Rosie Waterland wrote this post in response to another scandal at a high-profile private school. Today, in the light of what’s happening at Sydney’s Ravenswood School For Girls, it seems more relevant than ever.
I thought that private school was going to change my life. It did. Within a month of leaving that place, I was so broken I tried to kill myself.
“Studies have shown that students from private schools are more likely to get into Uni and end up making a lot more money; while wife-beaters and rapists are nearly all public-school educated. Sorry, no offence, but it’s true.”
That gloriously offensive quote can be attributed to the brilliant Chris Lilley creation that is Ja’mie King – the snooty private school girl who slums it for one term at a public school in 2007’s Summer Heights High. The humour, of course, comes from the outrageously hyperbolic nature of the quote. I mean, private school students often have a reputation for being a bit snobbish, but nobody actually thinks and talks like Ja’mie, right?
“The amount of retarded people on this page make me so happy that my parents bothered to send me to a good, private school instead of a poverty-stricken sh***** in Pakenham. People often say that paying to send your kids to a private school is not worth it but when I read what you povo fucks post on this page I’m eternally grateful to my parents.”
That quote can be attributed to a real-life private school boy, who attends the elite Xavier College in Melbourne. He was referring to the public school students supporting each other on a Facebook VCE (Year 12 exams) forum.
Ladies and Gentleman, Ja’mie King exists, and she is the niggling sense of entitlement and superiority hidden in the dark corners of the brains of many elite private school students.
I was not shocked at all to read the comments left by that Xavier College student, just like I’ve always known that while Ja’mie King’s quotes may be outrageous, the attitude behind them is something very, very real. I know, because I’ve experienced it.
I’m one of a rare group who got to experience both extremes of the education system. Growing up with mentally ill and addicted parents, I was shipped from family member to rehab centre to foster home and back again, over and over and over. That meant by the time I graduated Year 12, I had been to about 17 schools (honestly I lost count, but I think that number is pretty close). All those schools were of the public or ‘public-with-Jesus’ variety. Some kids were more well-off than others, but nobody even came close to being higher than middle class.
Then I found myself at one of the most elite private boarding schools in the country. After such a tumultuous childhood and inconsistent schooling experience, my uncle, who was quite wealthy, decided to step in and send me to a ‘good school’ for years 10,11 and 12. And let me tell you, this school wasn’t just ‘good’, it was fucking spectacular. The campus was like nothing I’d ever seen. It was so big, it had streets with actual street names. There was an aquatic centre. A TV studio. Countless theatres. An art centre, art gallery and fully equipped photographic studio. About ten different sporting ovals that I didn’t really understand the difference between. A music centre. A massive gym. Computer labs with endless Macs. A library that needed elevators because it had three freaking levels.