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Vol. 75/No. 22      June 6, 2011

The Working Class and the
Transformation of Learning

As volunteers in the Militant Army join with teachers and other workers in actions against layoffs and antilabor assaults, we should remember that these are defensive battles to protect our class from being torn apart by the employers and their government—not steps toward the transformation of education.

Class-conscious workers don’t fall into the trap set by the teachers union officialdom of lending political credence or support to the bloated bureaucracy of public “education” under capitalism. We have no stake in defending or demanding the restoration of many school programs that are of no value whatsoever to working people. Nor do we share an iota of common ground with “Waiting for Superman”-style “education reformers” among the well-off professional and middle classes.

It’s worthwhile taking a look at The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism, a pamphlet by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. It’s one of four titles currently being offered by Militant Army volunteers together with an introductory subscription to the Militant (see ad on page 3)

“If we start where reformers and liberals throughout the capitalist world begin—with my children, my neighborhood, my schools, my problems—then we get nowhere,” Barnes says. “ … There is no universal education under capitalism; there is no such thing as education ‘for all.’ There is only ‘education’ for the working class, and a completely different kind of ‘education’ for the small propertied minority.

“If we do not explain education under capitalism as a class question (that is, from the standpoint of the bourgeoisie, two totally separate and unrelated questions for two different classes); if we do not present working-class schooling as the social destruction of human solidarity, as the organization of a society based on class differentiation, where human beings late in their teens become units of production in the minds of personnel managers and social planners; if we do not point to the fundamental issue of truly universal, lifetime education—if we cannot explain education this way, then we cannot explain it at all.

“But understood and explained correctly,” the SWP leader concludes, “there is no more important question for communists. Education as a lifetime experience—I cannot think of a better reason to make a socialist revolution. What better reason to get rid of the capitalist state, to begin transforming humanity, to begin building human solidarity? …

“I’ve been convinced for a long time that explaining the communist approach to education is part of preparing the working class for the greatest of all battles in the years ahead—the battle to throw off the self-image the rulers teach us, and to recognize that we are capable of taking power and organizing society, as we collectively educate ourselves and learn the exploiters in the process.”

-Steve Clark

Related articles:
Higher taxes or layoffs of teachers? A fake trade-off
Union officials deal blow to solidarity  
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