I still find myself in heated debates at dinner parties in the Public vs Private quarrel, while friends who are now parents themselves begin to wonder which direction they will choose. Steiner? Art School? Local public? Boarding school? Are any better than the rest, or is the whole schooling system flawed from the top?
Regardless of the *many* arguments, one general Australian sentiment remains the same: private schooling guarantees the right start in life.
But what IS the right start in life, exactly? Emerging from an environment that turns normal adolescent growth on its head – stunting any kind of personal and social growth, but accelerating academic/career growth well past their years? I graduated from high school with no grasp on body confidence, sexual knowledge, interpersonal social skills, or concept of healthy balance – but hey, I had a five-year-study-plan, and I sure could type fast!
This is my experience:
My trajectory of growth during high school was an exercise in normalisation.
At the start of school, I was soft, malleable, and delightfully enthusiastic for anything and everything. I was kooky and creative and used to do things like make a pencil case out of old pair of jeans, or make my school friends hand-drawn zines, or paint my plaster arm cast to look like an x-ray.
But by the end of high school, I was hardened. I had bunkered down against the continual onslaught of academic comparison, anxiety-inducing ‘life prep’, and school-aided competition socially among my peers. I straightened my curly hair, wore Ralph Lauren polos, and listened to the right music (which I hated). Weird was not cool. Weird was a threat.
It has taken more than a decade since graduating high school to soften up again, to learn to trust women again, to learn to trust teachers again. But really, it was about to learning to trust in myself enough again to believe that I could be a success.
Everything from sports carnivals to exams, school formals to school plays, morning swimming training to parent teacher interviews were doused with hefty splash of judgement and competition.
With private school fees climbing to now sit, on average, between $20,000 to $33,000 per year; the median wealth of your peers is considerable. We were rich girls judging rich girls, a petrie dish of bitchery and exclusion, all fighting each other for…well, I’m not even sure what. From a tender age I was accutely aware of what car we drove, what my parents did for work, and what brand of clothes I was wearing.