The defenders of public education often portray themselves as high-minded supporters of social cohesion, against ‘divisive’ people like Christians who actually believe in God.
Except for their notion of who counts as ‘divisive’, this is a conservative argument – that social unity is more important that freedom for minority cultures. This is why I have argued that ‘social cohesion’ is often a euphemism for intolerance.
This point was highlighted by the week’s events in Camden, with a proposed Islamic school that had been the subject of heated opposition for locals being rejected by the council on planning grounds (or at least so they said).
Much of the publicity has gone to Camden resident Kate McCulloch, who appeared at the Council meeting in a fashion-statement Australian flag hat (video here). And here is her case for public education:
“I want Muslims in Australia to attend our schools so their children can grow up with our values and, more importantly, so that their mothers can meet Australian mums and see how they don’t have to put up with the sort of treatment they sometimes endure.”
Sometimes you just can’t choose your allies.