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So for those who've been hiding under a rock (like me most of the time) or in other countries, the Federal Budget was released earlier this week and reported a giant deficit, in contrast to previous years where we had a party in power known for being good for the economy and we had a surplus reported every year. As a result of this giant deficit, a lot of people have been going around saying that Labor (the current political party in power) sucks and deserves to be voted out.

To the people who've been saying things like that: Could you kindly get your heads out of your asses and think for a minute? Did it escape your notice that the world economy crashed some months ago and that many governments, including our own, have been throwing around vast amounts of money in an attempt to deal with that? Where did you think they got that $900 which was given to just about everyone in the country?

Please don't take this as a sign of my love for Labor. I 'm pretty apathetic when it comes to politics. It's just that everyone is so quick to jump to these stupid conclusions, mistaking correlations for causations, and it annoys the heck out of me. At least wait until next year's Budget, when there hasn't been a global economic meltdown to skew the results, before you start condemning the new guys.
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The education system in Australia is absolutely screwed.


  • Most teachers, at both uni and school level, have no passion for teaching.
    At university level most academics only teach because it's required of them so that they can get back to their own research, not because they have anything worthwhile to say. And at school level I've seen too many teachers who are there because they had nothing better to do, not because they envisioned a future of imparting knowledge to young minds.
  • As a result of the lackluster teaching and of their parents attitudes towards their teachers, kids have little to no respect for their teachers. Which in turn leads to the teacher getting harassed until any passion they might have once had disappears, or they have a breakdown, or the like.
  • Since everyone remembers their own behaviour towards teachers when they were a snotty little kid, and how badly all their teachers had it, almost no one's interested in teaching. And your parents don't want you to do it either because they know how much work it is and how lousy the pay is
  • As a result, the UAI's(University Admission Index for those people who aren't Australian) for teaching are ridiculously low, making kids who scored well feel as though they're 'wasting' their mark by teaching and ensuring that teaching looks like an attractive option for stupid people, since it's one of the few non-manual-labour jobs they have a chance of getting into
  • And as a result of this we then have stupid people as teachers, which doesn't exactly increase anyone's confidence in teaching as a profession
  • Also in Australia there's a ridiculous amount of emphasis on physical achievements and virtually none on academic. Teaching is low-status as a result.
  • And so on and so forth, repeat all the above steps in any desired combination to get an acurate picture of the state of teaching in Australia (well NSW at least, it's hypothetically possible it's better in other states. Although I doubt it)
Teaching is one of the last professions where the pay is low, the workload is high, and holidays are few and far between. Who the hell would want to be a teacher? You can't really blame people for not being interested. Teaching is also one of the last professions to have an extremely vocal union, which isn't too surprising when you consider the situation.

I have a vague plan for how to fix this problem although it would have to be in the long-term. Short-term we're screwed and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. People's attitudes are way too entrenched to change their minds at a moment's notice. And I know my plan will never come about because the politician responsible for it would become way too unpopular.

Anyway the plan is as follows: Embark on a massive publicity campain to raise the profile of teaching. I'm talking a billions of dollars here, not the token millions the governments like to throw at projects they're not really interested in but which will show them to be making an effort. Assuming the campain works, more parents will start seeing teaching as an acceptable career choice for their darlings and more kids will start putting it down as their university preferences. In turn this popularity will raise the UAI of the degrees, ensuring that only smart kids/kids who really want in will be able to get in. The sudden influx of teachers will start competition for teaching spots, which can only increase the quality of teachers being hired and have the side effect of raising teacher's wages (unless whoever it is who pays public school teachers wants to see all their decent teachers disappear into the private school system). And the higher quality of teaching will eventually trickle down into the kids, who will (I hope) gain more respect for their teachers. Or the fact that teaching in general will now be a more acceptable career choice will give them more respect for teachers (maybe.. I remember all too well what little brats kids can be).
As for the situation at universities, that can only be fixed by individual unis deciding to change their policies about what's required for tenure. In an ideal world academics who are lousy unmotivated teachers should be allowed to concentrate on their research and leave teaching up to those who care. Of course this would require universities to have more money so that they can afford to have extra academics lying around. Which would lead back to the Government choosing to throw large amounts of money at universities. Which wouldn't happen because it would make them too unpopular with the public. Which is why my entire plan will never come about.

The main problem with my plan is that it would require throwing large amounts of money at the problem for, oh I don't know, let's say ten years, before it started to have any real effect. And in the meantime it would be this horrible uphill struggle to keep ramming it through the Budget year after year until it started working and it would become slightly easier to get the money. Still difficult but somewhat easier. What really pisses me off is how easy it is in Australia to find the funding to build and maintain stupid Olympic-sized swimming pools all over the country (in the middle of a drought don't forget) but they can't be bothered funding education properly.
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I hate politics. Really I do.

In an ideal world the people voted in would be the best for the job, period. And all decisions within the elected body would be decided by the equivalent of a conscience vote, ie everyone votes what they think is the best choice, none of this partisan crap.

Now I understand why this isn't the case for large-scale politics. No wait, that's a lie. I read at one point about why the partisanship in politics but the knowledge seems to have seeped out my ears in the meantime. I used to understand why large-scale politics doesn't function like this.

There's been a few elections at uni within the last month that I've been somewhat involved in. In one, one of the candidates put together a party while all the other candidates ran independently. There was open animosity between the leader of the party and most of the other candidates. The results of the election involved the entire party being elected. Is this a good thing? I don't think so. For one, this election saw much more campaigning (including smear campaigns) than usually goes on in student politics, and I don't think it's a good thing that this year's election might become the precedent for future years and lead to bitter rivalries between candidates. Up until this point I would have said that everyone in my faculty gets on fairly well. Well not anymore.. the leader of the group seems to be the George Bush of CSE politics in that everyone either loves him or hates him, with very few fence-sitters. It doesn't help that he ran a completely dishonest smear campaign against one of the groups who don't mind admitting they hate him. Yay for divisiveness. The other point about the entire party getting in is that by running a platform that filled every position they exclude the society from receiving any new blood. It's all very well that they're all good friends with eachother and so forth but it seems like they would have benefited more by deliberately leaving a couple of positions open for other people.

Then there's the other election, for a society made up of people who are all nice and friendly but with a whole lot of politicking going on under the surface. I know several people who have sent around emails or expressed out loud their hopes to be appointed to position X by the new exec next year, and people running for positions in the exec who have talked to as many voters as possible to try to influence their voting. Now this society is quite a large one which has a large operating budget every year, so it makes sense that this is a big deal and it's important to the people who care that the society be run with the 'right' people. But wherefore trying to make people's minds up for them? Talking about how a certain vote is going to be people S versus people T, and implying the existence of bloc voting? Sending emails to candidates for a position (not even voted in yet, just the candidates) to make sure you're the first to express interest in a certain position? That's just not cool.

I don't know precisely where I'm going with this; only it seems a shame that these societies, which both started out as a bunch of students just trying to help other students out and have a good time in the process have turned into this painful morass of hidden meanings and partisanship. Uni politics aren't supposed to be this deadly serious thing where you can make friends and enemies for life. Save that for the real world, if you care so much. I'm kinda glad I'm not part of either society at the moment, I'm too blunt and honest for all this politicking. Maybe I'll apply again next year and hope it's all settled down a bit by then. In the meantime, I want my innocence back :(
erratio: (Default)
aka Why my brother should have been a politician.

Back in the day I used to be an avid gamer, of both card games and board games. Name a CCG(collectible card game) and I either played it, had tried it and didn't like it, or had heard of it and knew about some of its main features. Board games I didn't get into nearly as much, but I still have my memories of playing Settlers of Catan with my brother and cousin.



So the question I'm sure you're all pondering here is what does this have to do with world politics?

Well.. the strategy of keeping a position of obvious strength where other players are afraid to be the first one to attack lest they be singled out for retaliation, where you 'generously' don't make use of your force to hurt anyone else except where everyone can agree that it was justified, and when you are attacked respond immediately and with overwhelming force? To me that sounds awfully like the US.

Also, the overwhelming force tactic and keeping a position of strength is, to a lesser extent, what I believe Israel is trying to do. It's widely accepted that they have the best trained army in the world, one of the best intelligence networks, and some of the best technology courtesy of the US and having some of the best scientists working for them. The war now going on between Israel and Lebanon over an attack that resulted in 8 dead Israeli soldiers and 2 captured is, to me, a way of Israel saying “You crossed the line. Now you can either produce the captured soldiers, or we can use you as a lesson to everyone about why you shouldn't fuck with us.”

Of course, the parallel between Magic and real life isn't complete. In Magic it was extremely common for one player to take himself to the brink of death in order to win. And in real life willingly taking that much damage would be unacceptable. But the diplomacy, the use and abuse of power, they're all there for someone willing to see beyond the game and apply the principles learnt. Like in Ender's Game, perhaps future wars will be composed of over-intelligent gamers who spend hours honing their skills with wargames.

PS : I am neither condoning or opposing Israel for its actions concerning Lebanon. I have no opinion either way, what I am saying is that given Israel's history of going to extreme measures to rescue its people, its actions have a justification from their point of view. America on the other hand, I'm not all too happy with but I can't be bothered going into it since my argument would involve the right to interfere and other philosophical stuff like that.

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