REFORMATION: Timewasters and lifestylers are getting in the way of our user pays education system. Montage courtesy of Pablo Warhol.
REFORMATION: Timewasters and lifestylers are getting in the way of our user pays education system. Montage courtesy of Pablo Warhol. Christian Morrow

EDITORIAL: A short history of creativity and lifestyle in our national journey

THERE really is only one story worth telling this week and only one item underlined four times in the nation's homework book - education, and how we can make money out of it.

During the week Minister for Education Simon Birmingham has taken a bold first step in culling around 500 'lifestyle' courses that don't lead directly to jobs from the nation's school timetable.

He has taken unerring aim at these hedonistic arts-based course with his 11-shot Adler blunderbuss of educational reform and mowed them down, making them no longer eligible for government loans like VET FEE-HELP.

But for me, he hasn't gone far enough in ending the 'free money for artsy fartsies' madness.

He may have pulled all tertiary loans for arts, dance, drama, design and writing courses, but he is still way too soft on NAPLAN.

We should be using NAPLAN to check the kiddies for signs of latent or overt artistic-ness before it takes a hold of their tiny brains.

Sure, NAPLAN is an effective way of naming and shaming under-resourced public schools and shifting the blame for our children's under-achievement onto those thuggishly unionised teachers, but it's far too passive.

It's not proactive enough at weeding out society's time-wasters before they can do real damage by studying creative courses at a tertiary level.

I mean, does Australia really need any more world-class artists?

Our nation's spirit and story was satisfactorily defined back in the Menzies era by Pro Hart, Air Supply and Rolf Harris; we don't need to go over it all again.

Sure, it's cute for the kiddies to do a bit of finger painting (proving conclusively that any five-year-old could have painted Blue Poles) but economic rationalism must prevail at secondary and tertiary level.

In my day if your high school kid was creative in any way, shape or form they were labelled as possibly homosexual, probably communist or definitely mentally ill and liable to cut their ear off at any minute.

We were... I mean they were ... given a crayon and a bit of paper (shiny on one side) and shoved into that distant classroom with the spray-on asbestos insulation on the ceiling and the leaky gas heater situated downwind of the school incinerator to wait for speech night or any fundraising event involving local dignitaries.

That's when the 'artsy' kids were press-ganged into writing and performing a musical about the life and times of the headmaster (that included an interpretive dance explaining long division and compound interest) together with a museum-standard exhibition of painting and ceramics that promoted the nation-building virtues of contact sport.

The headmaster would dutifully march past the displays and drama pageants with a fixed smile of incomprehension on his face, mis-pronounce or forget the names of all the creative arts teachers and students, before making a hilarious speech about not knowing much about art but knowing what he liked (it just gets funnier every time, really).

He would then intone that what he did like about education was how cleanliness was next to godliness and sport.

The headmaster and dignitaries then moved on to the first-grade footy match to cheer on the sixth form boys as they gave each other concussion. The whole arty mess was then dumped into the incinerator by the school cadet core.

That's what made Australia great and it will be great again with Simon's 'Dumbing up of the Nation'.

As well as getting rid of those lifestyle courses, Simon will introduce a suite of bold new right-thinking and profitable education courses to set our nation up for its much warmer and wetter future.

I've seen the new TAFE prospectus and it makes for reassuringly dull reading.

But there are some standout courses including Graduate Diplomas in: Renovating a media singularity - the new reality in reality television, Birth of a nation - Donald Bradman at Gallipoli, Shouted Down - Understanding the plight of white middle class men, Keep the Home Fires Burning - the hidden costs of feminism and the climate change conspiracy, and Right Hand Drive - The ABC of fighting left-wing bias everywhere.

And with the Culture Wars finally settled we can get back to our fearless battle against nature by digging things up and selling them and killing things that are a bit bitey.

That is until we need to watch something decent at the movies or on telly, or read a quality book or newspaper, or dance to a great band or hear a cerebral classic, or understand the visual history of our nation, or synthesise disparate types of knowledge into a new understanding of the world or simply delight in the joys of life.

Then we will really need those smart-arse lifestylers.

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