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The Tools Are There – Use Them

11 Jun

With so much information and various ways to communicate at our fingertips, why is my generation so apathetic?

Expressing yourself and your ideas can inspire others to do the same or form an opinion, an ideology, if you will. However, Gen Y’s don’t often take the info and pass it on, share it, or respond to it. At least not the information that matters anyway.

With social media and networking, the expression of thoughts have never been so quick to reach so many. I can instantly let everyone know what’s on my mind whenever I want. Whether anyone actually cares isn’t the question, the important fact is that the idea has been put forward to a large audience for all to see.

Blogging, as I am doing right now, is another way that a though, an idea or a collection of ideas is published, largely as a way to persuade, provoke though or inspire.

So why, when we have the ability to receive so much information about what is going on in the world around us, do so many of my generation shut off or simply not care? I am finding it harder and harder to find individuals my own age with whom I can have an intelligent and sensible discussion about politics and social issues without the other party staring blankly at me or simply wishing to change the subject.

It is frustrating, to say the least, when others are so concerned with the self and their own world, even though there is absolutely no way which you can escape the influx of information about the outside world.

Is it information overload? Is this the problem?

I don’t want to point fingers at any one problem, perhaps it is a generational pattern. Gen X was largely apathetic as a response to the activist-turned yuppy baby-boomers. The activism of the 60’s and 70’s was a response to the conservatism of the previous generation.

Why, with so much social change that took place in the 2oth Century, does all of that hard work seem to be coming unravelled? It’s disheartening to feel as though you’re a lone voice amongst your generation, especially with the information revolution becoming an information evolution – greater broadband speeds, more tools to connect and share and collaborate, more opportunity for voices to become heard.

I live amongst a generation of isolation and disconnection. Despite the connection that we all have through communications, our social conscience is missing.

An oil company can cause a major oil spill off the coast of Florida. This disaster causes massive ecological damage and further destroys a once harmonious ecosystem. It’s all over the news, the most credible news websites cover it constantly. There are further reports and updates each day that the damage is getting worse, that large numbers of wildlife will die.

No one cares

At least no one my age.

Oh, the shock value is there. ‘Oh my god, how could they do that?’, ‘Oh, that’s horrible’.

Then, back to your own life. Things go on.

I’m sorry, but they don’t. The only way that the social changes we have today came about is because people fought for them. They fought hard. They researched, they campaigned, they organised!

Gen Y – NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO DO IT FOR YOU!

The dominant attitude amongst my generation is just that: Someone else will do it.

Start giving a damn, Gen Y. No one else will. The dominant conservative ideology is there and always will be if you don’t get off your seat and start acting.

The tools are now there – the Information Superhighway has paved a path of potential for the youth of today to take control and act on social change.

They have learnt how to use the tools. They just need to know how to use them correctly.

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The Legacy

11 Jun

This post is heavily inspired by Michael R. James, an Australian research scientist and writer. His article can be found here on ABC’s The Drum.

Today, I just want to share with you all, the legacy that was left behind by former PM, Gough Whitlam.

My father and I used to discuss Gough back when I was younger. His name is sometimes mentioned even now in political discussions. There is an air of great respect and admiration around these conversations. My father is a ‘boomer’ and his first election was in 1972 – the year that the ALP broke years of conservative rule.

Most people my age that I try to speak with about Gough are clueless. Blind to the progress that he gave Australia and the society that he set up – a society which we still live in today – based on social justice and democratic policy.

Here is the great legacy of a great man. I wish was around in his time to help campaign. What a time it would have been.

Name me one other Australian Prime Minister who made this much positive, social change.

What Scared Me Today

2 Jun

I began the day with the usual optimism and jubilance. As I entered my office at around 6:30 this morning my mind passed the same thoughts it had since the beginning of this week, ‘I can make a difference today’.

Coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other I sat down, switched on my Macbook, warmed the photocopy machine up and plugged into the matrix. (OK, that last bit didn’t happen)

The newfound optimism can be attributed mostly to the fact that my film festival, a project I have tried to get up and running for the past two years at my school, is going to be nicely funded by the administration this year. This means it has a great chance of being a big success.

So, I put my promoters hat on and have been shamelessly creating propaganda for the event all week long; posters, 30 second online ads, promotional booklets – you name it, I’m making it.

My first class this morning was a diverse and relatively enthusiastic group of year 10 students. Diverse in that there are a number of different attitudes and personalities, enthusiastic in that they are always ready to get to work on any media project and willing to learn. I think that the learning however, has stopped. At least the willingness has.

When vibrantly talking about the festival to the students this morning (I may have gotten carried away at one point with far too man hand movements and jumping up and down) I made a point of it to let them know that the film festival is open not just to media students whom I teach but also to staff at the college. This means that teachers can create productions to submit.

This piece of news seemed inconsequential to the students. All the students, except one. The expression on his face quickly turned from joy to fear as the news that adults would be entering the festival entered his mind.

Immediately his hand shot up. “Mister! That’s not fair!”

“Excuse me, why isn’t that fair?” I asked in reply.

“Because…” and here’s the kicker, “Teachers know more than students”.

This is the phrase that has haunted me ever since 9:45 this morning.

“Teachers know more than students.”

What, may I ask, kind of society are we living in where a 15 year old believes that in every aspect of their lives, an adult knows more than they do?

I thought that the old way of thinking, ‘Adults know best’, went out years ago. This isn’t true. It may ring true with a number of things that have come with experience such as raising children, property investment, financial responsibility, but it ends there.

We do not have the answers. Just because we may hold a high school/TAFE/University graduation, have a full-time job, drive a car and pay bills, that does not mean we are an oracle to be questioned for all of the answers in life. We don’t have the answers! And yes, sometimes we may have a few of the answers, but it’s up to the young to work them out for themselves.

I blame our education system. Students are graded in each subject area. These grades are based on informal and formal assessments such as tests, quizzes, expository texts, artistic and mechanical creations, fitness levels and exams. None of these assess the students ability to function in society – to contribute to society.

I hate grades.

I blame the concept of grading, of ticking or crossing a box, of giving a score, of assessing an outcome, of conditioning the student to behave in a manner that they normally would not just for the almighty “A”.

I hate it. This isn’t a reflection of real life. So many students and teachers talk about the ‘real world’, as if it is separate from their school education. Why can’t we actually approach teaching like we are in the ‘real world’?

So many of us in education are obsessed with ticking boxes and keeping students sheltered from reality. When will the day come where an educational institution doesn’t just attempt to educate and allow the students to learn, but to contribute something to society. When will our institutions provide, not only realistic expectations, but demonstrate real world goals and objectives to prepare our children.

So much fear, conformity and following of conduct is evident in a school. Students are full of fear to the point where self-expression has disappeared. Simply saying ‘no’ for a good reason or cause rather than ‘no’ just to be outwardly defiant is not evident anymore. Once upon a time, saying ‘no’ meant something. It meant defiance in the face of a lack of personal rights – right to privacy, right to speak up, right to a decent education.

We have created grade-grubbers who do not know how to think for themselves. We are creating a future void of any independent thought and motivation.

It is scary how that one phrase, “Teachers know more than students”, means so much more than just being a general quip by a high school student. This is the society that we have created and that we must very soon transform.

If we don’t, then the future looks very bleak.

Our Social unAwareness

20 May

For a long time, I’ve found it difficult to find any pride in calling myself a West Australian. That’s the blunt truth.

Many people from this state will tell you that it’s a land of beauty and richness. We have an abundance of natural resources, the people are friendly and unique, and we have a long and exciting history.

I think that the first of those three points would be the only one with some valid truth to it.

Show me a friendly west aussie and I’ll show you a dozen extremely rude ones.

Tell me one exciting and interesting story from our history and I’ll tell you a number of boring and long-winded ones.

I’m not setting out here today to put down this state or to declare my hatred for it, but I am somewhat perplexed by the pride that so many take in it when we clearly have no sense of progression or direction.

I’m speaking of course about the attitude that reigns supreme here; a lack of social awareness and far too much inward looking.

We are a state of people who have no awareness of the outside world. We spend far too much time consumed with our own territory and our capital city that we lead ourselves to believe that it is the whole world.

Perth is a town with a relatively small population and far too much suburban sprawl. That is the truth. Now there is absolutely no problem with that, however many people that live here believe that it is a great city. It is far from being a great city. We have far too many issues going on that halt any kind of progress. Our attitudes are stained by an ultra- conservative philosophy that reeks of xenophobia and far too much economic liberalism. The mining companies, for example, are looked to by this state as the driving force of our strong economy. Yet it is also these mining companies who are causing our young to miss out on a rich education and experience a diverse range of cultures and lifestyles. It is these corporations that are destroying the very land we live in for the sake of the economy – in the end, economic matters are inconsequential compared to social matters. What is really important is people, not finance. Humanity can flourish without a free market.

Lately there has been a call from within a right-wing faction in this state to have WA secede from the rest of Australia. As ludicrous as this may sound, it is also a dangerous call and one that threatens to alienate and further isolate our people. The arrogance that exists within the people of Perth and other towns in this state is unjustified. Although the economy appears to be strong, it relies on one area and that is the resource sector. Iron ore, nickel and gas do not remain forever. Once they’re gone they’re gone. Then where are we?

The attitude towards sport is also quite backwards. People continually cry out for a new ‘footy’ stadium while Health and Education are left out in the cold. Our hospitals are ill-equipped yet this is never mentioned as an issue until election or budget time. We truly do not deserve the status that we have as one of the states driving this country until our public services are improved. It’s frustrating, that after so many years where a basic service to humanity has gone wanting, it is still undervalued by our government and media.

There is a group that exists within Perth, of so-called intelligent professionals that are working towards improving Perth and its reputation. However, it is not the physical aspects of this city that need improvement, it is the social aspects that require our full and undivided attention. As far too much emphasis is placed on the look and feel of a city, it is the implementation of better social projects; welfare, health, education, that need to take place in order for the people to live a more full and enriched life.

This will not happen in WA if attitudes are not changed. This comes with a better education and experience regarding social matters. As Western Australians we must stop looking to the mining companies as our saviours and begin looking at other great cities and regions in the world – mainly welfare states, particularly in Europe where a higher tax means that individuals and families are better off.

If the government simply takes in a little more money then it has the ability to distribute it evenly and more abundantly to public services that are in dire need.

Unfortunately, this is where WA is very far behind.