Sunday, 2 March 2008, 6.00pm
I've been asked to discuss with you what value education, from the perspective of somebody who works in the media and, more specifically, a journalist in commercial television.
And even more specifically, as a person who was once a school teacher, who later defected to journalism.
Let's kick off with an apology to George Bernard Shaw:
He who can, does.
He who can't, teaches.
He who can't teach, becomes a TV journalist.
As a journalist, you'd have to ask who'd want to be an educator these days? A teacher, a tutor, a lecturer. Just in this past week, we've seen school teachers take industrial action, complaining they're undervalued by their society.
Fair enough, I say.
As a teacher at any level in the education hierarchy, and from my own experience, it seems educators work their bums off, all while they're drawn into a vortex of abrogated responsibilities.Students want YOU to pass their exams;
And you'd be better off if you'd quit school at 16 and become a brickie.
The VALUE of education: I wonder what VALUE actually means, but first let me answer the question:
We all know the short answer: education is IN-valuable.
Value implies measurement, so do research and surveys and pie charts and histograms, measure this value?
We can measure it in terms of numbers....money...xx billions spent;
The number of students who pass, or fail;
The number of lecturers whose students get high scores;
The number of students in a class.
But we've become so obsessed with numbers, with valuing education by numbers, that we run the risk of forgetting the REAL value of education can't be measured with histograms and pie charts.
The real value of education is the IDEA.
The real value of education is the thought;
the creative interpretation;
the creative re-interpretation;
the independence of a mind which takes on a challenge.
One simple example: The only reason we can measure the dollars set aside for special needs education, is because of the idea of a fairness; because somebody challenged some shibboleths.
THAT idea of "challenging" is vital in the media, too.
If you'll allow me to digress for a moment, I'd like to pose a challenging thought to you, professional educators and consumers of education,many of you aspirant professionals in media, too.
What's happening with gender among those who work in media, the professionals who seek careers in our business?
A trend's emerged, and it's under-researched. The industry, and particularly television journalism, is short of men. We have a lot of trouble recruiting males.
For example, in the past two weeks, we've advertised for staff. We had 45 applications, 7 men, 38 women.
This isn't just a by product of the resources boom. It's been a trend for the past few years, and at the moment, we don't really KNOW why blokes don't want to work in media.
Maybe they know something WE don't! We can only guess.
Back to the question of valuing education: It's annoying that any dissection of such an important question usually gets down to numbers, numbers of students, and numbers of dollars.
The economic rationalists will say, well, our resources are scarce, we can't do everything for everybody, there's got to be accountability.
I wonder what would have happened if the Ancient Greeks had been burdened by THAT?
Plato says: "Hey, I've had a thought: let's get a few people together, talk about things, and then do what everybody reckons is right."
Aristotle emails HR to get the disclaimers for the Parthenon; Hercules rings Accounts to get everybody's ABN; Helen can bring the dolmades...
Greece's Dean of Economics would have said: "This new fangled democracy thing, it's a fad, it'll cost a fortune."
Mark Twain sort of said: In the beginning, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made bureaucrats.
There's no question the value of education is measured in the ideas it creates, ideas that endure and shape our destinies.
But unfortunately, no matter how much we value education, and in how many different ways we try to measure that value, you can only teachpeople if they WANT to be taught.
American Author Finley Dunne observed that minds are like parachutes, they only function when they're open...
You can lead a kid to university, but you can't make them think.
Thankfully, the graduates we in the broadcast media see from ECU are thinkers. They do think for themselves.
Some of them think TOO much.
They think they're right, all the time, about everything.
And they tell us that, all the time, about everything.
We put it down to the exuberance of youth, which we enjoy beating out of graduates! Seems producers and directors who've been around fortwenty years are NOT young enough to know anything.
I suppose I'm saying an important measure of the value of education is HOW we teach kids so that they WANT to be taught and WANT to learn.
As we contend with waves of political and economic rationalism, I fear we downgrade the importance of making the learning experience exciting.
That's education with REAL value: education that extends and stimulates, education that's vibrant.
I'm sure you understand what I mean. Every person in this room has been bored witless in a classroom or a lecture.
The educators don't want to hear this, but when you're bored, they're failing.
And you should have told them that! It's their fault you didn't get a high distinction because they put you to sleep!
Of course, educating a society isn't the exclusive province of teachers.
Those of us in the media also perform a vital educative function.
There's a great deal in common at the professional level, in the skills set.
Educators and media professionals need to be good communicators;
They need to structure messages carefully;
They must impart facts and values, but keep them separate;
They must convey information cogently and clearly.
And after they've done that, they look for a result.
We are a BIT different in one way: The result educators look for is understanding.
The result we look for in television is adulation! And money!
In closing, any discussion about the value of education can become superfluous if you believe Oscar Wilde...
"Education is admirable...but nothing that's worth knowing, can be taught!
Which is why you should never try to teach a pig to how to sing...it wastes your time, and annoys the hell out of the pig!