1 Nov 2008, Comments Off on Muckup day

Muckup day

Author: Helen

Pity poor Michelle Green of the Association of Independent (read Private) Schools (Vic division), who had to catch flak on RN’s Life Matters about the violent and intimidating rampage by the exclusive Xavier school kids on year 12 “muck-up day”. Some of the things she had to say: It was very distressing for the principal and for the local community, who felt terrorised. (Boy’s leg broken in three places, woman parked on the street had to lock herself in her car, etc.) It can’t be explained away or covered up, and the school is dealing with it appropriately. You can’t stamp out human behaviour. “On one level” it doesn’t improve the reputation of the school, but a school’s reputation is multi-faceted. Parents send their children there for religious values as well as for education… This may not do much to diminish the reputation of the school in the community… “they’re learning from this as a group”.

Now this is all pretty uncontroversial stuff. Yes, we know young’uns can be pretty wild little bastards at times. In this case, maybe fuck up would be more a more accurate term. But wait – don’t the parents who send little Tarquin to these schools pay about sixteen thousand dollars a year, firstly to secure them a high TER score and prepare to join the ruling class, but otherwise to keep them away from the riff-raff, violence and bad behaviour that we’re constantly told is the daily fare at Scarysuburb High? I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been earnestly told that someone doesn’t know what to do with little Tarquin, because if he goes to our local high school he’ll automatically graduate in Crack Dealing and Violence 101.

At least my daughter doesn’t get her leg broken at Scarysuburb High. I did take her to Cas once with a suspected cracked ankle, but that was due to a klutzy negotiation of some steps, not being jumped on by her fellow students. (We’ll have our own chair soon in the waiting room at the local hospital, won’t we?)

Michelle doesn’t like the name “Muck-up day” because of the connotations of bad behaviour and wants to change it to “Celebration day” instead. Imagine the sneers about boring political correctness if someone in the public system came up with that. And imagine the “ZOMG our public schools are a OMGHOTBED OF GANG WARFARE” type headlines in the Herald Sun if the Xavier rampage had been perpetrated by public school kids.

Then Green turned to the subject of social pressures – something that’s taboo for parents or officials in the public system, because then we’re accused of being bleeding hearts who are blaming society and should take more notice of individual responsibility. But it’s OK for the Association of Independent Schools to bring it on:

Interviewer: How do you reconcile the religious values of the school with that behaviour
MG: “Well, we have a different society…There certainly should be a code of behaviour and that is certainly something I’m sure that Xavier would be talking about. But you cannot impose a code of behaviour on a group of young boys who are affected by alcohol. You’d hope that they would have learned enough not to misbehave, but everybody knows there are sporting heroes who went to good schools and have good family backgrounds, and have a few drinks and muck up.”

Interviewer: How have schools responded to these muck-up day incidents in the past?

MG: “Independent schools were very concerned about it, because they could see it as part of a societal trend.
“[Dr Madeleine Levine has] written a study which shows that bright, charming, socially skilled young adults from affluent families are suffering epidemic rates of depression and substance abuse. And what she linked that with is the materialism and the pressure to achieve in our society. Now, our schools became aware of that research quite early on and what they said to me was that they were seeing that reflected in the end of year celebrations in these bright young students, who have been pushed to achieve by society and by their parents and by themselves, who have a few drinks and just let it go.”

Not good enough, AISV. Your point of difference, your marketing angle, is that your schools will take children out of a sewer of violence and riff-raff (the public system) and place them in an oasis of Christian values and firm behavioural coaching. You know: the rest of us are just as concerned about the violent, sexist and laddish culture of professional sport and many corporate milieux as well. You may say that’s separate to you, but you’re the ones who are boasting that you’re doing something about it; that private schools teach “values” and offer a superior environment where children too shy or vulnerable for the public system can learn without disruption. And I overhear a lot of people regurgitating this story quite uncritically.

An all-boys’ school like Xavier should be examining the Sam Newman/Wayne Carey/Eddie McGuire male culture in Australia, acknowledging their part in it and working on how to fix it.
Instead, Green suggests a Celebration Day with an early-morning jumping castle and a silver-service breakfast served to the year 12s. And some group psychology sessions. Yeah, that’ll work.

Who else has the sneaking feeling that all this talk about “Christian values” and the superiority of the private system is kind of beside the point with regard to elite schools? I think there’s a definite subset of parents who couldn’t care less about a little bit of ultraviolence. I think some parents who send kids to all-boys schools have a somewhat unreconstructed, masculinist approach to social competition. And I think for some, the elite schools represent membership of a network and a ladder to boardrooms and corner offices, and bugger the “values”. The values thing is a buzzword for the marketing company, and to keep our tax money coming.

Comments (0)

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    Xavier’s got a bit of history of this sort of thing. As a potential customer of Melb private high schools, I keep track of these things. I assume that the other parents do to, and are seeking this kind of education for their children. They might argue that this is exactly the kind of education that best prepares their children for their working life (or “the ruling class”, as you say). In fact, I have spoken to parents who say exactly that. I assume that the parents you quote who talk about “keep them away from the riff-raff, violence and bad behaviour ” choose schools other than Xavier. I would/will.

    As far as I’m concerned, unless Xavier changes their headmaster as a consequence, they are not really trying to change things. And since I’ve heard nothing about that, I assume they regard this as *only a little too much*, not a fundamental issue. And if this is the case, then they are indeed a disgrace to “Christian values”. But since they declare themselves as a Catholic school in the tradition of St Ignatius (Jesuit), I really expect nothing else anyway, since the Catholics started selectively abandoning Christian values centuries ago.

    So, don’t tar all christian schools with the same brush. But yes, there’s clearly a problem here. And even as a probable customer of private high schools, I see no reason why the government should provide them with any funding.

  • brownie says:

    decades old comment on Xavier: “Parent pitches up to enrol son and Head says ‘so want do you want him to be – a bookie or a football player?’ ”

    I know of a Merton Hall party where parents were away and their furniture was flung in the pool by outta control teen drunks.

    One goes to Xavier so one may play in the Old Xavs for years after, and have great AfterGameDrinks?

    I lived in a house only a couple of years ago where college Year 12’s celebrated their completion and dispersal. MANY of them (really) had 99.5 results.
    The party went day and night for 3 days and the backyard looked like Keith Moon had been – I felt they were all just exploding from the STRESS of expectation by The Paying Parents.

    A gap-year is such a sensible break between levels.

    A very good reason to send a child to a church school for 7 years, is so that they don’t embrace obsessive cultism when older. I am very close to a woman who chose a Primary church school for this reason.
    After years of daily Chapel, the child goes “christianity? = yawn”
    (thank God. bwah ha)

    No ‘muck-up day’ in my ‘day’. We got HIT a lot by teachers. Imagine that.

  • brownie says:

    PS and of course – Yet another most excellent post dear Balcony Blogger.

    re govt funding: that woman I know whose child was in Tarquin, Algernon & Hugo’s class, changed to the actual Summer Heights High for Year 7.
    Used to working hard at school fundraising, She pitched up to join the SHH Mothers Club.
    We don’t have one, they told her.
    “So how do you buy computers for every child in Grade 2 like the school we just left?”
    Oh the Govt gives it to us.

  • TimT says:

    ‘Celebration day’ has to be the dumbest idea for a name change ever. Quite aside from anything else, it’s probably going to be a purely cosmetic change – next time a kid’s leg gets broken, will it be in the name of ‘celebration’?

    Initial reports had it that the whole of year 12 was going to be suspended. I’m not really sure what an appropriate punishment would be in those circumstances, but there probably were a lot of pissed off parents who would have argued, with some justification, that it would be punishing everyone for the actions of an irresponsible minority.

    Interesting to read these Xavier stories, my old flatmate was a Xavier boy way back, and he never told me anything like this!

  • Tony T says:

    A letter to the Age:

    “Xavier principal Chris McCabe says Nick Mooney wasn’t bullied, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sounds like Jesuit sophistry to me, unless Mr McCabe means the wrong place is Xavier, and the wrong time is now.”

    They won’t sack the headmaster, Jesuit sophistry is THE key selection criterion.

  • kate says:

    Friends of my parents who sent their kids to various elite private schools found themselves spending all of their children’s teens trying to ensure that the parents of other kids didn’t get their kids drunk.

    When I was at St. Middle of the Road School for Girls Whose Dad’s Are Bus Drivers we had to save up, and go to the bottle shop ourselves. Needless to say, we drank a lot less than kids who are handed the keys to the drinks cabinet and told to invite over anyone they like. Our parents actually acted like parents, and expected us to act legally, and to work hard. Then if we didn’t work hard we knew we’d have to live with the consequences. There seems to be rather a shortage of that in the upper classes these days.

  • […] The proper care and socialization of one’s offspring is of course a matter of concern, and when you throw in a bit of capital-accrual-obsessed monopolization of the childcare industry, it’s Not as easy as ABC, skepticlawyer notes. Throw in “classy” all-boys schools teaching “Christian values” – only to have the rugrats go nuts on Muckup day – and really, Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony, it’s enough to make one want to retire to the conservatory with the G&T. […]

  • […] The proper care and socialization of one’s offspring is of course a matter of concern, and when you throw in a bit of capital-accrual-obsessed monopolization of the childcare industry, it’s Not as easy as ABC, skepticlawyer notes. Throw in “classy” all-boys schools teaching “Christian values” – only to have the rugrats go nuts on Muckup day – and really, Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony, it’s enough to make one want to retire to the conservatory with the G&T. […]

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