More racism at government schools

According to the public school lobby, government schools promote ethnic tolerance. But according to a new report on racism and its effects among young Australians, three-quarters of students at government schools in the survey had experienced racism, and that after statistical analysis:

students who attend a catholic school are 1.7 times LESS likely to report experiences of racism than students attending government schools.

Admittedly there were only a few Catholic schools in the survey and we aren’t told anything about the ethnic composition of those schools. Though overall NESB Australians make identical school sector choices as English-speaking Australians, that doesn’t tell us much about any individual school.

However I can think of a couple of plausible reasons why the broad finding might be right. The first is that while the public school lobby focuses on religion as a potential ‘divisive’ force, major religions such as Christianity and Islam are multi-ethnic and so religious identity cuts across ethnic identity. By making a common religious identity more salient, kids at religious schools may focus less on ethnic tribal affiliations.

The second reason is that private schools tend to have stronger discipline, which should reduce racial incidents. Behaviour is much easier to change than attitudes, and so students at schools which police anti-social behaviour effectively are less likely to experience racism even if underlying attitudes are similar to those at other schools.

14 Responses to “More racism at government schools

  • 1
    Son of the Ratpack
    November 20th, 2009 07:11

    In other words, private schools are better at suppressing their students’ racist attitudes while they are in school uniform.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    November 20th, 2009 07:54

    In this survey, the students were reporting the vast bulk of their ‘racist’ experience at school, so that’s where it matters.

    Unfortunately the report doesn’t explore ‘racist’ attitudes, instead just recycling dubious academic theories. The give-away that this is much more complex than these theories allow was in this sentence (empahsis added):

    “Much of the discussion in the interviews centred upon racist namecalling and racist joking, which occur both within friendship groups and more generally amongst students in the schoolyard and classrooms.”

    ie, it is likely to be an aspect of the gentle teasing that goes on among friends rather than a racist theory of whatever group the person is from.

  • 3
    Son of the Ratpack
    November 20th, 2009 08:41

    No doubt it was all in jest.

    When I was at school it was common for someone who showed somewhat selfish behaviour in the schoolyard to be labelled “a Jew”, Jews being synonymous with greed, as everybody knows. I’m confident though that those kids throwing the label about were not really anti-semites, at least not in the Mein Kampf sense.

  • 4
    Andrew Norton
    November 20th, 2009 08:53

    When I was at school there was what was called a ‘Jew scramble’, throwing money up in the air and everyone going for it. I doubt the kids understood how bad it was. When the teachers found out it was forbidden. The school (Protestant Christian) was in favour of religous understanding and tolerance, taking us to visit a synagogue etc. Later a Jewish boy enrolled in the school and so far as I can recall there were no problems.

  • 5
    Son of the Ratpack
    November 20th, 2009 09:02

    I can beat your story. The teachers at my (government, middle class) school knew all about this Jew labelling, and didn’t care. But one day, a kid called another not just a Jew but a bloody Jew. He was in big trouble – for using the adjective bloody.

  • 6
    November 20th, 2009 11:30

    What, no wogs versus skips on the oval at your schools? You must have gone to uptight private schools. The other giveaway is that you had Jew Scrambles, whereas most public school kids aren’t taught many words of more than one syllable, so we had Jew Jumps instead (who knows where this originates incidentally — I remember it from kids throwing chips up in the air in primary school — which suggests it either gets passed down from other kids or some of the parents are responsible).

  • 7
    November 20th, 2009 11:45

    Here’s a third plausible reason: it has nothing to do with the school and everything to do with the parents.

  • 8
    November 20th, 2009 11:55

    How weird, I never heard anything like that at my school – the first exposure I ever had to Jewish stereotypes was watching Seinfeld!

  • 9
    Andrew Norton
    November 20th, 2009 12:27

    Russell – I think the school does matter, but parental influence is also a possibility.

  • 10
    Charles Richardson
    November 20th, 2009 19:21

    Did the survey control for socio-economic status? That would be the first thing that would come to mind to explain it, at least after ethnc composition.

  • 11
    Andrew Norton
    November 20th, 2009 20:17

    Charles – No questions on it.

  • 12
    john malpas
    November 21st, 2009 10:16

    This shows that you find what you look for.
    What about comments on people with ginger hair or glasses etc?
    Suppressing things doen’t make them go away to. See the marvellousd success in the UK – a place besotted by political correctness.

  • 13
    Michael "Lorenzo" Warby
    November 22nd, 2009 05:26

    As someone who goes to (lots of) Victorian schools, Catholic schools are notably ethnically diverse and more likely to have posters invoking concern for others. Not up on the figures, but I would be surprised if they were significantly different in socio-economic profile than government schools.

    They do have the advantage of easier to expel students (but perhaps have a greater immediate financial incentive not to).

  • 14
    November 23rd, 2009 16:05

    Financial Incentives hardly exist, most exclusive schools have waiting lists, and Catholic ones are partly funded by the church anyway.