I work in education primarily, both secondary and post-secondary. I have been taking MOOCs on the development of education and looking at educational leadership. I have no illusions about student success and accountability, nor do I accept the common that it would have to be this way: schools have a limited function and that limited function can dramatically change a student’s life as long as one is honest about what one is up against sociologically: The debates between unions and reformers often do not get into this, and often have “dialectical” and no-so-dialectical contradictions: calls for more differentiation and increasingly rigid standardized tests, calls for more project-based learning and increasing monitored standardized tests, calls for “better teachers” while also setting the de-professionalization of the field of teaching.
I want to work in this despite knowing this, but while I am advocate of “learning for all” and looking at sociology and education. I think the works of Professor James Gee and Professor David Blacker have got me looking at what Marx would say here. Far from being an advocate of a state monopoly on education, Marx distrusted it utterly. You can see this in his Critique of the Gotha Program,
“Equal elementary education”? What idea lies behind these words? Is it believed that in present-day society (and it is only with this one has to deal) education can be equal for all classes? Or is it demanded that the upper classes also shall be compulsorily reduced to the modicum of education — the elementary school — that alone is compatible with the economic conditions not only of the wage-workers but of the peasants as well?
“Universal compulsory school attendance. Free instruction.” The former exists even in Germany, the second in Switzerland and in the United States in the case of elementary schools. If in some states of the latter country higher education institutions are also “free”, that only means in fact defraying the cost of education of the upper classes from the general tax receipts. Incidentally, the same holds good for “free administration of justice” demanded under A, 5. The administration of criminal justice is to be had free everywhere; that of civil justice is concerned almost exclusively with conflicts over property and hence affects almost exclusively the possessing classes. Are they to carry on their litigation at the expense of the national coffers?
This paragraph on the schools should at least have demanded technical schools (theoretical and practical) in combination with the elementary school.
“Elementary education by the state” is altogether objectionable. Defining by a general law the expenditures on the elementary schools, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the branches of instruction, etc., and, as is done in the United States, supervising the fulfillment of these legal specifications by state inspectors, is a very different thing from appointing the state as the educator of the people! Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school. Particularly, indeed, in the Prusso-German Empire (and one should not take refuge in the rotten subterfuge that one is speaking of a “state of the future”; we have seen how matters stand in this respect) the state has need, on the contrary, of a very stern education by the people.
But the whole program, for all its democratic clang, is tainted through and through by the Lassallean sect’s servile belief in the state, or, what is no better, by a democratic belief in miracles; or rather it is a compromise between these two kinds of belief in miracles, both equally remote from socialism.
In that regard, I am skeptical of both the traditional classroom (and many of the otherwise well-meaning defenses of it by Teacher’s Union) as well as reforms based solely on charters, school choice, accountability, etc. I believe in accountability–recall a school board when they fail. I trust accreditation agencies more than I trust the state to do this as I also trust the ability of local pressure to be put on a school board to which the federal government is immune. The federal government will respond to Bill Gates–and his economist studies which are highly selective in disaggregating their data–because that is who can have influence on the state. Now as cynical as many of these right-wing reformers are in their rejection of the Common Core (as they set beside and let NLCB happen), this means that a Marxian view of current situation would lead to one to support–in the immediate future–localization and community autonomy.