May 5th 2001

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: The facts behind the rural revolt

Editorial: Rescuing the airline industry

Canberra Observed: What a Beazley Government means

Agriculture: Dried fruit industry savaged by deregulation

Text: Straws in the Wind: Our new cultural assimiladoes

The Media: A tale of two murders

National Affairs: Behind Costello's veto of Woodside takeover

Defence: Labor's new Maginot Line

Letter: Defence priority

Comment: Why Australia needs a strong manufacturing base

Globalism: Are trade treaties a Bill of Rights for Big Business?

History: Death in Life

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Text: Straws in the Wind: Our new cultural assimiladoes

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, May 5, 2001
Marcia Langton, an Aboriginal activist and a professor of indigenous studies at Melbourne University - my, how my old alma mater has come on! - spoke to the Australian Education Assembly on April 18 and said some very interesting things there, and to The Australian (April 19).

Private school education was the way forward for Aboriginals, for the best of them would, eventually, be at the top of their fields. "Many of Australia's leading indigenous activists had attended Žlite private schools - e.g., Patrick and Mick Dodson, Noel Pearson." Part of these people's capacity to be influential originated in the "very high standard" of education they received outside the state system.

What are the foundations of this system of education - which provides its recipients with life chances superior to those in state educational systems? "Learning formal English to a high standard and learning in the formal mainstream Western tradition, the history of ideas," said Marcia.

And she is right - and this kind of education opens doors, not only to Aborigines, or her Chinese and Vietnamese families seeking a decent education for their children; but for many if not most Australian children, if they had the opportunity. But she appears uninterested in the last part, for it is the Australian children who are the racists, the threat.

As racism is in a sense her profession, or at least its core, it is not surprising that she introduces racism as the second, and perhaps main reason, why she sends her daughter to an Žlite girl's school. Her daughter has to be free from racial harassment. "I just don't want to have to defend my daughter every day against racism."

After talking to many state school teachers and some students, this sounds a highly melodramatic account. There is a deal of racism in state schools, but most seems between different ethnic groups, with native Australians and the relatively few Aborigines - this is Victoria - irrelevant and sometimes terrified bystanders. There are many Victorian state schools where Old Australians are very much in the minority, many school that are Asian dominated. If it was thought that bringing out different races and mixing them would reduce racism - forget it. I'm afraid the Aboriginal harassment problem is one of the least important to the average persecuted state school principal.

If Professor Langton did have her child at a state school, she probably would be up there every day complaining - but it would be about laxity over drugs, the collapse of class and school discipline due to the behaviour of tolerated disruptors and trouble makers: the instability produced by temporary and supply teachers - no continuity - and the spectacle of so many classmates who don't want to be there, don't want to study. And the often biased assessment methods and philosophies of many state schools. Plus the policy of pass 'em all, promote 'em all, just to get rid of them, and their parents.

It is for these reasons that so many families, especially Chinese and Vietnamese, are shelling out for a private education. And there is racism in the private sector, as there used to be religious sectarianism; but less and less.

One reason is that private schools have become moneymaking institutions - touting for foreign students and charging them top rates, as are our universities. Tolerating racism costs them money - so one shouldn't necessary assume that they are any purer in heart than their state counterparts.

Professor Langton would obviously support Dr David Kemp's policies of subsidising private schools, including Žlite schools such as the one her daughter attends.

So Labor and the Looney Left can stick that up their flak jackets. I anticipate some interesting Melbourne University Staff common room discussions stemming from the Langton Heresies. But I'm afraid the Professor idealises the humanities and Western cultural tradition segments of contemporary private education.

The deformed, misanthropic syllabus, which dictates to and confines all schools, has leached out many traditional Western ideas, much of the West's history and a good deal of its good taste and intellectual equanimity. But she is right - half a loaf is better than no loaf - and she is giving Western High Culture much valued support.

It would be hard to find a better argument for cultural assimilation of our Aborigines into mainstream Anglo-Saxon culture then the one Marcia Langton has just provided. And it applies, pari passu, for all of our national/cultural groups.

Of course Mick Dodson, a private school product, calls assimilationism "cultural genocide;" but then, imparting knowledge of the proper use of the English language has never been a complete success in our private school system.

But let the Weston brothers have the last word: "Up the School. And ... up the other School as well".

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