The divide between capitalists and workers, both politically and economically, is continuing to expand rapidly as we sink further into economic crisis.
Adding to the relative and absolute impoverishment of the working class in the material sense is the impoverishment of our minds. The most glaring example of our lack of class consciousness or of a Marxist understanding amongst Britain’s workers is all too apparent when we compare the prevailing social peace in the face of massive cuts in Britain with the dramatic fight-back that has been unfolding in the streets of Greece, Turkey and Spain in recent weeks and months. It is clear that we are suffering from a total malnourishment in theory and understanding.
The education of workers regarding the alternative to capitalism is hardly touched upon by our labour movement, and within the state schooling system it is conducted in no meaningful way whatsoever.
The education system works in tandem with the ‘justice’, media and religious establishments (to name but a few) to acclimatise us all to monotonous subordination and despair. The idea that another world is possible is never on the horizon. All of these institutions, it should be noted, are currently being removed from state control and placed into the hands of private owners in the hope that our parasitic ruling class can wring a few more drops of profit out of public institutions that have been bled white.
The purpose of schooling under capitalism is to train us for disciplined labour in the imperialist workforce – to instil us with the stamina to run on the hamster wheel of pointless employment (if we’re fortunate!) until we drop dead, or until we make it to some ever-receding ‘retirement’ age (assuming there will even be such a thing as a state pension by the time we make it to the age of 70!)
The modern curriculum seems to be saturated with mathematical equations whose usefulness is never made clear to us, with religious instruction that is utterly inane, and with repetitious emphasis on how to speak and spell ‘properly’ … even while we are given instruction in the works of William Shakespeare, who was famous for being the originator of so much English slang! How contradictory!
Our schools, and the whole grading and assessing system they buy into, teach us that we are only as good as the grades we receive on results day and the marks we are adjudged to have earned from our teachers. They teach us that the girl across the hall from you is better than you because the A* that she has received is better than your dismal C!
This is a system that inevitably benefits the bourgeoisie, and it is no coincidence that it does so. To earn your A* you must learn to be an excellent parrot – no individuality or criticism is permitted. Regurgitate your textbook onto your exam paper in order to demonstrate how Stalin killed all and sundry before brunch on an icy Russian winter’s morning. A* and place at university assured … along with access to a higher-paying job and a nicer level of life than might be open to some of your less fortunate friends.
But is the great Albert Einstein not proof that the current existing methods of assessment are incorrect, idealist and unfair? Poor old Albert was considered to be an ‘underachiever’ in school too!
Schools are not there to not teach us how to think critically, to pose alternative theories or to explore beyond the curriculum. Everyone has their own ways of thinking, their preferred learning strategies and their unique mix of abilities, yet we are taught, assessed and ranked through the same means.
The present exam system is a hegemonic ideological state apparatus enforced by the bourgeoisie. The whole purpose of exams is not to maintain standards but to ‘reward’ those with the right class background along with the most pliable working-class students with access to university places and jobs. It sets a pattern that is preparing us for our roles in society, all the while covertly teaching us to look down on people who earn less than we do because they must surely be ‘less intelligent’ or ‘less deserving’.
It’s important for us to realise that most people don’t get the grades they worked for so much as the grades their parents paid for. The entire public-school system is set up to make sure that A grades and access to Oxbridge are achieved as standard by anyone with a modicum of intelligence and pliability. Small class sizes, extra coaching, extra-curricular activities, internships, business and academic contacts and exam technique are all part of the package that ensure that the richest parents can expect their children to ‘achieve’ as expected.
To get the same grades as a state comp student requires far more discipline and motivation, especially if you come from a poor family where books and knowledge are not on tap at home and in which such attainment is not expected or planned for, either by your family or by your teachers. Yet still, to win this coveted prize requires students from all backgrounds to crush their critical faculties and teach themselves to become mouthpieces for the prevailing system – something that is far harder to do if your life experience is constantly teaching you that the system is not the ‘fair’, ‘democratic’ ‘meritocracy’ it pretends to be!
If schools endorsed the theories of Karl Marx, if they educated students on his revolutionary literature and explained the materialist conception of history, how quickly do we think the ‘great minds’ at the Department of Education would cry aloud that dictatorship and all the rest of it have long been done away with?
It is not that Marx’s theories are not relevant today or, as the bourgeoisie would have us believe, that ‘Marxism is dead’. Quite the opposite. The bourgeoisie are fully aware that his teachings are correct and that Marxism will never die while class society continues to exist. Indeed, they themselves desire to understand Marx’s ideas, the better to debunk them. Not a great house or public school in the country would be without complete without the works of Marx and Lenin on its shelves – but try finding them nowadays in your local library!
Unfortunately, all that working-class youth are likely to find on comprehensive or academy school shelves is Animal Farm, the objective of which is to hammer home that nonsensical view that ‘communism doesn’t work because everyone is naturally greedy and people won’t work together’. This ‘truth’ is handed down to us just 20 minutes before the next teacher tells us what a wonderful ‘Big Society’ we have in Britain, and how we all worked in common to bring understanding to the natives during the colonial era. What happy times.
Working-class youth needs to educate itself; to set its own programme and curriculum – one which reflects our life, our struggle and our conditions. Young people should educate themselves in the most advanced theory, Marxism Leninism. The CPGB-ML urges the youth of this nation to read the revolutionary and emancipating works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin so that they can prepare themselves to break out of the poverty and ignorance that has been assigned to them.
The youth of today is the wealth of tomorrow. Don’t let our school and our warped and class-ridden assessment system determine what you do with your life. Join the CPGB-ML, join Red Youth and be the change you want to see in the world. As Chairman Mao put it: “Dare to struggle; dare to win!” Or as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto 165 years ago: “Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”