11 NOVEMBER  2008  




DOGS have dealt with the Education International Definition of Public Education in Press Release 255 ( www.adogs.info/pr255.htm)and Press Release 264 ( www.adogs.info/pr264.htm ) and considered demonstrable commitment to public education at Press Release 259 ( www.adogs.info/pr259.htm ) and Press Release 260 ( www.adogs.info/pr260.htm ). Further discussion on the definition of public education can also be found at www.adogs.info/definition.htm

Education International Definition of Public Education:

The following is the totally inadequate definition of public education adopted by resolution at the E.I. (Education International ) World Congress at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2004. This definition was contained in a resolution adopted on Education: Public Service or Commodity:

Public education is a system open to all without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, culture or social class, free of charge, publicly funded, and managed and evaluated in accordance with the objectives and principles established democratically by public authorities.

Why is the EI Definition of Public Education Incomplete and Stupid?

On the basis of their Australian experience, DOGS indicated in their earlier Release No. 255 ( www.adogs.info/pr255.htm) that the EI definition of Public Education was incomplete, misleading, and unwise. At Press Release 264 ( www.adogs.info/pr264.htm) we indicated the stupidity of leaving the definition of public education to so-called public authorities. What strong public education group would leave vital indicia of public education to any other group or government ?

The Purpose of this News Release:

The purpose of this Press Release is to consider the failure of the EI definition to take into account and include within their definition the two most fundamental elements of a public education system. These elements are:

  • public in purpose

  •  public in outcome.

Public In Purpose Left out of E.I. Definition:

DOGS definition of public education contains eight indicia. Seven of these indicia derive from the first, namely, the fact that a public education system must be public in purpose.

The concept of 'public in purpose" arises out of the logic and history of New World English speaking countries like the USA, Australia, New Zealand and certain parts of Canada. Unfortunately for New Zealand, the 'public in purpose' aspect was destroyed by the enemies of public education and their fellow travellers as early as the 1970s.

The Australian Founding Fathers realised the central role played by a public education system which is public in purpose as a foundation to a secular, liberal, heterogeneous and harmonious  democratic State. They realised that public education was and is the most important business in a civil society.

The free, secular, universal and accessible public education is fundamental to success in this endeavour. Our Founding Fathers realised that it was necessary to establish the public (government) school and public (government) education systems when they established a modern secular liberal State with a modern political philosophy that aimed to achieve liberal values of liberty, justice, fraternity, popular consent, and the obligation to the public good.

Central to these aims was the secularity of public education and the principle of separation of religion and the State.

Public (Government) School education stands for and assists in achieving a viable and just community. Public (government) school education is required for the continuation of this viable, democratic, heterogeneous community. Let no one doubt that if there is to be a twilight of the 'liberal' Public (Government) school and Public education systems, that twilight would also be the twilight of the modern 'liberal' democratic State whose values are freedom; equality;  justice; fraternity; the working of popular consent; the personal obligation for the public good and the voluntary contribution to religion together with the separation of church and state. 

It should be noted that voluntary contribution to religion and the ideal of religious liberty also go hand in hand. Forced contributions to religion and religious schooling is a denial of basic religious liberty. When this basic  liberty is infringed through State Aid to religious schools, all of the other basic values of the liberal democratic state are also undermined. The Australian experience of Federal State Aid to religious schools since 1964 is evidence of this.

The Public (Government) School and Public Education system were and are established to serve a public purpose rather than a private one. They are not maintained for the personal advantage or private gain of the teacher, the proprietor, or the Board of Managers; nor does it exist simply for the enjoyment, happiness or advancement of the individual students or their parents. The Public (Government) School or system was and is established for the whole society through the provision of schools for all children throughout the community; for the communication of  knowledge and understanding necessary for exercising of responsibilities of citizenship. Moreover, the Public system is public in purpose in that it attempts to bring all the public together in an exercise of community with members of the public learning to work together for their children and with those children learning to work, live and play together.

 Dangers of the State Within the State

One of the purposes of Public Education for the Australian Founding Fathers was the importance of not having a State within a State. Andrew Inglis Clark ( 1885) and Edmund Barton ( 1879) used this concept when talking about State Aid to church schools and the crucial role played by public education for the public good.

DOGS describe the phenomenon of the ''State within the State' as a Cancer in the Body Politic'.

Central to the prevention of a State within the State, namely the influence of the church within the State, was the withdrawal of State Aid to religious schools in the late nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, with the return and massive expansion of State Aid to religious schools, the State within the State, the Cancer within our Body Politic is alive, well , and eroding the basic freedoms of our secular, liberal democracy.

 The American Supreme Court described the contamination of religion and the state as follows:

Its ( establishment clause) first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion. ( from the opinion of the unanimous decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Engel v Vitale and Abington v Schempp)

'Public in Outcome' Absent from the E.I. Definition:

One of the major reasons a private church school cannot be considered within the concept of public education is the essentially private outcome which results from the private purpose. Only a public school produces a public outcome as a result of a public purpose. Consider the following:

Unlike the private religious sector, Public (Government) school education is in the best interest of the public good because

  • It produces a cohesive society with peaceful pluralism not a tribal society based on creed, class, culture, and colour.

  • It is the most powerful agency for fraternity, promoting cohesion among a heterogeneous democratic people whereas the private religious system has separated citizens into sectarian groups with tribal affiliations.

  • It provides open access to all children irrespective of creed, class, culture and colour whereas the private religious system separates on these criteria.

  • It elevate cohesion and unity above the particularist goals of special and self serving interests of the private religious sector.

  • It represents the most pervasive means for promoting out common destiny. Public schools are the training ground for the habits of community rather than the habits of individual and tribal benefits.

If the percentage of children in our public (government) schools falls away, so, in due course will cohesion in our society decline.

The increase of State Aid to religious schools in Australia has enabled the promoters of the private as opposed to the public interest, to divide the Australian public along the lines of Divisions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia: divisions based upon creed, class and ethnicity.

Lessening the Chance of Corrosion on the Body Politic

A strong public education system can lessen the impact of the private sector which corrodes and distorts the precarious democratic processes and priorities of popular consent.

Public schools engender a community outlook, an interest in the public good over the interest of any sectional good. The majority of religious schools on the other hand tend to engender a  loyalty and dedication unique to religious activities. For example, one of the basic aims of the Church School system which caters for eighty percent of enrolments in the private church system is the production of a 'Catholic' citizen.

The particular loyalty to a particular interest is absorbed and brought by many of the products of a church school education into all aspects of their life. Their loyalty sometimes surfaces in overt or covert acts at any particular time depending on the person and situation.

The greatest lesson that Australians can provide for the Western democracies is to inform them that in the democratic process, religious,  church schools have proved themselves to be 'cancer in the body politic'.

Example of Corrosion of the Judicial Arm of Government

In Australia, the effect of the religious school interest  on the judicial arm of government reveals their anti-public effect on our democratic processes. This is another reason why they can never qualify as public in nature.

DOGS illustrate the corrosion of the church school faction on the judicial processes in their own Australian High Court case. The battle spanning 25 years to have the constitutionality of federal State Aid decided, was adversely affected by the deliberate attempts of the pro-State Aid faction to avoid a High Court decision in various ways. Readers can find the story of this case at www.adogs.info /dogs_high_court_case1.htm . We suggest they note at least the following:

  • The activities of Senator Neil O'Sullivan  who was an active pro-State Aider in his own right. He was also the father of a son who later became head of the Jesuit Order in Australia.

  • The prevention of citizens in various States from obtaining Attorney's General fiat to appear in the High Court in the years 1957, 1964-65, and 1972-73.

  • The pressure by the Roman Catholic Church on the Victorian Government to withdraw the  Attorney-General's fiat to go to the High Court in the period 1973 to 1980. Yet, when the church schools were successful, the Roman Catholic Church  announced to the world at large that they believed in the right of people to test the constitutionality of State Aid in the High Court. Perhaps at a future date DOGS will put them to the test.

  •  Intimidation of some of the High Court plaintiffs ( e.g. William Hartley) alongside unprecedented delays, and attempts to deliberately increase the legal costs of the plaintiffs.

  • On the ideological front, the religious men spent 26 days attempting to prove that religious schools were no more 'religious' than public schools. This was not reported in the mainstream media.

The major reasons why DOGS believe that in a democracy one cannot deal with private religious groups in the public arena was their blatant contradiction of their ideals before the High Court.

The major lesson to be drawn from this legal fiasco was that the High Court permitted the private religious sector to get away with the erosion of the judicial process. 

Private Religious Schools: Private Gains  : Political Pursuit of Funds and Favours

Until the early 1960s, the corrosive effect of  the religious school faction on Australian political priorities and processes, was kept in check by opposing religious groups. These groups counteracted the effect of the demands on the political process effected by the major supporter of State Aid to religious enterprises. When State Aid was granted however, the religious opposition dissipated.

Most of the religious groups lined up to grab State Aid for their particular sectarian schools. The church school faction, with their peculiarly engendered commitment combined with their narrow sectionalist interests have rolled over the more diverse public school interest groups.

For example,  on 26 May 2008, listeners were told by ABC presenter Paul Collins, a former Roman Catholic priest,  that there is a 'unique relationship that Church and State in Australia have forged in funding education, health care and social services.'  Another Roman Catholic priest, Joe Caddy, the Chairman of Catholic Social Service Australia, on 17 October 2006, at a federal parliamentary breakfast revealed ' Catholics are also over-represented in the public service.' What he did not reveal was that the Roman Catholic Church is now the employer of the largest number of people in Australia.

Private Religious Grab for Federal Money

Further evidence of the private outcome of private religious education as opposed to the public interest of the public system has been the grab for Federal Money. The private religious lobbyists have largely elbowed public school interest groups out of the way and down in the funding stakes.

Federal funding to primary and secondary education at the State level started in the financial years 1964-1965 with $7.238million or $3.9 dollars per pupil for public schools and $2.677 million or $4.6 dollars per pupil to private religious schools. This appeared to be a small amount for private schools but Jefferson's warning went unheeded. He said that it was the precedent of the principle being broken that counted because the principle becomes entangled in the precedent and then it become not whether, but how much.

This 'how much' has now become in 2007-2008 $ 5.941 billion or $5, 177.2 per pupil for a religious school. Public schools lag behind with a mere $2.265 billion or $1,168 dollars per pupil. There is no clearer evidence of the self interest of the churches than this.

In 1964-65 the ratio of private to public pupil payment was 1.18 times greater. In 2007-2008 the ratio has risen to 4. 43 .

Lack of Accountability for Federal State Aid Funding

Another reason why private schools cannot be included in the public sector is their disgraceful destruction of the principle of accountability for public funding. This principle underpins representative government. There should be no taxation without representation, and no representation without public accountability for expenditure of that taxation.

The lack of public accountability for State Aid to religious private schools is a sick national joke.

The set-up established in Canberra is like Caesar's wife reporting to Caesar. Religious private school activists within the ranks of the political parties and the bureaucracies have certainly been at work.

And so we have the State within the State, enjoying the largesse of the public Treasury.

 The Religious private school interest could not have been so successful in undermining our basic democratic processes if the religious operatives did not have sympathisers and fellow travellers and gutless wonders who have straddled the political and bureaucratic arms of government at the federal and State level.

Corrosion of Checks and Balances

In addition to  the above-mentioned corrosion of the possible checks and balances within the arms of government, the private religious school faction has successfully eroded checks and balances in academia and the media. Surprisingly for some, the private school networks have also eroded public school lobby groups, quietening opposition to moves for  privatisation of the public sector.

 Outcomes or Benefits of Public Education are Worth Fighting For

The following outcomes or benefits of public education mean that private religious schools can never be part of a public system. If we are to retain any semblance of a democratic liberal state, they are worth fighting for :

  • Public schools offer the possibility of effective education for all children, not just those whose parents know how to find it and not just those for whom an institution or particular school wishes to provide it.

  • The public school system allows the public to maximise its return from its educational dollar in both the range and amount of resources applied for each child.

  • Public school education is in the best interests of the public good because it allows the public to maximise the opportunity to achieve equality of educational opportunity.

  •  Public education is about providing a good education for all children. The preservation of a viable public school system is at the very heart of an effort to allow each Australian child to realise their potential.

  • Only the universal public education system attempts to give every Australian child the opportunity to achieve their potential. A single public education system is the most efficient way of spending the money put into education.

  • The economies of scale brought about by a large public system of education enables the community to get the maximum value for each dollar spent in both the terms of the amount and range of resources applied to each child and the amount of resources obtained from each dollar.

  • Public schools are there for the children that private religious schools reject and pass over: the children in the small country schools; the under-achievers; the behaviour problem and the under-privileged.

Private religious schools do not offer the benefits of public education listed above, and cannot ever be considered part of public education. The fundamental purpose and outcomes of private education are private and never public. private church schools are not contained within the concept of public education.




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Last modified:Thursday, 13 November 2008