politicals as barometer. Normally I am backrooming, but there's anarchy in the web. Please stop feeling protective of Australia. It ought to be big enough to accommodate diversity of ideas and reflection. It is.

My barometer reported 3 years ago the Liberals will factionize big time. Some laughted. Nobody's laughing now.

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 16, 2000.


You still did not answer my questions and I am starting to think you may be a disgruntled public servant who is looking for a redundancy package??? If that is not the case, and you find Australia so abhorrent, why don't you go and live somewhere else? eg The Nederlands, given that you are so positive where they are concerned (your own words) Anyone with any sense at all accepts that Australia is a young nation with a tiny population. We have done well in the few short years that we have been a 'nation'. Your negative attitude does an incredible amount of harm.

You are representing yourself as an 'Australian' but your words and sensibilities do not convey that feeling. Do you think you are an "Australian" because you have gone through some sort of ritual that gives you dual citizen ship?

From my perspective ( and yes, it is personal) you sound like someone from The Nederlands or Sud Africa with a chip on their shoulder. What this country neds is positive thinking and input noy the negative sort of garbage you seem willing to produce.

Perhaps if you spent your time in trying to build something positive for this nation you could actually make a valuable contribution. As things stand, you are just another blowfly who calls him/herself an "Aussie"

-- Kerry Maszkowski (masz@southcom.com.au), April 17, 2000.

"Peschardt has a more personal view. "I think it's a country that's changing very fast and probably changing faster than people here realise or appreciate. I've seen massive change in the 10 years I've been here. On the positive side, there is undoubtedly greater wealth and a much more responsible attitude towards environmental matters, but there has been a massive shift away from egalitarianism too. "

Story Link

By your rant I know you are amazed that someone like me can say that Waltzing Matilda is a jaunty ditty about a thief.

May I point to the title/theme of this thread. You've been granted a liberal portion of intelligence Kerry. Use it.

This conversation could be quite interesting, but you presume to lecture. Are you a product of our grand education system?

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 17, 2000.


I didn't intend to lecture and yes, I probably am a by-product of the Australian system of State education in the 1950's and 60's. I am also just returning to tertiary studies after a 30+year break and I think you'll have to take my simplistic view point into account.

I'm not here to score points; simply to have the same right of free speech that you espouse. I am proud of my country so why shouldn't I say so? I am also aware that there are a lot of problems in Australia that need addressing but, to date, I haven't yet come across a problem free nation (and I have travelled extensively).

What I truly dislike are the 'knockers' (anarchists?) that want to destroy the present system even though they have no idea how to go about making this a better place for us all. By 'all' I mean our indigenous people, the core of our nation (migrants from other countries) and those born in Australia.

Yes, I was born in Australia and my family has lived here since the early 1800's and yes, I have worked for the Federal Government. My partner is Dutch/Polish extraction and was born in the Nederlands and came here at the age of 7. Many of our friends/relatives live all over the world so we are not quite as insulated as you may think because we have chosen to live in Tasmania.

I am new to this type of discussion forum so I am not really sure whether I should be quoting from some obscure, intellectual text or whether I am allowed to say what I think and feel?

-- Kerry (masz@southcom.com.au), April 22, 2000.

Welcome to the forum anarchy - you'll run the gamut of every emotion I'm sure, and know seething malcontents with brilliance and with mush for brains. This forum has had my daily visit for over 18 months and, like others, I have experienced the emotional ranges it presents. This forum is alive - an antnest. It is also daft and dull at times. Sometimes it's even hilarious with everybody nuts-upa-cellrelaytower.

This forum is also American, with attitudes about the world that at best are wobbly and often just plain off-mark. It has given me an education hard to repay.

Guns are an issue. Their thoughts about Australia are interestingly out of wack to actuality. Nothing I can post will change 70 million gunowners thinking.

But mostly it is about sharing. It's a priviledge.

So, welcome Tasmanian. If you read an American post blatantly at variance to your experience, dare to challenge. And do not mind the rough-n-tumble, but ignore the Trolls - the baiters! They are just needlessly pesky.

Yup. I think the forum modurator is a regular cool dude. He threatened me with expulsion once when I dared to post a centrefold of a kangaroo in a compromising pose showing off his balls and pride. Dr Schenker went apoplectic with indignation and he required councilling.


-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), April 22, 2000.

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