Today’s history tutorial was a bit of a surprise, by my reckoning, for a few different reasons. No readings were discussed, it turned into Australia bashing, Australian bashing, national loyalty bashing, bashing bashing, and many other things. I’ll give you a short recount because I can.
You’ll remember that I’m doing a subject about American imperialism, and full well expected it to be an American-bashing course. I had no problem with this, as I quite enjoy discussing the topic of imperialism and whether it exists (as conceived in its modern notions).
The first few tutorials lived up to my expectation. But today’s was quite different. It began as what could quickly turn into “America is Bad 101” (the dreaded ‘I’ word (Iraq) was suggested as a way to relate the readings to a modern context), but diverted into an argument about the efforts, by the Howard government, to ‘save’ (I really couldn’t think of a better word) the Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. I’ve written about this (here) and have no intention of rephrasing what I still believe.
The tutor let the class yell-free in a pseudo-debate (not anything like a real debate with some of the people in my class – one guy who thinks what he says is gold and infalable (I’ve already argued with him before and choose never to again, lest I physically assault him); an American (from California) who can actually bring an American perspective to the talks, but ends up having to defend things he doesn’t even believe in; a range of females who are of the same opinion of me, only more ready to go toe-to-toe with anyone who disagrees; and the rest of the class (excluding me of course) who sits back and rips into the US). The know-it-all students who calls anything the US does imperial simply changed ‘America’ to ‘Australia’ and began to pontificate about something they were so ill-informed about (this Aboriginal community issue). Of course, that’s not to say I’m anything of an authority on the issue (though I do feel somewhat more informed than John Citizen, having read through blog-entry upon blog-entry about the topic), but the things that they were saying were off-the-wall.
I prepared to speak up, but held my tongue as a few people outlined exactly what I’ve preached before – that something is better than nothing, it might be a vote-winning policy but at least it’s something, educational issues (and I’m the only education student in that class), social issues, etc. I was surprised, to be honest, because there were more people saying this than the usual ‘let’s take things in context’ party (what I would deem rational people) – which really consists of me, this other guy and these two girls.
This then erupted into a slinging match, where if you were saying that the government was doing this for votes you were cynical and inhumane for not wanting to stop what’s happening in the Aboriginal communities. The other side said that those who supported it were naive and wrong, all said with a hint of contempt in their voices. It probably hit a highlight for my side when the others couldn’t remember the names of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs (Mal Brough, who I also pointed out was Minister for Families and Community Services as well) and the Minister Health and Aging (Tony Abbott).
It got pretty ugly towards the end, which is where I decided to opt out (for some strange reason). The tutorial ended and we never had to even talk about America, Iraq or the readings. A surprising, and slightly enjoyable, tutorial.