Tony Abbott backs US-style corporate schools for Australia

I am delighted to be able to post this piece from my friend Lyndsay Connors.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised before the election that there would be ‘no surprises’ from a government under his leadership.

True to form, it is no surprise that he would come out with an announcement, during his visit to New York, ‘that the federal government will unveil plans next month for an Americanised education system in which schools are run in partnership with big companies and children educated to work specifically for those companies or others in the same field’ (Australian Financial Review, 13/6/14, p.6).

Similarly, it is no surprise that some big companies, like cuckoos, would like to lay their own eggs in the schools and systems that are the product of past investment by others – public and private.
Of course, while not being surprised, we can still be shocked.

From my personal standpoint, it is now several decades since my youngest child completed schooling.

Thinking now of my grandchildren, I would be the last to attempt to push them forward ahead of others to experience the benefits of Tony Abbott’s latest brainwave.

No, let the young Pynes, Hockeys and Cormanns be the first to benefit from this educational innovation. Let them reap the rewards of schools designed to prepare them to work for one or another of our big companies. Let them ride this exciting wave first.

The previous Labor government was a disappointment in this regard. When PM Julia Gillard took herself to America, Joel Klein was the New York schools city Chancellor. ThePM waxed lyrical about him, as if he were the repository of wisdom on all things educational, but in no time at all his star appeared to wane. Let us hope that those who plan to have their children’s education curriculum shaped by Rupert Murdoch or his ilk have better luck.

It is reasonable to assume that the schools to be first in the queue to gain the advantages of the Americanised education system will be those to whom Tony Abbott and his government, according to Christopher Pyne, have an ‘emotional’ commitment (see That would be both fair and logical. After all, these are the schools that, leaving aside the small matter of their significant reliance on public funding, are in the vanguard when it comes to privatisation. They are in a state of readiness for the new regime. Many of them even have their own chaplains.

It would be too embarrassing, in my view, for IBM or other corporate players, to have to deal with the likes of the schools my grandchildren attend. The amateurish school fetes, the various ‘spellathons’ and ‘walkathons’ – it would be too humiliating to draw the attention of rich and powerful corporations to these motley attempts at private fund-raising.

Then I think of the many P&C meetings I have attended. To be frank, it would quite beyond the level of sophistication generally found in these associations to handle the kinds of complexity that could arise in the new ‘corporate pathways’ academies. No way could most of them cope, for example, with takeovers. They would be quite out of their depth in the kind of situation that might arise where the company arranging their children’s curriculum and future employment gets swallowed up by an entirely different corporation – possibly an overseas one.

No, it is clear that ideas as imaginative as those envisaged by our Prime Minister can only be handled by the private schools. Not only does he have a soft spot for them, but these are also the schools with which his Government, according to Minister Pyne, will retain a ‘direct’ relationship that will obviate the need for messy negotiations with states and territories.

Under the new Americanised scheme, these schools can be encouraged to shed the shackles of government funding. Consistent with the end of the ‘age of entitlement, they can be freed to seek any subvention they need on top of their fees and other sources of private income from Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates or other corporate leaders.

As for public schools and their supporters, they deserve to be left to their own devices. When it comes to their vision for their children’s schooling, many of them are not yet ready to move on from Henry Parkes to Henry Ford.