We hear the words ‘White Flight’. It was raised again last week in the news.
In an interesting and challenging Helen Pitt article from the Sydney Morning Herald entitled 'More to school than good results' - has pondering of her own US experience of 'white flight' and wondered how it was displayed in Australia.
'White flight' in the US, Helen Pitt said is created by the taxation system. The example Helen Pitt gives are California schools which are funded by property taxes, so it follows that the bigger the homes, the more taxes you pay and the better your schools will be.
Helen Pitt explained it like this: So in our relatively middle class neighbourhood, some parents drove their children to more affluent areas on the other side of town, a phenomenon known across America as "white flight". The result, as Helen Pitt put it, killed community, there were fewer children walking to school or catching the big yellow school bus, it clogged our roads with cars at drop-off and pick-up time.
It is fair to say that the issue in America as hinted by Helen Pitt is
(a) more complex than property taxes;
(b) deeply ingrained in the historical ‘segregation’ issues that we do not understand, and does not happen here; and
(c) the school system is not only different in different states in the USA, but administered differently at each individual and local school district.
In Australia there are a multiplicity of school educators such as Catholic Education, Grammar Schools (Anglican), Baptist Schools, Independent Schools, Christian Schools, Jewish Schools, Muslim Schools, Boarding Schools, Home Schooling and others. In any Australian and provincial city you'll find such a variety of schools. Some parents will drive their children significant distances in order to satisfy their personal preferences and some schools offer substantial scholarships to ensure disadvantaged children might even attend their specific school.
In Australia there is certainly ‘flight of the intellectual classes’. It is a natural human reaction to want to be near people you admire, and have your kids taught at a place that values the same things you value. In this way, human behaviour in US and Australia is exactly the same – as it was when Elizabeth Macarthur and other early settlers sent their sons back to England for their education; and many Cockies still send their kids to boarding schools in the cities.
The State high 'selective school' system has bought an egalitarianism, in that for those children who are naturally very bright, the State based program can channels those children to schools that focus on higher learning. Many people see this as adding to the ‘intellectual flight’. In US and England, they are also setting up various systems of ‘magnet schools’ to attract kids of particular talents.
All schools also have active parental involvement. The Parents and Citizens (P&C) has a long history of engagement at State school level and are not only effective lobbyists for their schools, but often hold either the Government or the School Principals to account. Therefore it's the mix of P&C members and the individual school headmaster and his/her team who make a school an effective learning and social institution.
This is no different in any other country in the world, and works best where parents are well educated – doesn’t work well at some local schools in poorer areas, so therefore contributes to the ‘intellectual flight’ because parents want to be with parents who are similar to themselves.
Therefore the 'white flight' as described by Helen Pitt takes on a different flavour in Australia.
This poses a dilemma for all Australians especially those who take their Christian faith seriously. Jesus encouraged his followers to mix with everyone, even to the extent of throwing a party. You invite not only your friend but others who unable to return the favour.
Jesus tells His followers to be salt and light in their community, in order to add value and flavour to it. Further back in history when the Jews were in captivity in Babylon they were encouraged to seek the peace and welfare of that city. (Jeremiah 29).
Australians when considering these matters will inevitably face challenging decisions about their life style and parenting and future directions.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at