David M. Russell

School’s in – black or white

In Commentary on July 1, 2009 at 2:58 am

One of Australia’s senior politicians made a good point the other day while talking about astronomically high truancy rates affecting Aboriginal school-age children in remote outback areas. He suggested that parents should be fined for letting the kids stay home and teachers should be empowered to physically take them to school.

The second suggestion seems a recipe for disaster and it’s hard to imagine any teacher willing to be placed in such a position. But the first idea – of holding parents responsible – strikes a chord. After all, if white parents in settled areas have to face the force of the law to ensure their offspring get an education, shouldn’t the same principle apply to Aborigines?

Conversely, if black Australians want to opt their children out of getting an education, then shouldn’t they opt out of the system that subsidises their lifestyles (no matter how inadequate they may be deemed to be)? If you want to enjoy an endless stream of welfare payments, then the minimum requirement should be participation in the system that funds those entitlements. If you opt out, don’t hold your hand out. But bleating about discrimination without any corresponding attempt at responsibility just doesn’t cut it. Black Australians may well have suffered grave injustice in the past but they cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for future outcomes.

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