Monday, May 27, 2013

Blue-collar blues as uni equality fails by degrees

Michael Thompson points out below  the lower participation by working class people in higher education but omits to make a case for that being a bad thing.  With tradesmen making a mint and graduates flipping hamburgers, I suspect it is a good thing

WHY has the participation rate in higher education of people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds - in effect the working class - changed so little during the past 40 or 50 years?

The Whitlam government's abolition of university fees from 1974 ushered in "free" education. However, "equal" education proved more elusive. According to Gough Whitlam's private secretary, Peter Wilenski, the effect of abolishing fees was "found to have had no impact on the socioeconomic distribution of the origins of university students, and was in effect a direct handout to the better off".

Several government discussion papers and the like have reviewed higher education, including the 1996 report by the then Higher Education Council and the 2008 Bradley report. They tell of little change in the participation of low SES students in higher education, with their overall proportion of enrolment having remained static at about 15 per cent across the past two decades. The latest statistics show their proportion at only 16.7 per cent of total commencements last year. And, even if more working class students attend university in the 2010s, their numbers will likely be far exceeded by increases in students coming from better-off families.

Women made up 51 per cent of all students by 1989, with those from middle-class backgrounds now over-represented by 10-15 per cent. Although women's participation is skewed towards arts-humanities, health and education, they are underrepresented in higher-degree research programs.

As for the future, the government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that by 2020 "20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments in higher education should be students from low socioeconomic backgrounds".

But people of low SES make up 25 per cent of the population (to this day they participate at only a little more than half their proportion of the population). Further, their target date of 2020 falls 12 years after it was recommended, and 46 years after Whitlam abolished fees.

The government's target for the low SES evinces a certain lack of urgency on its part. What's been going on?

In 1996, the HEC's chairman, Gordon Stanley, was adamant that the reason for the under-representation in higher education of people from low SES backgrounds is not "barriers to access"; rather, it is their "individual and family attitudes and values about higher education".

Coming from an Anglo-Celtic working-class family, and growing up in the 1950s and 60s, I naturally thought of getting a good job, an apprenticeship. Like most of those of my age around me, my horizons were narrow. No one among my immediate family or relatives had ever finished high school. And there were few visible examples of working-class success. I lacked confidence in my intellectual ability. I never dreamed of going to university.

More insidiously, the working class almost invariably is portrayed by the progressive entertainment industry and media as at best buffoons and at worst proto-Nazis. Lately it is spoken of sneeringly as "bogan". Lindsay Tanner writes that "bogan is the new word for working class", and says calling someone bogan "has become an all-purpose put-down. If you want to label someone crass, crude and stupid, bogan is the word for you."

If people are told often enough that they're dummies with nasty little prejudices, they come to believe it; they internalise it. This stereotyping of the working class as unfit serves to mask the progressives' own class interest.

The HEC warned in its report that if "the desired results to have student population more representative of the groups in the community are to be achieved, the over-representation of other groups will have to be reduced". It's a zero-sum game (in which the losses exactly equal the winnings); an increase in students from the working class means fewer from professional families, many of whom are progressives, whose main asset is knowledge: their university degrees.

The government supported the Bradley report's recommendation that institutions determine how many students to enrol; on the face of it, then, no more zero-sum game.

However, those from low SES backgrounds are likelier to have attended disadvantaged schools. They are typically ill-prepared for university and so do not satisfy the higher entry requirements for so-called professional degrees such as medicine and law, enrolling instead in business (economics and accounting) and arts-humanities.

The abolition of student quotas has seen universities lower entry requirements; now almost anyone is accepted into business and arts-humanities degrees at non-sandstone universities.

Students enrolled in business are often forced to pay the same HECS fees as those in professional degrees (although students in arts-humanities pay less). The money paid by these students has been used to cross-subsidise those in medicine and law. In effect, low SES students are subsidising wealthier students who have attended selective and non-parish Catholic schools where they have been groomed for university studies. A perverse outcome - reminding one of Wilenski's observation.

Where to begin anew?

Why not broaden working-class youths' horizons, and put an end to the undermining of their confidence?

The government supported outreach activities in communities with poor higher education participation rates, along with institutions and schools raising the aspirations of people from low SES backgrounds to attend university.

They may help broaden horizons, but as the figures quoted earlier indicate governments' track record with programs is not encouraging.

Governments could review their advertisements that reinforce the stereotyping of working-class families as dysfunctional, such as those censuring violence against women and the irresponsible behaviour by parents that can lead to underage drinking, as they almost invariably show working-class husbands, boyfriends and fathers as the perpetrators.

The government also may want to consider a prominent and ongoing national advertising campaign encouraging participation in higher education, featuring working-class male and female success stories as role models. Use of the media in this way could go a long way towards broadening working-class youths' horizons and boosting their confidence.


Homosexual nurse admits murder of old folk

As a 35-year old geriatric nurse with no family he was obviously going nowhere vocationally or in any other way so he apparently needed something to make him feel good about himself. Being Asian probably made him feel an outsider too. That he was interviewed by police BEFORE the fire suggests that he had already begun to behave erratically

No mention below of Mr Dean's "partner".  Asians are normally very law-abiding

EMOTIONS ran high for the families of 11 elderly people killed in a Sydney nursing home blaze as they heard the man responsible for their care plead guilty to murdering them.

On the first day of his four-week murder trial, Roger Dean, 37, stood with eyes downcast and hands clasped as he quietly said "guilty" to 11 counts.

He also admitted to causing grievous bodily harm to a further eight residents who were injured in the Quakers Hill nursing home fire.

Family members in the packed courtroom cried and one woman ran out of court sobbing loudly as Dean admitted his guilt.  Outside they clung to each other and wept.

Dean, who worked as a nurse in the home, started the fire in two parts of the building on November 18, 2011.

He appeared on national television in the aftermath of the blaze, describing his efforts to help rescue those trapped inside.

Firefighters and paramedics who battled the fire and helped rescue the frail residents described it as one of the worst scenes they had ever dealt with.

Elly Valkay, whose 90-year-old mother was killed in the fire, said she was relieved at the outcome.  "My perfect scenario was that he would stand up in court and say guilty to all charges," Ms Valkay told reporters.  "My prayers were answered."

Last year Dean offered to plead guilty to the manslaughter of the 11 residents but those pleas were rejected by the crown.

He also lost a bid last week to be tried by judge alone and his trial before a jury was expected to last four weeks.

Dean had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing prescription drugs from the home and they will be taken into account when he is sentenced.  His case returns to court on Thursday.

Ms Valkay says she shared a close bond with her mother Neeltje Valkay, who died of smoke inhalation four days after the fire.

"It was, I think, joy in my heart to see that my mother would say yes - justice is going to be done, and we're going to see it," she told reporters.

She said her family in Australia and in Holland continued to grieve.  "I still do the wrong left-hand turn to go home and go past the nursing home, which I did every day," she said. "There's been a lot of loneliness on both sides of the world ... I still have nightmares."

Gary Barnier, managing director of Domain Principal Group, which owns the nursing home, said the events of that night had caused damage to so many lives.

"At least today justice has been done," an emotional Mr Barnier told reporters, adding he felt "not relief, just sadness" at the guilty pleas.

Despite the heroism of staff on the night, many of them struggled with feelings of guilt after the blaze, he said.

Lessons had been learnt, with fire sprinklers now mandatory across NSW, he added.  "This thing that happened was the act of one man and in no way representative of the aged care sector," Mr Barnier said.

Neale Becke, whose 96-year-old mother Doris Becke was murdered, said his mother loved kids and had "heaps of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren".

"At last we're getting justice for her," Mr Becke told reporters.

"Not just my mother but all of those down there who perished in that darn fire."


Tax failure as teens tap into goon (bulk white wine)

TERRITORY teens are loading up on cheap goon to avoid the alcopop tax, an alcohol activist has said.

And Australian drinkers have spent $4.5 billion in "alcopop" taxes that have failed to curb teen binge drinking, a federally funded study released today reveals.  The study shows the tax has not dinted the number of teenagers and young people with alcohol-related injuries.

People's Alcohol Action Coalition spokesman Dr John Boffa said alcopops were very expensive before they were loaded with the tax.

"The key problem for young people is pre-loading on cheap grog," he said.  "The grog of choice for that is cheap cask wine.

"Then they buy the more expensive alcopops later when they go out. That's why you need a floor price that does not allow for substitution."

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd slapped a 70 per cent tax increase on pre-mixed drinks - dubbed "alcopops" - in 2008 to try to curb binge drinking. But a University of Queensland analysis of 87,665 alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency departments over three years has found the tax made no difference.

"The premise was that this tax would reduce alcohol consumption among young people, as teenagers of both sexes prefer pre-mixed drinks over other forms of alcohol," the researchers concluded. "The increased tax on 'alcopops' was not associated with any reduction in hospital admissions for alcohol-related harms in Queensland 15-29-year-olds."

The lead researcher, UQ School of Population Health professor Steve Kisely, said young people had turned to other types of drink. Some bottle shops taped bottles of soft drink or fruit juice to bottles of spirits, once the tax came in.

"If teenagers are looking for a good time and find their favorite tipple of alcopops has doubled in price, they're not going to go home and have a hot mug of chocolate," he said. "They're going to find something else."


Qld. police declare they can not reduce crime unless they have more freedom to chase criminals in car

POLICE have declared they will not be able to reduce crime unless they have more freedom to chase criminals in cars.

So frustrated are police by their inability to pursue most offenders, mock-up posters ridiculing the pursuit policy are doing the rounds of stations.

One such poster shows the penguins from the animated hit Madagascar films, with their catch-cry "Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave".

Under the current policy, police must terminate a pursuit if a single road rule is broken.

Although the State Government has moved to increase penalties for people who evade police, police say that has failed to make a difference.

In the nine months since motorists were threatened with a $5000 fine and two-year licence suspension for not stopping for police, 855 people have been charged with the offence - more than three every day.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey has undertaken to review the much-maligned pursuit policy.

Acting Police Commissioner Ross Barnett said he was aware of frustration among "rank and file officers".

"But the key question for the community has to remain: Is the death of an innocent person, an innocent motorist, a price the community is prepared to pay for the unfettered right of police to pursue?" he said.

However, officers insist lives are being lost because of the reckless driving behaviour of some people who police often cannot pursue.

One officer, who did not want to be named, highlighted the recent death of Mal Osborne, 58, after his vehicle was struck by an allegedly speeding stolen car driven by a 19-year-old at Beenleigh.

He said it was a graphic reminder that offenders were driving dangerously even when they were not being pursued.

Writing in this month's Queensland Police Union journal, Metropolitan South executive Tony Collins called for a new pursuit policy that offered legal protection for officers involved.

"There is a complete lack of respect for the road rules, and stolen cars are crashing because of the way they are being driven, not because they are being chased," he wrote.

Mr Dempsey said there was a misconception of a no-pursuit policy when there was a "managed pursuit policy".

Queensland Coroner Michael Barnes reviewed the pursuit policy in 2009, following 10 deaths in four years, including that of school girl Caitlin Hanrick, 13, in 2006.

Mr Barnett said Commissioner Ian Stewart had "committed in the past to having a review of the policy within the next six months once we have sufficient data".


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Satan made me do it"

AKA shifting the blame.