The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Education in a Communist Society May 11, 2003 by RedStar2000

People think of communism as an economic or economic/political theory...and of course, it is very much that.

But when you begin to talk about the outlines of a classless society, one without hierarchies, it quickly becomes obvious that all kinds of things are going to be changed...drastically.

Obviously, one of those things is education of the young...and of us all. These are some posts on this "hot-button" issue.


I think all kids really need to know is how to read, how to print legibly, and how to use a mouse & keyboard.

After that, they should be free to seek knowledge wherever and whenever they wish, with whomever knows something that they'd like to learn and who is willing to teach them.

Some semi-formal structures may exist from time to time depending on need...but the factory-like (or jail-like) atmosphere of education under capitalism is, frankly, an enemy of real education. Modern "education" is really intended to teach obedience...and like any well-designed tool works pretty good for that purpose.

In a free, communist society, we need different tools for different purposes. If we want kids to learn the ways of freedom, we must begin by setting them free.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 28, 2002


If you don't have to, why would you?

See what capitalism has done to your head? You've lost even the ability to imagine that things could be worth doing for their own sake--you can only imagine some guy with a whip ("structure") standing behind you to make you do things that otherwise you wouldn't do.

Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying you're a terrible person or anything like that. I'm just saying you've absorbed exactly what the school system tries to teach people...they "need" a boss or some other form of compulsion or otherwise they'd just lay around on the grass looking at the pretty clouds.

It ain't so. Real work and real learning--that which we have selected for ourselves--are not only tightly linked but just about the most fun we hairless primates can have this side of an orgy...and even orgies get tedious after a while.

Little kids know least the ones that haven't been totally pacified by the dummyvision set. But the American school system is not fact, they're opposed to it. It would be "disruptive" and, worse, it would be a funding nightmare. And, ohmygod, what about status and prestige???

But who is standing behind us right this minute, "making" me write these words or "making" you read them? What "structure" "makes" us learn from one another on message boards like this one? We are interested in this stuff and no one has to force us to take part in this discussion.

It's just a tiny sip of freedom; someday, we'll break out the bottles and do some serious drinking!
First posted at Che-Lives on November 29, 2002

No, I have not even touched your subconscious (if such a thing exists). I have tried to show how your conscious mind has learned exactly what the school system tried so hard to teach you.

"I believe that children don't want to go to school"--of course, they don't. Instead of learning as adventure (which it really is), school gives them learning as drudgery. Little kids are full of energy, so let's make them sit silently in hard chairs for 4 or 5 or 6 hours! Instead of following their curiousity where it might lead them, let's pound what we think they "need" into their heads...and give them some drugs if they won't "pay attention".

You admit yourself that you "hate" school--so do most kids. What you seem reluctant to examine is the reason why. You want to tinker with what's taught or what people "have" to learn and what is voluntary, or how the school-year is scheduled, or what color the walls are. You grew up in a jail cell and can't imagine any other possible way to grow up. That's a real shame!

Structure is like a hammer; useful when you need to pound nails, pretty hopeless for any other task. Some kinds of highly specialized learning probably would work better with more structure (medicine, science, engineering, etc.).

Are there things that we must do, even though we'd rather be doing something else? Of course there are; because we live on Earth and not in "heaven". The demands of our physical bodies consume an enormous portion of our lives (we spend 1/3 of our lives asleep!). It can't be helped, at least not at the present time.

But that isn't what you mean, is it? You sincerely beieve that we need to be "made" to do things we "hate" presumably "for our own good", right?

That is what they wanted you to believe when they hauled your young ass to school years ago. Looks like they "won" one.

As I have said in other threads and will repeat again here: we will never break the chains on our bodies until we first break the chains in our heads.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 29, 2002

Ok, I see a little more of what you're getting it. And I think you're right not to go when you see no point to it.

It seems to me that a "school" (or any structure) exists to serve one or more purposes...the purposes don't exist in order that we might have a structure.

We would like to have kids interested in learning things. What's the best tool for that, if not their own curiousity?

Personally, I think "schools" would be everywhere in general and nowhere in particular. There would be very few places you could point to and say "that's a school". But there'd be almost no place where there might not be some kind of learning going on.

I can imagine public libraries 10 times as big as the ones that exist now...with many general purpose rooms where people who want to learn something might gather; with hundreds of terminals with free, broadband internet service; pleasant places where you could drink a cup of coffee and smoke a cigarette and sit in a comfortable chair in a properly heated or air-conditioned, well-ventilated, quiet environment.

I can imagine groups of small children in a public park; some of them gathered around an older kid who's teaching them some things while others, growing restless, are off playing, having a good time.

I can even imagine some teenagers sitting in the back of a bar (no drinking laws under communism) with an old lefty, learning from him what things were like in the early days of the revolution. (!)

I can imagine a million scenarios...and not even scratch the surface. A new age that would actually establish, for the first time, a kid's freedom to learn...that would be so far beyond what we have now that you'd need different words to describe it altogether.

Learning is, potentially, as natural as breathing for our species. Let us therefore rip the ruling-class tubes from our nostrels and open our lungs! We'll do just fine!
First posted at Che-Lives on December 2, 2002

Yes, we are in a tiny minority and how will we ever convince the majority that those chains in their heads are not really welded into place or even a treasured part of "human nature"?

The beginning is simply telling them what we think...and being prepared for all the puzzlement, incomprehension, and outright hostility that we will face. A new idea always has a tough time...and a new idea as explosive as communism and all that it implies has and will have an incredibly tough time.

But, if Marx was right, then over a period of time people will begin to listen, begin to think, begin to feel the weight of those chains and resent it, begin to grow restless and discontented...and then we'll see.

I'm not sure that we ever really "convince" people to rebel...I think at our best we simply present the option (which had never occurred to them before) and then they decide themselves whether it's really worth it.

But there is one clear lesson of revolutionary periods in the past: the seemingly passive, conservative majority transforms itself almost "overnight" into something so different that you might be describing a new species. At least, that's how witnesses have described it and I see no reason to doubt them. It's admittedly unlikely and even highly unlikely that you or (especially) I will live to see the kinds of things we talked about in this thread; but the arrow of history points so emphatically in this direction that, to me, it seems as inevitable as tomorrow's sunrise. It will happen.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 3, 2002

And yet again someone volunteers to stand over kids with a whip to make them learn a whole bunch of stuff, only this time it's "communist" stuff. That will really help, won't it?

I don't know why I have such a hard time getting the idea across: grant kids the freedom to learn and they will discover what they need!!!

They do not need to be indoctrinated, dammit! Not even by us! Especially not by us!
First posted at Che-Lives on December 6, 2002

I think learning is a different kind of activity than carrying heavy boxes long distances...though I can see how people would look at it that way after a few years in "school".

Anything somebody makes you do is going to seem more laborious than if you chose to do it yourself for its own sake. I would only go cross-country skiing if someone was pointing a gun at me and I would complain bitterly for the entire trip...but thousands of people do it for fun every winter's day.

As to how far people will go, who can say? But I do think that if and to the extent learning is de-coupled from coercion, a huge number of people will discover that they never want to stop.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 7, 2002

I've seen the same thing more times than I care to remember. Some people react to the sight of a book the way I would react to the sight of a poisonous snake!

But, don't you wonder? Were they really always like that? I don't know your experiences, but I've never run across a little kid--say 4 to 6 years old--that wouldn't just rip your ears off with Why? Why? Why?

What happens to that insatiable curiousity about everything? Maybe there are other explanations, but right now I think the most obvious one is school. The first year or two isn't so bad...but after that, it just gets worse and worse.

I refuse to believe that "it has to be that way."
First posted at Che-Lives on December 7, 2002

You seem remarkably stubborn on this matter. Presuming both of us are white and have had little contact with African-American children in inner-city settings, how can you assume that a four-year-old black kid is not just as curious as a four-year-old white kid?

And what does parental argument, "being wasted", and/or marital status have to do with anything we've been talking about here?

"...schools must exist, believe me"...NO.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 8, 2002

Well, I thought we were talking about a socialist society in which, presumably, poverty would not be a problem. Likewise, since we communists have no "special regard" for the "sanctity of the family", we would not leave kids to be "neglected".

I'll concede thise much: in the early years or perhaps even decades, some unlucky kids may well "slip through the cracks"...grow up essentially ignorant and unskilled. We are not angels and it's rather unlikely that we will get everything "right" on the first try. The suggestion of putting resources into adult education is a good one; I'd be willing to pay people to "make up" for past neglect by studying to catch up...and a formal structure would make much more sense in this context.

But we'll improve as time goes long as we can get the wretched idea out of our heads that the "best" way to get people to learn stuff is to force them. It is, in fact, the fucking worst way!
First posted at Che-Lives on December 8, 2002

Nothing is ever done instantly, I agree. But you have to have some clear ideas about where you want to go. Just "drifting" with whatever happens to exist is a recipe for no forward progress at all.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 8, 2002

This may not apply to you personally, but my experience has been that when people say "be realistic!" what they really mean is accept the way things are, abandon your wild dreams of changing things, and admit that however bad things seem, it's all for your own good.

Communists look things differently; that's what makes them communists.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 9, 2002

Actually, it doesn't seem to me that I've suggested anything that is terribly "unrealistic" or "idealistic"...quite the contrary. But, of course, one person's practical measures to achieve a new vision can seem wildly outrageous to another.

I always find it sad, though, to see people "give up" on a vision of a better world in the name of "realism". If the "realists" had had their way, we'd all still be living in caves.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 9, 2002


How do you know if you are a slave or not?

When you start to feel like one!

It's not so much the bullshit courses...though they are certainly bad enough. But the pissant rules: to teach you to get used to obeying stupid, pointless regulations that serve no purpose but to enhance the prestige of the rule-makers.

Wearing a hat? Using a backpack? Why not a morning check behind your ears to make sure you've properly washed yourself? Why not a daily urine test to see if you've been smoking weed? Why not a rectal probe to see if you have communist propaganda hidden up your ass?

I shouldn't joke about things like that; some of them may already be in the planning stages.

A while back, there was a thread on socialist education that would be relevant here. The point I made--extremist that I am--is that education after the revolution will be completely voluntary and mostly self-directed. The "school" as it now exists will pass into history as just another institution whose time has gone.

A good library is worth more than all the schools that ever existed put together...and, of course, a quiet place to read.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 17, 2002


Do you think 6/7/8 year old children should decide for themselves whether or not to go to school?

Funny, this was almost exactly the same way the question was phrased in the socialist education thread. Not to mention the "Marx and the Family" thread where the decision-making powers of children of that age are under severe attack.

So, to work. What does a kid actually need to know? In our world, s/he needs to know how to read, how to print legibly, how to use a computer keyboard. Anything else?

Thus, every 6 or 7 or 8 or older kid who can't do those things needs to go to school until they show they can do those things.

And then what? And then what they learn is up to them. Once you're equipped with the "tools" of learning, what you actually learn is up to you.

If you want to learn something and you can find someone who's willing to teach you, great. If you want to learn something and can't find someone to teach you, then you go on line or to the library and teach yourself. And the things you are uninterested in, you ignore.

"School" would end up being a not very sophisticated computer program like "majordomo"--existing for the sole purpose of matching students and teachers. If you think you've mastered a subject, then you go and take a very long and complicated exam on the subject...if the "central educational computer" says you passed, then you have your "credential" for that subject.

Once you have the tools of learning in your grasp, how much time, if any at all, you spend in a building called a "school" is strictly up to you. You may, if you wish, do your learning anywhere that you and others who share your interests choose to meet. Or, if you want, you can do it all from home, on line.

For some reason, this fairly straight-forward proposal has met with considerable...well, hostility. It's almost like some folks are saying "I had to eat shit for X number of you have to eat shit too."

Under my proposal, it's true, that some unknown number of kids might fuck off until they're 16 or even older. That's ok, because it's only when you really want to learn stuff that the process works. Most of the crap that kids are taught now is immediately forgotten when the last test is passed; the kids were never interested to begin with and the human brain has its own, very effective "delete key".

When "the working class emancipates itself," the kids get to be free, too. However much that might stick in some folks' throats, it is and must be true. Freedom is not divisible...either we all are free or it's just another lie.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 18, 2002

There is an obvious contradiction in your argument: First you say that kids would rather eat sweets, watch cartoons and play football than learn. Then, a few sentences later, you admit that science has shown that young children are "open to learning".

Obviously, I think the second point is much truer than the first (though even those three diversions you cited involve learning...just of a different kind). But even if you knew nothing about the science of it at all, simple exposure to a young child would tip you off: they'll burn your ears out with WHY? WHY? WHY? if you let them...and I'll admit I've done so. I can indeed remember my childhood, not the details so much, but the absolute imperative necessity of finding out as much about the world as I could. I had my first library card before my 7th birthday and I used it...even though I had to constantly argue with the librarian over the "unsuitable" books I wanted to check out.

You have raised several disparate points that, in my view, don't seem to "fit" together very well. So my response is apt to similarly disjointed.

Your first section covering "the rules of the house" really belongs in the "Marx and the Family" thread to which I've already referred. Certainly any decent adult would encourage a child to learn as much as possible, about as many different kinds of things as possible. But encouragement is one thing, of course, and power (the use or the threatened use of violence) is quite another.

Prior to the 20th century, it was sincerely believed by nearly all educators and nearly all parents that the only way kids learned anything was if you beat it into them...literally. As late as the 1950's, that was still the practice in Catholic schools in the United States--or so I was told by other kids in my neighborhood.

What kids really learn from such a regime is obedience to authority; regardless of their intellectual achievements, they internalize the habit of "carrying out their orders".

Now, is that what we want communist society to be like?

As to the limits of one's knowledge when you choose for yourself what to study...yes, that will almost certainly happen. It happens today even without freedom to choose one's own direction.

The "problem" is that it's been at least five centuries since one well-educated person could literally "know it all." Since the European renaissance, knowledge has exploded and there is no chance that any single human being could "know" more than a tiny fragment of the sum of human learning. The mythology of "a liberal education" or a knowledge of "the great books of the western world" is just that...mythology. No amount of transient exposure to this or that designed course of studies is going to make anybody a "well-rounded person"--like it or not, we are all now specialists. The difference today between more intelligent and less intelligent people is that the more intelligent people have one or two additional specialties.

Perhaps a life-span of several thousand years might be sufficient to develop at least a nodding acquaintence with most areas of human knowledge...12 to 20 years of "schooling" is simply pathetically inadequate.

Therefore, I think kids who educated themselves probably would "specialize" somewhat earlier...but that doesn't bother me. Knowing how to learn, their curiousity preserved, they will, in time, expand their areas of interest at their own chosen pace.

What they will not be is mindlessly obedient to authority.

If we cannot teach people how to be free, then everything else we lefties yap about is just glorified social work...and we ought to just go out and get a regular job.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 19, 2002

Certainly a great many kids would not go to what we call a "school" now...a highly structured, not to say bureaucratic, heirarchy in a physically uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous environment.

As I noted above, what kids need to know is how to learn; how to read, how to print legibly, how to use a a way, how to ask meaningful questions that have real answers.

There's no getting around this: they must go to school until they can show that they have these tools in their grasp.

On the other hand, there should be no "time pressure" to acquire these tools; if it takes one year, fine; if it takes five years, also fine; if it takes 10 years, that's ok too. Learning is not a competitive sport ("after this week's test, redstar2000 can clinch a spot in the playoffs with an 'A' next week").

Once a kid knows how to learn...what more could we do except possibly get in the way with matters that are of no interest? Instead, we should rely on their instinctive curiousity to guide their own learning (of course, we've been indoctrinating them through those first few years with the idea that if they want to know something, then they must actively pursue it).

What schools are becoming under late capitalism are puffed-up games of trivial pursuit; a collection of bits and pieces totally unrelated to each other or to anything that is relevant to a kid's life or to an adult's life. That is a criminal waste of human potential.

If I can, I'll try to recreate something I said in the earlier thread on socialist education: Learning should take place everywhere in general and nowhere in particular. Anyplace that there are kids who want to learn and adults who are willing to teach is a "school". Among my personal favorite scenarios is the old lefty in the back of the bar with a couple of teenagers (no drinking laws under communism); he's "teaching" them what it was actually like in the last years before the revolution...because they are really interested in that (much to his surprise).

Oh, and about those cartoons on television: you and I both know they will be very different from the ones they make now.
First posted at Che-Lives on December 19, 2002

I have to make something clear up front. I am not in favor of taking kids away from their parents on an arbitrary basis, be it age or any other criterion. In the "Marx and the Family" thread, I have argued that by the age of 7 to 10, a kid knows whether s/he is happy in his/her living arrangements...and that kids should have the option of moving into a collective that has been set up specifically for the purpose of providing a safe and nurturing environment for kids who don't want to live with their parents or other relatives. I have to emphasize this because there are those who think I want to have the police kick down the doors of parents and snatch their kids.(!)

I'm not, of course, advocating that kids be "thrown out into the world". Presumably every kid will have one or several adults (or even older kids) around to offer advice and suggest possible paths that might be worth following. (There are even some computer programs that can do that in a crude way: if you enjoyed reading The Life of Napoleon, you might also enjoy reading The Life of Bismarck, etc.)

Perhaps one step in the right direction would be to abolish the question "what are you going to be when you grow up?". It is, when you stop and think about it, a remarkably foolish and ultimately unanswerable that kids should not be burdened with.

But "the basics of each subject" would take 100 normal human lifetimes to learn. What happens when people try to teach "the basics of each subject" is...trivial pursuit--a pile of fragments that have no relationship to each other.

Just as an example of how "bad" it is (and how much "worse" it's going to become) consider medicine. In medical schools, they still try to teach "everything you need to know about the basics of medicine"...but the "basics" of medicine have expanded to such an extent that a doctor outside his specialty is hardly any improvement on a layman; s/he may remember a few scraps from medical school or his/her internship...and may remember them incorrectly.

The human species has "outsmarted" itself...and until we can install 100gigabyte hard drives inside our skulls, we are stuck with knowing a lot about a very few things or trying to know a little about a great many things. I think the former is preferable; but some people do prefer the latter approach and I don't condemn that. I just say let each kid decide what works best for him/her.

I note that thus far I've managed to collect one "ridiculous" and one "outrageous"...a little under the norm. Perhaps I'm getting too conservative...
First posted at Che-Lives on December 19, 2002

That was a neat verbal extension of my point about "what are you going to be when you grow up", but I don't think the matters are really linked except verbally. If you ask a kid what s/he would like to learn about right now, s/he could probably give a pretty cohenent and reasonable answer...especially if s/he has just spent a couple of years learning how to read, how to print legibly, and how to use a computer to find things out. And even more especially if s/he has been told over and over again in those two years that learning about things is an active process; to find out anything for yourself, you must actively search for it.

I'm guessing that most kids would probably follow the "learn a little about a lot of things" strategy during the time when they were 7 to 10 years old...but whenever a kid finds something that fires his/her interest, then they should be free to go with it as far as it takes them. If that means they can't find Washington, D.C. on a map, or that they never even hear the name of Shakespeare, or that they need a calculator to add 2 and be it. Should there come a time in their later lives when they feel the need to know one or more of those things, they will learn them.

Your assertion that 13 years is enough time to "learn the basics" is belied by the facts; almost every week there is an article or op-ed piece about the hopeless "ignorance" of schoolkids...that they can't find Washington, D.C. on a map or some other piece of "vital" trivia that the writer is appalled to find lacking. And it must always be true...there is far too much trivia for anyone to ever master a statistically significant portion.

And this is not to mention the "trivia wars"--the English teachers want more time for their trivia, the science teachers want more time for their trivia, the math teachers want more time for their trivia, etc., etc., etc. If they were all to get their way, kids would be at their desks 24/7/365...and still not get anything out of it but a huge pile of trivia. What a pointless exercise in futility! What a waste!

And what horrifying damage it does to that inborn sense of curiousity that we hairless primates have inherited from our ancient ancestors. How many kids grow up to view the sight of a book as you or I would view the sight of a poisonous snake? What "education" consists of now is on the same ethical level as teaching a cat to be afraid of is an abomination!


First posted at Che-Lives on December 20, 2002


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