Wednesday, 1 August 2007

You Take The Greatness, I'll Take the Get Out of Gaol Free Card

I read this great letter in The Daily Telegraph today, contributing to that fiery debate where people try to defend either private or public schools, mostly trying to either validate which one they went to in the hope someone will look not snub them at the next social function, or to get the Howard Government to direct funding to their kiddies' school, not realising Howard is saving it up for a big all-expenses-paid-by-the-taxpayer holiday for himself and a fully furnished luxury bunker in the case of nuclear war:

"Unwanted" Underrated

Selective Schools are selective because they can select who they want, but more importantly who they don't want. Not for them the poor and unwashed, nor the behaviourally challenged, although I know that some Catholic schools do try to take all comers.

Those unwanted children are the responsibility of the general public school system. Have any beneficiaries of these special expensive educations achieved worldwide recognition for their contributions to mankind? I know of many strugglers who achieved greatness.

If you are protected from the realities of life how can you appreciate the problems that some people are forced to contend with?

K. Manning

1. Is K here talking about selective or private schools? Last time I looked, selective schools weren't that expensive, it's the private ones that shoot through the roof. Back to school!
2. .... depending on selection process, selective schools do take "poor" people. Selective schools' method is usually based on talent/intellectual capacity/skills/performance etc, not money. Is this the mix up of Private and Public again?
3. It's a great leap to assume that someone who has had a private education has lacked compassion, or doesn't have problems or troubles that they can share with others. This sounds like K here has made an easy separation "There are strugglers - nothing goes right for them - they understand the real world - they go to the general system - then there are the people on easy street - they are rich and everything goes right for them and they are protected and live in an illusory world".
Ever thought that people who may go to a private/selective school may not have things like the extreme lower end of income to deal with in their family, but may:
Struggle with budget anyway because lots of it goes to school fees?
Have split families?
Have image problems?
Struggle with discrimination, social violence, bullying, and crime?
Have academic difficulties, or difficulties keeping up with expectations?
Have health problems?
Suffer from tragedies, pressure and so on?
Have to make difficult decisions, and have both good and bad luck at different stages of their lives?
Get mixed up with drugs, not quite sure about their bodies, about sex, about employment, about what they're going to do with their lives?

and so on?

Plenty of people from everywhere face these things every day - that's real life.

4. You know strugglers who achieved greatness - good for you. I know people from exclusive schools who are compassionate and who have worked for the community selflessly, and some real ratbags from public school who despite their struggles tend to trample on everyone else and have a belief in their right to gain without work. The point being, your school doesn't determine whether you have compassion, and being at a public school won't make you a community achiever, nor will being from the private/selective sector make you a snobbish, aloof bum.

5. Despite the implication of this letter that there is a need for people to mix with the "behaviourally challenged" to achieve social greatness, if you don't want your kids to, all power to you. If behaviourally challenged means bullying, disruptive and violent, I can see good reason to get the heck out of there.

It reminds me of when I was talking to a man who was in custody - for 8 criminal charges in a row. He told me about some of the gaol culture, and said to me, despite the shock and disgust of some of the doings of inmates, "You know, it's [gaol] is a real learning experience!"

"You know, I don't think I'm in a hurry to become an inmate and get that learning experience!" I replied.

There are some experiences in life that being 'protected' from - well, who cares if someone uses it as an insult?


Mr Mean said...

“… how can you appreciate the problems that some people are forced to contend with?”

That depends on what ‘appreciate’ means, and more importantly, for what great purpose one ought to ‘appreciate’ others' problems, in the context of achieving greatness and/or worldwide recognition for their contributions to mankind.

I hope Baron Florey did not suffer from gonorrhea or other infection treatable with penicillin prior to doing his Nobel prize-winning work. Studying at Sydney Boys High School, a selective Government school, seems to have presented no social or interpersonal obstacles to Nobel Laureate Sir John Conforth, Australian of the Year 1975.

 I note with interest the number of Nobel Laureates among the alumni of St Peter's College in Adelaide.

Maria said...


What is "greatness" anyway? Is it a trophy? Is it a Nobel Prize?

I remember truly the greatness of heart in people who have cared for others, who have wanted to look after them, make them happy, who have extended their generosity, who have comforted, who have held strong beliefs in what makes the world better and have worked towards that.

Mixing with certain people does not necessarily mean a person empathises with their problems, it reminds me of a boy (Caucasian) who lived in an an area where there was a high Muslim and Aboriginal population, and told me that if it were legal he'd make peppering their legs with machine gun bullets a sport.

If it is important that we appreciate another's problems before we aid them, and to the extent that we take them on personally, would it become a case of "the blind always leading the blind"?

And you know where that leads you.

A friend of mine works in infectious diseases, and her boyfriend in pathology, and they're both lovely, compassionate people ... but I hope they don't try too hard to empathise with those whose problems they attempt to solve.