1980s >> 1989 >> no-1022-october-1989

Cooking the Books

Pat a cake, pat a cake, Baker’s man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Prick it, and pat it, and mark it with
. . . E for Education? or Exploitation?

“Children at infant schools in England and Wales will be expected to study marketing skills and profit-making under radical proposals for design and technology teaching to be implemented by the Government next year,” says a report in the Guardian (21 June) by its Education Editor.

Proposals drawn up by a working party as part of the new national curriculum include teaching children to become computer literate from the start of infant classes, and their becoming able to devise their own computer programmes by the age of eleven. The Guardian report continues: “Design and technological activities should cover a broad range of contexts— home, school, recreation, community, business and industry”. Given this context.

  considerations such as client and consumer satisfaction, the importance of quality, added value, business structures, serviceability of products, market size, environmental impact, finance and deadlines can all arise naturally. At the same time, work-related activities can foster and demonstrate the value of personal qualities such as the ability to work constructively with others, a spirit of enterprise (taking initiatives and risks, seeing opportunities, identifying needs), self-discipline. persistence in the face of difficulties and a sense of responsibility.

Lady Parkes. who chaired the working party, said. “The aim of our proposals for design and technology is to prepare pupils to meet the needs of the 21st century.”

Since the prevailing ideas in society are those of the ruling class, it certainty makes both political and economic sense to “catch ’em young”. The Jesuit maxim, “give me a child until the age of seven and it is mine for life,” seems very applicable here. However, the proposals, designed to ensure that by the age of seven children should be aware that goods and services were designed and made, distributed, bought and sold: that resources were not infinite; and that some technological solutions could damage the environment; and that the “brightest” children should understand the role of advertising and the need to make choices about resources like materials and time, are not designed to turn children into little capitalists, but into supporters of capitalism. To be capitalists they would have to be born into the minority class who own the means of production. The majority of them belong to the working class, the vast majority who have to sell their labour power in order to exist.

Although capitalism is a world-wide social system, by its very nature capitalists are in competition with each other. Whilst the working class may believe, as capitalism has taught them, that the minority ruling class owe their superior position to greater intelligence, business acumen, or some god-given right, in reality capitalism is run for capitalists by the skill and abilities of the majority, the working class. In order that capitalists in particular economic units, or countries, should not surrender their competitive edge to their rivals, it is important that they endeavour to ensure that their workers are trained in the necessary skills which will result in increased productivity of their labour.

Repressing Personality
Pupils would “thus begin to appreciate the challenges of a career in this field”, translates as these future workers will not stop to question the alternative to spending their lives being economically exploited by a minority class. A recent survey by Incomes Data Services examined the recruitment methods of six large organizations, including Jaguar Cars and Vauxhall Motors. It detailed the changes in recruitment procedures that are now likely to confront those seeking manual jobs, including personality tests, which were previously associated with managerial recruitment.

  These tests are often designed not just to measure skills and aptitude for the the required tasks but also to assess whether a person is able to work in a team, show initiative, and in some cases adopt the organization’s philosophy or ‘culture’. At the same time work-related activities can foster personal qualities such as the ability to work constructively with others, self-discipline and a sense of social responsibility.

Translated, this means not rocking the boat, not being industrially militant, and not querying the stupidity of a system that produces for profit, not for need, whose economic exploitation of the majority overrides all other, human considerations.

The capitalist class is determined to hang on to its monopoly of political and economic power. The weapon of no work, no eat, means that those trying to sell their labour power are expected to embrace the “philosophy and culture” of their prospective masters. Being a member of the working class means having to spend your life repressing your personality in order to meet some employer’s criteria of a pliable, compliant worker. This process begins in the infant school.

Are your children being educated, or merely trained to meet the demands of a class system whose sole aim is the accumulation of more and more capital. If you and your children want to fulfil your full potential as human beings it’s never too late to learn. It’s not too late to learn about Socialism, the only alternative to the repressive system of capitalism. Within a classless, moneyless, wageless, stateless, leaderless society people will develop their skills and abilities both for personal satisfaction and to benefit everyone. Education will become an on-going life experience, not just something to enable you to get a job and spend the rest of your life subservient to the capitalist class. Prick it, and pat it, and mark it with F . . . for Freedom.

Dave Coggan