January 24, 2004


It doesn’t take much to incite the John Howard haters. Here, again, are the PM’s extremely mild, utterly defensible comments on government schools:

People are looking increasingly to send their kids to independent schools for a combination of reasons. For some of them, it's to do with the values-driven thing; they feel that government schools have become too politically correct and too values-neutral.

The initial reaction to this, notably from Christopher Sheil and Tim Dunlop, was not against the content of Howard’s remarks, but that they were made at all. Wedge politics! Dog whistling! Please stop talking about this terrible, divisive subject! Not that Sheil is himself opposed to division:

The enemy must exclusively remain the rich and privileged schools, into which His Darkness is busy funnelling workers' taxes ... [Howard] is a disgrace who should be sent home to hell at the first opportunity.

The enemy? I bet Sheil went to a private school (update: he did). Howard’s opponents continue to harp on this “wedge” idea; here’s the Daily Telegraph’s Mark Day:

His attack on public schools has driven a wedge into the very things schools are supposed to teach – tolerance and togetherness in a world of diversity.

And, if they’ve got 15 minutes or so to spare at the end of the day, maybe some maths and spelling. The Age’s Suzy Freeman-Greene was inspired to rail against other “wedge” terms:

What is the label "illegals" if not an attempt to reshape perceptions of asylum seekers who have broken no Australian law? And what is talk of "elites", if not a ploy to disparage educated people who may have an alternative point of view?

What is the label "asylum seekers" if not an attempt to reshape perceptions of illegal immigrants who have no legitimate claim to asylum? And what is talk of "educated people", if not a ploy to establish their point of view as superior? Richard Butler -- you remember him; he’s the clown who said that the attack last August on the UN’s Baghdad headquarters “killed the wrong people. They killed the good people” -- says that Howard’s criticism threatens “the very concept of Australian decency."

And Mike Carlton in the SMH outdoes them all, writing today that Howard’s remarks contained “not a shred of evidence to demonstrate such wickedness” and condemning other conservative criticism as a “broad brush smear”. Carlton then delivers his own broad brush smear, supported by not a shred of evidence:

My daughter went to a North Shore ladies' college. Too late, we found that the "values" there were narrow, elitist and smug, with a whiff of racism from not a few of the parents. You could almost hear the WASP-ish hiss of disdain in the school assembly hall as the Chinese girls trooped up to scoop the prizes on speech day.

An inaudible sound is Carlton’s evidence of racism. The fact that Chinese girls won all the awards is, I would have thought, more substantial evidence to the contrary. Kevin Donnelly in The Australian addresses an issue largely avoided by Howard’s critics: the influence of teachers’ unions on education. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tim Blair at January 24, 2004 02:55 PM

Does anyone know if all that stuff that Mike Carlton wrote was true. You know, about the teacher's name being MurdStone and that she made Big John dress up in a donkey suit for a nativity play. Is this just fevered imaginings? Certainly the online version of the story is horribly confused and confusing. The storyline about Big John mid-paragraph spills over into a story about Hicks and his lawyer. Is this bad editing or is Mike not well?

Posted by: GnuHunter at January 24, 2004 at 03:15 PM

"parents seek better academic results"

Discussing that will be avoided or ignored.

Posted by: Gary at January 24, 2004 at 03:19 PM

Discussing that will be avoided or ignored.

Well I for one think it's the real motivation for shifting schools, and I have neither avoided nor ignored it.

But what do I know -- I went to a Catholic school, and am therefore precluded from participating in this debate.

Posted by: Robert at January 24, 2004 at 03:42 PM

"You could almost hear the WASP-ish hiss of disdain"

Ummmm... Doesn't that mean there WASN'T a hiss? Now he's ticked off about people not displaying their racism.

Posted by: Paul Wright at January 24, 2004 at 04:12 PM

When the Left starts up with this kind of take-no-prisoners rhetoric, they should be answered TEN TIMES AS HARD. Do it for the children!

I don’t know the specifics in Australia but, in the USA, these Leftists scum think the generation after generation of children MUST be sacrificed to the public school system in order for teaching to be a jobs program & in order for the government & the union to have a big influence on how children’s minds are shaped.

For the teachers’ unions, the schools are factory farms which allow the union membership to milk the government for money while the brains rot out of the children trapped in their stalls.

The answers, they will say, should be more money for public schools & more parental involvement.

More parental involvement! It is over-the-top & obscene of these most parasitic-minded of civil service unions to demand that parents & children devote mountains of extra effort to make the public schools work in spite of, in the teeth of, the storm of systemic mis-incentives which those unions have fought tooth & nail to keep in place & expand in order to guarantee their every last mediocre member a job for life. All that parental effort, to help preserve a sweet arrangment for mediocre teachers? It’s just sick. These groups have nothing to teach but persistence in failure in order to support parasitic growths. Societal decay & putrefaction radiate from urban public schools so thickly you could cut it with a knife.

These groups, & such organs as the extremist NY Times, regard the children as a jobs program for teachers & as cultural raw material for the public schools to shape, & are apoplectic, whenever the stunting of the childrens’ lives by miseducation is not considered an acceptable price to pay for the continuation of governmental & civil service domination of America’s schools.

Their wrath & indignation are projectile & acidic over the idea that the nation’s parents should be increasingly free to reject the consolation of their crocodile tears over the failures of the public schools & the wisdom of their high-cost solutions that don’t work. The public schools should have to become increasingly responsive to needs. And with the gradual advance of voucher systems, the days will be winding down when national teachers’ unions (& their shills at places like the NY Times & the DNC) can expediently bludgeon any critic with the steel banners of their phony idealism about the children. Attention, instead of being distracted onto tactical issues such as “new teaching methods” (& multi-million-dollar grants to universities like Wisconsin U to research such methods) may become more focused more broadly & sanely on incentives-based solutions to systemic problems that will foster & reward teachers’ & schools’ finding better ways to educate. No quarter must be given the bastards at places like the National Education Association who would make Gramsci wail in ecstasy.

Posted by: ForNow at January 24, 2004 at 05:29 PM

I went to catholic schools and hated it.
But Howard's criticism of political correctness in state schools is spot on. Some (most?) of these teachers have never left the classroom of their youth. They show an immaturity and naivete that would embarrass an 8th grader.
I think there ought to be a break in the school/Uni-bludge/schoolteacher chain. Schoolteachers should be press-ganged into working inthe real world for a few years before given the job of teaching kids.

"the very things schools are supposed to teach – tolerance and togetherness in a world of diversity."
What a load of bollocks! Schools should be teaching reading writing spelling math science economics politics history - the things required to live and prosper in the real world. Instead we get an Age of Aquarius world view where chopping down a tree is regarded as something like murder, where people are frightenned to move for fear of breaching some unwritten law.
/rant off

Posted by: Tony at January 24, 2004 at 05:33 PM

P.S. Vouchers & school CHOICE. Even if public school choice is instituted only in poorer urban areas (fear not, suburban parents, that little thugs will flood into your children’s schools), it would make a lot of difference. You may end up with some suburban kids preferring to go to some of those inner-city schools, as happened in the Bronx some years back.

Posted by: ForNow at January 24, 2004 at 05:37 PM

This Mike Carlton person, you want i should fix him?

Posted by: Drago Milovechek at January 24, 2004 at 05:51 PM

Go Drago!

Posted by: tim at January 24, 2004 at 05:56 PM

It was a not-so-coded message to his constituency of former Hansonistas, signalling that he alone will stand against the forces of darkness (that is, lefties, greenies, ALP and trade union bullies, Muslims, multicultural zealots, etc)

He's implying that Muslims aren't interested in private schools. Contrast with this:

Demand is so great for a home-grown Islamic education that most if not all of Sydney's 13 Islamic colleges are hunting for new campuses or drawing up plans for new classrooms to meet demand for places.

(it says only 10% of Muslims go to Muslim religious schools, but that it's due to a lack of places)

How come Jane Caro got away with implying that Muslims don't regard Jesus as a significant figure?

(do Muslim ... schools have nativity plays, for example?)

Could it be because the usual whingers would forgive such ignorance about Islam because she dislikes Howard?

Nothing about the democrat primaries in Mike's column. Here's a summer re-run:

Six months ago, Howard Dean had just retired as governor of rural Vermont, hardly a speck on the political landscape. Today, the polls have him as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.

Posted by: Andjam at January 24, 2004 at 06:40 PM

"Jane Caro is a convener of Priority Public, a non-party-political citizens' coalition that argues for public education to government and the community"
Above taken from the Caro article hyperlinked by "Andjam".

Non - f**king - Political - Oh Yeah!!!!
Does Goofus Witless vote Labor???

Posted by: lawrie at January 24, 2004 at 07:13 PM

About 15 years a former Canberra school teacher told me she had had a fight with the principal of a local govt primary school because he wouldn't let her get up at the ANZAC day assembly and put an alternative view about war. I couldn't believe it.

But as I've seen my kids go through school I've come to realise that a lot of this stuff is built into the curriculums. Much of history is about the plight of Aborigines, geography is about greedy capitalists polluting the atmosphere and english well some of the 'analysis' I've seen by teachers shouldn't have been allowed to pass first year uni courses. Not only is it just bad, its also deliberately distorting the facts.

So I think people like our education premier should be looking at these curriculums and teacher standards in public and private. Private is sometimes just less worse these days.

Posted by: Trevor at January 24, 2004 at 09:11 PM

What's the world coming to? Next thing Howard will demand a return to the three r's, independent testing and an auditing of teaching standards. Heck, he might even give parents freedom of choice with school vouchers. Clearly a danger to the unelected communards.

BTW, I couldn't find any reference to home schooling in the SMH (Singing Marxist Hymns), but I bet that there has been a percentage increase in that area that outstripes the move to private schools.

As for morals, that should be taught at home, while the basics - respecting your elders and other people by not interrupting, bullying or wilful imposition - seem so obvious, you wonder how they could have disappeared. Then you realise the left have their acolytes insinuated into nearly every position which wields power over over the public (judiciary, health, education) but has no accountability at the ballot box.

Posted by: Peter Ness at January 24, 2004 at 10:54 PM

The people who criticise Howard for playing wedge politics have a point. Howard might criticise government schools but what is he going to do about it besides rake inthe votes? Perhaps he could initiate a massive federal governmen scholarship programme for students from poor background sot go to private schools. Thes schools would then have more cash and could expand and better educatinal opportunities would open up to a larger number of people. Or perhaps something else...any thing else. Don't bet on it though. Education is like law and order. A place where conservatives campaign for votes but never actually get aroun to implementing the conservative policies that people want.

Posted by: mike at January 25, 2004 at 04:22 AM

Howard might criticise government schools but what is he going to do about it besides rake inthe votes

Education, like law and order, is a state responsibility not federal, so Howard shouldn't be doing anything about it. He can say what he like though, just like I can.

Posted by: Quentin George at January 25, 2004 at 08:33 AM

Carlton's load of bile against the Prime Minister goes, is part, like this:
And you, John Howard, you will play the donkey," said Mrs Murdstone, the sere and angular dominatrix of the Earlwood South public school.
But it was always the way. Chosen last for the cricket team, invariably ordered to muck out the inkwells, inevitably dragooned into cleaning up the playground after lunch, John Winston Howard at the age of eight had conceived a fierce hatred for the NSW state school system and all who sailed in it."

Later in piece he says: "Howard produced not a shred of evidence to demonstrate such wickedness."

Like a NYT columnist, seems like SMT scribes can write what they like. He certainly hasn't produced a shred of evidence for anything he's written.

Howard has, in fact, praised the state schooling that he and his wife received.

Why do the Howard-haters mention his middle name Winston?
Does it mean he shares the vision as well as the middle name of Beatle John WINSTON Lennon?

It's highly unlikely that a MRS Murdstone occupied a position of power in a NSW public school in the thiries. Until the late 60s females in the public service had to resign on marriage.

Posted by: Peggy Sue at January 25, 2004 at 09:29 AM

No need for scholarships for kids to go to private schools.

We just need all state schools to be as good as the selective state schools in NSW and Vic, or as good as the state schools in "leafy" suburbs generally.

Posted by: May Lee at January 25, 2004 at 09:41 AM

What will help is to let parents choose which of a city’s public schools their children attend, & to close, to dissolve the school that loses too much attendance, eliminating the jobs of the principal & all the teachers in that school. That will light a fire under their smug union asses.

Posted by: ForNow at January 25, 2004 at 11:03 AM