Why We Are Educated

Our position justified by the Enemy

We have often been asked if we are in favour of a higher system of education, and the raising of the age at which children may leave school. Our reply has invariably been that it is a fatuous policy to advocate any such measures while the workers are so impotent in the administration of affairs as they must be while their masters control the political machinery.

We have eonsistently pointed out that those who, like the British Socialist Party and the Independent Labour Party, continue to advocate the ruining of the school age to 16 years, and the adoption of a higher standard of education, are utterly wasting their time and energy, and what is worse from the revolutionary point of view, are obscuring the real issue, i.e., the fight of the working class for the conquest of political power, in order to achieve their economic emancipation by the establishment of Socialism.

That our attitude toward this question has been justified is abundantly proved by the very significant statements of Lord Crewe and Lord Haldane at the Eighty Club on April 4th of the present year.

Speaking of the half-time system Lord Crewe said it “possesses a desperate ill-name in this country, but I do not think it can be disputed that there are certain cases, certain parts of the country and certain types of individual life in which what is even more important than the maintenance of full-time elementary education is the definite continuance of education to an age considerably greater than the law makes compulsory.”

The half time system “possesses a desperate ill-name in this country,” and there the matter ends as far as our nonchalant Government is concerned. No statement is made as to its elimination, or even foreshadowing the reduction of the number of half-timers. All we get is a hint, not so much that the age at which full-time children will be allowed to leave school is likely to be raised “in certain parts of the country,” as that the Bournville policy of compelling children to attend evening schools when starting work is to be adopted.

But why the ominous qualification, “some parts of the country” ? Is it because the children of the working class in some districts are not deserving of a higher education ? or because of an insufficiency of brain power to enable them to retain the knowledge imparted to them by the teacher ? Or is it—but let Lord Haldane reply.

He said upon the same occasion : “It is not that we were not making progress, but that the new organisation of society, of finance and industry, is pressing us into competition with other nations, such as we have never had to face before.”

This is the key to the whole situation. The capitalist class do not provide education “at great expense” for the children of the workers simply because they wish them to become more intelligent, but for the sole reason that the increasing development of commercialism, of finance, and of industry in general necessitates an ever-increasing army of comparatively highly educated wage workers, whose education has to increase and keep pace with the advancing knowledge of the working class in other countries, in order that the capitalist class in this country may effectually compete with their foreign competitors for the markets of the world.

This explains completely why the children of the workers are to he blessed with a higher education in “some, parts of the country” than in others, in London and the other commercial and financial centres the age at which children may leave school must be raised, or some other method of attaining a higher educational standard be adopted, while in other parts, presumably the mining and cotton manufacturing districts (and possibly in agricultural districts also), where the bulk of industry requires a comparatively slight education, the half time system can continue.

“But the real secret of success,” continued the Lord Chancellor. “lies not with the owners of capital.” (Of course not.) Therefore “we must raise the general educational level of the whole country.”

“In these days of science, of the organisation of capital and the competition among all nations for the first place, how are we to keep this position ? By science, by organisation, by training people in science and organisation.”

The working class, then, are to be trained in science and the organisation of capital (which, the working class never own) so as to enable them to retain the supremacy of British commerce in the interest of the capitalist class of this country.

The “higher elementary” stage is to-day voluntary, and comparatively few of the children pass through this, as the poverty of the parents compels them to withdraw their youngsters from school as soon as they reach the age of 14 and send them out as “industrial machines” in order to augment the meagre income of the family.

At the same meeting Lord Crewe declared that “unless we have the nation at our backs we cannot make headway.” The “Daily News and Leader” administers a rebuke to Lord Haldane for trying to win “national sympathy” for education by telling “the nation that education is good business; that it will help us in the world’s competition markets.” The “Daily News and Leader” has a different way from that of telling the truth, and in orthodox Nonconformist style says, “education should be conceived as part of the machinery of equal opportunity, the purpose of which is to enable men to rise out of one social class into another.”

Lord Haldane, however, knew that such pitiful drivel would have no effect upon the members of the Eighty Club, composed, as it is, of the shining lights of the master class—many of them millionaires. When the plunderers are addressing their own class “truth must out,” but to obtain the support of the working class, who have the power, as soon as they have the intelligence, to remove their masters from the political offices they hold, then the purpose of education is to enable the workers to lift themselves into the class above them, in. other words, to become capitalists !

A most beautiful dream, this, but one that develops into a nightmare as the facts become clearer.

The children who pass through the “higher elementary” schools are to day sometimes able to command a better wage than their more unfortunate schoolmates, who, through the poverty of their parents, have to leave school two or three years earlier. But the increased competition for the situations that necessitate a better education that will assuredly follow from the adoption of the system of compulsory higher education will have the effect of reducing wages in these professions, and so enable the capitalist to obtain even greater profit at the expense of the workers.

The capitalists do not pay for education for the benefit of the worker’s children, and nothing would please them better, or be more to their advantage, than to be able to carry on their business with an ignorant working class. For this same education enables the Socialists to disseminate their views in literature amongst the working class, a method of propaganda that would have been impossible had not the advent of capitalism brought with it the necessity for an educated working class. In this respect, as in many others, the “capitalist class produce their own gravediggers.”

And now our masters have also become suddenly enamoured with the idea of improving the physical conditions of the children. But the same material interests dominate their actions in this direction as it does in all others.

“What a bad bargain we are making,” cried Lord Crewe, “in allowing children not properly furnished physically to attend schools which are bet up at great expense to the country” (read capitalist class). “Such children are not being trained into useful citizens and useful industrial machines and you are educating at great expense a child which in a very short time will become entitled to the medical and sanitarium benefit of the insurance scheme.”

And there you have it. The worker’s children are now to receive physical training, which has hitherto been almost entirely ignored, not that they may enjoy a better physique and better health in after life, but that the physical trainIng they will receive when young will have the effect of producing better and more profitable “industrial machines,” and be the means of keeping them off the State Insurance funds.

We know that whatever “education” the workers’ children receive in future will be the same as they have received in the past—just that amount that is necessary for the capitalist class to carry on their business lor profit.

The real education of the working class, the knowledge that will raise them from their degrading class position, will be taught only by the Socialist Party.


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