1920s >> 1924 >> no-240-august-1924

Capitalist education

As the employer is only interested in the worker as a factor in production, as an economic category he is indifferent to all else about the worker save his cheapness, efficiency and docility. Anything that tends to weaken or decrease these qualities nature ally meets with the determined opposition of the Capitalist class, while all that makes the worker cheaper, more productive and more contented with his lot as a wage-slave is eagerly welcomed and actively supported.

Consider, in the light of these facts, the compulsory “education” to which all workers are subjected. It is a vital necessity of modern production and arises from two essential needs of the system : on the one hand the urgent call for a productive class able to read, write and calculate and with a general understanding of mechanical causation; on the other hand the necessity of this working class being trained in the ethics, economies and other ideas of the Capitalist.

A circular on education was recently drawn upm by that stronghold of English Capitalism—The Federation of British Industries—which holds in its company the wealthiest and most powerful of the bourgeoisie of the country.

Referring to this circular Mr. J. L. Paton, High Master of the Manchester Grammar School, said in his address on education to Manchester business men :—

“The Federation had suggested that all that was needed was a system of selection by which some children would go to industry and some would be ‘creamed off.’The Federation further said that to give further education, even part time, after the age of fourteen was a waste of money, and it strongly advised that in selecting children for higher education care should be taken (as in India) that higher education should not raise a large class of people whose education was unsuitable for the work they would eventually do.
They were, Mr. Paton commented, to be educated, in fact, as instruments of production ; the potter for his pots, the spinner for his cotton. The workman was a tool who happened to be animated” (Manchester Guardian, June 24th, 1924).

Mr. Paton went on to criticise the views of the F.B.I. and from the Capitalist point of view his remarks were quite to the point. Such a narrowly industrial view of the correct education for wage-workers is obsolete and even dangerous. It only takes into account the economic factors of cheapness and efficiency. But the other vital factor—the docility of the slave class—is of at least equal importance at all times and, in a period of rapid social change and turmoil, is perhaps even more valuable. Hence Mr. Paton—with, of course, much humanitarian garnish—says :—

“The Federation of British Industries had made up their minds, and they had made them up wrong. Here was a working man, unskilled perhaps; it was not necessary to be very well educated to do unskilled work. But he was a husband, and that was a skilled job, a father, a citizen, an Englishman, and a child of God.” (Ibid).

The worker then is to be given lessons in physiology to enable him to produce a strong, healthy progeny of slaves, Capitalist economics and sociology to make of him a contented “citizen” and upholder of the existing order, patriotic dope and distorted “history” to make him ready and willing to go to the bloody battlefield on behalf of the Capitalist State and last and in these days least, barbaric myths from the Ancient Hebrew to cloud his mind and turn his thoughts towards the imaginary world to come and away from the pressing ever present evils and problems here at hand and all around him.

R. W. H.

(Socialist Standard, August 1924)

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