Preppy Prep Schools in Sydney’s Snore (North) Shore

I have had the unfortunate experience of being introduced to ‘Prep Schools’ in Sydney’s North Shore out of pure lack of choice for schooling due to our catchment area.

In the Snore Shore they are particularly popular with the English crowd and I suspect a similar schooling system takes place in the UK for perhaps the upper middle class. Whatever the socioeconomics of its origins, it has certainly taken on an aspirational and dare I say ‘white privilege’ connotation in Sydney. I know, I’m such a racist according to Pauline Hanson for calling out ‘White privilege’.

My first experience was with my daughter. It became very clear from the distancing of parents from me and my daughter that we were not welcomed at the school. Teachers were often very biased, and bullying was rife. Not that the teachers did anything about the bullying of course because the perpetrators’ parents sat on the P& C and donated heavily to the school building fund. I quickly took her out of the school to the more ‘normal’ experience of an out of area public school.

My second experience was with my son. The parents were a little friendlier at this school but most definitely aspirational and very good at fake corporate civility- a deft skill in Sydney’s Snore Shore given the number of finance corporate types. It also comes with the territory of aspiration and lifestyle.

This prep school did a bit more to encourage diversity and the large numbers of Indian and Chinese students certainly put on a good show of inclusion. But scratch the surface and the fake corporate civility remained. People didn’t go beyond outward displays of inclusion. Cliques with friends formed, cliques with parents formed and suddenly my son found himself with all the ethnics.

One particular boy in his group was a son of a well-known corporate person and a thug. This boy was aggressive and physical and apt to choke, hit, punch and lash out physically at boys when he didn’t get his way. His mother a blond type of the ‘I don’t spread my legs for less than $500K’ variety, was not that great with boundaries and discipline- no doubt that was the school’s problem not hers. When my son defended himself from this violent child who do you think got punished? Yes, my son. Because prep schools will always defend the powerful and in Australia power is represented by a white person. Yes, please call me racist for calling out white privilege. I’ll gladly wear that hat if it means I get the freedom of speech to tell my truth.

At this same school my son was the recipient of teachers picking on him and turning a blind eye when others were abusing and bullying him. His class teacher often ignored his attempts to participate in class and he was overlooked for much of his short (thank goodness) time at the school. If it had not been for me and my husband my son would be so academically behind in class despite the $17K we spent per year in his education there.

What erks me the most is the tokenism displayed at these schools. Holding international food markets as an attempt to be inclusive doesn’t quite get to the heart of bias and prejudice. Just because I have now included dumplings to my steak and three veg diet doesn’t make me a tolerant and respectful person to difference. Maybe workshops on examining your innate bias in everyday situations would be far more effective.

I know it could be far worse for me and my kids and I understand some progress has been made in the world, but we still hang onto archaic power structures of former colonial and imperial powers. This blog is all about being at the receiving end of those structures- it’s about being in the ‘out’ group, the group who is put down due to fear, threat and plain ignorance all stemming from white people needing to be on top. It hurts more when it’s your own children at the receiving end of  centuries old power structures. When I see white helicopter mothers with their neurotic anxiety over their albino boys, I sigh. I feel like saying to neurotic mother ‘take a chill pill love, he’s a white boy in a first world country.’ Look at Donald Trump, the red carpet will be laid out for him, bias will be in his favour and all he needs to do is learn to tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. My kids will just need to learn the virtues of maturity, resilience and affiliation with those who matter and ‘ hope’ that one day, their group will be on top.
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Handmaids Tale, Stepford Wives & Snoring

I live in Sydney’s North Shore , an area I now call ‘The Snore Shore’. It puts many noses out of joint when I label their beloved area of status, privilege and standing as the most boring part of Sydney. Worse than boring in my over 30 years of being well acquainted with the area, attending a private girls school and now living in the area, I have come to realise there is an insidious patriarchal racist conservatism at play in these parts.

Let me explain. When I attended high school there wasn’t much diversity. I was one of five girls who one would label ‘ethnic’. School was full of covert racism and bias.  The celebrity girls (daughters of well known politicians, tennis coaches etc) were automatically put on a pedestal, ended up with high university entrance scores due to doing a large number of ‘subjective’ subjects like English, History and the like and getting special treatment for a sudden onset of anorexia during the High School Certificate Exams. I would be invited home to these precious parcels’ abodes and parents would raise their eye brow and no doubt questions of my identity asked once I left. Needless to say there were no more ‘play dates’ after that.  I was the poor ethnic migrant. I should be taking a seat at the back of the bus. I had no right to be with these people. Think Pia Miranda in ‘Looking for Alibrandi’. I had to be smart to outwit the ones placed on the confidence pedestal , easy with a quip knowing full well their wit and whiteness would land them easily in professions like law if not by their own merit,  than by ‘daddy’s work connections.’

Worse for me was the apparent stupidity and complicity of these blond haired blue eyed wonders. They were to become wives for their private school boy counterparts. They were to become the Stepford Wives and Handmade’s Tale of male domination, where a man is seen as a ‘financial plan’  and the woman’s currency was her thinness and blondness that made for attractiveness that suited an ambitious male’s ‘lifestyle’ and would provide him with children and domestic servitude. He was in control at all times as the financial drip could be pulled at any time. The counter to this however was that a prime female, the ‘catch’, had her minimum requirements as well. Domestic abuse is tolerated as women in these parts don’t spread their legs for less than $500K. Here’s a related article on wives in guilded cages. Yes honestly, I’m not making things up! …https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/the-super-wealthy-wives-trapped-in-a-gilded-cage-20181107-p50eg3.html

If you don’t comply in this role the judgements and double standards come flying. The Stay At Home Mums and Working Mums war begins. The Whiteness vs Ethnicity bias quicks in.  As an ethnic, you suspend your authenticity in order to become one of the White Mum cliques. The ones with the ‘I don’t spread for less than $500K’ mantra look down on those poor heathens who don’t quite fit the patriarchal list of attractiveness and god forbid might actually have a brain and a career/profession. It’s a really judgy world one enters into and you may hasten to say that this post wreaks with judgment; well I’ve had many years of being at the receiving end of it.

Perhaps it’s the history of the area that has perpetuated this conservatism and patriarchal penchant. Historically, this was a place where legal, finance and banking people brought their families to and today there is a large number of people in the area employed in banking, finance and corporate.  The finance industry is traditionally conservative, very white male and attracts the hyper-capitalist. Money is their God and Christianity helps hide its vulgarities and offers Charity to ‘others or them’ relieving guilt. I wonder too how many of these men belong to secret men’s clubs like the Freemasons and the like? The man is the breadwinner and the woman attends to domestic duties. So hyper-capitalist stockbrokers and finance people see the leafy area with good train access and schools as an ‘investment’. Part of the portfolio, part of their ‘lifestyle’ and the Blond Stepford Wife, completes the feeling of status, wealth and privilege. Both genders playing their part in the hyper-capitalist lifestyle, both commodities to be traded with each other and children help to keep her trapped until she finally realises her prison, if that ever happens.

So why am I still here? At the end of the day the area is safe and I have children to educate and keep well until they are old enough to enter the world themselves. I’ll put up being the outsider and the snore boring conservatism of the place until my children are done with it. I will ‘use’ this area and trade on its benefits for my own family and partake in the capitalist ‘ What’s in it for me’ attitude. I will become one of them on the outside but forever sniggering at the entertainment it affords me.  A puppet show of pretense and fake corporate civility. Popcorn anyone?