18 Mar 2007, Comments Off on Three Dollars

Three Dollars

Author: Helen

He walked up to me yesterday with a book of raffle tickets. That’s to be expected. Parents of school age children will be familiar with the dance that’s played out almost weekly in every office in Australia. I’ll buy a chocolate bar from your cardboard carrier if you buy one of the tickets from my book.

Usually, I’m always happy to cough up, muttering under my breath the school fundraiser’s creed (“it’ll be a fine thing when the Defence department has to put on a cake stall to buy a fighter jet”). I know that even if I don’t want that raffle ticket and I’m never going to come within cooee of that BMW or Gold Coast holiday, he’ll buy my chocolate when it comes around. But this time, I couldn’t bring myself to fork that $3 over, because of the school name printed on the book of raffle tickets: Haileybury.

I explained politely to my workmate that I couldn’t in all conscience support a school which had been reported to be deliberately poaching surrounding schools’ top students. Sure, it’s legal– but in a world where how much money you have increasingly determines your school experience, that kind of behaviour just hollows out the public system even further until it becomes a safety net for the desperate. That’s what the private schools want, because then people wanting a decent education won’t have a choice (and the fact that the marketers and Federal government always say that their promotion of private education is about “choice” is deeply ironic). Then they’ll put their fees up again, secure in the knowledge that parents will be spooked into going into debt or taking second jobs to support the private system.

Incidentally, since the answer to this is always “I know taxi drivers who put their kids through private, so you can too!”, have any studies been done on the effect on children and their families where Mum or Dad has had to take a night job to pay the school fees, or the family is overloaded with a massive debt which could tip them into losing the house in a recession? Is there anything out there on that? I’d like to know.

But back to the topic: why should I cough up for a raffle for a private school which, to all accounts, I’m already unwillingly supporting with my taxes, on top of the fees they collect? Haileybury is already “(a) major beneficiary of increased funding from the Federal government“, and I don’t think it should be. The public system needs a mighty injection of funds right now to bring its resources up to scratch and pay teachers properly. Instead, my taxes get spent on making Liberal mates private businesses wealthier.

Later that night, I sat around a table with parents from Girlchild’s public High school, ScarySuburb City College. Some of them swapped stories about hurtful comments and unresearched assumptions people had made about ScarySuburb City. The Friends of ScarySuburb City are trying to help the school in a practical way — fundraising for some of the extras that the students at Haileybury and other private schools take for granted. And the parents in those schools, who disparage our child’s school, want people like me to send even more money their way? At least with the raffle tickets, I can say no.

In this crazy world where we have abandoned the right of all children to a decent public education and are diverting my taxes so that schools like Haileybury can spend on marketing and extra sporting facilities, I’ll be damned if I’ll give a further voluntary donation to a school which already has so much. I’d rather give it to the Friends of ScarySuburb City. I know – it’s ridiculous, it’s petty, it’s ultimately futile – but it’s my little protest.

I’ll be at ScarySuburb City open day today, sausage sizzling. For a wiser and more mature analysis of the problem, looky here.

Comments (0)

  • Bernice says:

    & had you whipped out a booklet of raffle tickets asking him to buy 5 for $1 to support the planned Lesbian & Gay Pre-school in your suburb, he would have…?
    Sign me up for choccies for the ScarySuburb City fundraiser.

  • Helen says:

    I’ve got a carrier of some kind of frozen lolly things, but they aren’t very good value.

    Our school once had a fundraiser with socks – really good idea, everyone has to buy socks sometime. But they never repeated it. Too useful, you see.

  • Superb post, Helen.

    I don’t know of any studies, but here’s a little qualitative thingy. I went to one of Melbourne’s elite private schools (Lauriston) that my parents could not afford. The whole family banded together to pay the fees. I was ostracised and intimidated because of the suburb I came from and the cars my parents drove, not to mention the fact that my clothes were from Target. It was humiliating, and turned me against my family. I was profoundly ashamed of my family all my school years.

    At Lauriston, I learned to be a snob and to value clothes and status over compassion and social responsibility. It taught me to dream of marrying a Grammar boy, driving a BMW and living in a good suburb. Give me ‘values-neutral’ public schools any time.

  • […] Priorities Filed under: Uncategorized — Girl on The Avenue @ 12:08 am We received a notice last week urging us to help Little One’s primary school working bee today. It requested that we bring a wheelbarrow and broom and rake if we can. I love this kind of thing. As a friend of mine often remarks, schools are centres of communities, and Little One’s school is a particularly good centre. But as Bloke on The Avenue asked, what kind of government doesn’t give our schools enough for very basic maintenance? What kind of government sponsors carbon-emitting tossers to hoon around Albert Park while schools like Debney Meadows PS have to create new classrooms by squashing kids up and separating existing rooms with a row of lockers? (Meanwhile, Wesley builds boatsheds for its new elite fleet.) As Helen so adroitly puts it today: ”it’ll be a fine thing when the Defence department has to put on a cake stall to buy a fighter jet”. She’s just warming up: […]

  • Jennifer says:

    My son’s primary school is fundraising for a reading recovery teacher. They had one last year, but because their basic skills tests were so good last year, they don’t need one this year (perhaps because she did such a good job?)

    I missed Flute’s analysis – very pertinent.

  • Lad Litter says:

    Peter Lord, former AEU President, used to use a swimming pool analogy about govt funding for private schools: you can use public swimming pools and your taxes pay for them; but if you choose to have your own exclusive pool, those who don’t get to use it shouldn’t have to support it

  • jellyfish says:

    I can’t believe Haileybury were asking you to buy raffle tickets! What a joke.

    I went to a private secondary school and whenever the fundraising request would come around, my father would eloquently request that the notice be taken ‘into the bathroom so we can wipe our bums with it.’ Crude, yet somehow appropriate.

    Random observation: Those boxes of chocolates that the primary school kids bring home for fundraising are so gross. They all taste the same, and I’m sure they’re sending the wrong message re. healthy eating. Down with Freddoes, I say.

  • […] From her balcony, Helen reveals why she refuses to buy tickets in a raffle for Haileybury College, not just because it’s an expensive private school, but because of its role in undermining the public school system. […]

  • wbb says:

    I don’t think it is at all futile, Helen. Not giving money to Haileybury. It’s the right thing not to do.

    I love “Scarysuburb City College”. Someone needs to call a blog that. And do this subject to death. It’s not fair what’s happening in children’s education in Australia today.

  • Helen says:

    Geez, thanks Lentils and Jellyspoons. You are too too kind.

    Just heard Krudd on the ABC this afternoon demurring that no, no, he wouldn’t do anything to upset those nice public schools, no not at all. No he’s nothing like that nasty Mark Latham. Take away their extra funding? Heaven forfend. It’s all about choice! and respecting the choice of parents who can afford thousands of dollars a year in school fees!…

    Kruddy, your honeymoon with this voter is ovah.

  • shula says:

    Interesting. I have a child at Scary Suburb City College, myself.

    I wonder if it’s the same one?

    And I’m curious. What was the parent’s reponse to your comments re. Haileybury?

  • Helen says:

    Shula, although being usually a first-grade drama queen, he agreed graciously (and gave the impression he understood what I was talking about).

  • kate says:

    Congrats Helen! I wonder when independent schools (whose glossy brochures invariably trumpet their social values program and charity work) will run a fete and donate the proceeds to Scareysuburb College rather than keeping it for themselves. Just once I’d like to see MLC parents slogging away on the cake stall for the benefit of Maribyrnong SC, Xavier boys rallying around for Broady kids, and Wesleyans flogging choccies for Debney Park. If they suppported the schools that educate refugee & migrant kids with their own hard earned, I’d be much less skeptical about their ‘values’. In fact, I’m tempted to write to their principals and present the Challenge.

  • Ben says:

    kudos!! i am from a small country town and moved to melbourne for university, i live in brunswick and work in a cinema in richmond, we get people from kew AND from richmond’s commission housing, and everything in between, so i get to deal with people from all backgrounds of all ages on everything from a quiet monday morning to a saturday night when half the patrons who arrive are drunk.

    let me tell you, from the point of view of an objective outsider, melbourne has managed somehow to breed, i believe, the worst people i have ever encountered. surprise surprise, i’m not talking about those nasty poor people from the commission housing, or immigrants, or any of those other unholy types.

    the affluent, predominantly white people from melbourne’s inner east are undoubtedly the nastiest, most selfish, self-obsessed people in the entire world. whenever we have a customer complaining for some trivial reason (the line is too long, why does popcorn cost so much, the sound is too loud, it’s too hot/cold in there… on an unrelated note, do they really think that a $14/hour casual cinema worker really cares that much?) it’s the kew crowd. whenever we have trouble with groups of kids mucking round inside a cinema, it’s not the ethnic “troublemakers”, but the spoilt, pretentious kids from MLC or Xavier who haven’t ever had to worry about money in their lives.

    i guess, instead of me bitching, the point of this is to let you guys know that, from someone who grew up outside this environment, congratulations on what you’re doing for your kids. i wouldn’t live in the supposed “nice” part of melbourne in a fit, and i’m damn glad my parents didn’t think it necessary to get me educated in one of those expensive bubbles. while i also won’t be raising a family anywhere near suburbia in a fit, if i HAD to, it would be in the north or west somewhere.

    end of rant.

  • Helen says:

    So sorry about the moderation delay – only happens with first comment (or first 2, I’m not sure).

    Here’s the link to the Kruddy statement and the less than impressive “policy” statement the next day. I’m starting to despair.

  • Hear hear, Kate. Except they’re not “independent” schools: this was a label dreamt up by think tanks like the Centre for Independent Studies (who aren’t independent either).

    “Independent” schools are dependent on a larger slice of our tax dollars than government schools. It’s a very sly misnomer.

  • Mark says:

    Great post, Helen, and interesting comments. My kid’s still at primary school, so not quite ScarySuburb College yet. More like ‘wheelbarrows and rakes community working bee’ primary school, a la Republic of Moreland. And I’ve been selling raffle tickets for them!

    I know about the “I buy yours, you buy mine” fundraiser tango in offices. I recently sold my boss two of my raffle tickets, and now I’ve discovered his kids’ school is having a fete this Saturday – which I just don’t have the time to go to!! Aagh. Talk about a rock in hard places…

    By the way, if a private school did have to hold a cake stall, do the parents just pop into for one, or do they bake em?

    What am I saying? Cake stall? More like dinner and dance…

  • Mark says:

    uuhh. I meant ‘pop into -insert name of post cake shop in Carlton here- for one’. That will teach me to use angle brackets incorrectly!!!

  • Helen says:

    Mark, we always have a commie pinko cake stall on Election days, and they seem to be equal in the store bought / homemade stakes. I make Anzacs, as they… were… the only baked thing I could make, although that is no longer true as my wee son has taught me to make Koularakia. He learned to do that in After School Care – bless.

  • Nichola says:

    Helen, As the mother of a preppie (with two more to come into the school system), I read this post with interest. You see, I live in Stonnington. My kids will go to the local PS (we have found a fabulous community-oriented one) but when they reach high school, we have a problem. Apart from the selective Melbourne Boys’ High, THERE ARE NO PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS IN STONNINGTON!!!!!!!! Now, that may make a lot of sense if you consider the vast amounts of wealth swimming around the area – and we are spoilt for choice as far as private schools go – but what do you do when you don’t want to send your kids to Grammar, sweetie?
    Please offer some advice to a non-native Melburnian!

  • Helen says:

    Fished your comment out of the spamultor, Nichola – sorry.

    Yes, you have a problem. MacRob and Melbourne Boy’s High are both good, but MacRob only starts from year 9 and as MBH is the brother to that school, I’d assume the same is true for it.

    You have a boy I assume, as you’re checking out MBH; a lot of people like Presentation, the Catholic school in (I think) Windsor or Prahran, but its brother school is CBC, which used to have a pretty awful reputation and I don’t think it’s completely changed.

    Besides that, I’m completely stumped. Also, I don’t know where I’m going to send the Boychild in three years’ time. Scarysuburb City College is a good fit for his older sister, but will it be for him? He’s not quite the, ahem, self motivated academic performer she is, intelligent as he is. We’ll (hopefully) see.

    Sorry I’m not much help.

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