Guest Post: ‘I Have A Dream that the HSC Will End’

  • Post to celebrate completion of my PhD: CHECK.
  • Post with an update on my upcoming conference papers: CHECK.

So…where to next?

As fate had it, this decision was made for me, with the arrival of a piece of student writing in my inbox.

The author of the piece is a recently graduated HSC student, one whom I had the pleasure of teaching year 8 English, and coaching for debating 🙂  This is him counting down the days until the end of his exams:

I invite you to read his work (below), which he has given me permission to reproduce (along with his picture) in this post.  Oriniginally published as a Facebook post on October 28th, it is a re-writing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous I Have a Dream speech, which has been adapted to make a satirical commentary on the HSC.  It comes with a mild language warning (c’mon; it’s satire!), and is a brilliant example of a ‘textual intervention’.

I’m very proud to feature it here  as my first ‘guest post’!:


I Have A Dream that the HSC Will End

By B. Wylie

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our state.

Two score years ago, an a*shole bureaucrat, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, created the Higher School Certificate. This momentous decree came as a great source of pain and suffering to millions of NSW students who were about to be seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a sorrowful dusk which signalled the beginning of their long night of academic captivity.

But fourty four years later, the student still is not free. Fourty four years later, the life of the student is still sadly crippled by the manacles of standardised testing and the chains of rankings. Fourty four years later, the student lives on a lonely island of studying in the midst of a vast ocean of facebook updates. Fourty four years later, the student is still languished in the rooms of NSW high schools and finds himself an exile in his own class. And so we’ve come here today to dramatise a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to this facebook note to cash a check. When the architects of our curriculum wrote the convoluted words of the syllabi and the HSC exam questions, they were signing a promissory note to which every student was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, public school students as well as private school students, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that the Board of Studies has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of academia are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, the Board of Studies has given the student people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this state. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed facebook note to remind the Board of Studies of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of irrelevant ranks to the sunlit path of academic justice. Now is the time to lift our state from the quicksands of rankings injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the students’ legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Two thousand and eleven is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the student needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the Board returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in NSW until the student is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our state until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the student community must not lead us to a distrust of all assessors, for many of our assessors, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the student is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of examination brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain respite in the comfort of a bed and the comfort of television. We cannot be satisfied as long as the student’s basic mobility is from a smaller examination period to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our peers are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by instructions stating: “Use only blue or black pen.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a student in Bowral cannot stop studying and a student in Sydney believes he has nothing for which to study for. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from examinsation halls. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of extension one maths’ brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Wagga Wagga, go back to Newcastle, go back to Port Macquarie, go back to Broken Hill, go back to Wollongong, go back to the slums and ghettos of south western Sydney, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Australian dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Wagga, the sons of former students and the sons of former assessors will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even Broken Hill, a town sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the level of their ATAR but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Albury, with its vicious teachers, with its school principals having their lips dripping with the words of “N Awards” and “Asterisk ATARS” — one day right there in Albury little public school boys and public school girls will be able to join hands with little private school boys and private school girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the Board of Studies marking centre with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if Australia is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Griffith.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Katoomba.

Let freedom ring from the miserable dust bowl that is Goulburn.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped peaks of the Blue Mountains.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of Cooma.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from whatever is in Dubbo.

Let freedom ring from the forests of Gosford.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Yass.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every town and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children,  public school students and private school students, Selectives and Comprehensives, Montessori and Christian schools, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old student spiritual:

      Free at last! Free at last!

      Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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  1. #1 by Imelda Judge on November 6, 2011 - 12:58 pm

    And I was his Year 11 and 12 English teacher that dragged him to the HSC river and forced him to drink against his will.(…as well as his Year 9 and 10 debating coach!) Lucky he didn’t drown or fall in … Sorry Brendan… but you did well in the end! Great appropriation!!

    As I said, the HSC is never a measure of intelligence… rather endurance of those who can bring all their understanding together, fluently, under agonizing time restraints, writing on a limited amount of material. It never measures who you are or what joy you can bring to society and that matters most of all!

    To the future satirist, Brendan!

  2. #2 by Megan Townes (@townesy77) on November 17, 2011 - 10:23 am

    This is brilliant. I laughed, I cried, I was inspired! Such wise words from a young man who is surely destined to achieve his dreams. Now to work on The Dream!

  3. #3 by M. R. (@_MastaFlash_) on November 17, 2011 - 10:46 am

    There’s one for the resume.

  4. #4 by lisa tishler on January 8, 2012 - 7:50 am

    Always knew this young man was going places…pleasure to read.

  5. #5 by Vito on April 3, 2014 - 8:00 am

    Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when
    opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

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