Essay 2: Use your sociological imagination to answer the question 'whose interests does schooling serve and why?'
In this essay I will use my sociological imagination (Mills, 1959) to look at “whose interests does schooling serve and why?” My focus will be on schooling in Australia’s early years; how and why schooling came about; its intended purpose and who benefits from schooling.
Australia’s first school was established in 1789 shortly after the first fleet arrived in Australia (Cleverley, 1971). Interestingly, schooling began soon after the arrival of the first fleet when resources were low and the priority one would think would be on establishing a colony and not focused on schooling. By 1793 there were three schools running where children as young as three were taught to read and it’s believed that this was the case so that they could read the bible and receive moral instruction from the bible (Cleverley, 1971). A majority of the children schooled were the offspring of convicts and prostitutes and by reading the bible it was intended that they would receive moral instruction from it and withdraw from the “examples set by their dissolute parents” (Austin, 1963).
The schools were run by voluntary groups and church organisations and it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that the government became involved and started funding their own schools (Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Martin & Maton, 2014) separate from the private and religious schools.
In these early days of schooling, it was apparent that gender segregation was also at work. Girls were trained in the values or work, decency, modesty, religion and cleanliness to discourage them from prostitution and to increase their class status whilst boys were taught industrious habits (Austin, 1963).
When Governor Macquarie arrived in Australia in 1909 his intention was to establish social order and discipline in the community and a school system was the perfect vehicle to achieve that; he stated that “schools were intended to improve the morals of the lower orders and develop religious principles in the young” (Barcan, 1965). Attempts were also made to school aboriginal children, the school even went to the lengths of fencing them in so they could not leave school and no recognition was ever given to any education that they had received from their own people (Cleverley, 1971).
In the early days, schooling was used to shape individuals and society and to withdraw them from the lower classes and hopefully turn them from lower class children into working class adults (Groundwater-Smith, 2006). Non-government private schooling in the early days was focused on preparing young ladies for a privileged life in society and the poor children were prepared for a fut...