If the Morrison government expected its plan to alter university fees to favour the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses to be greeted with universal approval, it has sadly miscalculated.
From far and wide has come strong disapproval of this half-baked scheme. In fact, we need more critical thinkers, not less. Humanities subjects deal with the enduring stuff of life and the culture that enriches us through economic ups and downs. Does our government really want to line up with the types of governments who don't value history? The answer to that question is that - though Scotty from Marketing might pretend otherwise - the truth is that indeed the government doesn't value the truth of history. Its support of a whitewashed and anti-worker version demonstrates this.
From humanities subjects come those best equipped to take a critical look at what the Liberal/Nationals Coalition is up to. Those best able to pursue investigative journalism, for example, people we sorely need. Investigative journalists are not, of course, in favour with those currently forming our government.
A population with a wide cross-section educated in the humanities would also of course be less gullible, less likely to accept the spin foisted on them by governments such as the sorry one currently in power. This is not in any way meant to argue against the importance of STEM courses at university level. If we had more of the population with a good understanding of science, for example, we could put enough pressure on the government to convince it of the science of climate change, and so take action.
Does our government really want to line up with the types of governments who don't value history?
Now to the detail. Last week, Education Minister Dan Tehan announced changes that will favour maths, teaching and nursing units over humanities, commerce and law.
The Coalition will double university fees for some future arts students, also raising them for commerce and law, to fund an expansion of 39,000 places and cheaper degrees for those who study in-demand courses such as teaching, nursing, maths, science and engineering.
The new fees are apparently designed to create more "job-ready graduates".
Tehan says the student contribution for law and commerce units will increase by 28 per cent and for the humanities by 113 per cent. The student contribution for a three-year humanities degree would jump from up to $20,400 to $43,500; while law and commerce degrees could increase from $34,000 to $43,500.
The small print of the announcement told us that the new policy effectively reduces the overall government contribution to degrees from 58 per cent to 52 per cent, with student contributions lifting from 42 per cent to 48 per cent. So, as well as being an attack on the latte sipping inner-city intelligentsia that the Lib/Nats love to denigrate so much, it's also a move to further privatise our education system by making the user pay (even more).
Thankfully, Australian authors and academics have savaged the Morrison government's plan. Award-winning author Richard Flanagan - who studied history at university - said he was tired of defending what other countries regard as the "bedrock" of culture and democracy.
"The government will save a few dollars today and Australia will pay a heavy price in the years to come," he said.
Clare Wright, professor of history at La Trobe University and the author of books including The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, said the changes appeared to be "ideological, opportunistic and punitive". "The proposals threaten to turn the study of history, politics, anthropology and philosophy into a vanity practice," she said.
"An indulgence of the elite rather than promoting the value of liberal arts training as the basis for any professional or creative practice."
Two-time Miles Franklin Award-winning writer Michelle de Kretser said: "Australian historians are still doing marvellous work at uncovering uncomfortable truths about Australia's past."
So there we have it. A university education looking more and more like the TAFE system the Lib/Nats have done so much to destroy. One that is now reduced to serving the needs of the big end of town.
But rather than equitably fund the humanities, we should be biting the bullet and make university education free.
"Degrees should cost students zero dollars," Greens education spokeswoman Senator Mehreen Faruqi said in response to the "government's pathetic uni fee hikes". Well said, Senator Faruqi.