So, I’m sitting around the table with the people I volunteer with at Scarysuburb High, and the conversation turns to the people who are pushing for a new high school closer to where I live. I said that I hadn’t joined the group except as an email listee, because I’ve chosen to put my limited effort into Daughter’s school and there are only so many hours in the day, but I admired them for their support of the bigger picture and of public education.
Well, said one of the other mums, have a look at this then. And when I saw the article in the local newspaper she had brought with her, I realised what she meant. The group supports public education – just not the public education that the rest of us are using. Because the real public education is too scary!
What the parents appear to dislike the most is that their children actually have to leave their immediate area to attend school. Scarysuburb High, where my daughter goes, is a twenty minute bus ride – about 5 K – one way. For kids down the other end of the suburb, they can go to Poshsuburb High, about 5 K the other way. People like the sound of Poshsuburb High better, but as I wrote in part 1 – Like Sandra Tsing Loh – once I got past the brutalist bunker, Scarysuburb High turned out to be pretty good. Impressive, even.
Ms I said A was already “quite anxious” about which school he would go to and where his classmates would end up.
Yeah, not surprised, with the parents hyperventilating the way they are. Read on..
We don’t want to dissipate [friendships] by sending our children all over Melbourne.”
Ms I would prefer to send her son – and later, her six-year-old daughter B – to a local, co-educational state school.
“There were children walking around the streets in Y at 7.15am the other morning. For my children that would never be an option, when they could be at home living their lives instead of having to be stressed about catching two trains and a bus or what ever the combination is (to get to school).
Two trains and a bus? or tram? That sounds like you’re aiming for Selective High over in the city – but that’s only from year nine. And I agree about the travelling time. So, what about Scarysuburb High? a five-K bus ride!
“We’ve looked closely at two schools so far. One of them ticked all the boxes, but the likelihood of us getting into that school is pretty slim because the zoning boundaries change from year to year.
So that’d be Poshsuburb High. Yeah, they are very strict about their zoning boundaries. But the educational experience at Poshsuburb is little different from that at Scarysuburb.
“The other school would be a reluctant option. At this point we wouldn’t be confident with that decision…. There’s nothing a simple and safe bike ride away for our children.”
Wait, WUT? The reluctant option? Yes, that’d be Scarysuburb High. Where our FRIGHTENING CRACK DEALING TAGGERS GO. Ahem.
I, and others, wrote back to the local paper, with stuff like this:
Of course, the school’s physical surroundings don’t come up to scratch according to the standards set in the private schools’ glossy brochures, and many parents don’t even bother to check it out, as they see a school which is inclusive of many recent immigrants, refugees and the financially disadvantaged, and panic. This creates the equivalent of “white flight” in the US …
And the parents responded with stuff like: How dare you, we support public education. But then one of them said (no link to letter in local paper for this one): there are no schools of excellence in the West.
So that’s what it boils down to: one, that they consider the schools that exist incapable of excellence – which is demonstrably false – and they are expecting some kind of special deal with a new school, something different and better, while abandoning the other schools in the area as “safety nets” and no-go areas; and two, that they’re getting their helicopter-parent rotors in a spin at the idea of their children taking a short trip on public transport.
About the walking to school thing. Yes, it’d be great, but you know, little Lachlan and Sophie are not going to be in grade four when they go to high school. They’re going to be (dun dun dun!) Teenagers! Taking public transport, even if it’s just the twenty-minute hop necessary for Scarysuburb or Poshsuburb, is a part of growing up. They might actually find it a sociable experience. They might even – try to get your heads around this- make friends that are not from that immediate area, who haven’t been vetted by Mum and Dad! Wooooo! Scary, I know! But they’re going to be learning some actual life skills.
So, if this new school eventuates, how will it overcome the same problems of public funding and community perceptions? Part of the impression I get is that they’re looking to use their “pushy, type A parent” mojo to drive up the value of their school, as Sandra Tsing Loh described in part 1. Good on’em. That’s what we, the Friends of Scarysuburb High, try to do. And it’ll be dominated by their group – not as diverse, not so many people that aren’t like them. That I find less admirable.
The group uses demographic studies to argue that by 2012, there will be an upsurge of Year Sevens with nowhere to put them. But the demographics, or enrolment figures rather, go the other way. Enrolments in public schools, are still declining because of the flight to the private and Catholic systems. We need the higher socioeconomic groups to stop abandoning the public system. Creating another school will simply dilute any such return.
One of the virtues of Scarysuburb High is its breadth of subjects; if enrolments decline, a school loses subjects. The new high school would start from a low, very low enrolment base. How many languages could it offer, if any? (Scary High offers several.) What specialist subjects?
I don’t want to be completely captured by an argument of low expectations. I would love nothing more than the Victorian government to announce, tomorrow, that they are going to put up the money for a new school in our suburb tomorrow, fully funded for a diverse range of subject choices, plus plenty of funding for Scarysuburb High so that it can offer all its subjects, too. Really. I just think the pushy type-As could get that bang for their buck and grow the system by moving back into existing schools, and allowing their kids to grow up and away a little.
Community ginger group, I identify with and approve of your determination to get a good public education for your kids. Just don’t keep on telling us how awful we are, while calling it supporting public education.