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Private Schools Must Not Be Allowed to Win Their War Against

Government Schools

In The Age September 6, 2004, the well known Australian author, Shane Maloney commented further on remarks which he made at Scotch College in 2001. These remarks had been sent by him to a few acquaintances, but in recent days had "started spreading spontaneously around the country like some sort of email samizdat."

DOGS  referred to these remarks on their 3CR program and their phone started ringing with positive feedback from enthusiastic listeners.

So -

What exactly did Shane Maloney say at Scotch College ?


Why did public education supporters respond so enthusiastically to his remarks.



Here is the text of his remarks to the boys at Scotch College:

" When I first received an inquiry about my availability to come and talk at this school, I was naturally reluctant. After all, this school has little to recommend it in the eyes of the wider community. Historically it has been simply a machine for the transmission of inherited privilege.

It is a place where boys from middle-class backgrounds are sent to improve their material prospects and to reproduce the values of their class, or where the boys of insecure parents are sent to fulfill the distorted ambitions of their fathers.

When I think of Scotch College, what comes immediately to mind are the values and actions of its most prominent Old Boys.

It think of the scene I saw on television after Scotch old boy Jeff Kennett used his power and his philosophy to close down the only high school in the state specifically dedicated to the education of young Aboriginal people. How students from that school came here and stood at the gates and how your principal went out and told them to go away.

I think of your old boy, David Kemp, the federal education minister, giving millions of dollars of public money to enhance the marketability of schools like this one - justifying his actions with statistics and arguments that he refuses to apply to the needs of the 70 per cent of Australian families who choose to educate their children in the democratic and equitable environment of government schools.

I think too, of the newspaper reports of the violent behaviour of some of your students - and the quick readiness with which these boys were defended and excused in the courts by their adult class allies.

For these reasons, I was initially reluctant to come here.

On the other hand, I thought, 'Well, all this is hardly the fault of the current crop of students. ' It is not your fault, after all, that your families decided to institutionalise you. It is not your fault that your mothers and fathers elected to place you in the emotionally distorting and educationally deficient environment of an all-boys school.

It is not your fault that your parents lacked sufficient confidence in your personal maturity and ability to respond to the opportunities offered by government school education - and Australia has one of the best systems in the world, by the way, despite the relentless propaganda to the contrary by the vested interest of the private school lobby.

Right now, you are the victims. Later, of course, society will be your victim, and will suffer from the attitudes with which you are indoctrinated here.

But who knows? Just as prison does not always break the spirit of all who are incarcerated there, perhaps you will not turn out to be a burden to society.

Perhaps when you leave here, some of you will even manage to contribute to the well being of this country.

I certainly hope so. But just to hedge my bets, I will be donating part of my fee today to the campaign for public education.

Good luck with your studies and thanks for having me."



Alongside the text of his Scotch College address published in The Age, Shane Maloney gave the following reasons for the reaction to the publication of his remarks in the regional and mainstream media.

1.    Scotch College is perceived a emblematic of the private education lobby's increasingly aggressive war against government schools.

2.    By criticising Scotch he gave voice to a growing feeling among many parents, teachers and students of [public schools that not enough of us are standing up for government education.

3.    Although education is a fundamental issue for millions of Australians and public education is the preferred option of most parents, the major political parties ignore this fact.

4.    The Liberals in reality are committed to the systematic dismantling of public education.

5.    Labor stands for the gradual impoverishment and erosion of public education.

6.    The schooling of Australian children has been reduced to a bargaining chip in wedge politics, with the assistance of the press.

7.    Government school teachers are routinely denigrated and wage claims described as blackmail.

8.    Our children are increasingly divided into educational ghettos that undermine our civil values and reward religious fundamentalism.

9.    Behind the facade of choice, elite private schools plunge their hands deeper and deeper into the public pocket.

10.   Public money is used by private schools to offset the cost of affiliation to lobby groups which, in turn generate arguments

        for further subsidies.

11.    Parents who have invested big money in having their children featherbedded into university places and designer-branded into

        school-tie corporate networks hedge their bets by denigrating government schools.

12.    Competitive advantage is the name of the game. And its a zero-sum game.


He completed his article as follows:

"Soon after my comments at Scotch ( 2001) The Liberal scheme to give hefty subsidies to wealthy private schools went before the Senate. labor could have rejected it and forced an election on the issue of education. Polling indicated it would have romped home. Instead, it approved the bill, muttered its customary weasel words and sat on its hands until the Tampa hove into sight.

In the three years since, Labor appears to have learned nothing.

Despite the welter of dodgy statistics and high-flown arguments about choice, parents know that the answer is really quite simple. Schools need money. Our "better" schools have been operating on that assumption for generations.

So by way of a postscript to my speech of three years ago, I invite Scotch College to demonstrate its true independence and affirm its educational philosophy by declining all future government subsidies."








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Last modified:Monday, 25 April 2005