In This Edition: Tertiary Education Loans - The Tribe Is Speaking - Sleep-Walking To Oblivion
First, my thanks for your site, I read it occasionally to keep up with what is happening in New Zealand (particularly near election time) and because you publish Simon Upton.
I have read some of your recent submissions on student debt and find them sufficiently sad that I feel compelled (annoyed?) to write. As someone with a long experience of tertiary education, as an undergraduate in New Zealand, as a post-graduate in the US, and now as a junior academic in the US, it seems incredible that most of your correspondents value tertiary education so little that they they don't believe it is worth paying for. All these tears about students who face $20000 (NZ) or $30000 debt - in extreme cases $50 000 - seem misplaced, given that most New Zealanders have no compunction about borrowing $100 000 or $ 150 000 (or more) to buy a house. It seems incredible that people like Easton or Harre don't believe three, four, or more years of education - the chance to take courses in ancient history, or nuclear physics, or philosophy (or even something which will practically guarantee a high paying job, like medicine) - aren't worth the price of an extra bedroom, or a second garage, or a fancier view.
One of the refreshing things about teaching in the US is way how many students take a four year liberal arts course before they undertake professional training in such fields as medicine or commerce or law. Students are exposed to arts and sciences - ideas and books - and encouraged to think widely outside their core fields. They pay for this, of course - undergraduate fees at the state-owned University of Michigan where I teach are over $6000 (US) per year for Michigan residents, and $20 000 for out of state students (a third of the total), but most people consider it is worth it, and borrow or have their parents save to finance their education. It is only a small fraction of a house, after all.
True, the University of Michigan does have a large, privately donated, endowment to provide scholarships to people who have financial difficulty. New Zealand should take note. I am sure New Zealand would be well advised to both encourage greater private donations to tertiary education and provide sufficient financial assistance for those who need it. But this is not an argument to abolish loans or fees. Indeed, given the appalling salaries earned by New Zealand academics (especially junior academics) , there is a good argument to increase fees to either to increase salaries or reduce class sizes/ teaching work-loads.
There. I got that off my chest.
(who had a free undergraduate education in NZ, but had to both eliminate his savings and borrow to finance the part of his post-graduate education not financed by the scholarships provided by the generous donators to a University's endowment fund.)
(and who is saving so that one day he may be able to afford to be an academic in New Zealand)
Tribe Is Speaking
As the lead-up to the election enters its final stage it is wonderful to see that the more basic instincts of tribalism are alive and well in Godzone.
Despite the benefits of centuries of hindsight and assertions that we are a part (albeit a small part) of a global village, mankind simply cannot divorce itself from the tribal mentality.
This is epitomised in this election campaign where the Labour party, having had a taste of MMP and the contradictions this introduces into the equation, have again shown their true colours by resorting to (surprise, surprise) fighting the campaign on the basis of "wanting it all".
This is socialism (read tribalism) at its meanest. If you are unable to manage the aspirations of minority partners through reasoned and democratic debate, suppress it through fear and disinformation.
How and why, as voters, we continue to believe the governance of a country can be achieved through the amalgam of various groups driven by ideology and the desire for power rather than practical economic and social justice mystifies me.
Sleep-Walking To Oblivion
Helen Clark during the Leaders' debate voiced the observation, "I was brought up in a period of full employment". Helen Clark, again during the Leaders' debate, "I was brought up in a time when few had heard of the Treaty of Waitangi".
Two things have changed since then.
Firstly, The Treaty pervades every aspect of our society and life to the extent that almost anything that suggests we should be a nation of one people with equal rights, goals and aspirations is excluded on politically correct cultural grounds.
Secondly, dubious immigration policies, exploding welfare opportunities and ill-conceived internal and foreign affairs and trade policies are conspiring to drive up the levels of those who are unemployed or in low paid work, particularly those who are educationally and skill disadvantaged.
The linkage is surely obvious.
In the words of Winston Peters we should be defending .."the rights of all New Zealanders irrespective of whether they come from Tauranga or Te Anau, from Whakatane or Westport, or originally from Hawaiiki, Hanoi, Holland, Hampshire, or Hokianga*to be first class citizens of a first world country, and not consigning many to second class citizenship in a country sleep-walking to the third world."