'The Educated Person' - by Marat, Westralian Worker, 18 March 1921

Westralian Worker masthead

The Educated Person - "Marat"

About the meanest stunt of the many put up during the election campaign was the wearisome insistence on the part of one candidate that he was possessed of “brilliant educational attainments.” This kind of self-advertisement is positively well, sickening. Of course it is a fine thing to be “educated”! In a way, I am disposed to flatter myself on the subject. I’ve undergone travail in half-a-dozen seats of learning. For quite a while I studied language under a past master named “Shifty” – never mind his other name! Later on I graduated in a shop at Montagu, which is nigh to that distinguished home of culture, to wit, Port Melbourne. Here, mathematics of the exact sort got me swatting – swatting is a perfectly proper ‘varsity word – and for some seven years I calculated, measured and otherwise evolved the precise cost to a gentleman profiteer of importing wire from Germany, running it through an abominable noisy machine, and passing it on to a nicely organised vend, preparatory to it’s consumption by the building contractors of Australia. I can assure all and sundry that very few astronomical mathematicians have had the training vouchsafed me in this school of profound computations. A job that was estimated to be over and done with in, say, six hours, would always be over and done with in six hours, no matter how long it took or the number of men engaged on it. No Oxford Tripos could have got near me in assessments of this character.

  Of a surety there were occasions when the mathematical equation would have been absolutely impossible but for the reinforcing qualities of my language attainments. Even at that early period in education I was forced to admit that specialisation could not get one anywhere. He who was a mathematician would fail; but he who had degrees in languages could somehow get ahead in mathematics! At this point, I was persuaded to sit for literature, the professors being a committee of timber-workers who daily had me writing essays on the thesis that 9/- a day was more to the point than 8/-. The examiners - they were appointed by some of the leading commercial and businessmen in Melbourne! - actually had the amazing effrontery to reject this thesis as preposterous. Such was the low ebb of education at the time! I naturally complained to the Professors that their lectures were not in accordance with the accepted standard. To my consternation they ordered me to study economics and in the light of this additional subject confound even the examiners. How this was finally done need not here be told. Suffice it to say that by the joint aid of languages, mathematics, literature and economics, the thing was done. I have other claims to distinction - who has not? - but I merely write this as a kind of offset to the absurdity of a candidate for Parliament boasting about his "education". That he didn't get in is a tribute to the electors, of which, as a person of real education, I am proud to have been one.

John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. "Marat". The Educated Person. Self-Education, The Westralian Worker, 18 March 1921. JCPML00653/28/40