[:en]Newspaper[:es]Periodico[:] International Education Special

Education – From the lights of reason to universal ignorance

Monday, 13 June 2011 22:36
“In the end the bourgeoisie has not the means or desire to offer the people a real education”

(Karl Marx. Texts on Education and Teaching)

The radical liberal Enlightenment project of the emerging bourgeois to universalize the culture and education is experiencing a historical crisis, and public school as his agent agonizes. The bourgeoisie project has failed on the attempt of educating the masses, and putting them in touch with the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity. The reasonable doubt is: Would it be possible that, in any time of the history, the bourgeoisie as the ruling class really wanted to universalize the access to education?

For the bourgeoisie, education was part of his project of build a more rational world – or rather, rational world- in opposing to obscurantism and cultural backwardness prior to the era of the bourgeois revolutions, especially the double revolution, the UK industrial and the French revolutions. This period of obscurantism and cultural backwardness refers to the heritage of feudalism.

Stating in this way, our history would be incomplete. We are missing some key characters to the development of our plot, such as the social movements – heirs of the French Jacobins – and the nascent labor movement. Proletarian and semi-proletarian social movements, urban masses of people supported by the radical petty bourgeois, in the French case; or in the labor movement in the UK case, played a key role in the struggle for universal and public education.

The pressure of the class struggle on one hand and the capitalist’s needs on the other made the bourgeoisie to tolerate the expansion of public education. The development and diversification of the economy brought new needs in a booming and increasingly diversified job market; new jobs demand new professionals with better skill qualifications, require more educated workers, in addition to improving the skills of civil servants in the state machinery. Bureaucrats, technicians, specialists and other professions will justify the expansion of public education, at least until the early twentieth century, during the “progressive and civilizing” stage of capitalism in the era of “unlimited” growth, ended with the First World War.

Until the 70s, the core countries of capitalism (USA and European countries), and even in some peripheral countries, education remained a state policy, being the private initiative somewhat marginal, except in the United States. It does not mean the ruling class’ good will, but above all because of class struggle.

Public education in Brazil

The Military dictatorship (1964-1984) did not expand the access to schools due to good intentions: it was necessary to serve the capitalist interests; the economic fast growing, the so called “Brazilian miracle”, demanded a growing supply of skilled and semi-skilled workers. Therefore, high school, in public schools, became vocational education centers with a record expansion, encouraged by the State.

The principle of this expanding access to education was very simple: a fast education to the broad masses and in some cases only rudimentary literacy, whose criteria to consider someone literate was to be able to read and write their own names, to incorporate them into the market work.

This allows us to make a startling conclusion: the neoliberal, and even the reformers during the Lula government (Lula – former President) and the PT (claimed to be a left wing party), in a sense, continued the “work” of the dictatorship: a fast education to the broad masses of the population and a complicity, mixed with many blessings, with the expansion of private schools in Brazil.

For the bourgeoisie, universal education is not a principle

Now we return to our plausible question. The bourgeoisie was compelled by the class struggle, by the organized social movements’ strength and, for some time, by the needs of their own capitalist economy, to create a universal education, to enable the broad masses of so called “lower classes” – saying to the workers’ children and even workers – access to state schools. Even denying, capitalists are obliged to confirm what Marx stated: the men make their own history under inherited conditions, as they can and not how they want, and this law also applies for the ruling classes.

The bourgeoisie has unfurled the banner of the universal right to education against the decadent feudal nobility, tolerated its expansion during a long historical period and now the bourgeoisie is the principal enemy of public schools; is the great agent of universal ignorance, destruction of public education and the denial of education as a right.

We can explain these facts from sociological and political points of view, etc.

But we cannot lose sensitivity.

We cannot lose the ability to be outraged.

We can and must transform our tears and our outrage in the class organization and class struggle.

We must lead the struggle against the capitalist society that dehumanizes mankind.

We can and must fight for socialism!

Source: Costa, Áurea. Fernandes Neto, Edgard. Souza, Gilberto – A Proletarização do Professor: neoliberalismo na educação (Teachers proletarization: Neoliberalism in the Education). São Paulo: Editora Instituto José Luis e Rosa Sundermann, 2009. 2ª edição.


Open the link to read a special issue about the struggle for public education in the world written by La Voz de los Trabajadores, sympathizing section of the International Workers League (Fourth International) – IWL-FI – in the United States.


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Quienes Somos/ Who We Are

La Voz De Los Trabajadores/Workers Voice is a revolutionary socialist organization. We are the sympathizing organization of the International Workers League (LIT-CI) in the United States. We formed in California in 2008 around the struggles of the immigrant working class & the fight for militant, democratic trade unions and other workers’ and people’s organizations that defend the principle of class independence.


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