Showing posts with label parent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parent. Show all posts

Sunday, December 21, 2008

anxious parent

Selectives are just public school lite, created to meet needs of anxious parents
Haven't the selective schools done well this year? What a wonderful testament to the strength of the public system. James Ruse and North Sydney Girls' consistently perform miracles in which they enrol students based on their ability to ace exams, then, presto, six years later they ace exams again, starring on the Distinguished Merit List or the Scholastic Excellence Roll or the Excel Sheet of Honour, or whatever it is called.

Sarcasm, yes, the lowest form, I know, but it feels necessary for a wilfully inflammatory attack on selective schools, those cultural melting pots in which the children of white public servants, students headed for Arts/Law at the University of Sydney, live in harmony with the children of Chinese small businesspeople, students headed for Actuarial Studies at the University of NSW.

In the past I've got stuck into private schools so it feels only fair to smack down selective schools, too. Well, not the schools, or the students, so much as the parents. Because, let's face it, the selective school system exists, above all, to meet the needs of anxious parents. Asian parents, obviously, but also the progressive bourgeoisie.

We know the Asian community's motivation for choosing selective schooling - marks - but what of the purpose of the progressive bourgeoisie? Selective schooling offers progressive parents an opportunity to affirm their values and feel down with the hood.

Selective schooling is public school lite, a way to profess support for public education without risking your child's marks or leaving them exposed to a bogan element. Better still, public school lite leaves well-off professionals with enough cash to finally get the deck done and take a family trip to Chiang Mai.

For the affirmation of progressive values to truly work, selective school parents must also convince themselves they would still have gone public even if their children were "clever but not academic", as the euphemism goes. Even if they know in their hearts they would have done the same as their friends, that is, packed the children off, with oversized backpacks, to a private school, to be spoon fed towards higher marks, or decide upon a vocational path with a little social cache, like apprentice chef at a restaurant with two hats.

But enough already with the unfounded speculation about the motivations of selective school parents, and on to a consideration of whether there is any progressive merit in choosing a selective school.

Far from supporting the broader public education system, the selective system is a drain upon it. Selective schools bleed talent from comprehensive schools just as badly as private schools bleed talent from public schools. Even worse, when wealthier parents choose the eugenic ghetto of selective education, the government still has to shell out just as much to them. At least when wealthier parents choose the class ghetto of private education they save the system a little money.

As for the cultural diversity of selective schools, oh, please. Let's not pretend that a selection process based upon genetics and hot housing is equitable and right-on. Learning to mix with people of differing intellectual abilities is just as valuable as learning to mix with people of different ethnicities and classes.

And what chance does the underprivileged genius have when they are competing in the selective schools exam against the Allessandras and the Winchins, the Lachlans and the Sanjays, the Saskias and the Eunices, children whose parents consider education as some kind of elite endurance sport?

So my conclusion is, by all means send your child to a selective school if you feel it is best for them, but don't fool yourself this means striking a blow for socialist utopianism. And feel sad about how gutless parenthood makes people. Think about what others endured in other places for education equality, the battle to get women into universities, the forced busing to desegregate black and white high schools in America's south, and feel ashamed that in Sydney so many of us are afraid to take even the mildest risk for the sake of a cohesive society.

On a brighter note, imagine how much better our education system would be if we directed as much community spirit towards neighbourhood high schools as we do towards neighbourhood primary schools - and how easy it would be to move towards having opportunity classes within comprehensive high schools as we do within primary schools, rather than siphoning off kids to intellectual ghettoes.