Oh dear, the motto of Knox Grammar School is ‘Virgile Agitur’, which translates as ‘Doing the Manly Thing’. As the school is under the spotlight of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse those words take on an ominous ambiguity. The school is one of the privileged bastions of male-only education with righteous Christian overtones and bullying, chauvinistic culture which decorate the firmament of Sydney’s upper classes.
The very English model of these schools flourished in our secular sandy soil. In recent years they attached themselves limpet-like to the public purse, as aspiring nouveaux riches deserted the honourable public school system. To ensure that the fruits of their loins prosper in hothouses of networking and ‘values’ which parents somehow fail to inculcate themselves.
The Royal Commission is investigating sexual abuse of students by teachers from 1970 to 2012 (oh yeah!), and a culture of denial and cover-up by headmasters and staff worthy of the Catholic Church (theirs is Uniting). The long-serving headmaster Dr Patterson has admitted his connivance in failing to notify police, or take any disciplinary action, and protecting the school’s reputation above all. The hypocritical righteousness of these superior institutions makes my blood simmer!
The nefarious influence of same-sex schools on society has been canvassed before, and the evidence is accumulating. The headmaster himself is charged with handling the genitals of a visiting 16 year old actress performing in a school play in full view of the male student audience. The headmaster of another elite boys school was previously a Knox housemaster and did not follow up on reported sexual abuse going on under his nose. So to speak.
The lukewarm expression of shock and surprise by Peter Fitzsimons, a Knox Old Boy newspaper columnist who knew nothing of the shenanigans going on there is implausible denial. It only goes to show the misplaced loyalties and tribal indoctrination practised at the school, like others of its GPS ilk. ‘School spirit’ as Mitläufer or complicit fellow-traveler!
And for a classical allusion, the labours of Hercules would be needed to clean out these augean stables of bad school culture, which always close ranks against critics and outsiders.