Posts Tagged ‘‘Britain in the Post-War World’’

Nietzsche, Academy Schools, and Elitism in Education

March 30, 2016

Mike and a number of other bloggers have wondered recently if the Tories’ own enthusiasm for privatising education and turning all schools into Academies aren’t a deliberate attempt to ‘dumb down’ education. Despite all the hype, and mendacious graphs in the Torygraph to the contrary, privately run Academies actually perform worse than state schools managed by the local authorities. Mike speculated that the Tories wanted the children of the hoi polloi – the working and lower middle classes – have an inferior education as they were afraid that the masses were becoming too bright, too well-education, and they didn’t want the competition. After all, they could hardly retain their places as the leaders of society, thanks to their extremely moneyed parents sending them to Eton and the other public and fee-paying schools, if a bunch of comprehensive school oiks actually were demonstrably more intelligent and better educated than they were.

And there is certainly some evidence that the latter is true. A year ago, the Independent and the I ran a story that students from state schools actually did better at uni than those from the private schools. How ghastly! Especially as the introduction of tuition fees and their increase to truly extortionate levels really does seem to suggest that there is a section of right-wing opinion that believes higher education should be the exclusive preserve of the wealthy few.

The German philosopher Nietzsche also took this view. He was afraid that if the masses became too well-educated, it would lead to a decline in cultural standards. The historian Gordon A. Craig describes his elitist view of education, and that of his successors in Germany: 1866 – 1945 (Oxford: OUP 1978). He wrote

(A)nd some widely read publicists expressed the view that the emphasis placed on the education of the masses was dangerous because it could not avoid diluting the quality of German education in general. This was the view of Friedrich Nietzsche, who in a remarkable series of lectures, ‘On the Future of our Education Institutions’, delivered in Basle in 1872, stated that ‘not the education of the masses can be our goal but the education of individually selected people, armed for great and permanent achievements’ and went on to charge that those who argued for a further extension of Volksbildung were seeking to destroy ‘the natural order of rank in the kingdom of the intellect’. Nietzsche’s views were repeated with variations by Paul de Lagarde, an embittered eccentric who saw German culture imperilled by the advance of barbarism and blamed this on the educational system, and Julius Langbehn, the author of the extremely popular Rembrandt als Erzieher (1890), whose insistence upon the necessity of training a racially pure elite was later to take more extreme forms in the educational practices of Heinrich Himmler.

De Lagarde and Langbehn were two of the 19th century intellectual precursors of the Nazis. The German elementary schools were called Volksschulen – People’s Schools. The Germans had had an excellent school system of primary education from the 18th century onwards. If children couldn’t go to church schools, then they had to go to state schools. As a result, illiteracy in Germany by the end of the 19th century was very, very low – about 0.05%, compared with 3-4% in England and France.

Nietzsche’s ideas might have been a novelty for Germany, but until comparatively late in the 19th century they were common amongst the British ruling class. There was some education available for the working classes in the Sunday and Dame schools, but these were by no means widespread, and standards could be very poor. The dame schools have been criticised as essentially a place where parents could send their children while they were at work trying to make a living. As a whole, the education system was geared to training an aristocratic elite for careers in government. It looks very much like this is what the Tories intend now in their eagerness to privatise schools and so create an education system that will leave children worse educated, not better.

Cameron, Osbo, Thicky Nikki and the rest of the Tory party are either aristos, or very middle class. It really does look like they are trying to drag Britain back into the 19th century, where the workers were given just enough education to satisfy the requirements of industry, while a good education, and the career opportunities that went with it, were the exclusive prerogative of the middle and upper classes. This was challenged by the Labour party, who wanted the education reformed and expanded so that more people from the lower middle and working classes had the opportunity to acquire it and so enjoy the same career opportunities and social privileges as the wealthy. It can be seen in chapter IX of G.D.H. Cole’s book, Britain in the Post-War World – ‘Education for Democracy’, for example. It’s the reason Anthony Crossland set up and championed comprehensive schools, because the existing system of grammar and secondary modern schools were elitist, and kept the working class in their place in the manual trades.

And so far from striking a blow for meritocracy, it increasingly seems to me that the privatisation of the education system begun nearly thirty years ago by Thatcher really is indeed to keep the masses in their place, and make sure that only the elite can afford an educational standard that will guarantee them their place of leadership in society. All under the guise of delivering quality, which can only be provided by private industry, of course.


G.D.H. Cole on the Need to Nationalise the Banks

March 22, 2016

I found this very interesting passage in Cole’s Great Britain in the Post-War World. Much of the book is dated, but I think this is possibly more relevant now, post 2008, than it has been previously.

In a properly organised economy, it will be for the central bank-the Bank of England-to follow a financial policy which will provide the monetary supplies needed in conjunction with ‘full employment’-of which more anon-and for the deposit banks to ensure the distribution of credits in proper relation to the requirements of the national plan of production.

With this end in view, it is plainly necessary to socialise the deposit banks, whose existing directors will be apt to be visited by a ‘loss of confidence’ when any progressive Government sets about a policy of social control and economic planning, or threatens in any way the dominance of monopoly capitalism. the deposit banks are largely directed by men closely connected with the big industrial interests, and, with some exceptions, ten to favour big business as against small. They are for the most part bigoted opponents of Socialism, and entirely convinced that capitalism is the best of all possible systems. They are therefore likely to look with special disfavour and lack of confidence on State-promoted industrial plans, and to do all they can to aid and comfort any industrialist who is endeavouring to stand out against a socialistic Government. But fortunately the war has already put them largely into the State’s power. There are very large holders of the public debt, and have become accustomed under war conditions to doing the State’s bidding in the supply of accommodation. They will doubtless strive to escape from this position of dependence on the return of peace; but no quick escape it like to be possible. The time for taking them over is now, while they are acting in effect as the State’s agents in pursuance of war-time economic plan.

The bankers and their allies try to scare the public into opposing socialisation chiefly by two arguments-that private person’s deposits will be less secure when the banks are publicly owned, and that the tax-gather will then be in a position to know all about the private man’s affairs. As for the safety, this argument is mere nonsense. Bank deposits cannot be made less secure by having the formal guarantee of the State behind them; indeed, the truth is quite the reverse. As for the tax gatherer, he knows a great deal already, and it is entirely in the interest of the vast majority of people that the few who now successfully evade taxation should be prevented from getting away with it. Finally, there is the fear among business men that it will not be so easy to get credit from a State Bank as from a private banker. This is doubtless true, where credit is wanted for speculation or for other anti-social purposes; but a State which is deliberately following a policy of ‘full employment’ will surely be eager to grant credits to anyone who is prepared to produce in accordance with the requirements of the public economic plan. If the State decides, as I have urged that it should, to leave private enterprise in being over a considerable part of the industrial field, a State Bank is most unlikely to stint the businesses which are left in private hands of the credit needed for carrying out their part of the production plan. Indeed, the small business is likely to find State credit a great deal easier to come by than it has found private bank credit in the recent past.

There remain the ‘financial houses’-discount and acceptance houses which discount or accept bills chiefly in connection with overseas trade, issuing houses which handle new issues of capital, again, until recently, mainly for overseas, and a few private banks which conduct certain highly specialised forms of financial business for big clients, including both foreign Governments and overseas banks and financial concerns. The deposit banks are already in direct competition with the financial houses over a considerable part of this range of business, and tend to compete more and more. Socialisation of the deposit banks will bring the State right into discount and acceptance, if such transactions are to survive at all. Issuing of new capital is a rather different matter; but there is no reason why a State banking system should not make its own provision for all the issuing that is likely to be required, either directly through the State Bank or Banks, or, as has been often suggested, through some sort of National Investment Board empowered both to underwrite and issue approved loans and investments, or itself to make public investments in concerns which call for development in accordance with the provision of the national economic plan.

It’s now seventy-four years after this was written, and it’s still highly relevant. The banks have opposed any kind of socialisation of the economy. They supported Broon and Bliar only when they promised to continue regulating them lightly. And the result was the financial mess that exploded in 2008. And like the banks in the War, which became heavily indebted to the state, the banks then had to be bailed out by the state, and in the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland, nationalised. And the investment banks are still geared mainly to providing credit for overseas, not for domestic industry.