On this week’s Pure Poison Podcast we had a bit of a vigorous debate on the subject of school funding. (Well, “vigorous debate” – Dave expressed an opinion and then I ranted a bit in response. ANYWAY.)
And there was a point raised that I think deserves an airing on this blog as well.
That point is this: those advocating for the privilege of private school kids are advocating for people like Jeremy Sear to receive extra, unearned advantages over other, perhaps more talented and more deserving kids.
See, as has been pointed out before by those who like to personalise every argument (as if it made me some kind of hypocrite), I attended a first-rate private school, Melbourne Grammar. My parents scrimped and saved and took on extra jobs and worked bloody hard to send me there. And, in an environment where the vast majority of my fellow schoolmates were destined for University and the Professions, I then attended Melbourne University as a law student and am, today, fortunate enough to practise law as a barrister – a profession filled with other alumni of my former school.
Would I have achieved this had I been at the local high school? Who knows. (Obviously I worked hard enough to get first-class VCE results; even the most expensive private school can’t actually provide those for you.) The point is, clearly my parents – and all those other parents stumping up what I understand now are yearly fees well into five figures – felt and feel that they were and are getting value for money, that I was receiving a quality of education I would not have received in the public system. Maybe it was the extra facilities and services – I suspect the local high school didn’t have a thriving music program and several orchestras. I suspect it didn’t have a boat-shed on the Yarra down by Princes Bridge filled with rowing sculls. Maybe it was the quality of teachers, being higher-paid than those at the public schools. Maybe it was being surrounded by other students from privileged backgrounds destined for the better remunerated professions – an environment where achievement was expected and difficult students were conveniently absent. Where our basic, fundamental, compulsory education – the 8.45 to 3.15 schooling that the state compels of all children – was in a high-resourced, high-achievement environment.
The point is, whatever those advantages – I had done nothing to deserve them. And yet I enjoyed them, and then competed for University places and jobs with those who had not.
Those advocating for the private school system are calling for more Jeremy Sears to receive privileges in their basic education that they’ve done nothing to deserve. Just think about it. Right now, there are future Jeremy Sears – kids who’ve received every privilege their parents could bestow, but who could nevertheless discover a social conscience at University and become, ugh, lefties – just waiting to take the places at University of other, perhaps more deserving children. Future Jeremy Sears who’ll use their private school education to campaign for, say, The Greens. Future Jeremy Sears who’ll get whatever high-paying jobs you despise, arguing whatever other things it is you despise, leveraging their privilege in who knows what ways to annoy you.
And all because we had a system where the lucky bastards got a fundamental leg-up over everybody else’s kids at the very beginning, just because of their parents.
Why do right-wingers want to help the Jeremy Sears of this world so much?
UPDATE (13/3): Judith Sloan at Catallaxy doesn’t agree with a one-tier school system and abolishing fee-paying schools. Because, you know, “if parents don’t like these types of schools, they will not send their children there”.