Giving to the wealthy

I’m not much of a fan of giving to wealthy causes. Like private schools for the well healed. I was asked to attend an interview to see if I’d go on the Council of my daughter’s private school – which I said I would. I was then asked if I was Jewish (it’s an Anglican School) and said that I wasn’t but that I was a bit shocked to be asked. I didn’t bore the Principal with the details of my religious status as a lapsed atheist. Anyway with that apparently smoothed over I was invited to an evening which turned out to be hard core fund raising.

A donation of 20K seemed in order, but was not forthcoming. And for whatever reason my candidature didn’t proceed any further. (I also opined on a tour of the campus that I thought it would be a pity if they ripped out the only remaining grass covered oval and replaced it with synthetic grass, no matter how much truer it made they hockey balls travel.)

Today I got an invitation to give money to Ormond College where I spent a year. It was cleverly crafted – written to me by someone in my year with a personal note to me. This was my chance to make a difference for the next generation. I could contribute to allowing someone hard of means to attend the College. Well that’s better than contributing to someone easy of means I guess. Anyway it transpired that to qualify, this person who was hard of means had to be someone whose parents had attended Ormond. And yes, they might have been hard of means, but then they might just have been good at minimising their income. I decided to pass.

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22 Responses to Giving to the wealthy

  1. Ken Parish says:

    We attended an “interview” with the principal of Darwin’s ostensible top private school some years ago when Jessica was moving from primary to secondary education.. He assured us inter alia that the school had an excellent library albeit that it didn’t actually have much room for books as such. We decided that there might be better choices. In fact there weren’t, but at least we didn’t have to pay extortionate fees for education at a school whose entire modus operandi involved convincing upwardly mobile bogan parents to part with their hard-earned cash on a meaningless promise of “quality” education.

  2. Tel says:

    You schnorrer you! :-)

  3. meika says:

    and you can get to queue jump your child if you’re an old boy/girl, it’s all about entitlement (age of)

  4. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Well – at least when we moved away from Firbank and Brighton Grammar both of which were pretty crook towards better private schools – the education we got was a lot better than we suspect was available elsewhere – if far from perfect.

  5. meika says:

    I think the influence of of private schools is diminishing, even if they are holding a current resurgence in term of numbers. There are two trends here. One is the power of cohort networking of school age children in order to socially climb in a more static society (or maintain position). I don’t think this is as powerful as it once was. However it is still attractive to those who enjoy that sort of exclusive tradition, or aspire to, based on old school networking. The private school as a substitute for sending a son of to page at a more powerful liege lord’s court. However, as I look around at me and my friends who went to various Private schools, from the local Catholic school to Timbertop, it seems none of us will to that to our children. I believe it may well ‘skip a generation’ and that the current aspirational parents will have children who later who will also regard a lot of it as hype and not bother with it. Currently we are in an aspirational or believers growth phase. Private schools will cope with this by re-branding, as what the local main wife factory in Hobart has done by emphasizing the modern professional woman in their advertising while doing what they always did.

  6. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Well best of luck Meika. That may be the case with you and your friends, but good as the research shows, good teaching is incredibly valuable and when you get stuck in with lots of kids who are basically motivated to work I suspect it makes a big difference. Peer pressure is incredibly strong at that age.

    Then you find you’ve got all these contacts in high places. Them’s big advantages methinks, but I agree that if the school you’re talking about is pretty ordinary and you’re just paying for a logo, there’s not much point.

  7. meika says:

    I think the more important cohort networking happens at post-school education instututions now.

    The Tasmanian who has married-well the best recently went to Taroona High, the wife factory must be spitting chips, the most famous from there are in Thai jails.

  8. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Yes, you’re probably right. Also involvement in such a cosseted clique from early on may stunt the student’s sense that they need to be gregarious to get the most our of uni. I suspect that of Melbourne private school kids – certainly in my generation – they were a closed minded, dull lot on the whole. One of my main objections to privilege is how much it can dull the mind.

  9. Peter Patton says:

    Re old university colleges ‘fund-raising’. I ran into a guy I had not sen for years a while ago. He was most insistent on updating all my contact details, which I thought was a bit odd, as he was not likely to be anywhere on my dance card soon. Anyway, a week later, I received a package from the college. One of the long-time College Council Fellow had died, and there was to be vote for his replacement. My old mate had sent me, along with the official college bumf, his OWN campaign pitch. The college as it is is already so stinking rich, I thought it would be unseemly to send them a dime, so I didn’t.

    But I find these people who donate money to their old high schools to be a bit odd. The US prep school Philip’s Academy, Andover – alma mater to GW Bush, his Daddy, Grand-daddy, JFK, JFK jnr, the Aga Khan, and Lachlan Murdoch – has a capital endowment of $1 BILLION! That’s for 1,000 students (The school is only 4 years – Years 9 to 12). Fees are $40,000 per year (boarding). Admittedly, they offer about 15% of each entering class a full (needs-based scholarship), and partial scholarships to another 35%. But still $1 BILLION in the kitty. Does any Australian university even have that much? All the alums were told several years ago, don’t even think about taking for granted ANY of your kids being admitted nowadays, let alone of therm (it’s co-ed now). Why would you give it a bean?

    • Nicholas Gruen says:

      I visited Phillips Academy Andover with my son as I knew the principal – who’d moved there from Harvard Law School. Very civilised fellow. Very nice school. Very nice, privileged school which I wouldn’t’ be donating any money to :)

  10. hammygar says:

    It’s about time we in Australia bit the bullet on private schooling. While we can’t close them overnight, the government must do everything to discourage attendance at them. Let’s start with ending government financial contributions, and even placing a tax surcharge on parents using these abominations. We have an excellent public schooling system and parents have a duty to the state to send their children to them. I’m also against the selective schools that are so prevalent in NSW. They are horrendously elitist, and take bright children away from comprehensive schools, thus depriving other students of having the brightest kids as resources.

    It may take time to build up the infrastructure of public schools so that they can take the additional students (although some compulsory acquisitions should be considered), but eventually private schools have to be compulsorily phased out.

  11. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Yep, well I won’t be biting any bullets. Some of us here believe in pluralism Hammygar. I hear they run a good organised system in North Korea you might be interested in.

    Anyway, you’re probably just winding me up. I hope so.

  12. Yobbo says:

    Obvious troll, recently banned from Catallaxy. Enjoy

  13. Estel says:

    Peter Patton: my quick calculation of interest income (at the fairly conservative 5%) rate of return is $50 million. Just to compare with Australian higher education ( latest figures from 2007 ) the total funding for Australia’s tertiary education system comes in at $15 Billion – covers all government funding, fees, investment income etc. Investment income in total is $829 million (this was pre GFC). Australia has 42 A, B, & C providers of tertiary education (see Appendix 5). This would averge out to $19 Million each. However 1) some of this would represent short term investment (e.g. putting the fees on the money market for a few months) and 2) it is likely that large, estabilshed institutions with the lion shares of the endowments. Lets say the top 8 (2 for vic/NSW, 1 for each other main land state) have the most. Whether its conceivable any or all of the top 8 could have investments round the 1 billlion mark would depend on how much is short term and how much that group has of the longer term investments. Actually, assuming short term funds raise 20%, and the big 8 have 90% of the long term investments, it could be possible, but then these assumptions could be wildly astray.

  14. Peter Patton says:

    Actually hammy, Australian parents ‘woke’ up years ago, and voted with their feet.. In 2010, 50% of Australian parents use the non-government school system. And if funding followed children, rather than schools, I think it’d be pretty much ‘will the laugh person leaves the Social Studies staff room, please turn the light out’. The overwhelming majority of Australia comprehensive government high schools are too far down the evolutionary chain for Australian children to be saddled with.

  15. Peter Patton says:


    I suspect that of Melbourne private school kids – certainly in my generation – they were a closed minded, dull lot on the whole. One of my main objections to privilege is how much it can dull the mind.

    I know, or have met/known, a gazillion people from Melbourne GPS schools. Very few showed any signs of the fees being worth it. I think that’s a problem with Australian private schools generally. There’s a much lower ceiling than in the US and UK. I think a lot of that has to do with the stranglehold the government and uni Education types have on the curriculum here. In the UK, top private schools do not have to teach the government curriculum.

  16. Peter Patton says:

    Out of all the educational networking grounds, by far, the most effective are the residential college systems at Uni. Of Sydney and Uni. of Melb.

  17. Patrick says:

    I’d quite like to see all the government schools shut, hammygar. Of course this would be phased in, to minimise disruption and fix the logistical issues.
    One would start by:
    1) reducing the scope of the mandatory curriculum
    2) allowing for-profit schools
    3) providing all students with a ‘voucher’ for their current government average contribution, possibly indexed inversely to socio-economic status of their suburb
    4) removing restrictions on class sizes and reducing requirements for dip eds for people with more than 5 yearsprofessional experience.

    After 15-20 years one would then announce that there not being any public schools left, the government didn’t plan to build any.

    Otherwise I agree with Nick’s actions.

  18. conrad says:

    “I think the more important cohort networking happens at post-school education instututions now”

    I don’t — the starting salaries for the top universities and the next level down (i.e., GO8 vs. ATN) are almost the same. Indeed, ATN graduates have slightly higher salaries depending on the data you look at, although that is sure to be confounded with many variables, like what they are teaching. I would also think this will change a bit in the lastest expansion, as the ATN universities get desperate to keep their numbers up and start bottom fishing too much (i.e., taking anyone).

  19. meika says:

    well, they used to be then

  20. James A says:

    Wikipedia (yes, I know, but they all have references) lists UWA as $326m, ANU as $1.2B, U. Melb $1.1B, Monash $1.B, UNSW $1.4B, U. Syd $829m.

    One question I’ve seen posed elsewhere is with higher education on the nose a bit (more so in the US), and learning moving online, where will the networking occur?

  21. wilful says:

    Well one thing I’ve learnt is that you haven’t played hockey in a long while if ever Nicholas. Playing on Astroturf is so markedly superior that it is like playing a completely different game. But surely soccer and athletics still require grass (maybe not footy and cricket at a girls school).

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