The philosopher Plato once stated that “there shall be compulsory education, as the saying is, of all and sundry, as far this is possible; and the pupils shall be regarded as belonging to the state rather than to their parents…”. Plato makes in interesting point and the underlying principle (good education for everyone) is commendable, Plato makes a serious yet common error when he claims that the student belongs to the state.

Communism demands the reverse.

Granted, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and contemporary North Korea have all followed Plato’s ideal of the student (and to varying degrees, the individual) as property of the state. However, as has been repeatedly stated throughout this blog, those countries have merely disguised themselves as Communist states, while in reality functioning as semi-Socialist dictatorships. Communism requires the opposite. The public does not belong to the state- the state belongs to the public. The same goes for the education of students.

Now this might seem like a slightly abstract concept, after all, “public schools” are schools that belong to, and are funded by, the state. What then is the difference between Marxism’s “public education” and our contemporary “public school system”? The answer is simple: the presence of private schools. In the US, we have private property, state property, and public property. The mere presence of public property does not mean that we live in a Marxist system where all property belongs to the public. The same is true for education. Do we have public education? Yes. Does that mean everyone has access to public education? Yes. Do we have private education? Yes. Does everyone have access to private education? Absolutely not.

“So what’s the issue?”, one might wonder, “Everyone has access to a basic level of education no matter what they’re social standing is!”. That’s true, however, one must remember the emphasis on the word basic. Like most things in life, the cheaper something is, the less quality it has. A decent private school can charge and exorbitant fee in exchange for offering an excellent level of education. More money, more profit, more supplies, more (and better) teachers, and so on. Public schools are, quite simply, low quality, and in a world where education determines one’s career, quality is everything. Take the examples of Mr. Hammer and Miss Sickle.

Mr. Hammer is born into a moderately wealthy family. As a child he has the best education private schools have to offer- well funded and well trained athletic teams, a school library excellently stocked, motivated, intelligent teachers, and so on. Coming from such a brilliant school and having high grades (and still wealthy parents), getting into a prestigious (and very expensive) college is easy. After completing college, Mr. Hammer is able to get an exciting and high-paying job (which will eventually make him wealthy and allow him to send his children to a good private school, starting the cycle all over again).

Miss Sickle, however, is born to the lower classes. Her family cannot afford to send her to anything other than public school. She studies hard and does decently and even manages to get herself a few scholarships however she never able to reach her full potential (Miss Sickle being interested in chemistry and the best her school has to offer in that field is a poster of the periodic table and a few vials of ammonium). As a result, Miss Sickle is unable to gain access to any decent college and having never attained a university degree, spends the rest of her life working as waitress in a roach-infested diner.

Did Miss Sickle commit some kind of crime to deserve a life of carrying plates from one side of a room to the other? Was she somehow not as hard of a worker as Mr. Hammer was? Is she somehow to blame for the way her life turned out? Of course not. Miss Sickle was born poor and didn’t happen to be enough of a genius to get into a decent college free. And what about Mr. Hammer? Did he, as a six year old, toil long hours to pay his way through the first grade? Was he somehow a “better” person and more deserving of a higher education? Again, no. Mr. Hammer was born to the wealthy and because of that, managed to get ahead in life. He didn’t work harder than Miss Sickle- if anything, he probably had it easier. Where’s the justice in any of this? Two people work with the same amount of effort and have the same levels of intelligence and yet one becomes a millionaire and the other lives off of tips and minimum wage. Imagine if we applied this system- our education system- to the Olympic games. In a race, all the athletes are lined up side-by-side. The gold goes to the contestant who is- in all simplicity the fastest runner. Now imagine if we had the Olympic games in the same way we have our education system. Some runners would be, at the beginning of the race, hundreds of feet in front of the regular starting line and others would have to start hundreds of feet behind. Those behind are forced to run almost three times as fast as the runners up ahead. Yes, they can run that far- but keep in mind, there are only so many medals. Would that be an event people would watch? Would it be called a fair game? No, people would call it a travesty! Why then do we accept an education system where people don’t lose gold, but the very quality of their lives?

An advocate of Capitalism might argue that life just isn’t fair- that the world’s a jungle where the only fittest survive to pass their genes (or wealth) on. If that’s true, then why would the same people prosecute a thief for stealing someone’s wallet? Surely the thief was more “fit” than the person who lost his wallet- isn’t the thief simply being a good Capitalist by gaining money with little or no cost to himself in time, effort, and resources? This would be as ridiculous as an Olympic race where one contestant wins by shooting his competitors in the knees.

“So what’s the solution?” a person might ask, “Are we to penalize the children of the wealthy by lowering their quality of education until it’s on the same level as the poorest person in the country?”. Of course not. What Marxism calls for is a single system of education where anyone can get the education of his choice, not the choice of his parent’s bank account. Does this mean every school would teach the same things out of the same textbooks? Not at all. If anything, diversity would be encouraged. If one school wishes to take a certain perspective on life and a different school wishes to teach a different view, then they should be allowed it. The student gets to choose which he prefers and, provided he pulls his own weight in society, may study for as long as he chooses. Imagine every individual given an opportunity to have the highest quality education free of charge! Imagine what society would be like if everyone had the option to attain an extra four years of college without having to worry about affording it! Imagine a world where the education system belongs to the students, instead of the students belonging to the education system!

Perhaps Ali Ibn Abu-Talib said it best; “There is no wealth like knowledge; no poverty like ignorance…”

4 Responses to “[R]education”

  1. June 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    “What Marxism calls for is a single system of education where anyone can get the education of his choice, not the choice of his parent’s bank account.”

    You’ve offered the hypothetical case of Mr. Hammer and Miss Sickle for us to consider. I’d lke to ask you about the non-hypothetical case of my daughter, because I wonder how this statement of yours that I have just quoted could be made to apply to her situation.

    My wife is from Thailand and I am from the United States. My wife and daughter bounce back and forth between the two countries while I am here in Afghanistan. My daughter has Thai friends and attends a Thai school when in Thailand, and she has American friends and attends an American school when in America. She is growing up in two cultures, perfectly in parallel. Obviously, she speaks both languages. But she is also being schooled in two different outlooks, two different ways of life. This is a richer education than her friends in either country will ever receive, no way around it.

    It gets worse. It so happens I like books, and I have amassed an exceptionally good library of great literature. I know Marxism forbids private property, but no one else is particularly interested in these books, so they are housed with me. Even without Marxism, anyone is welcome to come read them any time, borrow them, sit in my library and study, and so on. I try to encourage that, in fact. This is probably as close to a Marxist arrangement as we can get without actually removing the books from my care, which would be bad for the books and would make me sad– may as well let me be their caretaker.

    Now, since I am caretaker of the books and I deeply enjoy reading them, my daughter is exposed to them more often and with greater intensity than other children. Simply as a consequence of being my daughter, she is going to read better books than the other kids. It is impossible that it could be otherwise without imposing monstrous restrictions on individual freedom. Once again, my daughter will have a richer education than her peers.

    How do we get this single system idea to apply in her case? It seems she is destined for a better education no matter what we do.

    • 2 trotskyite
      June 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm

      Oddly enough, I had an education very similar to that of your daughter and my family also kept a large number of books.

      What I must stress here is that the purpose of the Marxist system of education isn’t to make sure everyone’s efforts and outcomes are the same, it’s merely a way of ensuring everyone has an equal footing at the beginning. By giving everyone the best education available, how well the individual does and how far he advances is determined by the individual alone. Just as it would be ridiculous to have a race where every competitor starts at a different point, it would be laughable to have every competitor finish at the same time. Personal freedom is the key here.

      As for your books, yes Marxism does call for the abolition of private property however there are limits. Even in the most hardcore Communist society, I doubt that anyone would be called subversive for not putting his or her toothbrush to public use. While there would probably be an emphasis on libraries, I doubt anyone would be hurt if books were “owned” privately (provided, of course, that upon the owner’s death, the books be donated to a public library not so much because we can’t have private property, but because inheritance is generally forbidden in most interpretations of Marx).

  2. July 1, 2009 at 2:26 am

    “(I)t’s merely a way of ensuring everyone has an equal footing at the beginning. By giving everyone the best education available, how well the individual does and how far he advances is determined by the individual alone.”

    But that’s what I’m saying– my daughter has a better education, due to no particular efforts of her own. The effects are like that of having some people go to better schools than others. Unless we are going to have everybody grow up in two countries and have sizeable personal stocks of books, then some will get better educations than others.

  3. 4 trotskyite
    July 1, 2009 at 2:44 am

    Some difference in the extent of education due to experience is inevitable- no matter what the political system.

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