At the heart of any community is the acceptance and tolerance of all members in that society. Therefore, the best start we can give our emerging citizens is an educational setting where children from all experiences and socio-economic levels attend as equals. This by definition is in a local comprehensive public school. The failure to address the current calamity that is testing the federal government comes from the fact that 70% of the male Ministers in cabinet attended private schools and the Prime Minister went to an all-boys, selective school. They were educated in an environment that lacked contact with children from circumstances of which they have no experience, they are raised in a mono-culture.
Mono-Cultures have long been known to have an adverse effect on the production of food. Although the economic advantage is obvious, planting, harvesting and packaging are relatively uniform resulting in increased profit margins that benefit the few. However, there is a cost to the health of the plants and the surrounding environment.
The continual use of one type of species means there is a concentration of the nutrients extracted from the soil and this needs to be replaced by specific fertiliser that is sourced from another area. Further, the practice of mono-culture farming leads to mutation of the plants with a reduction of resistance to any disease that is encountered.
The practice on mono-culture farming is perhaps more disturbing when we consider it’s practice in the farming of livestock. Of course, there is the same economic rationality: specialisation leads to profit maximisation but like the species concentration in plants, animals suffer from lack of diversity. Studies have shown that the use of a specific genetic strain in a bovine population leads to a decrease in the fertility of the herd, a reduction in the resistance to disease and a loss in vitality.
The extreme catastrophe of this in-breeding is seen in the world of dog shows. Breeders have selected pairs of dogs that are closely match up with the view of getting a more exaggerated physical character that is admired, especially by the judges. The most tragic case is in the breeding of the British Bulldog. These poor dogs are now so disformed they live in continual discomfort struggling to breath, susceptible to disease and are depressed. The deformity is so pronounced that bulldogs bred for showing can only give birth via caesarean section, their head is so large it won’t fit down the birth canal!
So, what is the point of this information? I will argue that the lessons from the natural world do apply to our social world and this mono-culture approach to the nurturing of our children particularly with regards to schooling.
Just like any biosphere the step-by-step brain development of any child depends on the environment in which it is raised. We develop our behaviours by addressing the problems we confront in ways that satisfy our sense of belonging within that environment. If I attend a ‘selective’ school of any kind I will be limited to the culture of that school.
It’s not hard to appreciate that, if I attend a wealthy boy’s school, one that has the best facilities, an ‘inbred’ culture that has evolved over many years I would develop the behaviours that reflect those values.
The first public recognition of the toxic masculinity of these schools was seen on the ‘4 Corners’ 2020-episode exposure of the hyper-masculinity of the boys from St Kevin’s school in Melbourne. Despite attempts to downplay this as a one-off incident, the activities of an ex- Kambala School student, Chanel Cantos has revealed otherwise. Ms Cantos sent out a partition asking for girls that had experienced forms of sexual harassment and rape. She was overwhelmed by the response with over 100 testimonies indicating that a significant number of boys from the Sydney elite schools had little or no respect for the girls.
I would argue that these boys had their ethics and character nurtured in a culture that lacked healthy exposure to girls in their formative years and as a result, they never developed the neural pathways that lead to a healthy respect for girls.
This is the most sensational example of the destructive effect mono-culture schools have on the boy’s social development. Attending such a school encourages this sort of behaviour and so impressionable adolescents conform to the presenting social norms to belong.
However, this is not the only example. Another issue is the presence of schools with a religious bias. Around the middle of the last century I attended a public school. I had heard about a nearby Catholic School but had no idea what that meant. They were ‘different’ to me and as I found out later ‘they’ had the same opinion about us. One weekend with my mates I came across a group of these ‘cathos’ and to all our surprise we were very much the same. However, the identification of a group as being ‘other’ of the foundation of prejudice. The student within that religious school will think of public schools as others and public-school kids think of, say Muslim kids as others. The creation of ‘others’ has fuelled the major atrocities throughout history with an extreme example being the holocaust perpetrated in during the Second World War!
It is human nature to want to be better that ‘others’ and when children are separated on religious grounds it will be because the parents see their religious norms as being better that those outside that religion; this creation of a mono-culture at a school weakens the student’s ability to socially integrate with their whole society. I expect there will be a strong protest about that statement but what else can happen!
These same arguments can be easily applied to the creation of selective schools for ‘gifted’ students just as they can for ‘special schools’ for the ‘disabled’. Whenever you create a school culture that identifies those outside that school as ‘others’, as being different you depreciate the social health of both the child that attends that school and the ‘other’ and that has huge life-long consequences.
So, why are these schools still in existence and growing? Why do our governments continue to fund, at ever increasing levels these schools? Well its not to get a better learning outcome! In January, Trevor Cobbold of the Save our Schools organisation demonstrated that these elite schools do no better than the less wealthy public schools in the NAPLAN tests when socio-economic factors are included. There is no logical answer for the existence of a type of school other than the comprehensive community public school where the whole complex human diversity resides and as the World Health Organisation concludes regarding nature, this exposure to diversity is the foundation of a healthy and strong society!