I WAS at the beautician’s the other day where I met a lovely young lady called Marissa. She was 21 and was telling me about a frustrating issue she’d faced since leaving school in year 11.
‘‘It’s the patronising attitude from people about me not doing the HSC and going to university,’’ she said.
Aaah yes, intellectual snobbery. Having no degrees myself I have come across my fair share of the ‘‘educated’’ who believe if you don’t have a piece of paper proving how smart you are, then you’re not smart.
In fact, I was attacked recently by a reader called Booka disagreeing with the column I wrote on sexual harassment.
‘‘Wendy, you obviously still don’t understand the ‘personal as political’ arguement (sic) – and I’m not surprised as you are merely a journalist with no real academic education . . go and get some education before you comment.’’
Booka, apart from the fact that ‘‘arguement’’ is spelt with just one ‘e’, you’re absolutely right. I don’t have a ‘‘real’’ academic education.
I did my HSC, not so brilliantly, but enough to get me into Arts at uni which I bypassed in preference to a cadetship on The Manly Daily. Most of my friends went to uni though. It was expected of us at our very academic private girls’ school.
In fact, one changed her whole career preference to enable her to get into the University of Sydney. Her mother couldn’t understand my horror.
‘‘But Wendy, it’s the only place to go, all that history, architecture, that prestige,’’ she trilled.
So to be a part of all that history, architecture and prestige, her daughter never pursued her real passion, taking up another career instead – one which lasted about five years. After her first child she never went back to work.
Unlike Marissa, who knew in year 11 exactly what she wanted to do and where she had to go to do it. She studied hard for her diploma of beauty therapy and is now working in a job she loves. After swimming against the tide of sniffy disapproval at the tender age of 16, nothing will stop this girl.
I have also seen my fair share of work experience students, ranging from year 10 to university, and I’ve seen some of the school kids run rings around some of the uni students with their natural aptitude. One 15-year-old rendered me exhausted from her questions and enthusiasm, leaving knowing more about my personal life than she should, just because she dared to ask. I’d definitely employ her.
Compare this with the uni student who blanched in horror when I asked her to ring someone about a story.
‘‘Oh, I don’t like talking to people, do I have to?’’
Why was she studying to be a journalist? She had to do ‘‘something’’ at uni and her mother thought it might bring her out of herself. I would never employ her.
Of the 70,000 plus who are sitting their HSC this year, the vast majority will be between 17 and 18 and I think it’s safe to assume that most won’t have a real clue about what they really want to do.
So to all the teenagers waiting for your results on December 14: if they are not what you wanted, don’t panic, if they are not what your parents wanted, still don’t panic. You will all be fine.
In 10 years’ time you’ll look back at the HSC as a tiny blip on the radar of life. Nearing 30, some of you will be parents, some will have travelled the world and others will have lost a friend or two. And many of you will be working in a job you never imagined you would, and you’ll be happy. These are the experiences which will define you, not the HSC, which only really proves whether or not you’re good at sitting an exam. Remember Marissa, her goals and her talent, she had the courage to pursue them without a piece of paper saying she could.
But hey, what would I know? I’m a mere journalist with no real academic education.