Saturday, May 26, 2012

Struggling with educational snobbery

  I am an education snob. This is mostly due to everyone having had high expectations of me as a child geek, effortlessly topping my classes and doing every extension available. This carried on into the accelerated class (with extra-accelerated maths) at high school. While working, partying and drinking copious amounts I managed to keep up the A+ grades with quickly-scrawled essays. I always had the expectation (and the expectation of me) that I would go on to a spectacularly impressive degree at an impressive university, and I did, beginning Behavioural Neuroscience at Monash at barely 17.
  Then, things started to go off the rails. While lots of my classes were interesting, I was failing to see how they would lead to a career that I actually wanted to do. And I realised that many people had been studying while I was doing the working/partying/drinking thing, and had a much more solid background than me. All of a sudden I actually had to work at learning, without having the appropriate motivation for doing so. I agonised for a short while, spending many hours playing Command and Conquer (at the husband’s house) or The Sims (at my house), instead of going to lectures (but I still passed first year-barely).
  So I deferred. And got a job as a cleaner (can you hear the screams of horror from where you are?) And I really, really enjoyed it. It was at a hospital so I spent all day talking to lovely senior citizens while scrubbing their rooms, and I earnt excellent money for an 18 year old. I was soon doing three different jobs there, also doing kitchen work and talking myself into a job as a data clerk at Breastscreen. I was able to buy a car, get my licence, and rent a brand-new little unit with the husband (then boyfriend), where we played endless Xbox while getting shitfaced. Then I managed to drag him to Queensland for a holiday, he realised it was far preferable to Melbourne, and we began our nomadic life. And decided babies were better had sooner, rather than later, and money was most easily got by renovating crappy old houses.
  The education thing has always niggled at me, though. I have always wanted a qualification of some sorts, and started a Bachelor of Nursing externally when I had Oods, which lasted two weeks (laugh at me, thinking with a newborn i’d have so much time on my hands). Then I began a Bachelor of Health Promotion (spot the health/medical theme here?) when pregnant with Shorty. This time I completed a semester with HDs-but then PND hit and I couldn’t continue into the next one. I then began it again when pregnant with Frosty but my heart wasn’t in it-and I don’t think i’ll go back to it. I chucked the books for a few years, deciding to teach myself dressmaking/pattern drafting in more depth instead, thinking something suited to me would come up eventually.
  Then some friends we met travelling kept talking about their friend the herbalist. Herbalist? People still do that? Like, as a job? And I have since found that they certainly do, and so could I. Me, who attempts to grow every herb I can get seeds from, who doses up the kids (and the pets) with all sorts of weird stuff rather than medicine, and who has a whole shelf of herbal books already. And I can also extend it to a qualification in nutritional medicine-considering how much time I spend cooking, and my obsession with wholefoods and fermenting, plus the fact that Shorty’s medicinal garlic chomping has actually been recorded in his audiology file, well, i’m sort of seeing that I just may be suited for this. I began to think of teaching rather than practicing, running short and day courses, and enabling people to treat and prevent their own minor ailments.
  Which is where the educational snobbery enters. I never really considered anything but a degree-while i’d had a cursory look over TAFE handbooks, a degree was the only way to go. I’ve always considered that you go to TAFE for trades, not for academics. What use is a diploma for an intellectual course? It’s not like a proper qualification, is it? Well, I can’t do the only Bachelor of Herbal Medicine offered, on-campus at a college. Not with five children, and not in Brisbane (city, argh!). So it has to the the external………..are you ready…………Advanced Diploma. From an independent college, no name-dropping kudos there. I’m having trouble getting my head around the fact that it’s not a degree. From a university. This is compounded by the fact that you cannot register with industry bodies after doing the external course, as it’s not considered good enough. (You can register, however, after the course and six months working in the field). And it costs $21,600 in VET_FEE-HELP fees (with the 20% surcharge), crikey! For two years off-campus it seems a bit steep, especially as it’s so much more than the HECS fees were for my on campus Neuroscience degree, complete with gel electrophoresis experiments and real cadavers. I’ve been dithering about enrolling this whole year, and have reached the point where i’ve collected my various academic transcripts for RPL ( I should get 6-7 subjects out of 28 written off, reducing costs considerably), and am trying to wheedle the husband into letting me pay upfront with the coming guv’mint bribes, thereby receiving a 30% discount. If that all works, the cost for the qualification drops to around $9000. And I can use it as credit for a Health Sciences degree in the future, if I decide to, effectively halving the subjects for that.
  Also, all of these colleges are…….well, somewhat woo. While I am convinced of herbalism’s medicinal qualities, some of the electives i’m offered sit on shakier foundations of evidence. Like homeopathy. (But it’s OK-I can do nutrition and other more stable electives.) I have the feeling i’ll be leaving my comfortable scientific realm of epidemiology and double-blind studies into a world of anecdote and n=1 studies. I don’t think i’ll fit in well. Call me blinded by too much education, as woo-fanatics do to anyone who chooses to put more stock in scientific evidence over anecdotes (with all of their biases), but I prefer the cool-eyed, well-thought out rigor of science to a collection of emotion-charged anecdotes being called ‘proof’ against all other evidence (see the ‘vaccines cause autism’ brigade for a perfect example). Maybe I could call myself the scientific herbalist?
  So I have a week or so in which to decide whether I really want to do it and whether it’s worth it. And whether i’m ready, right now, to jump back into the world of structured study.


Amanda said...

Good luck with whatever you decide. Admission (of said snobbery) is the first step in recovery!!! The course sounds like it would be great for you, and obviously a good stepping stone for further studies down the track. Will follow the progress with interest. Take care Kelly.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamara Kelly said...

Meh! Buy the course books and read it yourself.

Kelly said...

Ah, but then I won't have that little bit of paper that allows me to practise, and makes me look like I know what i'm doing!

Thanks Amanda.