Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And then there is the matter of your schooling

The Melbourne thing. School scrambles start at 1, that is, if parents want to have options at 12.

This is an intractibly difficult question for us. Beloved and I both had lousy experiences of school, and I struggle with the impression nearly all of them are big old industrial institutions peddling mediocrity while lining up the next generation of worker bees.

We both prefer the idea of public. Neither of us has many good memories of our experiences at the tail end of school where we were bundled off to toffhouses. And there is the ideological ideal of giving all kids a similar basis to start off in life.

But education for its own sake is not prized in Australia and we simply don't trust providence to ensure our nearest school will give Bear a good grounding in literature, music and art, the sciences and history. In fact it appears optional for primary schools to even offer another language.

Beloved got sent to boarding school in part because music wasn't properly taught at her public school. At my cheapo catholic school history was poor, while the arts generally were all but non-existent. And uniqueness was never prized, always hammered back into place.

The toff schools weren't much better, especially not on the last point. And then there was the childish nastiness they inculcated, whether by subtle intent or effect- too many brats, too many parents who couldn't care if the entire world died tomorrow as long as they have a beemer.

So nothing's ideal, and therefore everything's on the table to be considered on its merits. The problem being that if we want to have options, she has to go on the lists now, or it will all be a moot point if come year 7 we look around and see that our nearest public school has no decent arts program, teaches no languages and has a resident gang sporting faux-hawks infecting the front entrance.

So she'll probably end up on a couple of lists, and we'll keep a hopeful eye on the local public, and time will tell...


Another Outspoken Female said...

That's the beginning of a slippery slope mr fish!

zoot said...

...we simply don't trust providence to ensure our nearest school will give Bear a good grounding in literature, music and art, the sciences and history.
You do have some input you know ;-)

Splatters said...

Your obligation as a parent is to produce the best outcome for your children.

If you were concerned mainly with academic achievement, in NSW at least, you would be looking at government selective schools. Alternatively you might seek out schools with high parental involvement such as those with formalised systems for parental feedback and for parents to agree goals for their children so that home and school reinforce each other.

None of this should constrain you from working for better public education. I have a friend who has spent his life in public education and is totally committed to it and would not teach anywhere else, but in the end he had to remove his kids to the local catholic high school for their own benefit.

Ann O'Dyne said...

If you want her to be a jockey,
send her to Flemington HS.

that is all

no, there's this too, from Slate magazine -

writing about your children on your blog

peace and love

Helen said...

or it will all be a moot point if come year 7 we look around and see that our nearest public school has no decent arts program, teaches no languages and has a resident gang sporting faux-hawks infecting the front entrance.

And the middle class deserting the public system will inevitably make that so.

Armagnac Esq said...

I know. It's a catch 22. If we have a decent option then we both hope not to.

Armagnac Esq. said...

Fergal wrote:

Hey [armagny], long time no see!
I share your angst--particularly given my own experiences with schools in Melbourne.
Grade three we were in Sydney, where I regularly swapped novels with my teacher. Grade four saw us in Melbourne, where my teacher at the local primary school (Deepdene) told my parents, and I quote, "Take his books away and make him join a football team, otherwise he'll grow up to be a pooftah."
Grades five and six I was at Christchurch Grammar on a full scholarship, where I had a ball. My grade five teacher has since (so I hear) been done for paedophilia.
I started high school on another scholarship at Camberwell Grammar, which I found so limiting and repressing that by half-way through year ten I became the first ever scholarship student to be expelled.
In retrospect I should have taken what they had to offer with one hand while quietly giving them the finger with the other, but sadly 20/20 hindsight is a luxury only afforded us by the passage of time.
I finished high school at Eltham High--and despite its flaws, I still reckom that was the best of the lot.
Anyway, I thought you might find the following text interesting. It's an address at Scotch College by an old boy, now a journalist, back in about 2004 or 2005 (I forget when).]
He accepted. But Maloney added a speech ending that the school had no idea
was coming. His words stayed unpublished until last week. Maloney confirmed
them yesterday. Let me share what he had to say.
"When I first received an inquiry about my availability to come and talk at
this school, I was reluctant. After all, this school has little to
recommend it in the eyes of the wider community. Historically it has been
simply a machine for the transmission of inherited privilege.
"At the height of the Great Depression, for example, when many Australian
families hardly knew where their next meal was coming from, Scotch College
was the largest private school in the British Empire. It is a place where
boys from middle-class backgrounds are sent to improve their material
prospects and to reproduce the values of their class, or where the boys of
insecure parents are sent to fulfil the distorted ambitions of their
"When I think of Scotch College, what comes immediately to mind are the
values and actions of its most prominent old boys. I think of the scene I
saw on television after Scotch old boy [ex-premier] Jeff Kennett, used his
power and his philosophy to close down the only high school in Victoria
specifically dedicated to the education of young Aboriginal people; how
students from that school came here and stood at the gates and how your
principal went out and told them to go away.
"I think of that other old boy, David Kemp, the [former] federal education
minister, giving millions of dollars of public money to enhance the
marketability of schools like this one, justifying his actions with
statistics and arguments that he refuses to apply to the needs of the 70
per cent of Australian families who choose to educate their children in the
democratic and equitable environment of government schools.
"I think, too, of the newspaper reports of the violent behaviour of some of
your students and the quick readiness with which these boys were defended
and excused in the courts by their adult class allies. For these reasons, I
was initially reluctant to come here. On the other hand, I thought, well,
all this is hardly the fault of the current crop of students.
"It is not your fault, after all, that your families decided to
institutionalise you. It is not your fault your mothers and fathers elected
to place you in the emotionally distorting and educationally deficient
environment of an all-boys school. It is not your fault your parents lacked
sufficient confidence in your maturity and ability to respond to the
opportunities offered by government school education - and Australia has
one of the best systems in the world, by the way, despite the relentless
propaganda to the contrary by the vested interest of the private-school
"Right now, you are the victims. Later, of course, society will be your
victim, and will suffer from the attitudes with which you are indoctrinated
here. But who knows? Just as prison does not always break the spirit of all
incarcerated there, perhaps you will not turn out to be a burden to
society. Perhaps when you leave here, some of you will even manage to
contribute to the wellbeing of this country.
"I certainly hope so. But just to hedge my bets, I'll be donating part of
my fee today to the campaign for public education. Good luck with your
studies and thanks for having me."

Cheers--see you on the information superhighway; nappy bag in one hand, teething ring in the other. Always ready, always waiting...

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