Liked Cuts to humanities departments are cuts to our ability to reason by Catherine Ford (The Age)

When you diminish humanities departments, you fracture and destabilise an apparatus that fosters and supports thinking – analytical, creative, imaginative, productive, progressive thinking.

When you cut down humanities teachers and students, who, together, bring what they read, learn and test in their courses to a society that cannot afford to think less, or be critiqued less rigorously, or fail to imagine, you are shutting the book on the very heart and brain of that society. You attack places where enlightenment, useful consternation and doubt, and intellectual pleasures and satisfactions, are a currency passed from one generation to the next. You target an enterprise, a practice, and a legacy, whose benefits are far-reaching.

Bookmarked My university degree was life-changing. Putting them out of reach is elitist and wrong

Education is life-changing. The humanities and social sciences have the potential to transform and improve our societies. Putting this education out of reach for students who are already economically insecure is elitist and it is wrong. It will make us a smaller, meaner and stupider society.

Deputy Dean of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Arts, Professor Sarah Maddison, reflects on her journey of starting university as a mature-age student and the opportunities it provided.

It is no exaggeration to say that my university degree was life changing. From a narrow, ill-informed starting point my mind and my horizons grew. I learned about history, I learned about politics, I learned about power, gender and social movements. I came to question the role of the state and government policy and to understand that governments make progressive change only when it is demanded of them. I learned that power comes in many forms.

Liked An open letter to Australia’s Education Minister Dan Tehan — signed by 73 senior professors (The Conversation)

This open letter is written in response to the Australian government’s proposed reforms to the university sector, announced by Education Minister Dan Tehan on June 19, 2020. The so-called “job-ready graduates” package seeks to make courses in areas such as science, maths and teaching cheaper to encourage more students to get degrees in what the government sees to be job-growth areas. By contrast, fees for many humanities courses will more than double.

Liked University fee changes announced by Dan Tehan combine market-based economics with social engineering

If you asked a politician in 1990 to predict what the workforce of 2020 would like look, how do you think they’d go?

In the past 30 years the world has changed immeasurably: the internet’s gone mainstream, lithium-ion batteries have been commercialised, and those in turn have led to smart phones and laptops, renewable energy systems and electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and self-driving cars.

Bookmarked The Inhumanities; Or, the war on the humanities & why our humanity is at stake

IS IT A COINCIDENCE that at a time of protest around the world—a cry for systemic reform, an outcry against the failures of imagination and the decimation of the spirit, against the smallness of mind and meanness of heart, against the exploitation of the earth and of each other, upon which the colonial project and global commerce have depended—is it a coincidence that at just this time the Australian government, a more reactionary and ideologically driven regime than any we have known, has decided to dismantle the humanities?

Mark Tredinnick responds the challenge being made to the traditional liberal arts education in Australia.

The humanities teach us how to think. How to Be. And how to do it for oneself. They teach one how to write and speak. For oneself, on behalf of interests greater than one’s own. They school us in ethics, in care, in imagination. They ask us to ask ourselves to do better with our living. And how to ask for better. For instance, from those in power. The humanities help us to know what, beside profit and security, counts. For any and every human life.

He argues that rather than job-focused degrees we need to be people-focused.

We don’t need job-focused degrees (heavy on data and light on wisdom). What we need more than ever is students who learn how to live and who know how to help others live meaningful and meaning-making lives. We need minds capable of apprehending merit and beauty and of fashioning justice and joy; we need hearts that know how to care for the wreck of the world and the wreck of other lives that the prevailing economic and political models have made; we need minds skilled at the craft of conserving what’s left, and keeping it habitable for human—and all sorts of other beings.

We in fact need the humanities as an anti-thesis of being too economically focused.

We need music because we have factories; we need poetry because we have politics; we need the humanities because we have economies, and because there is always the risk that one might enter dangerous times like this, and governments like this.

Liked I am eternally grateful for my humble arts degree (The Sydney Morning Herald)

After noting that this particular course had not yet produced an eminent historian, he went on …

What we have done is graduate the finest thinkers in the land. People who can dissect an argument, analyse it, and provide meaningful and insightful comment. People who can convincingly argue a case, based on detailed and highly credible research … People who can make a difference to the world by understanding … This is why universities were established. We can only develop new learning through understanding basic learning. So if you’ve come here to earn the title of ‘historian’ then I’m afraid I am likely to disappoint you . . . But if you’ve come to learn to think critically and analytically, and to conduct research in support of that thinking – then I think we may be able to help you!

Manning Clark’s point was irrefutable.

Bookmarked An arts degree has long been the butt of predictable joke but there’s another side (abc.net.au)

The late essayist and quicksilver intellectual Christopher Hitchens once argued that “above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment … and this Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person”.

For many, the universality of the humanities degree is the most democratic expression of this ambition.

Virginia Trioli reflects on the democratic values associated with a humanities degree.
Liked Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life (bbc.com)

But few courses of study are quite as heavy on reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking as the liberal arts, in particular the humanities – whether that’s by debating other students in a seminar, writing a thesis paper or analysing poetry.

Liked What can I do? (Decolonizing Solidarity)

Decolonizing Solidarity, Clare Land. What can you do to support aboriginal people and communities. This matrix, originally entitled “So, what do Aboriginal people want? And what can I do?” was created by Frank Hytten when he was Coordinator of ANTaR Victoria (2003-2006).

Liked Democracy and Education by Cameron Paterson (It’s About Learning)

Democracy requires active work. Every generation has to reclaim it. Educators have a critical function, at a moment when we live in filter bubbles and echo chambers, to create safe spaces and facilitate points of confrontation to break single identities. If we are serious about democracy, it is about how we teach. It is about living democracy in the classroom. It might be timely for teachers to consider whether they model authoritarian leaders, how they might support curricula disobedience and academic freedom, and what their professional code of ethics is.

Bookmarked Do Trees Talk to Each Other? (Smithsonian)

A revolution has been taking place in the scientific understanding of trees, and Wohlleben is the first writer to convey its amazements to a general audience. The latest scientific studies, conducted at well-respected universities in Germany and around the world, confirm what he has long suspected from close observation in this forest: Trees are far more alert, social, sophisticated—and even intelligent—than we thought.

From Beech Trees in Germany to Douglas Firs in Canada to Acacia Trees in Sub-Saharan Africa, this post documents a change in the way that we appreciate trees and the connections to their environment.

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’” says Peter Wohlleben in German-accented English. “All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.”

via Clive Thompson

🎧 On Foreign Aid (Future Tense)

Eleven Chinese warships reportedly sailed into the East Indian Ocean this month, amid a constitutional crisis and state of emergency in the Maldives. In part, this is claimed to be in connection with aid.

As Future Tense captured in the first of a two part series, China is an emerging player when it comes to overseas aid. The problem with this is that much of it is not actually ‘aid’ money. As Brad Park explains:

China actually provides a lot of state financing that is more commercially oriented and is provided market terms or close to market terms. And so much of the money in fact that is going to Russia is not aid in the strict sense of the term, they are loans offered on close to market rates, and China is offering those loans in part because it’s one of the world’s largest net creditors, it’s sitting on very large reserves, it wants to earn an attractive financial return on its capital, and so it has an aggressive overseas lending programs. So China wants those loans to be repaid with interest.

This is also a part of China’s growing international expansion.

In part two, Samantha Custer, Abhijit Banerjee and Stephen Howes discuss the sustainable development goals developed by the United Nations. These provides the policy and guidance for how aid should be spent.