August 16, 2003


Differences must be tolerated, writes Phillip Adams. Except for differences that actually matter, like different beliefs about education:

A modern democracy is a complex thing, made up of differences that have to be tolerated and, where possible, celebrated. By separating kids into schools based on exclusion, no matter how loftily that exclusion is expressed, is to place democracy in jeopardy. Despite all our differences, we have to learn to sing the same songs, in tune and in harmony.

The left’s loathing of diversity has never been better expressed. You vill all zing zer zame zongs! Posted by Tim Blair at August 16, 2003 09:45 AM


The Internationale?

Posted by: Katherine at August 16, 2003 at 10:53 AM
By contrast, the private school system is, in essence, about exclusion, privilege, religious or caste definition. There’s no denying that many of the best schools in the country are private schools. But whatever can be said in their favour, they are tribal and socially divisive.
I am so sick of people talking about private schools as if they're some bastion of the privileged. Yes it costs to go to them, but the private schools I've been to have often been the only ones willing to take the kids that the public schools give up on. They offer scholerships and the like to kids who can't afford it. Yes there are some snobby private schools, but that doesn't mean they're all like that.

Tribal & socially divisive? Only because we have these pseudo-intellectuals telling kids that they should resent anyone who has more than them. "Your parents can afford to send you to a private school, that means you’re evil". It's this idea that anyone who is different from me or who has had better opportunities than me is wrong. "From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs". The same people would probably be the people who de-instatutionalised Sandy Guy's son because it was 'divisive'.

There is no argument that our public school system needs much more money. I think it is to the shame of the state & federal governments that our public system is not getting massive funding increases rather than the cuts. But sniping at the private system is not going to get the public system any more money.

/end rant

Posted by: Glenn Slaven at August 16, 2003 at 12:49 PM

On Dr. Zhivago, Komarovsky (played by Rod Steiger) makes light of the singing revolutionaries with "After the revolution, they'll all sing in tune."

> There is no argument that our public school system needs much more money.

Whose public system are we talking about?

Increased spending hasn't helped yet, so why will more be any different?

Posted by: Andy Freeman at August 16, 2003 at 02:03 PM

Obviously Mr Adams is not musical: to sing in harmony is not a variation on singing in tune. To harmonise means to sing a second tune which meld with the first tune so as to sound pleasing to the listener. The individual tunes may diverge but the whole is harmonious. One thousand singers singing the melody of the national anthym is nice, the same thousand singing four-part harmony is soulstirring. Which probably explains Mr Adam's astonishment when he heard the final result.
It might surprise him that the students who made the trek to to Opera House were not selected by lot; undoubtably they were selected due to musical skills (which can be damned exclusionary!).


Posted by: J.M. Heinrichs at August 16, 2003 at 02:43 PM

Funny, but I thought government schools got the best HSC results year in, year out.

And is Comrade Adams counting the local catholic schools, which make up the vast majority of private schools in Australia, as elite? He obviously has not stepped into too many of them.

Posted by: Gilly at August 16, 2003 at 02:43 PM

Having taught in Western Australian public high schools since 1985 – for most of that time in the same predominantly working class area – I could write at length on the problems within the public school system. The bottom line is that I provide a baby sitting service for kids who are learning that they can do or say pretty much what they want without having to face significant adverse consequences.

The public system – in WA, at least – is in sad shape for a number of reasons:

1. Merit promotion stifles the free expression of teachers. That is, a person will be promoted only if he pitches the same line as those doing the promoting.

2. The system has been undergoing continual change over many years.

3. Most teachers are pinkos who embrace a touchy-feely approach to education, thus the emphasis on pastoral care.

4. Outcomes Based Education is a nothing more than a system-wide dumbing down.

I would not send my children to a public school in WA and would get out of teaching except that my age makes it virtually impossible to find alternative employment with equal pay.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 16, 2003 at 03:18 PM

"Funny, but I thought government schools got the best HSC results year in, year out."

Quite correct, too. But these are the selective public schools - where your child has to be in the top sub-1% IQ percentile. No amount of cash will get you in if you're literally in the genius category. And they are great schools in pure academic terms.

Also notable is Adams' claim that choice in education (such as - for example - choosing to forgo home ownership in favour of sending the kids to a quality private school) is a threat to democracy. Isn't that in fact a threat to socialism?

I've never understood how Adams can feel morally superior to those who bust their arse trying to provide the best, most well-rounded education for their kids (yes it does cost money but fortunately if you don't have it there is the public system - which is hampered more by collectivist teachers than tight budgets), while he puts his money into Ferraris, country estates, expensive travel and life's luxuries and doesn't pay a cent for his daughter to go to a country town public. On principle? What if she can get better education? What about later if she isn't competitive in the job market? Will he help with his vast financial resources? I guess not. Principles.

Posted by: The at August 16, 2003 at 05:02 PM

of course it's: "if you're NOT literally in the genius category"

Posted by: The at August 16, 2003 at 05:04 PM

On the topic of diversity, Hisam Sidaoui (who has previously been aggrieved by a sketch in BackBerner), is now aggrieved by a web site by David Oldfield.

All fine and good, but I'd take him more seriously if he didn't say things such as

Discussion of the Holocaust is utterly irrelevant to the Middle East today. Why do many of your pro-Israeli readers persist with the ritualistic peddling of this dreadful chapter of human history, time after time? The current concern is organised state-sponsored human atrocities committed by the Israelis.

Why should a Palestinian mother care two hoots that the Israeli soldier shooting at her children may be a descendant of a Holocaust survivor?

and also

Paul McGeough presents the Middle East crisis as simply a stalemate between two stubborn old men who just won't play ball (Insight, 6/4).

Well, Yasser Arafat is not a General Sharon. Arafat has shaken hands with the late Yitzhak Rabin, signed a peace agreement, and received a Nobel peace price for his genuine efforts. One party to that agreement, Mr Rabin, has already been murdered - and General Sharon is plotting the same fate for the second.

Posted by: Andjam at August 16, 2003 at 05:12 PM

As much as I hate Philip Adams, I agree with him on this. Taxpayers should not have to fund religious schools.

Forcing people to fund religion is just as oppressive as banning religion.

Posted by: Mike Hunt at August 16, 2003 at 05:29 PM

Mike: I agree. I'm happy paying for education, but not for mysticism.

But that's not Adams' real concern. He's against private schooling altogether. By his thinking we shouldn't have private housing (no more Olive Grove Estate), private transport (no Ferrari, no extra-wide-seat business class flying) etc.

The problem with public school teaching is not the quality of the teachers but the culture. Show initiative and you'll be ostracised, not rewarded. Like the ABC I guess.

Posted by: The at August 16, 2003 at 06:23 PM

I dunno why you all pick on Phildo so much when there's other millionaire socialist/hypocrites like Mike carlton you could hassle. Leave Phildo the fat bastard alone!

Posted by: roscoe.p.coltrane at August 16, 2003 at 08:04 PM

Isn't it the Labor lefties who bark loudest about Australia becoming the "Clever Country" and the "Knowledge Nation" (NB Barry Jone's spaghetti chart)

In NSW, the most heavily taxed state, state schools, particularly primary schools, are literally falling to pieces. Teaching has little appeal to men because it is poorly paid. So where is all the cash from the property stamp duty bonanza going Mr.Carr? Ah yes, to provide the hardworking pollies their necessary benefits and fat super payouts, I'd guess. There is plenty of bi-partisan support for that!

Is it true that Australia ranks as one of lowest in education expenditure of the OCED nations?

Shame, shame, shame, Bob! (Our Proust reading premier)

Posted by: Karen the Yankee at August 16, 2003 at 09:26 PM

"Forcing people to fund religion is just as oppressive as banning religion."

Of course, forcing religious people to fund secular education is just as oppressive, and in their eyes pretty much the same thing as, banning religion.

It seems to me the best way to make everyone happy is to let everyone send their kid to whatever school they want. If the taxpayers absolutely must be dragooned into paying for the education of other people's children, then let every parent have a voucher to spend at whatever school they choose.

"Taxpayers should not have to fund religious schools."

I tend to wonder why taxpayers should have to fund any schools at all.

Posted by: R C Dean at August 16, 2003 at 10:01 PM

What about the poor to non-existent grammar of Adams' second sentence, which might explain his distain for elitist education.

Posted by: Joe at August 16, 2003 at 10:59 PM

I certainly don't want to fund a school that teaches black armband history any more than I'd want to fund a school that teaches creationism.

Unfortunately, there's only 1 type around here.

I have to concur with Zsazsa that money isn't the problem, but the continual lowering of educational and disciplinary standards.

The major flaw in public education is that kids can't be expelled. It's very hard to discipline kids who know for a fact that nothing bad can possibly happen to them, no matter how badly they behave.

Private schools face no such problems, and the culture there is one of learning and competition rather than 24/7 silly buggers.

Try this story for size:

A PAIR of primary school students allegedly armed with a pocket knife and jigsaw blade have been suspended for terrorising a classmate.

The students were interviewed and given two and a half day suspensions.

Ms Shah, of Stirling, received a phone call from West Balcatta Primary School on Monday informing her that son Ahmish, 9, had been involved in an incident with two classmates earlier in the day.

Two and a half days suspension for threatening another kid with a knife?

Posted by: Yobbo at August 17, 2003 at 12:26 AM

Need we review the inherent inefficiencies of government monopolies?

But I think what we have with government education is a big con game. They know in their hearts, these bureaucrats, that the only way to legitimize their work is to produce public goods.

And, of course, there is only one pure public good (non-rival, non-excludable) and that is national defense. The most benighted prisoner doing time in Leavenworth for tax evasion can't enjoy any less of it and Forbes can't buy any more.

So what can we discover that we reeeeeely, reeeeely want everyone to have (like national defense)and that we can *declare* non-rival and non-excludable? Why, public education!

It's just a con to get things away from the private sector and into their hands.

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at August 17, 2003 at 05:38 AM

Roscoe, talking of Socialist millionaires, I'd have a lot more respect for Adams if he gave away all his money to the poor and needy and went and worked in the slums like a Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, instead of holding forth from his million-dollar Paddington mansion like a modern Savonarola. Or, at least, if he moved to Campbelltown or somewhere where the people he affects to empathise with,actually live.Why doesn't he go out and teach in some of our run-down public schools as described above.
Likewise, Mike Carlton. For both of them its the same old story with socialist intellectuals: think with the Left and live with the Right.

Posted by: Rob (No.1) at August 17, 2003 at 11:57 AM

Living in Campbelltown would destroy their romantic images of the unemployed and the working poor. Who wouldn't give assholes like that the time of day, and they know it.

But sitting back in the Hunter Valley manor, carping about inequality over a decent Chardonnay, sure seems to make 'em feel good.

Posted by: The at August 17, 2003 at 03:14 PM

Mr Heinrichs ...

Try singing four-part harmony when the four voices are tuned to, say, A440, A441, A442 and A443. Result -- a punishing racket.

The grounds for your critique of the gross Buddha are incorrect.

Posted by: Ferg at August 17, 2003 at 04:23 PM

The irony is that it is the very egalitarian ideals espoused by Phillip Adams which have led to the degrading of public education in Australia.

Government schools don't need more money. They need to be able to split into technical and academic schools to cater for different kinds of students. The academic schools need to be allowed to keep down failing students and to expel persistently unruly ones.

Egalitarian liberals like Adams refuse to accept that students might differ in their academic potential and so force all students into comprehensive schools. They think that some technocratic solution can be found to make non-academic students into successful academic ones.

Posted by: Mark Richardson at August 17, 2003 at 08:55 PM

Ferg: not harmony; that's unison, and 1 HTZ difference would be far less than natural variance. So there.

Posted by: The at August 17, 2003 at 09:12 PM

I went to a Private School. Catholic one too. It's my experience that less then 20% of the students that went there attended for religious reasons (I was always told that God was a self-delusional fairy tale). Rather their parents sent them there to get away from the public school system.

Why? Because there is some sense of responsibility on the part of the staff. The majority of the schools money comes from parents and not the govenment. If something is not up to scratch, the hammer comes down and it comes down fast - and the learning experience is better because of it.

Posted by: Murdoch Soft Eng Student at August 17, 2003 at 09:45 PM

I went to an Anglican school; not because I am an Anglican (I'm not) but because my parents wanted me to have an education superior to Mr Adams'.

In the 1950s and 1960s, public education was selective and meritocratic. Academic streaming prevailed. It was about raising the talented poor to acheive the best they could; that's how the likes of Sir Garfield Barwick and the Hon Michael Kirby made it to the High Court.

Now, thanks to the teachers' unions, public education seems focussed on everything but academic rigour; its all about turning talent to (politically correct) crap.

Posted by: Diaspora at August 17, 2003 at 11:12 PM

State schools get the best HSC?

Well, they don't get the best SACE (South Australian cert of ed) results.

Earlier this year there were presentations at Gov House of Merit Certificates (top score in a subject) for Year 12 students.

There were several non-government students who got 5 Merit Certificates, but not one state school student.

Posted by: Bai at August 18, 2003 at 01:01 AM

I'd like to teach the world to sing
in perfect harmony;
I'd like to close its private school
and make it think like me.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at August 18, 2003 at 02:03 AM

Sure, Phillip Adams is a wanker. Couldn't agree more.

But maybe we should separate the ad hominems from the debate about private schools.

Competition - free market - great. Everyone can choose what they want and the best product wins! But education is different from most other products, because the consumer - ie the child - doesn't play a part in the transaction. So if a child's parents can't afford a school, or just couldn't give a stuff, why should the child suffer? What better way than state education can give every child a similar chance?

Posted by: James at August 18, 2003 at 03:00 AM

Diaspora wrote:

"Now, thanks to the teachers' unions, public education seems focussed on everything but academic rigour; its all about turning talent to (politically correct) crap."

Same thing is happening in the USA.

Posted by: Irene A at August 18, 2003 at 04:09 AM

"But education is different from most other products, because the consumer - ie the child - doesn't play a part in the transaction. So if a child's parents can't afford a school, or just couldn't give a stuff, why should the child suffer?"

This is an argument for socializing food, clothing, books, and shelter -- all of which are consumed by children. Any socialized product is shoddy because its consumers' influence over the producers is at best tenuous and indirect.

Besides, if a child has incompetent and uncaring parents, that child is going to suffer. The only thing you could do about the situation is to remove the child from his home. Do you really think a child with a terrible home life is going to be any better off because you arranged for him to attend a mediocre school? And what of all the other children whose parents do care about their education?

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at August 18, 2003 at 06:04 AM

"This is an argument for socializing food, clothing, books, and shelter -- all of which are consumed by children. Any socialized product is shoddy because its consumers' influence over the producers is at best tenuous and indirect."

Well, the difference here is that education is of a life-changing quality, far more so than food, and thus it can be pretty problematic to entirely let education rely on parental resources. So, what's my 25 öre on the subject? Vouchers!

Posted by: döbeln at August 18, 2003 at 07:06 AM

What the fuck would Philip Adams know about either private or public high schools? Isn't he a high school drop out?

Posted by: Alex Robson at August 18, 2003 at 10:21 AM

What's the betting that the progeny of Fat Boy remains in the public school system until she reaches secondary school?
That or she can have the benefit of being fully clued up on the activities of the rainbow serpent while being functionally illiterate and unable to perform basic arithmetic, as well as being exposed to the joys of teenage pregnancy, ethnic gangs and drug abuse.
The literacy rate in NSW briefly increased for a short time last week when state school teachers went on strike.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 18, 2003 at 11:18 AM

Public versus private? It's academic, pardon the pun.

The entire system is in crisis and there is no longer a quick fix available.

It's not the teachers' fault. Blame lays at the feet of long-gone social engineers. You can't punish. You can't discipline. You can't control. You can't touch. Or be sued.

Often, there is no longer even recourse to parents in an attempt to bring children into line. Behavioural problems are often the parents' fault. If they're there.

Who'd be a teacher? You're in the front line of the breakdown of social tissue wrought by the academics and social engineers of the sixties and seventies, in a rich blend of radical teacher union agendas, soft PC answers to deepseated problems and a climate of teaching children the victim mentality.

Adams is in a time-warp, fighting his eternal chippy 1950s class war. I suspect he'd be happier, feel more vindicated, seeing private schools sink to the anarchy of some of the poorer government schools than see those schools improve to the level of the better private schools.

People with ideas like that prefer everyone to go down with the ship of their failed utopian socialist ideals.

Except he'll have a personal lifeboat of his own, of course.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 18, 2003 at 12:39 PM

Do all children have a right to public money for education? If not why not? The public money spent on private school kids is way less than pulic schools and IMHO they do a fairly good job.

Posted by: fred at August 18, 2003 at 01:49 PM

"Do all children have a right to public money for education? If not why not?"

In pure terms.. No.. Because that would mean someone has to pay for an arrange that education reguardless of their own will.

But in reality.. Probably again no.. But at the same time there are likely to still be people willing to teach them, and most people would be willing to have at least a small amount of their taxes used for that use - if only to prevent a legion of useless individuals who would mooch off them even more in the future.

Posted by: Murdoch Soft Eng Student at August 18, 2003 at 03:39 PM

But we wind up with a group of unemployable people who mooch off us anyway- why not cut out the middle-man?
All taxation should be discretionary- if you don't have offspring, why should you pay for the indoctrination of other people's curtain-tuggers?
And how much education do you need to shovel chips into a carton at Maccas or fill out forms at Centrelink?
I'm sure those cultural awareness studies will come in really handy.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 18, 2003 at 04:24 PM

Isn't the main point of public education to enable the masses to participate in the democratic process? As things stand at the moment, the public education system, much like the prison system, is a training ground for criminals.

Either devote more attention - not necessarily money - to education or be prepared to spend lots more on law enforcement and detention facilities.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 18, 2003 at 04:59 PM

All schools should be private. There is no place for Government in education. They should provide the money for poor children to pay fees for school. In that way the schools and the teachers would have to serve their customers and not themselves.

Posted by: Toryhere at August 18, 2003 at 05:07 PM

Hey, The

I'm not talking about natural variation, I'm talking about tuning. This has nothing to do with unison, although the worst effects of tuning outs will be felt at the points approaching unison, then from there to the fifth, the maj/min third, etc., on down the scale of readily recognisable intervals. I guess a 4 Hz spread (plus variation around that spread) will not be much felt when our 4-part lays down a minor second, if it's a choir singing. Fair enough. But try listening to some late Beethoven quartets when they've split the tuning that way. You will puke.

(And I don't need to be reminded that these pieces contain no min2s.)

Posted by: Ferg at August 18, 2003 at 05:50 PM

Mark Richardson has a very valid point . If we had a separation between academic and trade /technical schools we would solve a lot of the discipline problems as kids would not feel inferior in a system which does not cater for them . The bright ones could achieve their potential and we would have better trade and technical skills (and more people willing to pay for these skills)

Posted by: phred at August 18, 2003 at 08:23 PM

OT: There'll be two badly biased anti-Israel documentaries this week.

On Thursday 10 pm, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will broadcast BBC's program "Israel's Secret Weapon". As well as
alleging that Israel has WMDs, it claims Israel has used nerve gas on Palestinians.

On Saturday 7:30 pm, the Special Broadcasting Service will broadcast "Dead in the Water", a program claiming the attack on USS Liberty was done knowing full well it was an American ship.

Posted by: Andjam at August 18, 2003 at 10:53 PM

Habib Bickford wrote
"All taxation should be discretionary- if you don't have offspring, why should you pay for the indoctrination of other people's curtain-tuggers?"

Let's apply this principle to super/pensions.

If you choose to live longer than your super lasts, then die of starvation.

Don't expect other people's children to pay the taxes to pay your pension - or wipe your bum in the nursing home, for that matter.

Posted by: bai at August 18, 2003 at 11:18 PM

Seeing that there is unlikely to be a publicly funded pension by the time I reach geezerdom, and am fully self-funded, I don't want or need any revenue from future rug-monkeys (not that many products of the public education system are employable in the first place). I don't expect other people to fund any part of my lifestyle- I have never taken welfare, just paid for it.
Anyone who hasn't set themselves up so they are not reliant on welfare (and thus beholden to government) is a dickhead, and deserve to have to go cap in hand to Centrelink.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 19, 2003 at 11:49 AM

I could have self-funded dozens of people with the taxes I've paid. Where are they? I want to see how they getting on.

Posted by: pooh at August 19, 2003 at 12:17 PM