Bioethics Blogs

Private education: in defence of hypocrisy

(Photo: Daily Telegraph)

I am a bitter opponent of private education. All my political hackles rise whenever the subject is mentioned.

Yet of my four currently school-aged children, one (‘A’) is educated privately (at a specialist choir school), and another (‘B’, who is dyslexic) will shortly be in private education (at a hip, Indian-cotton swathed, high-fibre, bongo-drumming, holistic school). The two others (‘C’ and ‘D’) are currently in state primary schools. There are two older children too (‘E’ and ‘F’) They were both educated privately, at a fairly traditional school.

How can I live with myself?

One way would be to avert my eyes from the apparently plain discrepancy between my actions and my political convictions. That’s often been my strategy. But I want to attempt some kind of defence – at least in relation to A and B, and lay the ground for a potential defence in relation to C and D, should we choose to educate them privately.

In relation to the older two, E and F, the only defence possible is the ‘Can’t help it’ defence (see below), which isn’t terribly impressive. With hindsight, they’d have been better off, the community at large would have been better off, and my integrity would be less embarrassingly bruised, had they gone to the local comprehensive. I’ve learned a bit since they were schooled.

But what about the others? I’m not going to discuss the merits for the individual children of private v state education. To keep the ethics simple, I’m going to take it as read that the private option confers a benefit on the individual child concerned, and does not involve an individual detriment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.