Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Adapt, Survive and Thrive

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Adapt, Survive and Thrive

Article excerpt

Growing up in Australia in the 1950s, I was often asked what I would do when I left school. As a child who lived and worked on a grape and orange farm that my family had created in the middle of nowhere, I thought this was an odd question. Obviously I was going to be a farmer, like my father and my grandfather before me. I had no desire to run away to sea or to move to "the city". Intergenerational and geographic mobility were not on my primary school curriculum, nor on the curriculum of any Australian child.

Yet the question seemed to fascinate everyone. And it endured across the years, even through six years of agricultural high school and into university. Great Aunt Ollicent never tired of it, asking the question on every one of her 20 annual visits. The same aunt, mystified by my inability to render her portrait in any medium despite a year of study for an arts degree, was sure I would come to a bad end. And of course, as a sophomore I lacked the skills to explain what I was studying, let alone why.

The question gives an insight into the era and the economy. There was no notion of trying something out; you were going to "be" a farmer for life. There was no notion of changing occupations or sectors. Nor was there any expectation that you would leave the countryside to look for work in the coastal cities, even though that was where the majority of jobs were found. Indeed, Uncle Colin was regarded as frivolous and feckless, and definitely unreliable, for changing jobs twice in his lifetime.

Nor was there any assumption that you would continue learning after leaving school. University participation was under 10 per cent, and entry to nursing and primary school teaching were certificate programmes with a lot of on-the-job practice.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, the nursery rhyme we learned as two- and three-year-olds, taught us that occupations were fixed, invariable and determined by chance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.