Monday, 1 December 2008

Diversity and our state education system

Firstly, thanks to 1735099 for the good advice. I am doing as suggested.

Now - to that wonderous thing known as "diversity".

You may have noticed that I have been doing a bit of edumacation-related reading of late. One of the things that I have picked up in my travels is the idea that the state education system is superior to the private system because kids are exposed to other kids from a more diverse set of backgrounds - culturally, socio-economically and whatever. This is taken to be a good thing. Some want to go so far as to abolish the private system altogether, and the state selective system as well, in order to create a perfect melting pot for our kiddies. They believe that if kiddies are exposed to a wide variety of cultures and so forth as youngsters, then they will not grow up to be prejudiced like their eldsters. Because we eldsters are just so prejudiced, you know.

Well, I'm happy to be prejudiced. I am not prejudiced based on race, sex, religion, colour, sexual orientation or whatever. I am prejudiced against fucking idiots, regardless of their creed or background. I don't like idiots, I don't want to mix with them at work or socially and if they have a cuisine, I don't want to try it. Idiots can go back to wherever it is that they came from, especially if they are from Collingwood. Why we don't build a wall around that suburb and import some ex-East German Border Patrol guards, I'll never know. Mines, searchlights, barbed wire, guard dogs and shoot to kill - that's how I like to think of Collingwood.

You see? There are some prejudices that can never be overcome. You can put me through no end of diversity and tolerance courses, you can bombard me with limitless propaganda and do everything you can to ostracise me and demean my way of thinking, but I will always believe that when it comes to dealing with idiots, wearing a bedsheet on your head, burning crosses and calling yourself the Grand Misanthropic Poobah is quite acceptable.

I'm pleased to say that Junior is growing up with the same prejudices. His mates are from a wide variety of backgrounds - Indian, Nepalese and Chinese amongst them - but none of them so far appear to be idiots.

And here is where it gets interesting.

Junior's school is in one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs. None of the local kids attend it - they are all off at one of Sydney's private schools like Shore or King's. All the kids there are bussed in from roundabout - we are one of the closer residents, being only three suburbs away. As a result, the mix of kids seems to be genuinely diverse, because they are being drawn from such a wide area. If he went to one of the other schools in our area, he'd be in a distinct minority when compared to the Greeks and Italians.

Because state schools draw from their local area, in some cases, they can be very undiverse - if the underlying population of the suburb is largely mono-ethnic (like Chinese in Chatswoo or Vietnamese in Cabramatta or Tongans in wherever). Across the state, you can say that state schools teach a wide variety of kids - but that is at the macro level. At the micro level (the school level), you might find that a school is primarily Lebanese or Serbian, because ethnic groups in Sydney tend to congregate in "ghettos". A private school, drawing kids from all over Sydney (and Asia for that matter) may be much more culturally diverse than the state school down the road.

Is there any supporting evidence?

Ethnic gangs in some schools is a start. "White flight" from schools with those problems is another indicator.

It's also inter sting that the Education Department provides reams of statistics at the macro level on ethnic background, but nothing at the school level. There are 35,000 kids with a Chinese background in the system - the largest minority - but we have no idea where they are. You could assume that they are spread evenly across all schools from Lismore to Wollongong to Bondi, but I think you would be wrong. I bet they are probably concentrated in a handful of schools in a couple of areas (like Chatswoo), which makes a mockery of "diversity".

Consider this stat as well:

The percentage of kids from a non-English speaking background in Newcastle is around 1.5%.

In Granville, it is closer to 85%.

Doesn't sound like the "diversity" is very diverse at all.

There is only one solution if you believe that diversity is a must.


If there are too many kids from an Arabic background in Granville, bus a pile of them to Bondi and places like that so that they are spread around the system.

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