50 Years Ago: A Working Man’s Education

It is difficult to see what connection the present “Education” Bill or the outcry regarding it has with education itself. Indeed, the frothy struggle for religious domination almost completely obscures the really important matter beneath.

Most people do not distinguish between education proper and the mere imparting of information, but the distinction is vital. To educate is not to merely pack the brain with facts or cut and dried formulae, but is to bring out the powers of the mind, to train the faculties for the reception and use of life’s present experience and of the knowledge handed down from the past; to prepare the mind for the first-hand gathering of knowledge, and the co-ordination and right use of it.

To fill children’s minds with facts and dead formulae whose inner significance is not understood may make excellent parrots, but cannot make thinkers. Such a procedure causes a one-sided, mechanical development, and leads to a taste for snippety bits. It does not enable the mind to draw useful knowledge from the facts of life; it brings about an incapacity for sustained and logical thinking, and creates a habit of mind that is eagerly receptive of superficials, but in no wise creative.

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Naturally . . . we find that the quality of the worker’s instruction is traceable to the demands of the prevailing methods of wealth production. There is no necessity to the Capitalist of a mass of fully-educated, original-minded and high-spirited men as wage-slaves; they would be in the way, and far too costly. The necessities of the day demand workers who are mechanical one-sidedly developed, and eminently submissive. It is necessary to the Capitalist, not only that the workers be not taught things which may injure his domination, but also that they be trained so far and no farther; that they be disciplined in routine work, and fitted with just sufficient knowledge to do the worker’s work cheaply and fairly efficiently.

(From the Socialist Standard, July, 1906)

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