There was a rant published on Slate this week about private schooling being anti-American. It was suggestively titled; “If you send your kid to a private school, you are a bad person”. The point, basically, was that money spent on private schooling should be money spent on public education – selectivity undermining dearly beloved American values (something equality, something, something).
It got me thinking about schooling in Australia. Rather, it got me thinking about whether the school you attend as a Australian makes you some kind of person. Are people who go to our nation’s poshest private schools better than the poorest public school student? Should we scorn the parent stumping up thousands for the sake of entrée to the old ties clubs of this country?
More importantly, I wondered about whether an understanding of love, sex and romance would vary much between a graduate of a high-class college and the survivor of an impoverished state high, and whether that variance could be blamed on their different scholastic experiences.
Simply, do private girls schools produce Prince Charming prowlers? Do private boys schools create trophy-wife hunters? Are our co-ed state high schools churning out sluts and wife-beaters? Are these all-too-familiar stereotypes at all rooted in reality?
There was an interesting article in the Washington Post a few years back. Written by a professor of neuroscience and another of psychology, it expanded on the author’s research into same-sex schooling. Published in the journal New Science, the paper slammed the organisation of schools along gender lines, because:
“First, research in developmental psychology has clearly shown that teachers’ labeling and segregating of social groups increases children’s stereotyping and prejudice.
Second, research on peer relations indicates that children who interact mostly with same-gender peers develop increasingly narrow skill sets and interests.
Most importantly, single-sex schooling reduces boys’ and girls’ opportunities to learn from and about each other.”
This is an interesting argument to consider in view of the fact many private schools in Australia tend to be single-sex. But it’s also worth pointing out the research is by no means conclusive. As this wrap from the American Psychological Association reveals, some academics argue same-sex schooling can “broaden students’ horizons and encourage them to explore their own strengths and interests without feeling constrained by gender stereotypes.”
Clearly is a complicated issue. But as we’ve all been educated, and have met other people who have been educated differently to us, it’s an issue we can all speak to. No doubt new parents will be interested in this discussion. So, based on your experience, are relationships styled and structured differently depending on where you went to school?
I was bemused, and often irritated, when I moved to Brisbane and started dating and people would ask me where I went to school. In Sydney, it’s ‘where do you live?’ In Melbourne, your job seems to matter. But in Brisbane, it was all about the alma mater.
Why? Was it to establish some sort of pedigree?
Sure, such questions may be motivated by genuine, innocent curiosity. And sometimes, we’re just trying to find common ground – something, anything to talk about. Especially on first dates, when there’s only so much time, and only so many appropriate topics.
But such questions also respond to a need to understand people relative to who we are. We like to find people who ‘fit’ with our world-view, and our view of ourselves. This is a need keenly felt during courtship, when we’re evaluating potential partners, and putting our ego on the line.
So, as we are trying to present the best ‘me’ possible, we are likewise trying to understand someone we’ve just met as quickly as possible. We’ll take any rough signpost we can make out. These signposts allow us to make snap-judgments. And this, though understandable, is what’s dangerous. It’s what can lead to conclusions like: We’ll never work because she’s a posh gal, and I’m a public lout.
Perhaps such conclusions are true though? Perhaps there does exist a big, if not insurmountable, wall between people whose formative years were spent in a privileged position mostly with members of their own sex, and those who were thrown in altogether, with whatever was available.
It’s hard for me to say. I went to multiple schools, all over Australia. I have encountered people who were handsomely educated alongside ‘their kind’ and are kind of exactly what you’d expect. And I know more than a few best examples of the worst state school cliché.
However I do believe, just as discussions about educational outcomes show, more often than not it’s your home, and your school, and all the other experiences in between, that come to define us.
Can we really lay blame for stuck-up bitches or roughneck-thugs at the foundations of their school?