So, a friend and I were recently having a conversation, and it turned to schooling. Skipped right over “are you pro-choice”, “who did you vote for in the election?”, and “are your boys circumcised?” right to Private vs. Public schooling.

Currently all of our kids are or will be schooled in the junior years in a public school.
My master 7 was in a private school before we moved, and boy did it cause a lot of comment!

It’s something I’m really happy to converse about. But it has to be a conversation; an art which I believe is becoming extinct. The ability to exchange ideas from differing perspectives without disrespecting the other person.

I am always interested in a conversation when there are 2 diametrically opposed points of view, and on private vs. public schooling, there is.
There is a great deal of snobbery around schooling and this is nothing new.

I personally had a dozen schools, all public. Just fine thanks, not an issue. Dear Hubby, public schooled all the way, his 3 younger siblings got a dose of private schooling in their senior years. I think that there is nothing wrong with public schools at all. However, we are seriously considering schooling the boys privately in their senior years, if circumstances allow.

Apparently this decision makes us evil. Well, maybe not quite evil, but certainly worthy of a furore about people who privately school their kids on morning news programs, talk back radio and the interweb….

The talented Chris Lilley stars as a private school girl Ja’mie and his acting ability is brilliant. His portrayal of the school yard and the power mongers in it is breathtakingly accurate. However, this has fanned the flames of the arguments against private schools:

Jane Caro uses the portrayal of Ja’mie to prove why private school kids are horrible and why private schooling is bad. Does she not realise that these types of people are in every school yard? That these kids from affluent families are as much as a result of the parenting that they receive as the poor kid with no designer schoolbag? That being wealthy, or being middle or working class does not define your personality?

I am here to tell you that I can’t watch Ja’mie because of how accurate his portrayal of the ignorant arrogance of Ja’mie and her posse is, and how that drags me back to my high school days, when I was the victim of bullying by these types of girls.  The scenes that Ja’mie plays out, and her preferential treatment and her self belief is SOOO accurate, that I get all uncomfortable at the feelings it brings back up, some 17 years later.

But I did not go to a private school. Ever. I was fully publicly schooled, and in a country town was where I did my senior years, and these personalities, these stereotypes were prevalent there. The girls in my school yard were the kids of hairdressers, teachers, bank clerks, legal assistants, or stay at home mums. Not a lot of privilege there.

But let us look at the schooling issue further:
Really? That is the biggest issue facing us regarding educating our youth? Public vs. private? Wow, the rest must be true trivialities.

I get the shits when people assume that everyone who wants to private school their kids must be an elitist, capitalist pig.  Certainly there are those out there that were privately school at such and such a school, and their children go there as well. This does not make them elitist or even nasty. It is these parents making a decision about their circumstance that suits them.

Why are people who would only school their children publicly so goddamned irritated by this choice?

Do they feel that their kids are missing out? Or that the people who do not choose public schooling are somehow making a value judgement on public school kids?

And if private school parents are elitist capitalist pigs, what does that make public school parents?

Since when has it been ok to judge people based on their decision to do what they think is best for their kids?
What makes it ok for public school parents to judge private school parents and their choices?  
How does their decision to privately school their children impact negatively on public school kids?
What makes it ok for assumptions to be made about these choices and the people who make them, with no opening for conversation or discussion?
What, so people pay extra for schooling their child? Is that what the problem is? Wow, well, I had no idea that reverse snobbery was totally permissible.

And what must that mean for people with private health, people who pay for their private hair salon, people who have private transport? I mean, paying extra for your own vehicle? Seriously, isn’t public transport good enough for you?
Some say that private schools should not get any government funding, because somehow this is unfair. I say no, the government has an obligation to provide an education for each child in Australia, and private schools take a load of the public school system. By the government still partially funding a private school it brings the affordability into the range of more people, encouraging more uptake and therefore reducing the burden in public schools.

Take private health – a much less controversial decision. Every person with private health insurance pays a medicare levy ( although it is smaller if you have private health). And they are still entitled to use public hospitals and use Medicare as well. Why? Because by taking private insurance, you can reduce the burden on the public health system.
If you elect to use your private health insurance in a public hospital, your insurance pays the hospital to look after you, and that garners funds for your hospital, a win – win situation. Nobody calls these people elitist.

What makes private school something that can and should be judged so harshly? It is no different a schooling choice than choosing home schooling, Montessori, Steiner, or boarding school.  For some people it is what the particular school offers, whether it be religious studies, vocational training, community service expectations, study abroad opportunities, or it may simply be that it is the most convenient choice for these people. 

We are considering senior private schooling for the two Masters. Why?
Well, it comes down to many things.
1. We can afford it. We currently pay around $900 a fortnight for child care for 1 child. Some of that is rebated, until the limit is reached, then it isn’t. Even if it wasn’t rebated, we would pay full fee since we need the day care and that is the way it is. So, once there is no more day care, we can funnel that outgoing money in a different direction.
2. I believe that all children have the right to a standard of education. And there are limited resources in the public system. If I can relieve some of the burden to public schools by sending mine to an independent school, then I will.  Just like I do by having private health insurance, and using it, to relieve the pressure on the public health care system.
3. My husbands work environment means that there is a real risk of our children being targeted by other kids whose parents are clients of my husbands. It has happened before.
4. The private school we are considering is closer to home than any other school. The nearest public high school in our zone is further away than the nearest private school.

Back in our old town, our decision to privately school the boys was judged pretty harshly, by many people. For many reasons, I would presume.

I presume, because nobody wanted a conversation about it. They seemed quite comfortable with their assumptions.
Do I judge on others schooling choices? Honestly, nope. I don’t judge on almost any differing decisions, because we are all doing the best we can, with what we have.
I’m more interested in the decision-making process that they have had, because maybe there is a perspective that I was not aware of, and that interests me.
Will I cease to be friends with these people if our children go to different schools? I doubt it, because I think diversity in life is a blessing. I like not always being the same. Not different for different sake, but suited for us.
Just because we are doing things differently, does mean we are not doing things right. They are right for us.
The beauty of this stance we have is that we are never wrong. Because we are embracing doing things that are right for our situation, then as the situation changes, we can adapt easily, change our minds to suit the new situation and carry on. It’s much easier that way.