The relationship between social background and achievement has preoccupied educational researchers since the mid-20th century with major studies in the area reaching prominence in the late 60s. Despite five decades of research and innovation since, recent studies using OECD data have shown that the relationship is strengthening rather than weakening. In this paper, the systematic destabilisation of public education in Australia is examined as a philosophical problem stemming from a fundamental shift in political orientation, where “choice” and “aspiration” work to promote and disguise survivalism. The problem for education however extends far deeper than the inequity in Federal government funding. Whilst this is a major problem, critical scrutiny must also focus on what states can do to turn back aspects of their own education policy that work to exacerbate and entrench social disadvantage.