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Comedy without art (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini

Apartheid, anyone?

Choices are open to the 40 per cent who complete secondary schooling in the private sector. It means, though, that state high schools are left to cater for a less affluent 60 per cent. Despite excellent exceptions, these schools achieve significantly lower rates of entry into university. This leads to a further discrimination: the richest 25 per cent of schools release almost two in five students in the top quartile of achievement; the poorest 25 per cent have one in five.

And that is not the end: students from wealthy family can secure a university place by paying full fees. And what is a student who just missed out on a publicly funded place to make of the entry of full-fee-paying students who scored say up to 10 points lower, in the case of some law degrees, and up to 20 points for less lucrative arts qualifications?

Public-private disparities in education are the most critical perpetrators of disadvantage through the generations, but are not the only ones.

Of course, no one can reasonably expect that people will not use the advantages that money brings to benefit themselves and their children. Australia is a market-based society. Money is everything and is responsible for ‘natural’ divisions. No exception to such iron rules may be even thought of.

At the same time, it is rarely considered that when wide-ranging disadvantage is reinforced from one generation to the next, the notion of a ‘fair go’ begins to look pretty tenuous, self-serving for those on the right side of the tracks, and in the end totally hypocritical.

One enters into the realm of political rhetoric on social justice. The latter is a concept difficult to grasp and organise into a programme of action. Here comes the game played by the two parties of ‘the system’, muddling though the difficulties of gaining the confidence of a part of the electorate without offending the other, which could very well be more powerful. It is not hard to understand why so many ‘ordinary’ Australians are disenchanted with politics and regard the two major parties as ‘out of touch’ – ‘all the same’ perhaps?

The projection of a future which looks an awful lot like a country of two classes goes unremarked. The plebs prefer the illusion of comforting myths, easy slogans, simple – often non sequitur – expressions of profound ignorance. Better still, the two classes may settle down for a sickened and sickening atmosphere better expressed in a famous quote by Amos Bronson Alcott: “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” Alcott was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, reformer and educator. He was a transcendentalist, friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and, perhaps more famously, the father of Louisa May, the author of the novel Little Women in 1868.

It may be hard to accept that the vaunted spirit of ‘fair go’ is nothing but a myth.

And if one accepts that, nothing can be out of reach. Most tools of public life in Australia are designed to proceed with myths, tales, common places.

Another common insidious ‘value’ necessary to become ‘a real Australian’ is the acceptance that there is freedom of religion.

That freedom is predicated on the assumption that Australia is a secular society – another myth in everyday’s life. Not only is Australia a secular society, but the common ethic which united Australians is founded on the tradition of the ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’. This cold ‘value’ has the result of excluding almost half of the Australian population, as noted. One who does not live by that tradition is not a good Australian.

In fact, the situation is more complex.

Australia is a religiously diverse country and, although it has no official religion, the frequent reference to the so-called ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’ is considered an omnibus blanket to cover all sorts of things, and not always welcome. In public life in particular one observes frequently a ‘special kind of hypocrisy’, for instance: the various governments of Australia refer to the Christian God in their ceremonies, as do the various Australian Courts. And on the same line, Christian symbols appear on public buildings, such as universities, not to mention publicly-paid-for hospitals bearing the name of persons connected with the Christian religion and/or the name of this or that ‘royal’ celebutante.

On taking her/his chair every day in Parliament the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate deliver the following Christian prayer:

“Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.

Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

So much, one would comment, for the ‘values’ of ‘respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual’ and ‘freedom of religion’.

Most interesting, the text would conform with Catholic tradition, but rather with the Anglican liturgy.

A big parenthesis may go well at this point: in 2016 there were 3,101.200 Anglicans in Australia = 13.3 per cent of the population. Anglicans were a minority within a rather slim majority of Christians: Catholics, 5,291.800 (22.6 per cent) and Other Christians 3,808.600 (16.3 per cent).

Christianity remains the predominant practice in Australia, though this is diminishing, changing and diversifying. At the Census 2016, 52.1 per cent of the Australian population acknowledged to some variety of Christianity. Over the fifty years since 1966 the proportion of the population who self-identify as Christian, combining all Christian denominations, has fallen from 88.2 per cent. In 2016, 30.1 per cent of Australians declared “no religion”; a further 9.6 per cent chose not to answer the question. The remaining population is a diverse group which includes Muslims – 2.6 per cent, Buddhists – 2.4 per cent, Hindus – 1.9 per cent, Sikhs – 0.5 per cent, and Jews – 0.4. Result: Christians 52.1 per cent, Others 47.9 per cent.

Apart from all that, there are in Parliament persons clearly of the Jewish faith and several of the Muslim, in addition to those who cannot be classified because, among other reasons, they believe that what faith they may have, if any, is nobody’s business. Correct, but not sufficient; there have been several attempts, mainly by the Greens ‘to scrap’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 2014, to ‘letting go of the Lord’s prayer’, A.B.C., 17 January 2014, with renewed attempts in the federal Parliament as well as in state Parliaments – but all in vain. As an on line entry put it: “The Lord’s prayer in Parliament – what the hell?”, propertychat.com.au, 4 March 2016. Precisely.

But there are more serious aspects of Australia’s dependency on foreign symbols.

Consider for instance the flag. On the top corner of the Australian flag there is a Union Jack. Now, that symbol combines aspects of three older national flags: the red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St. Andrew for Scotland, and the red saltire of St. Patrick to represent Ireland. Ireland is now an independent republic and it is only a source of sorrow that six counties be occupied by Britain, and conveniently called Northern Ireland.

The last thing Australia should do is interfere with that problem. Trouble is that the present Australian flag suits the Englanders and their fantasies. The original union of England and Scotland goes back to 1606, and the addition of the Irish saltire goes back to 1801, both dates largely preceding the formation of Australia in 1901.

None of such moral ruins has (should have anyway) anything to do with Australia.

Symbolism it is, yes, but a matter which could be of painful concern to sentient ‘new Australians’, those who may prefer to be participants than lazily settle down as spectators.

Symbolism surrounds the opening of every session of the federal Parliament. Thus, a publication of the Parliament of Australia provides the history of the mace.

And that goes back a long time.

As a symbol, the mace is purely a monarchical one. It was back in medieval times that the Royal Serjeants-at-Arms were distinguished by their power of arrest without a warrant. To an increasing extent, their maces – originally ordinary weapons of war, similar to a club – became their emblems of authority. Authority?

Maces were stamped with the Royal Arms; and in an age in which few men could read or write, the Serjeants effected their arrests by showing their maces and not by producing any form of written warrant.

The evolution of maces from weapons of war to symbolic representations has seen the flanged head decrease in size into an ornamental bracket, while the butt end, which carried the Royal Arms, has expanded to accommodate larger and more ornate Royal Arms and an arched crown surmounted by an orb and cross. As a result of the expansion of the butt end, maces began to be carried upside down with the crown uppermost.

The mace of the Australian House of Representatives is the symbol not only of the Royal authority but of the authority of the House. Because it is held that “the authority of the Speaker and of the House are indivisible”, the mace also symbolises the authority of the Speaker.

When the Speaker is in the Chair, the mace lies on the Table, with the orb and cross surmounting it pointing to the government side, that is, to the Speaker’s right.

The Serjeant-At-Arms is custodian of the mace. Bearing the mace upon the right shoulder, the Serjeant-at-Arms precedes the Speaker when the Speaker enters and leaves the Chamber at the beginning and the end of a day’s sitting.

The fable surrounding the mace is so old that there is a view – taken seriously by the monarchists – that the House of Representatives may not be properly constituted unless the mace is present on the prescribed brackets in the Chamber!

The magic surrounding the mace is enhanced by the practice of travelling with the Speaker on formal occasions – such as when s/he appears to the presence of the Governor-General after election, when the House goes to the Senate to hear the Governor-General’s opening speech, and on the presentation to the Governor-General of the Address in Reply to the opening speech. On these occasions, the mace is covered with a cloth or left in an antechamber before entering the Governor-General’s presence.

The symbolism reaches a paroxysmal, divine point of loyalty of the subjects: being the symbol of the Royal authority, the mace becomes unnecessary in the presence of the authority itself. How un-free can monarchists be?

Beyond the theatricality which seems to enchant the plebs there is a more insidious way of ‘moving forward’ – as the jargon dictates – by looking backward.

Preserved for veneration much as a religious relic, there is in Parliament House in Canberra a copy of the 1297 version of the Magna Carta preserved in a lightbox style window.

The Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter’, dates back to 1215. It is seen by some, mainly persons with eyes on the back of their head, as an important step in the development of democracy and the British Parliament, and has influenced the creation of founding documents such as the 1689 British Bill of Rights and the 1901 Australian Constitution.

The first version of the Magna Carta, written in 1215, was a peace treaty between King John of England and his barons. It was a ‘deal’; in modern jargon one could regarded it as establishing a ‘principle’: that all people, including the king, had rights and responsibilities under the law. This anyway is the favourite interpretation, convenient to people in power- without-responsibility in Australia.

Prior to the Magna Carta, King John had absolute power as a feudal monarch. He gave the barons their titles and estates (the land, boys!) in return for their loyalty. King John was an untrustworthy partner and a cruel tyrant, who expected the barons to give him money and troops to fight a long and pointless war with France. The barons had to tax their people harshly to pay for the war and force men from their estates to fight in the ongoing conflict.

By 1215 the barons were fed up with the king’s behaviour and many rebelled against him. They seized the Tower-Of-London and demanded the king listen to them. In June, in a meadow at Runnymede, the king and the barons met and agreed on the terms of the Magna Carta. As was common practice, the document was copied out, fixed with the king’s seal and sent to all parts of the kingdom to be read out to the people, many of whom were illiterate.

In return for the barons pledging loyalty to King John, the Magna Carta limited the king’s power, with most of the document detailing the rights of the barons under the feudal system. However, it also described what is commonly referred to as ‘the rule of law’, including the important point that the king was subject to the law, like all others. Individual rights and liberties were defined, with one of the most notable sections reading:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

No historian, no constitutionalist, no political scientist and most certainly no professional politicians in the Westminster System, no one who was not paid for her/his opinion would dare to interpret without blushing that document as a charter of rights for everybody – a foundation of the Australian ‘values’.

In fact, almost immediately after signing it, King John ignored the Magna Carta and broke his agreement with the barons. King John tried to butcher the authors of Magna Carta. (‘King John Tried to Butcher the Authors of Magna Carta,’ free.org, 15 June 2015).

He died in 1216 and his nine-year-old son, Henry lll, became the king. As he grew, his guardians made three more editions of the Magna Carta, in an attempt to win back the support of the barons. Some changes were made, but many of the original ideas stayed the same, perhaps just simply ‘ideas’.

In 1225 King Henry lll, at the old age of eighteen, issued the fourth, and heavily revised, version of the Magna Carta, in return for a kingdom-wide grant of tax. As his father had before him, the king fought with the barons. In 1264 Simon de Montford, a baron, overthrew the king and became the ruler. De Montford believed that the king’s power should be limited. He called together knights and some non-noble representatives from across the kingdom to meet in a parliament. Although it would be many years before parliament met regularly and included commoners in its ranks, the idea of the modern English parliament might have germinated then.

In 1265 de Montford was killed on the battlefield by King Henry’s son, Edward, who succeeded his father as king in 1272. Throughout the 1200s, the Magna Carta was increasingly quoted as laws were made and petitions were prepared against the unfair use of power.

Edward l ordered that an Inspeximus – from Latin, and to mean: “we have inspected”. It was the first word of ancient English charters confirming a grant made by a previous king. The word opens the edition of the Magna Carta reissued in 1297. In that edition King Edward declared that the Magna Carta would from then on be a part of common law and that any court judgements which went against it would be “undone and holden for naught.” This is the official Australian view, and from it the preceding information is taken.

Preserved at Parliament House, Canberra is a copy of the 1297 version.

Some comments seem appropriate.

As recently observed by Professor Tom Ginsburg, who teaches international law and political science at the University of Chicago, the Carta’s “fame rests on several myths.”

”First, it wasn’t effective. In fact, it was a failure. John was a weak king who had squandered the royal fortune on a fruitless war with France. Continually raising taxes to pay for his European adventures, he provoked a revolt by his barons, who forced him to sign the charter. But John repudiated the document immediately, and the barons sought to replace him. John avoided that fate by dying.”

His young son reissued the Magna Carta, without some of the clauses. It was reissued several times more in the thirteenth century. But the original version hardly constrained the monarch.

A second myth is that it was the first document of its type. Writing in 1908, Woodrow Wilson called it the beginning of constitutional government. But in fact, it was only one of many documents from the period, in England and elsewhere, codifying limitations on government power.

Consider, for instance, the history of Iceland. There, in 930 c.e. the ruling chiefs established an assembly called the Alþingi – correspondent to the classic Norwegian Althing. It was a parliament, convened each summer at Þingvellir – an early form of Senate, where representative chieftains – Goðorðsmenn or Goðar – made and amended laws, settled disputes and appointed juries to judge lawsuits. Laws were not written down but were instead memorised by an elected lǫgsǫgumaðr – ‘Lawspeaker’. The Alþingi is viewed by many as the world’s oldest existing parliament. Importantly, there being no central executive power, laws were enforced only by the people.

Iceland enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted period of growth in its so-called commonwealth years, between 874 and 1262 c.e.

A third myth is that the document was a ringing endorsement of liberty. Even a cursory reading of the translation into understandable English reveals a number of oddities. One clause prevents Jews from charging interest on a debt held by an underage heir. Another limits women’s ability to bear witness to certain homicides. A third requires the removal of fish traps from the Thames.

In fact, Magna Carta was the result of an intra-élite struggle – class war? – in which the nobles were chiefly concerned with their own privileges. When they referred to the judgment of one’s peers, for example, they were not thinking about a jury trial. Indeed, in 1215, the jury trial – as it is known at present – did not exist; guilt was often determined by seeing how suspects reacted to physical ordeal. The reference to one’s peers meant that nobles could not be tried by commoners, who might include judges appointed by the king.

Why then all the fuss about the Carta? Well, the veneration of the relic began in the early seventeenth century, when members of the English Parliament and the famous jurist Sir Edward Coke revived the document in their struggle with the Stuart monarchs. They argued that free Englishmen had enjoyed a set of rights and privileges until they were disrupted by the Norman Conquest of 1066. In their view, Magna Carta embodied these rights, so it was held up as a model of a glorious past and part of an ancient constitution. Consistency and objectivity did not seem to enjoy great popularity.

Throughout the tumultuous seventeenth century, Magna Carta was invoked by opponents of whoever was in power, leading Oliver Cromwell famously to refer to the document as “Magna Farta.” In the eighteenth century, parliamentary sovereignty replaced monarchical absolutism, but Magna Carta continued to be invoked by reformers, now focused on Parliament rather than the king. (T. Ginsburg, ‘Stop Revering Magna Carta’, The New York Times, 15 June 2015).

On both sides of the Atlantic the Carta is venerated by a kind of priesthood – and understandably so; why, it is old, it is English and, because no one other than philologists has read the original, which by modern standards in incomprehensible English, it is easy to invoke to fit contemporary needs.

George Henry Brandis, Q.C., since May 2018 His Excellency The Honourable George Brandis Q.C., the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, was very fond of referring to it, and in the process of ridiculing, while Attorney-General of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, any attempt at providing Australia with a Charter of Human Rights because Australia has had the good fortune of ‘inheriting from mother England’ the Magna Carta. Even admitting that George Brandis might have never read the Carta in its original version, such ‘good fortune’ leaves Australia as the only country of English language without any form of Bill of Rights. The common law, said Brandis is sufficient to uphold and protect human rights. It is the classical case of ipsedixitism – an unsupported dogmatic assertion.

Many Americans – and some of their vassals – are not alone in revering Magna Carta. Mohandas K. Gandhi cited it in arguing for racial equality in South Africa. Nelson Mandela invoked it at the trial that sent him to prison for 27 years. Americans, and Australians for that matter, are not the only ones, it seems, willing to stretch old legal texts beyond their original meaning. Like the Holy Grail, the myth of Magna Carta seems to matter more than the reality.

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 3)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 1)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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  1. Andrew Smith

    Interesting, one has explained to British (and recent British immigrants) that Australia was never purely WASP but also significantly Irish Catholic, in some parts the majority (to reactions of surprise and shock).

    Much of what we see now, and started with ‘culture wars’, is the LNP (and to an extent Labor) catering to ageing Anglo Irish constituents.

    However, with demographic change this, without a change in tactics, may lead to political suicide by attacking non WASPIC types, their future constituents.

    The Cafe con leches Republicans were warning the GOP ten years ago on promoting white Christianity over Catholic Latinos etc.

  2. king1394

    The information on the better opportunities for private school students to go on to university overlooks that there are alternative pathways that can be taken by those who do not achieve the benefit of the doors opened by private education. TAFE still provides an excellent range of practical courses that are used by many as stepping stones into University, often with more maturity and better results by the end of their studies.

    Private schools, with their snobbishness, fail to help their students into the alternative streams for study, so they go to University as protected species who have never had to think for themselves or manage a necessary combination of life skills and study. No wonder so many drop out later. The bias that supports private school graduates is not only in the ATAR but also in the easier life many of them experience as students who can continue to rely on wealthy parents to support them, in contrast to poorer students who have to work part time, manage on a budget, cook and clean for themselves, use a bike or public transport rather than a private car, and so on.

    There are studies showing that students from Comprehensive High Schools with lower ATARs do better than expected of them (or therefore, that private school grads with lower ATARs do not compete as well as expected.

  3. Kathryn

    The incredible myth about expensive private schools supposedly out-performing State high schools is a complete lie! If you look at the 20 top performing schools in the country, the overwhelming majority of them are, in fact, government-run State High Schools and, in particular, State Selective High Schools. See the statistics and learn that State schools are every bit as good – if not better – than pretentious, elitist private schools, many of which are run by Boards who are a law unto themselves! It was my privilege to work in a State primary school for nearly 15 years and I was incredibly impressed with the very high standard of commitment and enthusiasm of the teaching and administrative staff who’s level of professionalism and dedication to students from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, cultures and varying levels of ability was absolutely outstanding!

    I am heartily sick of people denigrating our State education system which operates effectively DESPITE relentless defundment (to the tune of millions) by the elitist LNP at State and federal levels! In spite of this, Australia’s dedicated teaching staff STILL manage to maintain an education system that has one of the highest standards in the world. This is NO THANKS to the State Liberal governments who are obsessed with PRIVATISING everything taxpayers own! FULL CREDIT for our exemplary State school education goes to the ongoing hard work of school staff and to foresightful Labor governments, eg the Whitlam government, who poured millions into our children’s education to provide Australians with an outstanding fully-subsidised education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in order to attain the well-earned title of “the smart country”.

    Sadly, the second the LNP rose to power, they started defunding our schools, TAFE and universities into oblivion and the Murdoch Z-rated rags went on a despicable rampage denigrating our State schools, State school teachers mercilessly and unfairly! Despite all the ongoing defundment, vilification and lack of support, our State schools continue to out-shine private schools ….. Get the facts ….

    Top 100 Ranking Australian Secondary School For The Year Of 2016 (Government/Public)

  4. DrakeN

    Andrew, there were significant numbers of Welsh and Scottish immigrants, too.

    Protestant they may have been, but certainly not Anglo Saxon.

    The mixture of ethnicities in the British Isles is huge, so is it in most of the Western world.

    I have developed the habit of describing my origins as “European Mongrel” as there is no way that I can justify any claim to purity of bloodline.

    The whole “ethnic” thing is a load of cobblers – one which the Mormons, through their ancestry.com are exploiting to great profit with their “DNA testing”.

    The 1930s vision of an Aryan Master race was the product of another exploitative mind which was willingly taken up by a generally ill informed general public.

  5. Roswell

    I’m a big fan of Dr George’s articles. He never disappoints.

  6. Matters Not

    One of the most misleading (and therefore useless) concepts in the ‘education debate’ is the notion of school performance. In a nut shell – schools don’t perform. Students do (or don’t). And that’s what’s being measured is therefore the performance of particular students at a particular location which is called a school.

    But if you wanted (for some strange reason) to create the best performing school in Australia, then what would you do? First, you wouldn’t worry too much about the infrastructure (the buildings, the libraries, the technology, the swimming pools, the horse stables etc) although every little bit helps, Second, you wouldn’t spend too many sleepless nights pondering about the staff – given that, by and large, virtually all teachers in Australia went through roughly the same teacher education courses and subsequent professional socialisation processes but then again every little bit helps. And with teachers the little bit can often become a big bit.

    No, what you would do in your waking hours is focussing on selecting the ‘right’ students so that you could create the (so-called) best performing school in Australia. And what would that student population look like? Well take a look at James Ruse Agricultural High School because:


    blockquote> James Ruse Agricultural high school, in north-west Sydney, has outperformed all other schools in the HSC every year for the past 20 years.

    Then look a little deeper and note well that:

    Almost all selective high schools in Sydney are dominated by students from a language background other than English (LBOTE). According to the MySchool website, at James Ruse, 97% of students were from a LBOTE in 2015. Across Sydney, LBOTE students regularly make up 80 or 90% of enrolments in selective schools. Most of these students are children of migrants from various Asian countries, especially China, Korea, other east and south-east Asian countries, and increasingly, India and south Asia.

    But no doubt this pointless and misleading debate will continue.

  7. Matters Not

    Took a look at the latest breakdown re James Ruse and noted that still 97% of the student population come from a Language background other than English. Also noted that 0% of the school population were Indigenous students.

    Them’s the facts. So where to from here? Perhaps, we could make all (locally born) parents learn a foreign language – so that student achievement would dramatically improve .. (Just joking.) Then who is (who’s) responsible? Or to put it another way, whose responsibility is it? Oh how the standards have fallen. Doesn’t seem to happen with these ‘brown’ immigrants apparently.


  8. Rog Fryer

    My father got his engineering certificate at a technical college. He liked to claim he was “a self-made man” and became City Engineer of Campberwell, the largest local government in Melbourne. He put his four children through private school; I was the youngest – the “spoilt rebel” – and did well in Matriculation but only because I repeated Leaving (Year 11). I was denied my choice of a photography apprenticeship because it was considered a trade, not a profession. I failed everything in my first year at university and my father responded by taking away my car, so I became independent and worked my way through a College of Advanced Education to gain an Advanced Diploma. It took me five years because I spent most of my time chasing girls. My subsequent career was spotty to say the least, but I married and had two children which we put through the public education system. We could not afford private schools if we wanted to and my wife was a public school teacher. My son put himself through university and now has three degrees including a PhD and is one of the most highly qualified translators in Australia, but still only makes an average wage. He is well on his way to saving enough money to buy a house outright because he refuses to borrow money, especially from me. My daughter has a certificate in video production and now works as a realtor in Los Angeles. She is the highest paid person I know but has no respect for money and is perpetually in debt. At the end of my life I am the poorest by a long way of all my private school classmates, but have had by far the most diverse life experiences which allows me to regard them as being incredibly prejudiced in their single-minded pursuit of money and prestige, striving to be “the elite” and spending a fortune putting their kids through the same private schools which now cost a fortune. The most financially successful of my nieces and nephews is a carpenter. What wisdom does this story impart? Fate has the greatest hand in fortune!

  9. New England Cocky

    @MN: Why is it that everybody without experience at the chalk-face is a world expert on all phases of education?

    The facts are middle class kids having parents aspiring for them perform well in school for many reasons, particularly because their achievements in academic work are valued (and often rewarded) by their parents. The other advantages of regular food supply, emotional support and living in a nice neighbourhood are very much secondary factors.

    Kids from “working class families” often do well in spite of their environment, so it is very much a case of “the size of the fight in the dog”.

    Government funding of private schools was a vote buying exercise initiated by the ALP and implemented by the COALition under Menzies about 1961. Until then, quite correctly, private schools received no government funding and were totally reliant upon income from student fees, bequests and any investments. Many of the parochial Catholic school facilities were politely described as “slums” unfit for any livestock.

    The Defence of Government Schools (“DOGS”) case about 1963 played on the words “pupil”, commonly used to describe inmates in state schools, and “student” the private school term for inmates. Now here is the catch; the word “student” was also commonly used in Australian society of that time to distinguish secondary school kids from university and tertiary scholars. The legal argument is found elsewhere, but this was sufficient to guarantee private schools got Commonwealth money. As it happened this meant ever increasing amounts without accountability as a vote buying exercise by both major political parties.

    Without a doubt, James Ruse Agricultural High School is the most academically successful secondary school in NSW. Since it opened about 1996, entry has been on merit only by entrance examination. The Department of Education has encouraged gifted teachers to transfer to JRAHS and the results are impeccable.

    This strategy has caused JRAHS to achieve the best HSC results each year, much to disgust of private schools that charge like a wounded bull, have numerous sporting facilities, significantly overpaid Principals and “weak” academic results. However at Sydney cocktail parties, parents can boast about the fortune they are spending on sending their kids to private schools to give them the advantage of an often second rate education and a well connected social network, just to keep up with the Joneses.

    The Operation Headstart Project in the USA (United States of Apartheid) about 1975 sought to find out why some kids broke out of the Chicago ghettoes and rose through the pay scales of commercial and academic America. It involved about 1200 Afro-American students being enrolled in state and private schools with bussing as required. The results of this longitudinal study showed that the most important factor in academic success was “If the parents said get out of the ghetto using education, then the kids achieved academically regardless of any difficulties”. The size of the dog in the fight story.

  10. Phil

    I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

    Supposedly attributed to Mark Twain.

    Quote Investigator: The earliest known attribution of a version of this quote to Twain occurred in 1907 [OMT]. However, QI believes that credit for this saying should go to the controversial novelist and essayist Grant Allen who published a variant in 1894. Indeed, Grant Allen was so enamored with the maxim that schooling interfered with education that he presented it in an essay and then restated it within at least three of his novels. The four works were published in: 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1899.

    It matters not the principle remains the same.

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