Tags: ross gittins

5 Jun 2007, Comments Off on Deveny Survives Mummy Drive-By

Deveny Survives Mummy Drive-By

Author: Helen

“Give me a child when they are seven and I’ll show you an invoice for
– Catherine Deveny

Image from http://dickens.ucsc.edu/OMF/litvack.html

Please, Sir, can I have a realistic allocation of Federal funding?

Fairfax newspapers are pretty much oozing rightwards year by year, as I see it, so it’s a pleasure to read Catherine Deveny’s op ed articles. She’s a writer of the take-no-prisoners style, a bit like a really good blogger (I meant that as a compliment, journos). As a result, while those of us used to the blogosphere just find it bracing, she does stir up the pearl-clutchers and give them the vapours.

Last month, Deveny took on the issue of Federal funding to private schools. (Via Susoz)

Here’s something in the budget that you may have missed: federal funding for private schools will increase from $5.8 billion to $7.5 billion over the next five years. Funding to public schools will rise from $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion over the next five years. Shame on us.

To put this in context, as Ross Gittins points out, “Today, the budget shows public schools getting 31 per cent of the money while the private schools get 69 per cent. But public schools still have two-thirds of the enrolments.” In other words, Federal funding for schools is completely arse about.

Here’s where I stand: private schools should not receive funding. That’s it. We have a police force funded by the Government. If you want a bodyguard or private security, you pay for it out of your own pocket.

Read the whole thing, but I’ll just quote the last two paragraphs:

I added up the cost of fees for what it would cost to send my three children to a middle-of-the-range private school for six years. Not counting uniforms, excursions, transport, building funds etc. And it was about $330,000, give or take. My first thought? No one can be getting value for money. My second thought? I could buy my kids a degree for that amount of money, and I might have to if education keeps heading the way it is. But I’m hoping that my kids will all be tradies. Because the happiest blokes I know are the tradies. People say, “Stop funding private schools? It’s not as easy as that.”

Yes it is. Like smoking in hospitals, gender-based pay and taking babies away from unmarried mothers, funding private education is something we will look back on and be ashamed of.

Well, we can’t have that kind of rampant leftism in the op ed pages of the AGE without a suitable neoliberal reply, can we? so Michelle Hamer, parent of four privately educated children, weighed in the very next day.

Pardon if I pause for a wee cynicism break here. Even if Hamer is employed by the AGE – she writes for the Education Age sometimes – it would truly have been an Olympic feat for her to have read the article on May 23, become enraged, written and proof-read an article in reply, and got it into the OpEd page on May 24. Can you say “confected controversy”? or is it just my
suspicious nature?

Anyway, Hamer is enraged that Deveny should imply that the Federal funding balance is all out of whack. She tries to paint Deveny as disingenuous because she hasn’t mentioned the State component of public school funds. Hamer, on the other hand, is definitely disengenuous because she tries to make that argument without mentioning fees. State schools, of course, don’t have fees, except for the “voluntary school payment” (Ha!) which is less than $1000, while the “better” privates schools cost a small hatchback or sedan per year. This rhetorical pea-and-thimble didn’t work on this public school mum, as I was only further enraged because she reminded me that private schools get money from the States as well as all that Federal moolah, although, in this case, it’s less than the public schools get. Which is simply because the State schools are largely State funded and do not charge fees. Which is why their Federal funding should be greater. QED. etc.

Hamer then descends into what the Americans call a Mommy drive-by, coined by the late great Chez Miscarriage. In case you haven’t come across one of those things before, it’s the kind of backhanded or even downright barefaced rude comment made by Superior Mothers ™ to the Beta mothers. Examples are: “Oh, Taylah-Maddisyn never had a dummy!”, “I breastfed Tarquin until …” (if the age given is above university
entrance, back away slowly); and, “well, if you think the local High school is good enough for your son/ daughter…”

From Hamer’s reply to Deveny, I offer the following examples:

I’m paying for all this, and it’s not cheap. But then you can live on fast food and it’s certainly cheaper…

I will make the choice that I think is best for my children. I won’t buy a new car, a new house or take overseas holidays; instead I’ll invest in my children’s education because this is my right and my choice.

Because, of course, everyone has the money for a new car, a new house, or an overseas holiday. It’s just priorities, people!

Deveny feels liberated that she has put no thought into her children’s education. (My italics}


That’s her right, and if she aspires for them to be tradespeople, then that’s fine too.


Plus a glowing account of the hip and happening nature of her kids’ school, which encourages kids to cook meals! and, it has chooks!

Hoo-boy, she really showed that Deveney woman, didn’t she.

Strangely enough, in another Fairfax article, Michelle Hamer criticises the very mummy-drive-by behaviour she is wielding with such consummate skill:

Somehow, the very intimate act of mothering has become a high-stakes game played out in the very public arenas of our schools, play centres, mothers’ groups and preschools…The mother competition starts from the moment of conception…

Takes one to know one, I guess. She’s also co-author of Gucci Mammas, a satirical – I think – book about being a private school mum. Interestingly enough, when she is not defending her turf, she herself can admit that the private system is not the perfect choice that she makes it out to be when she’s attacking Deveny.

The idea of being at the best school with the best name is a big theme in my new novel Gucci Mamas, and the protagonist Mim becomes confused by why, when she is paying the top fees in the state and sending her children to one of the country’s most elite schools, she hates even stepping foot in the grounds and has rumblings of discontent about the school. How could something so prestigious and expensive be flawed – surely the problem must be in her, not the school? It’s a clear case of the emperor’s new clothes.

When we wrote Gucci Mamas, my co-writer, Lisa Blundell, wanted to have a bit of a laugh at how competitively some women treat mothering, but, along the way, we were occasionally sobered by just how sad that can be.


But I’m still curious about the uncanny warp speed of the Hamer response to Deveney’s piece, I notice Hamer’s had articles printed in the Education Age supplement. (Celebrities Raise the Stakes: Just get the famous and wealthy parents at your school to do the fundraiser. Now, why didn’t we think of that?) You might notice that the dead-tree version of the Education Age is heavily dependent on advertising from private schools, and the Fairfax advertising stream has been under pressure lately. I guess there was some editorial reluctance to piss off the lucrative advertisers in the Education Age and other supplements catering to the AB section of the population, so any bit of incendiary criticism of the private sector had to be followed up pretty quickly with a “rebuttal” to soothe the pearl-clutchers.

It’s all so unnecessary. If you go back and read it again, all Deveny was saying was that private education should be private and public education public. Parents can send their children to Hogwarts to learn Quidditch if that’s their wish, but they should pay for it themselves. Meanwhile, a properly funded public system would offer genuine choice – which is different from privilege.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

26 Oct 2005, Comments (0)

Typing with intent

Author: Helen

Heard a panel discussion on RN the other day on ìnew media publishingî, with reference to online magazines like New Matilda and blogging. As with other references to blogging in the msm (Main Stream Meeja) lately, it was patronising, insulting and depressing.

One lowlight was journo / opinion writer Andrew West opining that much dead-tree writing is superior to Just “Any Old” blog. Oh, well then. So Robert Manne, Adele Horin, Ross Gittins and himself are stacked up against a few OMG WTF LOL livejournalling teenagers. Apples and pears. He frames the discussion so as to set the blogosphere up to fail.

And the old saw that blogging isnít journalism. Repeat after me 100 times: Blogging is not, and has never been, intended to be journalism. (Political blogs – which are only one of many categories – can cut through the agenda-setting of the msm by highlighting and pointing to stories that otherwise would be buried by the stories the powers that be consider suitable for us.)

It was evident the panelists had done little or nothing to really find out what is available in the blogosphere.

The other bit which had me whimpering in frustration was Hilary McPhee saying (Erratum: it was Ramona Koval) that she really didnít know where the ìnew mediaî was going to go in terms of readership, because, she says, there is no serendipity there. She reckons you have to ìlog onî somewhere in order to read anything on the net. Iím not sure what she was trying to get at but she seems to imagine that people choose one or two online mags which they have to know about first; subscribe; log on to those one or two sites and just read. Sheís aware that people come in and comment at New Matilda, but she doesnít seem to understand how people really move about on the internet.

For exampleÖ hasnít she ever, for instance, gone over to Barista from where she follows a link to Professor Q (while being directed to various overseas mainstream media articles which she otherwise might have missed, along the way), then decided to go over to the Purple Rodeo for a while just because the link is on Quigginís blog, or maybe via Catallaxy, canít remember; thus discovering a treasure trove of historical writing called Philobiblon, who, together with Susoz, provide enough feminist links to keep her up way past her bedtimeÖ

Serendipity, in spades. I didnít know any of the blogs I knew today a couple of years ago. I have followed an interlocking, non-linear mass of links to topics and writers that particularly interest me ñ and many topics, and writers, that intrigue or horrify. A person who is running an online journal should know how the internet works. (See “Typing with intent redux” above for correction).

Iím not the only onewho has been disappointed lately with the attitude of the msm to bloggers. What’s with this tribal sniping?

Update 29/10: Found a transcript, and the comment was actually made by Ramona Koval, to McPhee. See Typing with Intent Redux.

6 Jun 2004, Comments (0)

Ross, you Bewdy!

Author: Helen

I never thought I’d say this, but I’d like to grab Ross Gittins by the furry face and give him a big, smacking kiss.

Why!? Because of this sentence:

Issues of Public policy don’t come much more important than this.

I’m not a total, hundred percent fan of Gittins. His comment that HECS is no burden to the young because it’s equivalent to the payments on a loan for a new car made me think his name should be shortened to its first three letters. (Hands up all of you who took out a loan for a brand new car in your early twenties?)

But this article is pure gold to me (the bastards at Fairfax will make you register now to read it), because a bloke with a grey beard and a moderate-to-conservative column which focuses on The Economy has come out and said it. Work-and-family and childcare issues are mainstream issues. Not women’s business, to be relegated to somewhere on page 4 of the newspaper or the Lifestyle supplements.

The title is interesting too. “How Men Stuff up Womens’ Lives”? What firebreathing, radical feminist would write something like that? Germs? Anne Summers? No, it’s Ross Gittins. It’s not so easy for antifeminists or rightwingers to come out with the usual “feminazi” or “man-hating” dismissals. After all, he’s a bloke.

All you weary old feminists, read this:

If this budget is about anything more than blatant vote-buying, it’s about helping parents juggle work and family commitments and hoping this will do something to improve fertility.
Issues of public policy don’t come much more important than this. If our fertility rate continues falling – leading eventually to a declining population, with radical implications for our growth-addicted economy – expect a lot more wailing and gnashing of teeth about how few young couples are doing their patriotic duty.

He goes on to explain how “family friendly” work is not some fantasy dreamt up by the fairies at the bottom of the garden, but completely consistent with a healthy economy.

…But the bad deal we’re giving mothers (and fathers who should be doing more of the housework) is denying business full access to women’s skilled labour, limiting the spending power of its customers and setting us up for a contracting domestic market.
This is businesspeople pursuing their self-interest? This is economic rationalists being rational?
I don’t think so.

Whoo-hoo! One small step on the road away from the current madness of humans crushed under the wheel of “the economy” – and towards making “the economy” work for humans.

Pucker up, Bearded one…