There’s a lot of talk about ‘alternative’ entry to university at the moment. Debate in this area always makes me smile, particularly when arguments about it are presented as if they are new.
The federal government agenda in relation to widening participation in higher education has led to some excited commentary about moving away from the traditional means of selecting students for university based on numerical, relative rankings derived from their senior high school performance.
What will Australian universities look like in 20 years?
I was asked this recently after giving a keynote address at a conference, during which I outlined the federal government agenda in relation to higher education.
It’s a difficult question to answer but I thought I’d give it a whirl as most people reading this will forget to check back in 20 years so I’m fairly certain I won’t be a laughing stock in 2029 (always a worry).
In 2029, I’ll be in my mid 60s and still working thanks to changes to superannuation laws. My children, now entering their teens, will be in their 30s. It’s hard to imagine.
You know, I really struggle when somebody asks me to define postmodernism. The thing is that by its very conceptual nature, postmodernism surely can't be defined. But I usually come up with something lame like no absolute truths, or postmodern is not modernism, blah, blah, blah.
But last night, on Australian TV, I think we experienced postmodernism in all its tumescent glory.
You see, there was a TV show that was on for 20 years, back in the 80s and 90s, called Hey Hey, It's Saturday. It was cancelled in 1999, mostly because of sagging ratings, but also because the executives decided that Australia was ready for a different form of entertainment. One of the sequences on this program was called Red Faces, where amateur performers could get up and perform in front of an in-studio, and Australia-wide audience.
Elizabeth Blackburn. Elizabeth Blackburn. Elizabeth Blackburn. They say if you repeat something thrice it might come true and it has; Professor Elizabeth Blackburn has become the first Australian woman to win a Nobel Prize. Like the luminescent fish who exist in the dark matter of the ocean and light the abyss, Elizabeth Blackburn, Nobel Laureate has put paid to 20th century nonsense about the human brain having a birthsex and the deduction arising from this faulty premise; that women do not belong in the sciences, or belong only by relative degree to men.
I am woman, hear me roar.
A conference last week on the future of the academic profession had, according to the associated website, 20 speakers, only 4 of whom were female. I would have gone, but as I prepared to register and read through the line up, I became so irritated that I decided to vote with my feet.
The report that informed the conference (written by 6 men and no women) tells a bleak story about the academic profession’s attractiveness to women.
According to the report, “a higher proportion of women than men have typically been employed as casuals, and a lower proportion have occupied tenured posts”. This is bad news, right?
Reports from SMH and other news outlets are advising that Kraft has responded to consumer “outrage” at the name of Kraft’s new product, iSnack 2.0 (is this Kraft’s Vista?), and decided to re-visit the competition to name the new product. This time, it will be a popularity vote – in the style of Australian Idol – another opportunity perhaps to raise the profile of the new product. Of course, iSnack 2.0 was a dumb name, but the amount of column inches (online, on TV and on-paper) devoted to this issue has been extraordinary.
Kraft Foods has released a new product that contains a combination of the black beer slops that Australians lovingly call Vegemite, and cream cheese. Non-Australians already find the black stuff weird, but in Australia, there has been a bit of a stink around the name that they have given to the new product, iSnack 2.0.
I’m the first person to say that any company that puts “i” in front of their brand, or product, and suddenly thinks that the “young people” will buy it is a bit of a nong, but Kraft may be on to something, that has been missed by all the complainers.
Small screens on shopping trolleys will exploit your psychological state at the supermarket, while collecting data about your shopping behaviour
New technology to be attached to supermarket trolleys will play on the human mind’s openness to suggestion when undertaking a low-involvement activity such as grocery shopping. And if marketers respond to new research published in the Journal of Consumer Behaviour, it won’t be long before small screen advertising is attached to your small shopping basket. But there is much more to this little activity than giving you helpful information about specials and offers.
The death yesterday of South-east Asia’s most wanted criminal, the terrorist Noordin Mohamad Top, came as a happy surprise to Indonesian authorities, given they did not know he was in the Solo, Central Java house they were raiding. However, given the closing security net around Top, it was always possible that he would meet his end in such an unplanned way.
The real question that comes with the death of Malaysian-born Top is whether this will spell an end to Islamist terrorism in Indonesia or, indeed, South-East Asia. The answer is twofold, the first part depending on how one defines ‘terrorism’, and the second part depending on how one defines ‘Islamism’.
You wouldn’t expect a surgeon to recommend Chinese medicine to his patients. His advice usually involves a scalpel and some nasty cutting. Similarly, it would be surprising for military men to advocate political solutions to global conflicts. It’s not their area of professional expertise. By default they lead with their strongest suit – organised violence - not geopolitics or diplomacy.
Like economists and market forecasting, the consistent failure of military options in the modern world is rarely a deterrent, or even disheartening, for men with guns. Victory is always only just another battalion or squadron away. However, after eight long and costly years, it is increasingly obvious to most Australians that there are no military solutions to Afghanistan’s complex social and political problems. The Taliban, even without aircraft, satellites or armour, are unlikely to be defeated by either Western troops or their local proxies.