20 October 2011





Religious interests have never accepted that the State has any interest in secondary education-  other than pay billions of dollars into sectarian coffers. The right of religious groups to control the education of children, school enrolments and the curriculum, has always  taken precedence over the educational rights of children - whatever their class, creed, culture or geographic location . Australian religious interest groups have only conceded the obligation of the State to fill in the gaps . The State may, perhaps in charity, provide sub-standard  services to the unwanted and unwashed.


The private sector cried ‘poor’ and promoted the myth of ‘poor parish schools’and needs in earlier decades. But in 2011 the sectarian sector are so certain of  insecure middle class patronage and their current political push and pull that they are turning triumphalist.


David Hastie, a teacher of HSC and the International Baccalaureate at St Paul’s Grammar School and an Education PhD candidate at Macquarie University,  has written an article entitled ‘Powder key’of Australian education to Explode? in Eternity, October 2011.


He notes that the ACT was the first ‘jurisdiction in Australian history to record a majority of high school students attending non-government schools,’at 50.4% compared to 49.8% last year.’

David Hastie has a short  historical memory – starting at 1964 perhaps. The State only entered secondary education after 1900 and the private sector never accepted it. They have been competing with the State for t upper and insecure middle class patronage ever since. In the years1911 to 1964 the State schools gained the edge, but billions of dollars of State Aid later, the vast majority of Australian children ( 66%) are still attending under-resourced public schools. David Hastie is gloating over 0.4% over the 50% mark in the ACT, and using it to put pressure on the federal Government and its Gonski committee. 


DOGS quote from his Eternity article:


In 1993 Professor Simon Marginson, now an academic elder statesman, described the ‘dual system of public and private schooling’ as the ‘powder keg of Australian education.’


Since then, non-government K-12 schools have grown by over 12%. But if these figures are adjusted for the kind of trend witnessed in the ACT, an even more dramatic school enrolment narrative is unfolding, that goes something like this:

‘I’ll put my kids into the local primary, where it is all about fun and community tuckshops, but when they get to 13, off to the Catholic/Anglican/Christian school.’

In other words, knowledge-specialization and complex preparation for adult life is seen as better done by religiously-oriented private education. This narrative sells, and is being bought wholesale by millions of parents.

The government is making all the right noises to the now electorally un-opposable religious school sector, but it’s not releasing any hard figures until the findings of the Gonski review of education funding is tabled.l

Pyne urges suspicion: ‘Why doesn’t Garrett ensure funding? Why wait for the Gonski review?’to which, frankly, several not-particularly sinister nor complicated answers could be given.

It remains to be seen if the ‘powder keg’ of education will explode with a bang, or if the great public education visions of the likes of Sir Henry Parkes and Harold Wyndham have already quietly died with a whimper. They are almost certainly a thing of the past, along with the Australia we have known.’


DOGS note that, for a promoter of ‘religious’ education David Hastie  adheres to a cynical version of  market ideology. One can only be left wondering what ‘religion’ he follows. On the basis of this article, he could hardly be called an educator and follower of Christ -  like Sir Harold Wyndham. The one good thing about his article is that he is not giving lip service to mealy mouthed ‘Needs’ policies, but admitting to the motives behind parental choice in the private sector.

However, one should not expect too much. The schools Hastie is promoting are only ‘religiously-oriented’ private institutions. In the market place that separates sheep from goats, they  insist on the freedom to pick and choose children destined for the first class ticket to heaven and the good job.