One of the key issues that has arisen lately has been the Right’s insistence on developing education as a commodity. This has a number of nasty side-effects that people have been kept from learning about, otherwise the whole stunt would fail. To suggest this is the old class system reasserting itself is a simplistic answer, there seems a ring of truth about it, but it is wrong to think so.
Class it what developed the old world. Class is what divided it, destroyed it, rebuilt it, wrecked it again, and rebuilt it. The modern class system has a different element about it that is based, not in blood, but solely in money. The Right wants to turn us, and not just here in Australia, but all over the world, into a Plutocracy. The fundamental aim is that everyone has a chance at becoming rich and joining the elite.
Just nonsense of course, but this is how self-deception works. Someone once said that we are “rational animals” – but this is not true. We are rationalizing animals, I would argue. We can rationalize anything afterwards, we do it all the time. The benefit of excuse making and blaming everyone else and 20/20 hindsight, all those things come into play to dilute our role in things. If things go wrong, it is not our responsibility and all the changes of the last forty years or so have done precisely that. (Time also kills off the people who started these things and their grandchildren enjoy the benefits, but their great-grandchildren are usually killed in bloody revolution, just ask the French, the Russians and so on.) When things go wrong, who gets blamed? Nobody of course, responsibility is diluted so heavily that it becomes impossible to lay the guilt at anyone’s door. So it is with the idea that education is a commodity, no one is responsible for that, but this is how it is developing.
First, people are told they want “choice”. Choose to send your children to a private school. What this does is reduce the cost on the tax coffers, but increases household expenses, dramatically in some cases. Essentially, this is an additional tax, but it is taxation by stealth, your “choice”, and god help anyone who points out this little detail.
Second, sell the propaganda that a private education is a better education. The stadardized test, the NAPLAN, has proven this view wrong, so expect to see the NAPLAN dropped soon. (I have argued against the NAPLAN, I will be glad to see it go, but for other reasons.) One principal responded to this analysis by openly saying that learning is not the only thing a private school is teaching their students, things like values and self-development were mentioned. I am sure the rowing club was kept in mind here, but I am glad that things like ethics were not mentioned.
Third, reduce the effectiveness of public schools. Put people in charge of multimillion dollar operations, with little or no business experience, a minimal amount of business training, let them be hampered by involving parents, who are unlikely to be business people anyway, in a “governing council”, then slowly remove the bureaucratic support structures from around them. Call the schools “Independent State Schools” and watch them collapse in a decade or three.
This is where the nasty side effects come into it. If you have money, you can buy, for your children, the best education you can afford. If you don’t then, tough, you get the cheapest and nastiest education you can’t pay for. Socially, this means that the inheritability of money will ensure there is a continual upper crust to society, not that it ever disappeared anyway, but then the undercrust will be thicker – for a while at least. The plutocracy will maintain its position but as the money runs out, there will be fewer newcomers. Why?
For several reasons, in fact. First, does anyone really think that the high levels of social mobility of the last hundred and fifty years will be maintained? One of the cornerstones of that social mobility was education, and as the public education system degrades, the opportunity for advancement via education declines. Fewer scholarships awarded to public schools, fewer lower socio-economic candidates even finish school, fewer entries from that sector into university and so it goes on. Over decades, this becomes a trend, over generations it becomes a social calamity.
The other reason is that education allows for individuals to develop skills in areas they may not have considered. Education can give people the opportunity to build a small business, run a shop or workshop selling bespoke furniture or even shoes. Education provides skills in money management, accountancy and business management. These things will not be offered at private schools, not to people from the lower socio-economic groups anyway. How much education does it take to spend money, or serve lattes to foreign tourists? The list goes on, but I will stop there.
The worst will happen as the plutocracy begins gorges itself on its own funding. First, it will begin to devour the lowest parts of the undercrust. The weaker will fall by the way side, quickly returning to the lower socio-economic group, the stronger will remain, slowly being thinned out, then those left from the undercrust will be strong enough so that more of the uppercrust will fall victim to the self-cannibalism of the plutocrats. There will only be an uppercrust left. Children inherit their parents fortunes, even if not their business acumen, will make money from the investments made by their forebears. This process will take generations, but will return us to the class structures of old. Only the names will be different.
ENDNOTE: What kicked this line of thinking off was a recent article I read about the Vanderbilts. There was a family reunion recently, apparently, and it seems that none of the descendants are millionaires. As well, a son of Gloria Vanderbuilt said publicly there was no family money for him. mmmm – Wonder why? Why not look at this article, and it will show what is likely to happen to many of the future undercrust, and more than a few of the uppercrust as well. Even those families who do guard against this kind of loss will fall victim of the talentless descendant. We only have to look at the great families of England, France, Germany and other places to see it. Even Japan is not immune to this degradation of talent. Two consecutive generations of disinterested leadership will wreck any enterprise, no matter how big it was when it started. The development of rapacious corporate identities will speed this process up, I suspect. Check out this earlier blog.