September 27, 2013

The Practice of Freedom

By Ian Curry

The purpose of an economy is to meet the aspirations of the society it serves, not the other way around.

A triple ‘A’ rating should operate in the interests of all Australians!

A triple ‘A’ rating should deliver to Australians those things that we aspire to, for ourselves, and for generations to come.

Otherwise we are living in an economy, not a society.

Our collective aspirations for economic and social stability, a better standard of living, a more caring and tolerant society, a sustainable environment and better opportunities for our children all rely on economic and social infrastructure that in turn relies on us having the knowledge and skills to exploit emerging opportunities.

And of course education and training are the keys to unlocking those aspirations and making freedom attainable.

A very dear friend of mine introduced me to the writings of Paulo Freire. She gave me a copy of Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

As I read, (dictionary and thesaurus and a discipline I didn’t know I possessed nearby) what my late father had always said to me was given life. “The point of education and training is to give life to a love of learning”, he would say. “Schools should give their students the skills they need to spend the rest of their lives learning.”

Not such a far cry from what Richard Shaull wrote in the foreword to Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world.

For as long as I can remember, TAFE was the place that you went to in order to get the skills to participate in the world of work. For a young man from the northern suburbs of Adelaide fumbling to work out his place in a world beyond his ken, TAFE was a safe haven where things were put in perspective.

TAFE for me was not just about learning the fabrication trade skills that I signed up for. It was a place that gave me a perspective that was greater than the sum of its parts. Just like the trade they taught me was greater than the sum of the skills they helped me learn.

For me, TAFE is an institution upon which I relied, an institution that I trusted, and an institution that delivered for me.

I suspect that for manufacturing workers generally, TAFE is an institution upon which they rely, an institution that they trust, and an institution that delivers for them.

It is also an institution that has delivered for the Australian community at large.

It is an institution that must be defended!

In an environment where state governments are more interested in economic ‘purity’, managing budgets, and experimenting with ‘markets’, TAFE ,more than ever, needs defending.

Attempts to build an entirely artificial ‘training market’ have resulted in a serious and accelerating decline in the quality of outcomes that are resulting from what passes for nationally recognised vocational education and training.

This decline and the diminution in the relative market share of training delivery by the public provider is dragging down the credibility of VET; it is also affecting the viability of TAFE and restricting its ability to maintain the broad scope of course offerings that has been one of its considerable strengths.

Private providers are entering the market with a focus on activities from which they can generate the largest profit irrespective of the social and/or economic needs of the broader community.

This, in conjunction with savage funding cuts and the introduction of idiotic student entitlement funding models, is forcing TAFE to make tough decisions about whether to continue to offer programs in key economically sensitive areas such as engineering trade training.

RMIT is abandoning its fitting and turning trade training after 130 consecutive years!

If this is a consequence of a technically efficient triple ‘A’ economy at work, I’d rather be living in a less economically pure society!

Perhaps a society would care more about the maintenance of social infrastructure such as health, education and vocational training facilities.

The infamous explosion in the delivery of fitness related training in Victoria following the introduction of their particularly myopic entitlement model demonstrates how readily students sign on to sophisticated marketing techniques and how glacial the responses of state governments are in recognising the problem and adopting solutions which often simply add confusion to the poor behaviour evident in the ‘market’.

Clearly the Victorian Government has gone Marxist!

Groucho that is!

The Groucho Marx definition of politics:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies”

Another dear friend of mine, a Ford worker, told me that “the future will be determined by those that show up!”

TAFE is an important part of the future. Show up!

Stop TAFE Cuts!