Field of dreams

4

Odd moment during the recent announcement and garbled discussion of education reforms in Australia. Chief Minister of the ACT, Katy Gallagher, was asked by parochial reporters, essentially, “what’s in it for Canberra?”

She said, perhaps bemused by the stupid question, that because most if not all Canberra students were already receiving support above what was being proposed, there actually wasn’t anything “in it” for the ACT.

In hunter-gatherer societies all children are educated equally – it would be suicidal for the society to do anything else. Same with the early agricultural societies. In both cases gifted individuals may specialise in particular areas of expertise later, but all will be educated.

We lost this equality of opportunity as the accumulation of wealth by a few created a situation where better education could be purchased, and that has remained the case, and been strengthened, ever since.

Indeed in Australia the Right, themselves, one and all, the products of the best education money could buy, decided they could do better as old boys (or girls) than merely denoting a few tax deductible dollars to the alma mater. They could, they realised, get their name up on the honour roll by getting the people of Australia to pay big bucks to schools already overflowing with swimming pools and polo ponies and acres of rolling playing fields. And they could lock in such payments permanently with a clever mathematical formula which achieved bias while appearing objective. A simple formula, always applied by conservatives, and always effective = The Rich get Richer. Genius eh?

So, it’s time for a reversal of fortunes. A simple formula = To each according to his needs. Identify the poorest public schools, give them more money to build up their resources to the level of the richer public schools. And then, whisper who dare, onwards to the levels of the private schools. Oh, sorry, getting a bit carried away there. Never mind, let’s get all students onto as level a playing field, playing fields, as possible. Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of class war.

But wait, there’s more. The other conservative legacy also affects equality of educational opportunity – religion. Separation of church and state? Yeah, whatever, but separation of church and school just as important. Yet John Howard unleashed the dogs of sectarianism. Loony tunes religious schools proliferated. Students taught curriculums in which garbage like creationism can be included, because religious freedom. “The more religion, the lower the quality of education” – write that on the blackboard 100 times Mr Howard

But worse is that schooling, meant to broaden horizons, introduce new ideas, allow children to mix widely, teach the ability to think and evaluate, to see a world beyond the walls of their home, has been narrowed. Religious fanatics have been allowed to carry out home-schooling in bulk. Allowed to make sure that no child raised in the closed little worlds of religious fundamentalism is allowed to discover that there is another real world outside.

So, equality of opportunity for all students? Absolutely, stuff of dreams. But understand that it involves more than just money. I have a dream of getting all students onto the playing field of secular education.

What’s in it for Australia? Only the next generation.

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4 comments on “Field of dreams

  1. Joy Cooper says:

    Agree totally with you David. Where we live there has been a proliferation of “Christian” colleges, as there are everywhere, all thanks to Howard’s lavish funding offers which were taken from the public education system plus that dodgy post code crap.

    These schools appear to be run by fundamentalist christian movements & do not seem to be part of the regular private schools set up by various religions. Their pupils are closeted in their own world rarely mixing with the hoi polloi. There are some really large campuses of these conservative christian schools developing, with facilities public schools can only dream of, such as fleets of minibuses etc. All of which is aided & abetted by this generous & unbalanced funding.

    If I hear another person claim that as they pay taxes even though they choose to send their children to a private school, they should receive the same funding as those who go to a public school, I’ll scream. They are more than welcome to send their kids to a public school if they want value for their tax dollar. They are the ones who chose private education & there was a time when there was no funding of these schools at all.

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  2. Eric Snyder says:

    I find it interesting that Christian colleges are willing to study and consider evolution along with creation as possibilities for how all “this” came about. But, the “secular” institutions want to prohibit all mention, let alone rational discussion or education, of any consideration of origins other than the “party line.” Seems kind of closed minded to me.

    Rather than “rarely mixing with the hoi polloi”, Christian college graduates tend to offer health care, education, animal husbandry, orphan care, crop care, business training, and a number of other skill sets to help elevate standards of living for oppressed and poverty stricken around the planet.

    While I completely agree that “religion” tends to oppress human beings, Christian education tends to do just the opposite; set the captive free!

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  3. Dan says:

    Some Christian education sets the captive free, Eric – just some. By the way Mr Melon, you need to let SLIP the dogs of (class) war. “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war/that this foul deed shall smell above the earth/with carrion men groaning for burial”. Shakespear’s Julius Ceasar, act three, scene one.

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    • Eric Snyder says:

      I get your point Dan. I just don’t like to see Christian education referred to as some kind of brain washing nonsense when it is quite obvious to anyone who isn’t prejudiced beyond common sense that serious Christians HELP people in need. And, they help people in need more than any other “group” I’ve seen.

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