Opinions on schools is something almost everyone has, from having gone to school or sending a child to school to having friends and family work in them, we're all invested.
Not to mention opinions on recent debates about public and private funding or on the controversy of scripture and ethics in public schools.
It was so surprising though, even knowing the above, that at an outlier event I went to at the Newcastle Writers Festival titled 'Is our schooling system broken?' there were tears, yelling, and the most disgruntled audience I've ever seen in three years of attending the Novocastrian event.
Despite the host Professor John Fischetti's standout facilitation skills, the general murmuring, head shaking and then outright anger showed just how serious this conversation really is.
From a somewhat 'outsider's perspective', I suspect it is telling of two issues in education, namely a disconnect between policy and the coalface of teaching, and what we all know of course, that the teacher's job is far more valuable than they feel it is considered to be.
Though to set the scene helps contextualise this better. I had gone because this year an important little person in my life has started school, and has been warmly welcomed into a small and unique community.
Only eight weeks into kindergarten and it's been amazing to see a love of learning flourish.
This speaks volumes to the teachers and community of our local public school.
However, I've come away with a sense of unease at what was, from the outset, a mismatch in the two stories presented on stage, one being from a passionate teacher, Gabbie Stroud, who has left the profession, sitting next to the clearly intelligent and impressive Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott.
For all intents and purposes, from the outset it unfortunately seemed as if the state's representative was positioned defensively 'against' a teacher, a teacher who professed to have loved and dearly grieves the loss of her ability to teach in a system that she posited was broken, a position the audience seemed to viscerally agree with.
The dynamic that quickly gained momentum then was one of criticisms of a schooling system that Mark Scott had clearly no room to move with, and he had to defend policy the way a politician on Q&A has to toe their party line.
Quickly Scott started technocratic speak about 'innovation' and 'accountability' in defending Naplan and administration overloads on teachers, but this of course did not sit well with the audience.
Then when questions were asked from the floor, the session descended into a space for teachers to air their grievances to the Secretary - not a discussion of the topic in the program.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing of course, just very interesting from an outsider's perspective.
It does go to show, perhaps rather sadly, that the question of our school system being broken, is understood very differently by the two camps, policy makers and bureaucrats on one side and teachers on the other.
So Professor Fischetti's own expertise on transformations in school, and Scott's attempts to frame his contribution in the context of the bigger question of massive structural and technological changes happening in teaching and learning, were subsumed under the weight of the teachers' groans and pleas for a different conversation.
It is undeniably true we are on the edge of monumental social and cultural change, in large part because of a technological revolution of the internet, and schools are desperately playing catch up.
It does go to show, perhaps rather sadly, that the question of our school system being broken, is understood very differently by the two camps.
But it seems there are more pressing issues for teachers for now.
It's interesting because in many ways the same issues apply to universities where I work as politics lecturer.
The introduction of online learning, 'flipped' classrooms, and even including in this 'what is taught' as well as 'how it is taught' is all changing faster than education systems can seemingly respond and it is obviously uneasy times.
However, the bigger issues for Newcastle teachers in the room were terrible stories of management bullying, nepotism in the region and tears from men and women about their employment in specific schools.
What little this says then for what is surely at the heart of education - a respect for the importance of school for children and giving them every fair and equal opportunity to flourish.