Not every private school kid emerges as a Ja’mie, a Danny, nor any of the other bitches and bullies portrayed in these fictions. But these fictions tell a certain truth: there’s much more to education than what’s taught in the classroom. If public schools are values-neutral, as John Howard (who attended one) famously suggested, private schools can only aspire to such neutrality.
In my own experience, the values of status and gender segregation were indoctrinated daily in a million subtle and explicit ways. Being judged for your downmarket clothes at school camp. Being ridiculed because your haircut was by mum, not a celebrity hairdresser. Turning down birthday invitations because your budget gift would insult. The humiliation of wearing your classmates’ offcasts bought from the second-hand uniform shop. Feeling too ashamed to invite eastern suburbs girls to your brick veneer in the ex-urbs. Cringing at being collected in an old Datsun amid a fleet of new Mercs and Beemers. Avoiding dancing class because you couldn’t afford the dresses, nor relate to boys. Wagging sport because your swimsuit and racquet were unfashionable no-name brands. Inventing excuses to avoid excursions you couldn’t afford. Lying about your holidays because you didn’t ski in Europe, nor have a holiday home in Portsea, nor the means to go to horse-riding camp.
– Katherine Wilson