Monday, November 01, 2004


Back in Oz again . . . . and just to prove I don’t just think about gay issues . . . I’ve been struck lately by another parallel between John Howard and Margaret Thatcher, this time in the area of education. I notice that Wee Johnny likes to make life difficult for universities, restricting access by raising costs and cutting grants and subsidies, just as Madame Belgrano did, at the same time extolling the virtues of apprenticeships and other non-academic education and training programs.

Johnny couches his arguments in bland, reasonable-sounding language. He talks of the need to find more money for education, and the regretful necessity of not taxing his own supporters to pay for it. He stirs up envy, musing on the unfairness of people who will never have the opportunity to have an academic education being forced to pay through taxation to help create a privileged class who will then lord it over them. And he claims the real demand is for skilled tradespeople, not graduates.

These are all Thatcher arguments, only she didn’t bother to dress them up in polite language. I can’t be bothered to look up the references, but I can still remember the gist of what she said, it hit me with such a shock.

Let them clean loos
What was the use, she demanded, of spending all that money on education, only for the newly qualified graduates to find there were not enough graduate-level jobs with graduate-level salaries to go around.. We’re producing too many, she said. What’s worse, these ‘over-educated’ people have ‘unrealistic’ expectations. Now they have degrees they won’t take perfectly respectable jobs emptying our dustbins, mopping our floors, building our roads, driving our buses, washing our hair and cleaning our toilets.

So they go to other countries to find jobs: that expensive education paid for by the British taxpayer is snapped up by other countries, and we never see the benefit. At the same time, we can’t find enough people to empty our dustbins, clean our toilets and mop our floors etc.. Which means we have to bring in lots of immigrants, who are swamping British culture. We don’t want that either.

And what was her solution? Replace student grants with loans, hike university fees to a more ‘realistic’ level by removing government subsidies, and pump money instead into ‘vocational’ and ‘trade’ education and training.

Use the universities to generate cash, instead of costing it: sell expensive educations to overseas students and wealthy locals. If poorer people really want it, they’ll work for it – thus ensuring on all levels that the next generation of the elite will, as far as possible, share the values of Messrs. Thatcher and Howard.

If we have to have an 'elite', they're going to be my elite
The real unspoken agenda behind this is simple. Keep the well-paid elite small, and preferably in debt during their early potentially rebellious years. Result, fewer pesky students demonstrating for expensive things like human rights: they can’t afford to. They’ve got to flip those burgers in order to survive, buckle down to the nine to five to pay off the loans.

And keep the bulk of the population educated – if I remember her phrase correctly – to an ‘appropriate level’, so they’ll be happy cleaning toilets etc., and not have the education to see that their self-styled betters have duped them into living at less than their full potential.

A docile, servile electorate is what’s required to re-elect Messrs. Thatcher and Howard and others like them. An electorate who become so indoctrinated with their philosophy, and be working so long and hard they will have neither the time nor the energy to question it, forcing the opposition parties to move to the right if they ever want a share of power. Which leaves the real money men and women untouched and free to plunder at will, working people into the ground with 50hr+ weeks . . . . . . . . .

. . . doesn’t it seem familiar, somehow?

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