[Marxism] good essay on education

Manuel Barrera mtomas3 at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 11 13:49:44 MDT 2011

Mark's point: "Serious change requires different priorities, new concerns, and these things aren't about theories of learning but about power."

Brad's reply: "And you can't teach people about power? I don't really understand your claims. . .but of course social learning isn't confined to the class room so every[body?] has the opportunity to make change.  I think educators have a very slightly greater capacity to do so though."

I couldn't agree more with Mark on his point (although I would say adequate theories of learning don't hurt; sorry, being an educator and researcher in this area requires me, at least professionally, to justify my existence:)) . 

And, although I can understand Brad's point, the logic that educators have a "slightly better capacity" to effect change leads antithetically away from a scientifi appraisal of the concept of education, which is to "bring light" (in the latinate literal sense") and, therefore, canNOT be about inculcation, but about illumination.  One should not confuse the concept of education with the social role that education plays in any society, but particularly in capitalist society; to maintain class relations and selectively prepare workers, bosses, and the privileged to maintain their respective places. Indeed, to make education truly about liberation, it can only begin with the overcoming of captialism OUTSIDE the "classroom" (classroom being a metaphor here for the education system). Power truly is the issue. 

However, saying that does not mean (as too many sectarians with whom I have had occasion to discuss it believe) that there is no role either for education and for educators in the struggle to overcome capitalism and the conception that this system is the "best of all possible worlds". Understanding the true nature of "the classroom" and its social role behooves revolutionary educators--teachers or researchers--to think strategically about what each of us must do in the seeming paradox of working within a system designed to maintain the social relations of the dominant society. Of course, we can, and do, work "outside" in the struggle for working class power, but we can also work "inside" but NEVER in the same way. Learners deserve and must have the ability to reflect effectively on their world and to understand it and their role within it ("illuminated"). This task requires not indoctrination either of capitalist thought or "working class" thought, but of the ability "read and write the world" with all the potential faculties learners may be able to build in the context of a distorted, pro-capitalist education system designed to keep most of "us" down and uplift only those privileged to be "on top". 

Of course, this kind of thinking and "skill development" works best in a democratic society in which the oppressed class holds the power, which is why we must struggle to end capitalism by any means necessary, including "reforming" education, which to me means creating ever greater spaces where learners can better reflect on the class nature of society and prepare them to be better at changing it  (and, yes, I believe those abilities are much more comprehensive inclusive of mathematics, science, and technical skill in addition to understanding history, politics, and the "basic skill" of literacy). But as many of us are wont to say about that term, reform is not reform if it isn't actually reforming. That is to say that if education maintains its role of indoctrination to the class in power it can never be claimed that "reform" ever took place. 

Finally, I can agree that education not only does not simply happen in the "classroom", more oftentimes than not it occurs most effectively outside it. But as Mark so briefly alluded, it helps to build one's "reading comprehension". 		 	   		  

More information about the Marxism mailing list