provocative Fairfax columnist, architecture academic, essayist on everything from climate change to feminism; perpetual thinker, mother of teenagers, and former independent Sydney City councillor.
According to her Fairfax biography, Elizabeth Farrelly is
a Sydney-based columnist and author who holds a PhD in architecture and several international writing awards. A former editor and Sydney City Councilor, she is also Associate Professor (Practice) at the Australian Graduate School of Urbanism at UNSW.
So based on her expertise and authority in education matters, Dr Farrelly has expressed her wish that private schools be banned. More specifically, that private should be made illegal.
Whilst Dr Farrelly’s may have some experience and expertise in the consumption of education services, she does not appear to have any experience and expertise in the production of education services. But such little problems never seem to get in the way of her declarations.
As an aside and for some context, Dr Farrelly’s architecture PhD was from the University of Sydney, an institution currently renowned for its embrace of diversity of thought and expression.
But this aside, according to Dr Farrelly, those parents who can spend up to $30,000 per annum for their children’s education, are basically stupid and should instead, be forced to send their children to public schools. Dr Farrelly apparently knows better than every single consumer of private education that they are wasting their money. Education, much like health, internet pipes and school halls should be left to the experts in government and academia. In those areas, citizens have always received great outcomes and value their tax dollars.
Dr Farrelly believes that parents and guardians should have no say whatsoever in what or where their children are taught. Such matters should be left to the expertise of the education industrial complex that occupy various Departments of Education and teacher unions, and of course the Commonwealth Department of Education in Canberra. You know, the bodies who advocate for standardization, centralization and homogenization to ensure the production of compliant and obedient tax payers. Don’t forget also the advocates who like to ram their personal agendas onto every child.
In support of her argument against private schools, Dr Farrelly uses rigorous research undertaken by leading public policy think tanks and research councils Crikey and the ABC:
Private schools don’t necessarily produce bad people, although it’s true that (as a 2013 Crikey survey found) most cabinet ministers attended them. Private schools are just very, very bad for the country.
But Dr Farrelly’s economic analysis of the matter perhaps demonstrates why she is a practicing Fairfax opinion writer:
According to the ABC, almost a quarter of the $53 billion funding of schools ($12.7 billion) goes to private schools – which educate roughly a third (34 per cent) of populace. So each private school student sucks almost two-thirds as much as each public one. Before the benefit of their $30,000 in fees.
Ok. That means the banning of private schools would necessitate an addition (roughly) $6.5 billion of public funds per annum, at a minimum. This would not account for the extra bureaucrats and administrators necessary. Tax rises anyone?
Ah but Dr Farrelly would argue that the increased taxation would be paid by those parent no longer paying private school fees. Increased taxes are usually features and not faults of Fairfax opinion writers, but unfortunately though, Australia’s tax system is not so precise and granular meaning that everyone, including those with children already in public education and those without children in school at all, would need to pick up the tab to make Dr Farrelly’s wishes come true.
Dr Farrelly’s depth of analysis continues with this brilliant insight:
And for what? What does it buy, this immense spend? It buys a system that deliberately tribalises children before they can read, that has parents selling their houses for school fees, stressing about homework and entry exams and increasingly investing in private tutoring for four year olds. Yet for all that effort and angst, it’s a system that leaves us (as recent news yet again makes clear) less well educated with each passing year.
Most interestingly and without any evidence whatsoever, Dr Farrelly concludes that Australia’s declining education performance is driven by the 1/3 of children who attend private schools rather than the 2/3 of children who attend public schools. She may be right. She may be wrong. But who knows. We must apparently have faith that her PhD in architecture has given her educational insights unavailable to anyone else, including those responsible for allocating public funds for education.
But having declared that private education is a complete waste of money and parents/guardians who spend on private education are idiots, Dr Farrelly concludes with:
In other words, for every private school student the burden decrement on the public system is fairly small, but the personal advantage is immense.
So according to Farrel-logic, private education is a waste of money but the personal advantage is immense. But let’s not forget the fairness argument:
This is manifestly unfair. Private schools heighten inequality, privileging the privileged, hogging the teaching talent and siphoning off kids already equipped with reading backgrounds, so depriving the public system of beneficial peer-to-peer learning.
But it’s unfair and a waste of money. But the teaching talent is being hogged by the private schools.
It’s good thing the Dr Farrelly knows best.
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