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June 26th 2016 print

Roger Franklin

A Trigger Warning for Taxpayers

Tertiary education is so important to Australia's future, we are told, that Labor in particular plans to spend much more on universities and, of course, their faculties. Those who have not visited a campus for some time will be astonished to learn of the inanity their taxes are underwriting

mortar boardGovernments like to talk about the “investments” they make, by which they mean investing the effort to relieve productive citizens and business of their hard-earned and give it to the mendicant sectors, where it is hoped such largesse will buy votes in job lots. Australia’s tertiary education system, or so Labor tells us, is in serious need of other people’s money — so much so that ten of Bill Shorten‘s “100 Positive Policies” purport to detail the means by which the nation will become a smarter, richer and happier land. As for the Liberals, their platform is noticeably short on specifics for the tertiary sector.

What neither party, however, has been prepared to address is just what it is that the tertiary dollar buys. Given the billions poured into the pursuit of broadening and sharpening young minds, this is a curious oversight. If you are buying a bill of goods, paying more for it does nothing to improve its quality or value. Indeed, if what you are already funding is an insult to intelligence, prepare to see good sense further abused the higher the price tag goes.

With this in mind, below are two exhibits that might — should, to be frank — prompt some thought about what taxpayers are underwriting.

First, “geography” as it is being taught at a tertiary level. The speaker is Associate Professor Simon Springer, from Canada’s Victoria University, who will touring Australian universities in July. The University of Queensland’s advance publicity for its revered guest neatly, if unintentionally, captures the cookie-cutter vacuity of yet another leftist cliche spigot. What it doesn’t capture is his way with words, one word in particular.

Below, filmed at one of his lectures, an example of what passes for modern education. Those offended by obscenity might do best not to watch; likewise those watching the clip at work, unless the volume is turned down to the barely audible. Springer really hits straps at the nine-minute mark.

That’s Exhibit A  (which can be read here) in the case for a sweeping reform of the tertiary sector.

Below, grim evidence of the damage done to impressionable minds when exposed to tidily remunerated, foul-mouthed fools. It is a list of “trigger warnings” provided by the Network of Women Students Australia, whose annual gathering was hosted six months ago by the University of Technology Sydney. Several of the weirder causes for alarm have been bolded. As we’re all paying — take that to mean those from whom taxes are extracted — for institutions in which this fainting-couch frailty of mind is both funded and encouraged, might as well get some value for the money, even if the giggle comes at ruinous cost.

  • Ableism
  • Ableistic slurs (st*pid, id*ot, d*mb, cr*pple, r*t*rd etc.)
  • Abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual)
  • Anything that might inspire intrusive thoughts in people with OCD, such as “discussion of contamination”
  • Blood
  • Body image
  • Body horror
  • Child abuse/pedophilia
  • Classism
  • Corpses, skulls or skeletons
  • Death/Murder
  • Drug use or talk of drugs (legal, illegal or psychiatric)
  • Eating disorders
  • Eye contact (scopophobia)
  • Fat shaming
  • Flashing lights (for epileptics)
  • Food
  • Gore
  • Harassment
  • Hate crimes
  • Insects
  • Islamophobia
  • Kidnapping (forceful deprivation of/disregard for personal autonomy)
  • Medical procedures
  • Mental illness (depression, anxiety etc.)
  • Misophonia (selective sound sensitivity- typically include the sound of chewing and repetitive sounds)
  • Nazi paraphernalia
  • Needles
  • Panic attacks
  • Pregnancy (tokophobia)
  • Queerphobia (heterosexism)
  • Queerphobic slurs (f*g, d*ke, tr*nny etc.)
  • Racism
  • Racist slurs (ni*ger, a**o etc.)
  • Rape
  • Scarification
  • Self-injurious behavior (self-harm, etc.)
  • Serious injury
  • Sex
  • Sexism
  • Sexist slurs (c*nt, b*tch etc.)
  • Sex shaming
  • Sexual assault
  • Slimy things
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Suicide
  • Discussions of -isms, shaming, or hatred of any kind (racism, classism, hatred of cultures/ethnicities that differ from your own, sexism, hatred of sexualities or genders that differ from your own, anti-multiple, non-vanilla shaming, sex positive shaming, fat shaming/body image shaming, neuroatypical shaming)
  • Transphobia (cissexism)
  • Transphobic slurs (tr*nny, tr*p etc.)
  • Transmisogyny (combo of transphobia and sexism)
  • Trichitillomania (disorder of compulsive hair pulling)
  • Trypophobia (fear of things with holes or orifices/repetitive pattern phobia)
  • Violence
  • Vomit
  • Warfare
  • Weapons

This list was compiled, remember, by beneficiaries of the money lavished on our institutions of higher education.

Fortunately, use of the four-lettered procreative verb is not listed. That means Associate Professor Simon Springer’s tour should go off without a hitch.

Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online

Comments [30]

  1. Jim Campbell says:

    Ah – such a shame. My own trigger warning came some years ago when I found you could get into Science with a 75% mark and you could get into Education, yes Education, with no mark at all!! Then when they finally emerge from academia, after no doubt having been encouraged to contribute to some variant of Safe School fandanglings their education(???) level has actually declined.
    But it is just one strand of life that is gradually shutting down as we witness the end of civilisation.

  2. Turtle of WA says:

    They left one off the trigger warning list, and here it is:

    - Reality

  3. en passant says:

    University was one of life’s big disappointments, right up there with not having my toenails removed with pliers.

    Unfortunately, none of this is new, because I was a mature age student with some real-life experience (and older than my academically cloistered tutors) at University in 1973. I was appalled to find out that free thought, independent research of texts not on the curriculum, private science projects and challenging the orthodoxy was not welcomed. To obtain a “C” pass I reluctantly followed the party line. Shamefully, I had also become persuaded that these knowledgeable people, who spent their lives studying such things and with so many degrees, titles and accolades to their names must know better, otherwise they would have been proven wrong by other equally brilliant minds. Right?

    As an elective I did a Futurology subject that was based entirely on coming catastrophes. We were taught that the Club of Rome consensus mandated with absolute certainty that the next Ice Age was due in twenty years and the world was doomed. After all it was a proven fact in tables, graphs, mathematical formulas and new-fangled computer models that the world would be uninhabitable by the Year 2000 (not ‘2012’ as the Mayans calculated in their apocalyptic calendar) as the North Atlantic would be frozen over for 3 – 4 months a year, Britain would resemble northern Russia and the English Channel would be issuing iceberg warnings. With so little time left it was hardly worth going on and finishing my degree, really … This time I got an ‘A’ as I had learned the rules of the game.

    Unfortunately for my academic betters I kept a record of the educational propaganda I was being told was fact and tracked their fantasies over the years. Is anybody surprised that the predictions of these intellectual giants proved to be no more reliable than the ‘monkey throwing a dart’ method for accuracy and as a measure of reality? My skepticism of every catastrophist and pseudo-scientist of all the Dark Disaster Arts and cults has proven to be well-founded.

    Other priorities in my life became more important and I did not seriously reawaken my interest in climate until I bought Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” to read on a plane in 2006. All the usual catastrophes were there – and as already expected none of his predictions have ever come true. Universities ‘soft skills’ courses are protected havens for the useless mouths of the intellectually and morally challenged who have no real value for the advance of civilization.

    I think my badge for donating 50 pints of blood [Trigger warning!] has more significance than half the turgid degrees churned out by universities.

    • Peter says:

      This surprises me a little I was a mature age student too in 1969 (at UWA); not too far short of 1973. Maybe it was the course I was doing – economics – with a statistical and mathematical bent – but I threw politics and English literature in among other electives and found it all pretty solid. And there was certainly no rampant PC on campus that I ever noticed. I have since concluded that the rot set in in the 1980s onwards. Just another experience.

      • LBLoveday says:

        I was a direct entrant on a government studentship (full time mother, eldest of 5, father working at GMH, no way could we pay fees, but it was a time when industry and ability was rewarded, when it was recognized that not everyone should be accorded the same, were not equally entitled, when it was seen advantageous for the diligent and clever to be encouraged), studying the first IT course, then called B. Applied Sc (Data Processing), offered by the UofA and graduated in 1968. It was very rigorous, beyond what I’d call “solid”.

        Far from PC, there was a sign in the men’s toilets above the toilet roll in our block “BA’s – take one”.

      • en passant says:

        I started my B.Ec at UWA in 1973, but moved to Queensland after a year. Although part time I did three subjects in the first year: Economics 101 (50% worthwhile and 50% alchemy), Economic History 101 (I enjoyed this and still have some of the papers I wrote). Left to my own research and devices the elective I took could have produced an expanded mind, but the parameters meant it was like digging a tunnel. Econometrics in second year was pure astrology …

      • Jody says:

        It was courtesy of Whitlam’s “free” university degrees that the rot set in.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      That may be so, but the glaciers are rapidly melting and the sea level is rising. The planet is warming.
      I have not read Flannery’s book, but I gather he says much the same thing. ‘Some predictions are wrong, ergo all are’ would not have got you far in Logic 101.
      But going by your account, and by Occam’s Razor, it sounds like the futurologist should have been teaching something more like wankology.

      • Rob Ellison says:

        I studied engineering – specialising in hydrology – and then a Masters in Environmental Science. Both immensely rewarding.

        I don’t recall whether I read ‘The Weather Makers’ – but I certainly read the 1st IPCC assessment and it all seemed plausible. However, I gave up on their Readers Digest version of climate science in 2007. It departed too severely from what the evolving understanding of the climate system was in fact saying.

        I predict – on the balance of probabilities – cooler conditions in this century. But I would still argue for returning carbon to agricultural soils, restoring ecosystems and research on and development of cheap and abundant energy supplies. The former to enhance productivity in a hungry world, increase soil water holding capacity, improve drought resilience, mitigate flooding and conserve biodiversity. We may in this way sequester all greenhouse gas emissions for 20 to 30 years. The latter as a basis for desperately needed economic growth. Climate change seems very much an unnecessary consideration and tales of climate doom – based on wrong science and unfortunate policy ambitions – a diversion from practical and measured humanitarian goals.

        You may note that I also predicted a cold and blustery winter. Get ready for another ‘super’ La Nina.



        Climate models are indeed so close to fraudulent that the difference can only be distinguished by squinting.


      • Lawrie Ayres says:

        I imagine in your studies you have heard of the Little Ice Age which was at it’s coldest in the mid eighteen hundreds when ice fairs were held on the Thames in London. Since then the earth has been slowly warming with the attendant retreat of glaciers and rising of seas. In that period, most of it before the rise of coal fueled industry generally accepted as being post WWII, the temperature has increased .8 degrees and the seas have risen less than a foot. For the past twenty years there has been no warming except that gained by data manipulation and the seas are rising by a millimetre at a time when CO2 production has been very high. None of the foregoing is dependent on CO2 and is probably totally attributed to natural processes over which humans have absolutely no control.

        The fact that you continue to spruik the same statements tells me you are either adverse to learning/ investigating or are indocrinated to the extent you have lost the ability to reason.

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Actually Lawrie, my ‘spruiking’ on this site is always in response to an article or two (dozen) disputing mainstream climatology, though in this instance it is in response to a passing ‘sceptical’ comment from ‘en passsant’ (above). This has led me to postulate that in the minds of the ‘sceptics’ (perhaps even including yourself) human-induced global warming could not possibly be happening, because if it was it would be bad for established business. (This I call the Ostrich Hypothesis, almost certainly not original, but with a pretty good fit to the facts.) It helps explain why there is such a strong correlation between right wing politics and climate ‘scepticism’.
          As I am a political centrist, I do not feel obliged to follow the orthodoxy here, and can devote my attention to Quadrant Online’s articles on topics like Islam, which are generally first-rate.
          You might be interested in the link below, which is an article I cam across at a popular science site reporting on a recent article by an international team of scientists recently published in Nature Geoscience.

          • Rob Ellison says:

            “Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations, namely the undecidability of some propositions within axiomatic mathematical systems (Gödel’s theorem) and the uncomputability of some algorithms due to excessive size of the calculation.” James C. McWilliams – UCLA Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. http://www.pnas.org/content/104/21/8709.full

            Here I assume the it’s getting worse ‘scientists’ are talking about the rate at which glaciers are falling into the Southern Ocean – creating incidental traps for the Ship of Fools. One side points at a mooted increase in calving based on dubious data and ignorance of mechanisms – the other to the increase in pack ice. Horror of horrors – what if neither side appreciates the limits of scientific knowledge? What if it is just tribal sturm and drang? What if it is the wrong type of knowledge entirely?

            “Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not
            questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.” http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/units/mackinder/pdf/mackinder_Wrong%20Trousers.pdf

            Especially if the science is the sort of simplistic allegory found in most places on the interweb. Science is elsewhere.

            “In 1963, Lorenz published his seminal paper on ‘Deterministic non-periodic flow’, which was to change the course of weather and climate prediction profoundly over the following decades and to embed the theory of chaos at the heart of meteorology. Indeed, it could be said that his view of the atmosphere (and subsequently also the oceans) as a chaotic system has coloured our thinking of the predictability of weather and subsequently climate from thereon.

            Lorenz was able to show that even for a simple set of nonlinear equations (1.1), the evolution of the solution could be changed by minute perturbations to the initial conditions, in other words, beyond a certain forecast lead time, there is no longer a single, deterministic solution and hence all forecasts must be treated as probabilistic. The fractionally dimensioned space occupied by the trajectories of the solutions of these nonlinear equations became known as the Lorenz attractor (figure 1), which suggests that nonlinear systems, such as the atmosphere, may exhibit regime-like structures that are, although fully deterministic, subject to abrupt and seemingly random change.” http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1956/4751

            I despair at ‘political centrists’ who never were all that good at this maths and science thingy.

          • Clive says:

            Your link says that these ice areas MAY be melted by warm currents. Those currents are not warmed by global warming/climate change. The air in contact with the ocean warms only the top few millimetres which is largely lost to evaporation. The ocean itself is warmed by direct sunlight, well away from Antarctica, down to 100 metres. It’s got NOTHING to do with carbon dioxide.
            See page 8/9. All of this is a good read, by an oceanographer who wrote his first paper in 1958 and has travelled the worlds oceans.

          • Rob Ellison says:

            The gist o

          • Rob Ellison says:

            The gist of the ocean paper is that there are long term changes in heat as a result of internal variability of the climate system. Just so.

            “Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed. For example, roughly half the north Atlantic warming since the last ice age was achieved in only a decade, and it was accompanied by significant climatic changes across most of the globe. Similar events, including local warmings as large as 16°C, occurred repeatedly during the slide into and climb out of the last ice age. Human civilizations arose after those extreme, global ice-age climate jumps. Severe droughts and other regional climate events during the current warm period have shown similar tendencies of abrupt onset and great persistence, often with adverse effects on societies.” http://www.nap.edu/read/10136/chapter/2

            The energy flow – by the way – is from the Sun to the oceans, to the atmosphere and out to space. There are many things that influence the heat loss as either latent or sensible heat from the oceans – and therefore the heat retained. Atmospheric temperature is one of them.

  4. Rob Ellison says:

    On the one hand we have ‘anarchist geography’ that – for the purposes of free speech – is defensible if more than a trifle nutty. When I did geography it was fluvial geomorphology and biogeography. On the other hand we have the ‘grievance committee’ – volunteer enforcers of socially inoffensive language. At the risk of offending – which is after all not threats or incitement to violence – and is therefore protected speech under every principle of civilisation – fuck them all.

    I replied recently to a ‘friend’ on Facebook who posted a reference to some boy – a child – and ‘her’ parents pestering politicians for access to puberty delaying drugs. Pending sexual ‘transition’ sometimes later. He has something referred to as gender dysphoria – a pathological dislike of his body. Most kids with this disorder get over it by adolescence – although somewhat interestingly most who do are attracted to the same sex. Those who don’t get over it go onto lead deeply conflicted lives – and with the dire after effects of problematic drugs and intrusive surgery. It’s a psychological disorder – there is no gene for playing with Barbie dolls. There is no test to distinguish those who get over it from those who don’t. To treat all these kids with powerful drugs – rather than say counselling and support – seems unequivocally child abuse done on the basis of an ideology. That I find offensive. I was ‘unfriended’ but in the wise words of Bill Murray – if you are not pizza I can live without you. Obviously my words were offensive and my thoughts politically incorrect. They brook no argument – else you get labelled, pigeonholed and offensively dismissed.

    We used to be taught that sticks and stones can break our bones but words can never hurt us. In the real world we can’t make people respect us – but the adult thing to do is not to play if you don’t like it. Free speech is too important to compromise. The social costs of political correctness are huge. Apart from fundamental freedoms is the sterilisation – so to speak – of everyday communication. My niece posted yesterday that she hates this politically correct generation where nothing is allowed to be funny because it might offend someone.

    • Jody says:

      Your last paragraph is key here. And the most famous body dysmorphic was Michael Jackson. That would have been a tragedy had it not been for the abuse to which he subjected other young people. And how ironic is it that Hollywood stars like Liz Taylor protected Jackson from community obloquy.

      I had much the same experience at university as recounted here when I completed a BA in English Literature and Musicology as a ‘mature age’ student in the 80′s and 90′s. I went on to postgraduate level and did also a Dip.Ed. and went into teaching for a decade where I threw off the shackles of institutionally imposed group-think and taught my students the value of independent thinking!! Together we challenged much modern day ‘orthodoxy’ behind closed classroom doors, including debunking many of the myths and propaganda in “Rabbit Proof Fence” (don’t start me!!). English Literature was OK, except that there was an answer you were expected to provide and in order to get high marks it was necessary to regurgitate. But Musicology was presided over by an “Ethnomusicologist’ who thought that the western musical canon was elitist (yes, that’s the general idea!!) and had to be systematically made over so that it became ideologically tolerable. In once infamous exchange between the two of us – yes, she sought me out because I was a known dissenter. I told her bluntly, “you don’t get me to admire and respect your ethnic musics by trying to destroy the status of the music I love”. She turned on her heel and left the room. Suffice it to say I still got HDs and managed to complete the course unscathed. I think she found me intimidating, but there was much at stake. I felt that now as I feel it even more strongly today.

  5. Patrick McCauley says:

    At the nine minute mark of Prof Simon Springers’ lecture … he enters the rhythms and cadences of Alan Ginsberg reading ‘Howl’ ….. many of his repetitions “Fuck Neo Liberlism and everything it stands for / Fuck the endless cycle of accumulation and the cult of broke/ Fuck the hold that it has got on our political imaginations/ Fuck Hayek and Springer ” etc etc It is a long rant against neo-liberalism without depth, substance or alternatives. The student audience seem amused most by the constant use of the word Fuck and the rap beat of the lecturer performing for them. It could be a war cry for some sort of vague revolution, but mostly its meaningless rap keeping the monkeys amused…. saying nothing. Why is this Geography?

  6. mags of Queensland says:

    I attended uni as a mature aged student from 1980. From the first day it was evident that those who had just left school had been poorly educated. How they got there is beyond me. We had a literacy and comprehension test on the first day and the statistics are enlightening. Of those who achieved the pass mark of> 60%, 90% were over the age of 30. They had to have remedial classes for those who failed. Good start, eh? Most couldn’t string words together to make a valid argument in any assignment as they had not been taught how to approach and write an assignment in high school. Many of the lecturers, closer to my age than theirs, were tearing their hair out by the end of courses.

    As for many of the lecturers themselves, well they might have been good in their field but they sure couldn’t teach. Or maybe I was just picky having had a good education in the 50′s and 60′s. I was the first of my family to finish high school and to undertake tertiary education. It taught me a valuable lesson. Make sure your children and grandchildren push the boundaries and think for themselves.

  7. Egil says:

    Gore….? Tipper Gore for one, would agree with that inclusion.

  8. Ian MacDougall says:

    Clive Bond:
    (No reply space under your post.)

    The ocean itself is warmed by direct sunlight, well away from Antarctica, down to 100 metres. It’s got NOTHING to do with carbon dioxide.

    Heat passes from the atmosphere to the ocean in meltwater from glaciers and snow, and in rainfall leading to runoff via rivers or directly into the oceans. CO2 is acknowledged, even by ‘sceptics’ as a heat-trapping gas, and has been since the time of Arrhenius C 1900.


  9. Rob Ellison says:

    We have without doubt all the technology needed to ‘solve’ climate change. Not that I want to remotely buy into the climate catastrophic calamity memes.

    There is a great deal of very poor climate science. The best science says that climate is random and chaotic. It is an ergodic dynamical system – and there is a ‘scientific consensus’ around this. The basics are fairly simple. Added greenhouse gases should – all things being equal – result in a warmer atmosphere.

    Take the warmest El Niño month in the instrumental record – early in 1998 – subtract the warmest El Niño month in the mid 1940’s – when greenhouse gas emissions took off – and divide by the number of intervening decades. You get a warming of 0.07 degrees C/decade. Not enough to be a problem – even if all of it was assumed to be anthropogenic – any time this century. This mooted warming is superimposed on large ‘internal variability’. The problem with an ergodic dynamical system is that it is not at all obvious which way the system will go, how soon, how much or how quickly. This is problem is orders of magnitude less tractable than the simple basics.
    All things are never equal. It is problem that goes beyond the limits of scientific understanding or mathematical methods.

    Solving the real problems of the world – poverty, hunger, environmental degradation – requires restoration of soils and ecosystems globally. This – by the way – reverses greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural soils have lost hundreds of billions of tons of carbon over a very long time. Hundreds of billions of tons of carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and returned to soils.

    Restoring soil carbon stores – as organic material – increases grazing and cropping productivity and enhances global food security. Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding. There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs. Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content. This is a project that is well underway globally.

    The energy flow – by the way – is from the Sun to the oceans, to the atmosphere and out to space. There are a number of things that influence the heat loss as either latent or sensible heat from the oceans – and therefore the heat retained. Atmospheric temperature is one of them – as are wind speed, atmospheric humidity and turbulent mixing.

    Meltwater is not. Melting snow and ice absorbs heat from the surroundings so that it changes from ice to liquid without changing temperature. All the added energy is enthalpy – internal to the system. It may then heat up from the Sun. Most of the energy in the Earth system comes from the Sun. There is a little formula.

    ocean heat ≈ energy in – energy out

    Unfortunately – none of those things are all that easy to measure.

  10. Rob Ellison says:

    Rob Ellison
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    June 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm
    “Sensitive dependence and structural instability are humbling twin properties for chaotic dynamical systems, indicating limits about which kinds of questions are theoretically answerable. They echo other famous limitations on scientist’s expectations…

    Seriously – unmoderate this already.