Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Stop "whingeing" and just do your job: Why this journalist needs to suck it up

Hello readers, and welcome back! As I've spoken about before, having just graduated from high school, I am now forced to undergo the hellish torture that is the HSC. The examinations commenced just under a week ago on Thursday the 13th of October, and in the first two days, everyone in the state of New South Wales was able to knock over 2 units of English. You'd think we'd all be elated and celebrating hard out, right? Wrong. Upon returning home from our exams, we all went online to find that "journalist" Rachel Corbett had posted an "opinion" piece (please take note of my sassy use of inverted commas) on advising students to, and I quote, "stop whingeing (sic) and just do [their] HSC", before going on to individually target kids who have posted on Facebook's HSC Discussion Page 2016 (which is amazing by the way, you totally have to check it out if you already haven't). At the time this article was released, of course I was furious, and my first instincts were to a) send her a string of handwritten complaint letters or b) furiously blog about it. However, in the end, I opted for neither of those options, as in response to the understandable backlash she received from students, parents and teachers alike, Rachel went MIA on all social media services, so I assumed that she was overwhelmed by the hate coming her way, and honestly, I didn't want to make her suicidal or anything. Well, any trepidation I had before has totally vanished, because today, she released a follow up article, in which she painted herself as the victim of supposed vicious online attacks from students. So now, in a fit of rage, I am comprehensively refuting the points she made in relation to our entire cohort in not one, but two articles, through the age-old medium of online blogging. So without further ado, here is my response...

I'm going to start by deconstructing Rachel Corbett's first article, which was originally titled 'Stop whingeing and just do your HSC: Why these kids need to suck it up' (get my reference in the title of this post now?), before being re-published as 'HSC 2016 Facebook group reveals some disturbing things' in her attempt to not only further shift the blame on to us, but to fix her misspelling of the word 'whinging' which was embarrassingly picked up by the same 17 and 18 year olds she was attempting to critique (irony is honestly an amazing thing).

The article begins when she talks about how she has "just lost an hour of [her] life trawling the posts and comments on 'HSC Discussion Group 2016'". First of all, why? Rachel, you can't blame us for your choice to scroll through a page that's intended audience is, as the title suggests, students completing their HSC in 2016, and then have the audacity to critique something you were never supposed to see. Frankly, if you don't like what you see, leave.

She then goes on to say that looking through these posts has made her aware of how "out of touch" she is with "the next generation". This is pretty much the only correct statement she makes, and should be where the article ends.

After that, she starts to pick on kids individually, and forces a bunch of multifaceted students into reductive, stereotypical labels upon first glance, basically damning intersectional celebration of uniqueness in favour of ignorantly judging books by their covers in true second wave feminist fashion (way to show your age).

She deems a female student "the whinger" after she wrote a post on the page talking about how students should receive counselling after enduring the "wrath of the HSC", should have an extra hour to complete the paper, and that teachers should be required to sit the HSC themselves before teaching the course. First of all, this post was not intended to be taken entirely seriously, which Rachel Corbett would have understood if she weren't, as she said, "out of touch" with the vernacular and humour of our generation. Secondly, the student actually brings up some good points, which of course Miss Corbett systematically attempted to shut down.

Rachel said that if a person needs couselling throughout their HSC that they're going to basically fail in life, which will be a "real wake up call" for them. Obviously she doesn't remember, but newsflash, the HSC is hella stressful. Not only because of the exams themselves, but because of the pressure put upon students throughout them, and the impact that they potentially have upon getting in to the university course you want, and ultimately, your career (or at least that's what teachers and adults make it out to be). So, at perhaps the most stressful time in a young adult's life when they have to endure hormonal changes, evolving friendships and relationships and the uncertainty of life after high school, we are also bombarded with a bunch of exams said to dictate our future, and depending on how cool your parents or teachers are, pressure both at school and at home to get a good result. I don't know about you, but I find all of this pretty intense and definitely see how this could negatively impact someone's mental health, and therefore don't think counselling is the most outrageous suggestion in the world, although Rachel Corbett would obviously disagree with me.

To the suggestion that students be given an extra hour to complete the exam, Rachel says that if we were given three extra hours, "people would still be complaining". Well actually no, no we wouldn't. According to the Advanced Healthcare Network, people aged between 18 and 25 can write about 33 memorised words per minute under exam conditions, meaning that in Paper 2 for example, students would produce three 1,320 word essays. However, considering that students are being asked to not only answer an unseen question, but refer to two or more texts, provide information regarding audience, purpose and context for each and include textual analysis using around 6 to 12 quotes per essay, this mere 1,320  word limit is simply not enough. My pre-prepared modules essays, for example, are all over 1,500 words in my attempt to cram a year's worth of content in to one exam, and that's without taking in to account my response to the question we get on the day. Therefore, this means that in the HSC, I am practically required to defy science. But, with an extra hour, I would have absolutely no need for complaint. So bam, Rachel Corbett. Try arguing with scientific evidence.

Finally, to the young girl's suggestion that teachers take the HSC before teaching the course, Corbett replied that "everyone who teaches HSC subjects HAS taken the exam" and that "that's how they ended up in the privileged position of teaching someone who thinks they're the only one who's ever been through it". First of all, tone it down, because that statement was unnecessarily sassy. And I'm sorry, but you know you're old when you're calling out those darn, narrow-minded youths for being too self oriented. We're not idiots, we do understand that our teachers have done the HSC or its fancy private school equivalent (*cough* international baccalaureate *cough*) back in the day, and I don't think this girl was for one second insinuating that our teachers are unqualified (or if she was, it was obviously a form of jest that you're once again too "out of touch" to pick up on). But, over the years, the HSC has changed pretty dramatically. There are new texts and new exam formats, the difficulty and ambiguity of which has increased over time. For instance, English paper 1 in the late 90's that Rachel Corbett herself would have completed (assuming she even did it) was much more straight forward, and only included one reading and comprehension text, a broad creative writing stimulus, and a straight forward essay question which students had 50 minutes to complete as opposed to the current 40. Assuming most of our teachers completed their HSC earlier than the late 90's, their exams would have been different again. Now, questions have become more specific, time allocations have changed, and frankly, creativity has been quashed, these changes being something teachers should experience first hand if teaching the course, in order to understand the plights and challenges of students today. Also, as proven by Rachel Corbett herself, the calibre of the HSC obviously wasn't as high as it is now, considering a woman in her 30's who completed the examination is unable to spell the word "whinging", and goes on to ask, "Is the HSC a punish?" as if it makes sense.

Her next target is a boy who she deems to be "the failed stuntman", who posted the photo below on the HSC Discussion Page with the caption 'How to get out of HSC 101: Break your wrist after the first exam ends by jumping off a moving car'.


Okay, number one, the fact that you call him a 'failed' stuntman implies that in order to be successful, he would've had to die and not merely injure himself. Just to be clear, are you advocating teen suicide? Because so far, it seems that you're against counselling and are rooting for this boy to jump off a moving vehicle and kill himself, just saying. Number two, if you honestly think that he deliberately did this with the intention of getting out of having to sit his HSC exams, you are honestly super dumb. Once again, you are making apparent the fact that you are "out of touch" with modern humour (or any type of humour for that matter) abundantly clear. He was making light of the outcome of his situation, which I personally think is a healthy thing to do, and it was pretty obvious to anyone with working brain cells that this was all a joke, so maybe get some perspective.

Rachel's next victims were the people who fell under the categories of "cheaters" or "pathetic trolls", as she stated that these included the students "stupid" enough to post using their "real name" on a "public page" asking questions such as 'How can I cheat on the HSC?' or creating memes and sending them to Board of Studies Director Tom Alegounarias. In addition to that, she provides teenagers with the oh so original platitude that "life isn't all about posting on Snapchat and hanging out with your mates". Salutes for captain obvious all round, because it's not like we haven't heard that one before. Criticising teenagers for their dependence on technology? It's the oldest trick in the book. And hey, at least we use our electronics to access the online dictionary and know how to spell. Regarding the "cheaters" and "pathetic trolls", I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot in this ranty excuse for a blog post, but these are jokes not intended to be taken seriously! No one is actually dumb enough to genuinely ask how to cheat during the HSC. Everyone is just stressed and overwhelmed, and making light of the lack of hope they are feeling by humorously suggesting that cheating is their only solution. But, I repeat, no one is actually walking in to the examination room with the intention of cheating (or at least, no one who is publicly posting about it online). And the memes being created by students? I have to say, they're pretty funny. I mean, I wouldn't expect you to get them Rachel Corbett since you're so "out of touch", but people who actually have a sense of humour are guaranteed to have a laugh. Plus, they celebrate what the page is all about - using the powers of the internet to share in one another's experience of the horror that is the HSC. Most adults have been saying how cool this is that we all get to share our opinions with each other, as they didn't get to do this when they were doing the HSC and had to suffer alone. But oh no, Rachel disagrees. She thinks that we shouldn't make fun of the completely ridiculous short stories that we're asked to analyse comparing boats to whale skeletons (honestly, read text two here for a lol) and instead "suck it up" silently. Well I'm sorry, but no.

She ended her tirade by saying that the "whole reason the HSC is difficult is because it's the way we control competition for university placements", and that there is "nothing wrong with being asked to dedicate a couple of months of your life to preparing for an exam", before going on to highlight that the HSC is not "some kind of conspiracy cooked up by the establishment to break defenseless teenagers and make their life a misery", and finally ending with the kind words "Oh, and one more thing...grow up".

I agree with the fact that there is nothing wrong with taking the time to study for exams, and as a student who has been (despite not needing an ATAR for her future career aspiration might I add), I take offense to the immediate assumption that most people my age aren't. However, the difficulty of the HSC is not justified by its impact upon university placements, and in fact, that is perhaps the exam's largest flaw. Australian end of school exams are some of the hardest in the world, as there is nowhere near as much pressure placed upon America's SAT's or the UK's A Levels. Those are merely another set of yearly exams, whereas the HSC is the most important test an Australian student will ever take. In Asian countries, end of school exams have absolutely no impact upon university placement, as each university has their own set of entrance exams, which allows you to specialise in one particular area directly relevant to the course you are applying for. Therefore, instead of carrying subjects that you may not necessarily be good at to make up 10 units, or learning heaps of content that will never benefit you in the real world, you are only required to take one, highly relevant exam that matters. Plus, the idea that standardised testing has the ability to dictate a person's intellect, and from that, their entrance in to university is absurd, so while the HSC is not "cooked up" to "break defenceless teenagers and make their life a misery", it is certainly succeeding at it. Finally, I think the only person who needs to do some "grow[ing] up" is Rachel Corbett, considering she's the one who made a total fool of herself on national television and got evicted from Big Brother after 4 days, and now desperately attempts to regain attention by spending her time scrolling through and judging a bunch of teenagers who have their whole life ahead of them.

Understandably, I wasn't the only HSC student annoyed by Rachel Corbett's scathing critique of our generation, and so of course, the memes and attention of the HSC Discussion Group 2016 turned to her. Honestly, over the past few days, I have seen some good quality content, examples of which I have included below for your enjoyment:

Plus, the group managed to find some of Rachel Corbett's previous articles, which will seriously make you question her journalistic integrity (kidding, we already knew that was nonexistent), which I have also included below:

And my personal favourite, which I feel sums up her whole opinion piece:

All of this also proves that our entire year group have put more effort in to conducting research than she did into her "wasted" hour of uninformed scrolling. Talk about that awkward moment when a bunch of unqualified 17 year olds are better at your job than you are. 

This now brings us to her article released today entitled 'I never expected a reaction like this'. First of all, really? I mean, you literally spent your entire opinion piece roasting a bunch of super stressed students with mountains of pent up frustration for roasting the Board of Studies, and then don't expect to be roasted in return? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that chain of roasting out. In the article, Rachel basically talks about how she's received a lot of backlash for her original piece (understandably so), and basically goes on to highlight how much high school students suck for sending her "offensive garbage". Admittedly, some of the online trolling did include death threats and cancer jokes, and while this may be a step too far, there is absolutely no way that the threats being made were of a serious nature, but rather the intense reaction of disgruntled, enraged teenagers who felt that they had been wronged by an adult they hoped would be on their side during this time of extreme stress. However, amidst these overreactions, there have been a lot of genuine expressions of concern from students, parents and teachers (not unlike this one) that have been totally ignored, probably because Rachel Corbett has no idea how to respond to people who actually have a leg to stand on. She 'apologises' in the article for people's perceptions of her having "trivialised mental health issues" rather than apologising for actually trivialising them herself, once again placing the blame on everyone else for their misinterpretation of her apparently perfect article. She then goes on to criticise parents who have been contacting her to say that she has been "parading [her]self as a 17-year-old to gain access to a page for high school students", defending herself by stating that "the discussion page is public". Um, sorry to burst your bubble Rachel, but no it isn't. A handful of posts can be seen by the general public, but a user cannot fully access the page without asking to join it and being accepted by current members. So either Rachel did actually parade as a student to view the posts and write a scathing commentary incognito, or she didn't and only looked at the handful of posts publicly available to her and wrote a totally uninformed article about something she's never fully seen. Either way, it doesn't look good.

I think I've finally covered everything I've wanted to say. Thank you for sticking with me through this very long-winded rant, and I profusely apologise to any of my non-Australian readers who probably have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. I think my biggest problem with Rachel's articles (aside from the fact that they're totally wrong) is that they were released during the HSC, meaning that on top of the stress us students are already forced to face, we have to be met with this brutal attack. But whatever, now that I've gotten my arguments out, I can totally forget about it. Just before I finish up, I wanted to wish everyone in Year 12 this year good luck for the rest of their exams, because guys, we've almost finished! Oh, and one more thing...Rachel Corbett...grow some journalistic integrity. Til' next time . . .

Annabel xx