[Marxism] Re: The hijab controversy

Jose G. Perez elgusanorojo at bellsouth.net
Mon Feb 16 22:27:22 MST 2004


Marvin Gandall writes:
>>It seems apparent from the quote cited above by Jose that Marx
distinguished between the Prussian and other embryonic European school
systems, which were run from the top down by state bureaucrats, and the
American system, where control over the curriculum and other matters was
vested in publicly-elected school boards. In neither case, however, does
Marx oppose the principle of public control over funding, teaching
qualifications, and the organization of the school system, which, he
notes, is "a very different thing from appointing the state as the
educator of the people".<<

I think we should remember that Marx was writing in 1875. How much he
knew about what was actually happening on the ground in the United
States, even then, on a subject like the curriculum  of local schools is
open to question. Most likely what he knew about it was based on de
Tocqueville and derivative works, with its emphasis on New England
townships where there was relative social equality and very muted class
conflict within those communities. He was also undoubtedly aware of the
post-civil war establishment of free, universal, locally controlled
public education by progressive reconstruction governments in the South.

I don't think that has anything much to do with the situation in
imperialist countries *today* and certain not in the United States. I
don't think it is a matter that boards of education are still elected
locally now as they were then, for they have become subordinated to the
overall bourgeois state apparatus. Moreover, U.S. society is nowhere
like what those New England townships were like then. U.S. boards of
education today are clearly a part of the state apparatus of the
reactionary imperialist bourgeoisie, electoral forms notwithstanding.
Leaving aside the degree to which the counterposition of the "American"
to the "European" educational system was valid then, it is clear that
this is no longer valid today.

This doesn't mean, of course, that struggles by working people and
especially the nationally oppressed for locally elected school
authorities, or electoral procedures giving them greater leverage over
the local board, should be shunned.  On the contrary these go in the
direction of recognizing that it is the state that is in need of an
"education" by the working people.

Today in the United States there is a strong movement by the central
government to strengthen its control over the content of education at
every level. This is evident in the Clinton-era and now Bush regime
initiatives in this field. What is involved, as I see it, is
re-enforcing bourgeois political and ideological hegemony and social
control. The ruling class is far from unanimous on this, however, and
especially those sectors tied to the high-tech industry are against it.
That because the scientific thinking, questioning attitude and
creativity you need to promote to create world-class scientists,
engineers and so on is at odds with the kind of education you want to
impose on poor Black and Latino kids so that they learn to stay in their
place.

José





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