I gave up a career in academia about ten years ago. It was a difficult decision; i love teaching, and i’d loved working in a place all about thinking. But over the previous ten years i’d been working in universities in Qld, Vic, and NSW, things had changed. Some changes were good – student cohorts had burst into diversity and were a heap more interesting. Some changes were not – the pay had gotten shit, and we couldn’t give students the contact hours or libraries or time they needed.
This article is good. It echoes some of the things i saw. But at the same time, it’s bad. I remember a moment i had teaching intro cultural studies at VU. The first generation of families to finish high school, let alone go to uni. Mothers, refugees, kids who’d used TAFE to get into the university system. So different to the privileged young people at UniMelb or UQ I’d taught.
With these students i noticed i was suddenly talking about critical thinking as a tool for dismantling disempowerment. I could see them leap onto Stuart Hall – black, migrant, working class – and his thinking as a weapon. They ate him up. They saw how he was useful to their lives in the working class suburbs of western Melbourne.
I’ve never seen students work as hard as these. Nothing they were doing was easy.