Are The Teachers Learning?

 At the time of writing the school teachers are claiming some measure of public interest over their attitude to the Government’s Superannuation policy.

 The general public have, of course, always known of the existence of teachers: all of them, to a greater or lesser degree have at some time come under their influence while many are hoping that their son or daughter will eventually step into the profession. Nevertheless, perhaps the vast majority of teachers are a “race apart” and when the subject of schools and schoolteachers comes up during a conversation at the “local” or at the factory it is generally held that teachers have nothing to grumble about, being well paid and having more leisure time than the average worker in industry.

Perhaps therefore we should enquire into the business of teachers and teaching more closely before coming to over hasty opinions.

 The first thing we would discover would be that every form of society had its teachers; secondly, the pedagogue was invariably an important (perhaps the most important) servant of the ruling class in any given society. This is not at all difficult to realise when we follow the role of the teacher back through history. Without bothering to go abroad or even back to the pre-mediaeval times when the teacher included in his “bag of tools” such attributes as doctor, priest, musician and prophet, we can glean sufficient, merely from a study of teaching craft from the time of the Norman Conquest.

 The early teachers were the monks of the church, the school buildings, the Monastic houses, the curriculum one that fitted its pupils to become wise in the affairs of State and Church and also to teach the peasantry the humility necessary for the preservation of their lords spiritually and earthly.

 With the growth of trade, through colonization, the teacher was again necessary to instill sufficient skill into the heads of those who served in the business houses and later the factories which were the new forms of wealth production for the ruling class. The “Industrial Revolution” gave a boost to the spread of so-called popular, universal education. So much so that one, Robert Lowe., expressed on behalf of many of his friends, that there was a danger that they may be “educating their future masters!” This, of course, has not materialized.

 Now-a-days, education is more important than ever; in a world with its science and pseudo-science, a world wherein newspapers count their copies in millions; in which bureaucracy requires the filling-in of forms and documents by the tens of millions, the worker must be provided with at least the minimum education. Educationists, of course, have not wholly agreed on the purpose and aim of education. Some claim that it should be vocational, others that it is the creation of the aesthetic, others that its aim is to instill a sense of citizenship and to create “harmonious development.”

 The teacher has to serve as ever. His job is to turn out the product required whether as hewers of wood and drawers of water or nuclear physicists. Both are vitally necessary to the profit system.

 At the moment teachers, a long suffering rather servile group, are stirring. Their present living standards are threatened. They, like most others, see this as an injustice and so it is. When will they learn from history the plain fact that in serving their lords and masters as they have for centuries, they have always been servile! Perhaps more so, since they have been more blind than many to the true nature of their position. They have traditionally thought of themselves as being members of a mythical Middle Class; a kind of élite and have tended to weave a cocoon of academic aloofness around themselves. They are still monastic-minded. When they realise that there as just two classes in society, an owning class and a class that lives by the sale of its labour power, and that they belong to the latter, then perhaps they will draw closer to the broader working class. They may, in time, reach the stage when they will attain the education that Squire Brown spoke of—”that which is learned after you have forgotten what you learned at school.” They may begin to realise that Socialism which can only come about by the joint effort of all sections of the working class, is the only way out of wars and crises. Those who have so dutifully, so well, and for so long, taught others, will have educated themselves.   

W. Brain