We rarely hear such sentiments because since the Howard years there’s been an undeclared war – yes, a class war – against public education, with our political lords eroding confidence in the system either through overt rhetoric or in more subtle ways, the negative messaging amplified by obscene funding inequities.
At a time of growing inequality, when liberal democracy finds itself under siege, the real balance to “what’s in it for me” is the local high school: open to all comers, accommodating many faiths and backgrounds but striving for a common language and universal truth. The case for public education is more urgent than ever.
The reasons for the war: 1. Like elsewhere in the West, Australia’s political elite is disconnected from the concerns of ordinary people, and 2. Our political leaders are hostage to a private schools lobby that purrs about wanting the best for all schools, but they don’t, obviously, because it’s a law of the market that competitors seek to crush each other.
For years we’ve been sold this con job that funding private schools takes pressure off the public system when the reverse is true. A bigger public system would offer economies of scale. Gutting high schools of middle-class families, their resources and networks, residualising public education so that it becomes an option of last resort, with plunging standards and expectations, simply increases the long-term welfare burden for taxpayers. And what about the long-term psychic injury we’re inflicting on ourselves by raising children in stratified and segregated environments?