“As a political system, democra cy depends upon a vibrant public sphere.”
“Education is a public good and, as such, depends upon public guarantees. This does not, however, mean that the public sphere needs to support private education ventures. The public guarantees, in this context, relate mostly to public education and when applied to private education are restricted to matters of a common curriculum, and, in general, common subjection to principals of law (including, of course, anti-discrimination legislation). In terms of government funding, then, there is no obligation – according to principals of democracy – for government financial aid to private schools. Indeed, such funding raises serious questions about the values attached to education (as well as the extent to which the designation private or independent makes any sense). Why does it concern values? Because when the Australian government made the decision to fund directly private schools, it commenced the corrosion of the principals underpinning our education system, principals enunciated by Australia’s founding fathers: free, compulsory and secular.”
These words are music to the ears of those of us who truly believe in a strong and vibrant Public Education system. The years of the Howard Government saw an undermining of the public system, a systematic drop in funding, constant barrages from the press and the government that those values espoused by the private sector far outweighed those being taught in the public sector and Mr Howard made private education more affordable to all, by the stream of funding through the doors of the private schools. The idea of education being seen as a public good became,” only those educated in the private sector will have the values our society holds dear”.
From a philosophical perspective therefore, funding must be applied to the public system until it has reached a guaranteed level of excellence, then and only then if funds are available should they be directed towards the private sector. Without this level of funding we will automatically see the slow but systematic erosion of our system of justice and democracy.
Keziah Bennett-Brook, School Captain, Keira High School NSW
Keziah is an Indigenous woman educated at her local primary school who choose to attend Keira High School despite gaining academic selection at another school. Keziah spoke of the role her mother, a teacher, had played in fostering her and her brothers love of learning and the place that her teachers had also played in her learning. She strongly believes in the important role of the local school, both primary and high in the community and the bonds that are formed as a result of a vibrant public education facility. She talked about how her schools and teachers and had encouraged and nurtured her to become the young woman she is today.
This was an articulate, informed young leader who will move from the school community into the wider community and become a leader. She will be a role model not only for the young but also for her people and she has achieved this through hard work, determination and a sound inclusive education.
Keziah is a clear example of what everyday Australian’s can achieve. In a society where only the wealthy could afford an education, Keziah’s family may well not have been able to afford the level of education she has achieved today.
Fortunately, we have an outstanding young leader, with a sound education, a strong sense of identity, strong social justice values and a desire to move into the world and work for the benefit of others.
How could we ever doubt “Public Education as a Public Good”.
Public Education and Democracy, 2004, Faculty of Arts papers/2010 AEU Annual Conference Melbourne.