I find that I haven't written (ranted) about my favourite bugbear, education, in quite some time. How remiss. However now, with Labour's new education policy coming out yesterday, seems like a good time.
Three years of free Tertiary Education for all New Zealanders. Well OK there are a few ifs and buts and such, but in the long run that's what it will amount to. Labour are calling it Bold. which I find slightly hilarious since Tertiary education was once near as dammit free to all New Zealanders anyway. Until this cockamamie idea of charging students a bucketload instead and letting many of them get into horrific debt was thought up. And worse, introduced without a cooling off period to allow people to begin saving against it. Just 'lols, sorry poor folk, please form an orderly queue at the loans office'.
But three years of free Tertiary education is actually a pretty good idea, and shapes up against the totally free system reasonably well. Most people are only seeking a Bachelor's degree, which is attainable in three years. A Bachelor's degree is basically going to be useful to your impending career almost whatever you choose to study and whatever work you end up taking up. You will pick up useful skills whether you meant to or not. (Even Steven Joyce probably inadvertently picked up some useful skills somewhere along the way, he just hides them well). Obviously I would prefer free education all around, but this isn't a bad idea to get the ball rolling. I would like to see that assistance rolling over to Post Grad study, as Post Grad's really aren't being assisted nearly enough in this country.
Right, so I guess here is where people start saying things like "oh, but those people will be paid shed loads in the future so why can't they just take the debt as part of that investment" - OK there's a grain of truth there, as there often is in the petty whinging of people who don't actually have to deal with the situation themselves. Post Graduate students cannot claim a student allowance. And the government loan's living allowance is NOT EVEN CLOSE to a liveable amount. Not to mention adds to your debt.
Here's an example of how balls that often turns out to be.
Let's say a student comes from a broken home and is only being supported by one parent, who earns under the threshold for student allowance. But the dead beat parent* earns enough to take them over the threshold, so much over that the student will either earn NOTHING or next to NOTHING from student allowance, so little that it's actually not worth claiming it - just in case they decide to do a second degree later in life or something. This student will become a self governing entity just in time to no longer qualify for the allowance because their studies are Post Graduate. Despite coming from a low income situation, they receive NO extra assistance to help them get through - just debt (who cares you say - Stephen Hawking came from a relatively low income environment, without aid he might never have got to where he now is... do we really want to leave these treasures behind?)
There are limits on how much and for how long you can claim various loan and allowance options. OK (assuming for a moment that I accept the idea of charging like a wounded bull for education, which I don't) lets say for most students those limits are not unreasonable. But there are people who's studies are of tremendous benefit to the country and of necessity break those limits. Can't we have a bit of leeway here? Personally I don't want our medical students any more stressed than they have to be. And like it or not lawyers are a necessary evil (hell I even LIKE some of them). Doctorates in fields that are important to New Zealand's GDP surely we should be making sure they get the best start? If you're dicking about using Uni as an excuse not to enter the real world (seriously is any one doing that any more - surely it isn't even possible without a trust fund??) sure you should probably have a reality check and be sent merrily on your way, but if you're legitimately studying towards a productive end then why the hell are we trying to make it difficult for you?
It honestly seems to me, as a basically outside observer, that we are actively trying to make it really really hard for anyone that doesn't come from money to get a decent Tertiary education. Particularly Post Graduate. Have we had progressively more greedy and stupid people in government? (Certainly judging by a certain Thickypants McStupidhead's repsonse to the suggestion of three years free tertiary I have to assume YES. Apparently this plan will "achieve nothing". Whatevs sunshine. It's not like you're Minister for Tertiary Education or anything. WELL FUCK, YOU ARE YOU SAY.) Do we actually want to split the country into the 1% and a bunch of uneducated sheep? I mean really, putting aside the apparent desire for magnificent hegemony over the country, lead by a smarmy douche who gets away with everything by pretending it's funny. Do we really want to live in a country where most people just don't have access to good education, social services, healthcare.... Please go take a look at a third world nation and rethink this plan.
My stance is probably always going to be, give the motivated free education (I don't object to the "you failed without good reason, fuck off" policy as such). But giving education away to everyone who wants it can only better the country as a whole. Please feel free to tell me that it doesn't matter if your street sweeper has read Chaucer, I disagree. Education isn't just a means to an end. It opens minds. Also fuck off with your piss poor attitude towards "menial" jobs. Do you want your roads clean? I digress, as usual. I've always felt that quality education taken to whatever level people want to take it to, makes everyone better off in the long run. The only people I see actively arguing against that are greedy assholes I don't have any interest in being associated with.
Well done Labour, please feel free to take this one even further.
*dead beat parent - IRD expects the parent the child is not primarily living with to pay child support until the child turns 19, this is a legal requirement but is often difficult to follow up on. Most offspring start university at around 18 or 19 so the dead beat parent has NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to pay any further assistance for their upbringing. So they don't. But their income still counts against the child's allowance. So, are they an adult at 18, 19 or 25? Make up your fucking mind government. Or at least stop arbitrarily changing which number you use based on which results in you paying less out in assistance.