Friday, March 23, 2007

Only marginally connected to crime, or rather to crime fiction

An Australian fellow blogger once mentioned a speech in which the very funny crime novelist Shane Maloney shocked his audience at an elite private school by lambasting the entire system of private schools. Tonight I came across a newspaper article in which Maloney recalled the speech and quoted extensively from it. Here’s an excerpt:

"It is not your fault that your parents lacked sufficient confidence in your personal maturity and ability to respond to the opportunities offered by government school education — and Australia has one of the best systems in the world, by the way, despite the relentless propaganda to the contrary by the vested interest of the private-school lobby.

"Right now, you are the victims. Later, of course, society will be your victim, and will suffer from the attitudes with which you are indoctrinated here.

"But who knows? Just as prison does not always break the spirit of all who are incarcerated there, perhaps you will not turn out to be a burden to society.”

I suspect Maloney was not invited back the next year. Living as I do in the United States, I was surprised by Maloney’s straightforward embrace of the term government school education. In this country, such terms are most often invoked by ideologues and by opportunists angling for government contracts and subsidies.

It put me in mind of the recent news that MSNBC was pulling up stakes and leaving New Jersey ten years after it received tax forgiveness and other incentives worth many millions of dollars in return for promising to stay fifteen years. That's a crime! Or rather, that's a public-private partnership.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter: Government (or state) school is an unexceptional term in Australia, where the better-off – and those who want their children to mix with the offspring of the better-off – pay for private-school education. People on the left, like Shane Moloney, object to the subsidies private schools receive and want more money spent on state schools.

March 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the note, Hamish. In fact, Shane Maloney makes that outline abundantly clear. I'm the one who failed to explain why I found his use of government schools interesting.

From what you and Maloney say, the Australian educational system appears to be similar to the American one, at least broadly speaking. The U.S. also has public schools on the one hand and private schools on the other, where parents send their children for much the same reasons that you suggested, and also for religious reasons. The Roman Catholic church, for instance, has extensive networks of elementary and high schools.

But the public schools are referred to as public schools. The term government school is only ever used as a term of abuse by people with an anti-government ax to grind. To see the term used in a neutral sense and even as a term of praise would be novel to anyone living in the U.S., I think.

March 23, 2007  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Just to confuse you PUBLIC schools in the UK are PRIVATE schools.

March 23, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I knew that, and I even read an explanation for it once, though I've forgotten it.

Perhaps I can confuse you, though: One of my British fellow travelers in Tunisia was headmaster of a public school (in the American sense) that was run like a public school (in the U.K. sense). It's a "government" school, but it has boarders, houses, etc. I forgot to ask him what such a school would be called in the U.K.

March 24, 2007  

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