[Marxism] good essay on education
gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat Jul 9 18:19:01 MDT 2011
It is unfortunate that this debate has turned sour. I am learning so much
from it. I have already put myself on record as admiring the Foster piece.
I hope to get to meet hm when he comes to Melbourne later this year.
Manuel's post I also thought a superb piece of thought provocation. I will
get around to Leonardo's post later this week.
I wonder though if we are using the same categories at times. What does
Manuel understand by post modernist thinking? To my mind it is a recycling
of the Nietzschean project and has nothing what so ever to do with political
You can see this very clearly in a critique of education in the former penal
colony of Palm Island of the coast of Queensland. The article is
'em down: Education on Palm Island under Queensland's Aboriginal Acts.
History of Education Review, 23 (1), 1-18. Vick, M.J. (1994).
It is a very interesting piece but it seems to be fascinated by the metaphor
of the panopticon in its preoccupation with surveillance. To be fair they
also note the destruction of Aboriginal culture. But for me like much post-
modernism thinking their concentration on surveillance is linked not to an
understanding of the class relations underlying Indigenous education but
rather notions of the will to power. So they can only think an escape from
surveillance in the light of some return to a pre-modernity. Disciples of
Foucault in other words cannot see an exit from power because they do not
distinguish between power as agency and power as domination and
To return to the Foster piece, what I particularly valued about it was that
it provided a much needed critique of the current reform phase in the
States. Australia too has set its system on the road to reform, and it
would appear to be locked into a softer version of the test and punish
model. It remains however an open question whether Australia can find a path
which does not replicate the excesses of the American reform movement. For
what it is worth I see what is happening in American education to be another
instance of how the American ruling class has become the old sow that eats
her farrow. It is not in the interest of capital to destroy public
education, but then it is not in the interest of capital to have fire coming
out of water taps in Manhattan, either.
Capitalism needs an efficient education system that produces intelligent
flexible citizens/workers. But there is a contradiction here between the
categories of citizen and that of worker. The former needs access to an
uncircumscribed consciousness and the latter has to be socialised. Within
that contradiction lies the possibility of the development of what Rudolph
Bahro termed 'surplus consciousness'. The student may always learn more
than what the boss thinks he should. Radical educators should strive to
build surplus consciousness including their own. The educator must be
educated after all.
There are other issues that Manuel has raised that I would like to take up
in another post, specifically the role of teachers. I am wondering Manuel
is inclined to a libertarian, deschooling position in some of his thinking.
Granted that Foster for polemical reasons seems to me ignore the
socialisation role that teachers play. One has only to read the Aboriginal
Elder Uncle Albert Holt's account in his autobiography of when he was
State School in the late 1940s to get an idea of the role that teachers can
(Holt, A. (2001). *Forcibly Removed*. Broome: Magabala Books.
He describes the teacher asking the students what they hunted for at the
weekend and whether they ate “a filthy goanna Uncle Albert was not allowed
to attend the local Murgon State High as the school was not open to
My final comment because work is again closing around me, is that Taylorism
in the form of Engelmann's Direct Instruction has surfaced in Australian
education through the work of the new Indigenous Right - Noel Pearson and
Marcia Langton. But more of that later.
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