Persistence is a key ingredient to getting a degree

Have you ever wondered how kooks like Ken Ham get teaching certification? He does have a degree in education from a real university, you know, unlike that other fraud, Kent Hovind. From his bio:

Ken’s bachelor’s degree in applied science (with an emphasis on environmental biology) was awarded by the Queensland Institute of Technology in Australia. He also holds a diploma of education from the University of Queensland (a graduate qualification necessary for Ken to begin his initial career as a science teacher in the public schools in Australia).

Here’s a dirty little secret. Getting into or attending a university does not automatically make you smart or knowledgeable. It is possible to go through the motions, meet the minimal requirements, and not learn anything. And in some cases, even the minimal requirements may be waived, as some Australian universities are intent on demonstrating.

Students who leave high school with the lowest scores — some close to zero — are being offered places in teaching degrees at universities, a secret report has found.

It shows some prospective teaching students had an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) that was often as low as zero to 19 — far below the Federal Government’s official data.

These figures, which have never been publicly reported by universities, show that in NSW and the ACT in 2015, students who scored in the bottom 50 per cent of school leavers made up half of all those offered places in teaching degrees.

I’m happy to undermine my own authority by telling you that having letters after your name doesn’t make you brilliant. And conversely, lacking those letters doesn’t make you stupid.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    I’m happy to undermine my own authority by telling you that having letters after your name doesn’t make you brilliant.

    True, but if you want letters, it is easy to get some nice ones.
    – Reginald Selkirk, FCD

  2. nomadiq says

    A little trivia: QIT was not even a university when Ham got his degree. Just saying QIT didn’t exactly have exceptional standards (now QUT, it is much better). And his education diploma from QU is a diploma, not a degree. So it is fair to say Ken Ham does not have a degree from a university.

    Not that I really like that point. It’s very ‘argument from authority’-esque

  3. Dunc says

    Well, you know the old saying: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, lecture at university… ;)

  4. Ed Seedhouse says

    Persistence is something I definitely lack. I didn’t even realize its importance until late in life. My mind flits naturally from one interest to another and doesn’t want to stop flitting. No one sat me down when I was young and explained how important persistence is, and I doubt I would have understood if they had.

  5. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Well, you know the old saying: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, lecture at university… ;)

    As a formal TESL teacher, I can assure you that there are a lot of people who can use a language but can’t teach it. But not vice versa.

    Also, the version I’ve heard is “those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

  6. Dunc says

    Also, the version I’ve heard is “those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

    I suspect there are many variations.

  7. Rich Woods says

    Didn’t Ken Ham have his personal revelation in 1973? I’m sure I’ve heard him say that several times.

    Maybe he was a Young Earther before then, but if not until 1973 then he would have completed his degree before jettisoning damn near everything he’d been taught (along with his brain cells).

  8. anxionnat says

    Back when I was a grad student, I had a (minimum wage) job at the campus’s Tutoring Center, tutoring math (through calculus) and English. Most of the students I tutored were in the teaching credential program, and all of them struggled with algebra. Most of them needed help with writing a coherent paragraph, so they brought me their term papers to critique. I remember once a student broke down in tears when I gave her paper back to her with red comments all over it. She’d worked hard on it, she said, and was upset about my notes. I found sentence after sentence, misspelled word after word. I was a biology grad student, so I didn’t have any special expertise in writing. I had gone to high school, after all. These students–future teachers–wrote as if the’d never passed ninth grade English. And they were supposed to teach kids something they didn’t know how to do themselves!

  9. madtom1999 says

    One of my dads students took 15 years to get her PhD. She wasnt stupid – unless you call becoming a mother before you’ve finished writing it up.

  10. says

    Let’s not throw all Australian teachers under the bus to get at Ham.
    Full disclosure: I’m a science teacher educator in Queensland.
    The report related to New South Wales, and is flawed, in that only about 25% of teachers enter their degrees based on their high school scores (ATAR). Many are mature age students with other studies, other life experiences and so on. They enter teacher education based on those, not their high school scores.
    As it happens, there were also some – very few – teacher education students admitted with very low scores, often to regional universities. This also occurred prior to major reforms to teacher education in Australia over the past 3 years, including to admission requirements.
    As another poster noted above, QIT was a technical college rather than a university when Ham studied there, and Ham was likely also pre-creationist… UQ, on the other hand, is the highest-ranked university in Queensland.
    Bottom line is that the great majority of Australian teachers are very capable and knowledgeable people. Like any profession, there are outliers.

  11. nomdeplume says

    To expand on @2. Australia used to have a three tier higher education system – universities, colleges, technical schools. The tech schools were there to teach trades – carpentry, painting, plumbing and so on. Colleges were for teaching nurses, teachers, pharmacists and so on. At some point (in the eighties I think) the government decided this system was a bit elitist and lumped all of the universities and colleges together as “universities”, and turned the technical schools into “institutes”. Thus everyone got degrees, diplomas, certificates etc but they sounded much grander than they were because nothing had really changed except the letterheads. I thought the Technology Institutes didn’t award degrees, so not sure what bit of paper the execrable Mr Ham is clutching. Whatever it says it is certainly no guarantee of his ability, intelligence, or knowledge!

  12. DanDare says

    I want to the NSW institute of technology. I assure you they hand out degrees. I’m B.App.Sci.
    I got under 50% in high school which didn’t meet the bar at NSWIT. I went to see the dean. He said “I have a pen. I have power. You’re in.”
    Changed my life.

  13. nomdeplume says

    Thanks Dan Dare @13. I wasn’t being disparaging about Institutes of Technology. I got a Diploma (in Farm Management) from CIT and I simply coudn’t remember whether they also awarded degrees. Delighted you had a sympathetic Dean.