AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS - D.O.G.S.
PRESS RELEASE 46#.
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CONGRATULATIONS TO KEN BOSTON, NSW DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR HIS SYDNEY MORNING HERALD ARTICLE OCTOBER 24 2001
The following are some of the ideas from this article which was entitled :
"Bonding strengthens society: Bridging protects it."
" Public schools have an important role in educating children from all walks of life, instilling a sense of democracy.
...Building social capital by bonding refers to relations among people who are like each other: families, language and ethnic groups, members of the same social and economic class or religious affiliation.
On the other hand, bridging refers to relations built up among people who initially may be strangers to each other: perhaps divided by culture, religion and most potently by the social and economic means at their disposal.
..Bonding an bridging are useful concepts in considering the role of schools in contributing to what the recent OECD report on human and social capital terms "the wellbeing of nations."
Australian private schools, which are generally founded on religious and cultural affiliations, are very good at bonding-at confirming and strengthening already existing cultural, class, religious and social identities through their formal and informal education of children and young people. Even the Catholic systemic schools, which are quite inclusive in socio-economic terms, are based on a doctrine and a community of faith.
Public schools are also very good at bonding, by respecting and drawing ont he cultures and communities they serve. But, historically, they have also had an additional mission, which is best described ..as building social capital by bridging.
The statesman Sir Henry Parkes understood this bridging function well. He envisaged public schools making
"no distinction of faith, asking no question where a child has been born, what may be his condition of life, or what the position of his parents, but inviting all to sit side by side".
He also understood the importance of social capital built by bridging to the development and maintenance of a healthy economy. Australia needs more bridging if it is to retain its social and economic strength as an open society, in which common values and principles of justice lubricate social mobility and the distribution of hope.
This is an essential aspect of the great task Rupert Murdoch called for in his recent speech in Melbourne:
"to protect and increase Australia's share of human capital as carefully and ambitiously as we would financial capital."
Bridging is accomplished when children and young people learn that common principles, values, norms of justice and reasonable behaviour are the means for understanding differnet points of view and getting on well with each other. Learnt in public schools, these are the building blocks of trust so essentail to a liberal society and economy. Such trust, mediated through high and objective standards of justice and ethics, is the basis of the "transparency" the OECD has identified as Australia's distinctive business and economic advantage. Trust is also the lifeblood of democracy.
Public schools are the only universally accessible institutions available to accomplish and enhance such bridging as well as bonding and to lay down the foundation for future reserves of trust, across classes, religions, suburbs and cultures. ...it is important that the nation recognises the critical role of public schools in sustaining a multi-cultural, democratic Australia. The future of this country must be planned around a robust and common civic ethos, and around agreed norms and standards of justice and sets of values.
The full text of ken Boston's article can be found on the SYdney Morning Herald Website, at www.smh.com.au/news/0110/24/opinion/opinion3.