A bloggish debate briefly continues – against Peter Whiteford

At the risk of adding day 7 to the bloggish debate, I want to respond to Peter Whiteford’s comments at Andrew L’s blog. Whiteford says:

My reaction to Andrew N’s first post may seem casual, but it is where is the evidence that Australian public schooling is the sort of disaster that you seem to imply that it is. Are Australian intellectual elites all drawn from private school backgrounds? Does everyone who went to a public school get an inferior education? Does everyone who went to a private school get a superior education? What is the variation in educational achievement by type of school attended, and what other factors apart from type of school have influenced these outcomes? Evidence please.

Actually, I barely mentioned these conventional public-private debates – and not at all in the first post. As a classical liberal, I think there are inherent political and social problems with monopoly education, regardless of how well public schools teach the 3Rs. I was trying to bring out the philosophical differences between Andrew L and myself, which in fact did happen.

He’s happy with state indoctrination (though eventually conceding that public education doesn’t make much if any difference to civics); I’m not. A preference for live-and-let-live in a pluralistic society, rather than trying to get everyone to believe the same things, is one of the oldest ideas in liberalism, and still one worth arguing for in my view.

Consistent with this, surveys of why parents prefer private schools show that values-type issues are high on the list. This is not to say that government schools don’t incuclate values of some sort, but these aren’t necessarily the values parents want taught. We could hardly expect a single system to reflect the diversity of Australia, and it doesn’t.
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