Thursday, September 13, 2007
You plead guilty to agreeing with the call for the abolition of public schools. I have often heard this from fellow teachers but I don't think that you can really have thought it through.
How can you say that the private sector leeches on the state system when in fact it removes the cost of 660,000 students from the system and the government still collects their parents' taxes to pay for other children's schooling.
Thanks for the post you’ve made some good points. It is true that the funding of public schools is a complex question. There is the argument that they ‘save’ the taxpayer money. On the other hand claiming £100 million in tax relief by posing as ‘charities’ really is taking the p***.
Abolishing public schools? It’s in the far horizon on the political radar. Even if the day came I don’t envisage a final cataclysmic end in the spirit of Lindsay Anderson’s film ‘If’ or bulldozing the buildings to the ground (although in certain cases this might appeal). Why not use the buildings and extensive sports facilities for all children?
Does the public school system ‘save’ money for the taxpayer? The exact same argument is put forward in relation to private hospitals and the NHS. The problem here is that a section of the population remove themselves from society, the logical extension of this is America’s ‘gated communities’ – in some states they comprise of 25% voters. Taxes are cut to the bone and public services wither on the vine. Nothing exemplified this better than the collapse of the levees in New Orleans or the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. When I was in Cleveland this year you could travel round the city on brand new freeways, as soon as you went into the poorer areas it was dodge the pothole. In other countries public spending is viewed as a social necessity, public sector workers are well rewarded financially and not constantly abused by the media.
It certainly may be the case that people opting to spend money on education are merely exercising choice and should be commended as opposed to those who waste money on fripperies like fast cars. In my view education is a human right, once you make it a commodity that can be bought and sold in the market those with the largest financial elbows will get to the front of the queue. Even if you believe in the free market surely the best way of organising society is through a meritocracy? Why is it that 50% of places at our most prestigious universities, Oxford and Cambridge, go to children from public schools?
Some middle class families do scrimp and save to get their children through public school. I would however, in some cases, have to question the motivation is it educational or social? Do they just want to keep Daphne or Edwin away from Gary and Beyonce at the local comp? We don’t want them mixing with the local oiks.
The top public schools charge at least £20,000 in fees, so they are accessible only to the wealthy elite. What sort of public schools do the middle classes attend? The minor public schools, where in many cases the education is no better than the state sector.
As for the ‘free places for deserving children’, exactly how many do the public schools offer? What percentage receive Free School Meals? Suddenly the public schools become all coy and mutter behind their manicured hands. In the 1980s the Conservatives established the ‘Assisted Places Scheme’ to give ‘poor people’ the chance of a public school education. It became a charity scheme for the Distressed Gentlefolk, a good tax dodge for the self-employed. In some cases people declared themselves bankrupt just before their children were due to attend school and then emerged like Lazarus into a new business venture.
Part of the ‘Daily Mail’ agenda is to promote the interests of the ‘respectable majority’ against the ‘chavs’. I don’t see it that way. We are developing into a society where wealth and privilege is being entrenched for a minority of the population. Rupert Murdoch received £14 million last year in wages, shares and bonuses and top business executives are retiring with pensions of £1 million a year. Meanwhile social mobility has all but ground to a halt.
Public schools are bastions of class privilege - they make everyone poorer.
Labels: Public Schools