Marxist public policy principles:
schooling and teacher education/ training

by Dave Hill

 

INTRODUCTION

This paper sets out Marxist principles for public policy and puts forward a Marxist Manifesto for Education and an eco-Marxist Manifesto for Teacher Education, focusing on activity within formal education systems. It calls for education workers- including teachers and teacher educators- and other cultural workers to become Marxist Activist Public Organic Intellectuals of the Working Class within micro-, meso- and macro-social and political arenas.

ARENAS OF ACTION

There are many types of Marxist. This is written from a classical, a revolutionary Marxist perspective.

Key Characteristics of Marxism

What is Specifically Marxist About Public Policy Proposals such as the Education / Teacher Education Proposals proposed in this paper1 2?

Marxists work for and willingly embrace reforms, and are committed to forms of analysis and action that non-Marxist social democrats, radical liberals, radical democrats, feminists, anti-racists, Queer activists and environmental activists are not. These are:

1. Class Analysis: the Capital- Labor Relation

2. Capitalism must be replaced by Socialism and that change is Revolutionary

3. Revolutionary Transformation of Economy and Society need to be preceded and accompanied by a Class Programme, Organization, and Activism

CLASS ANALYSIS: THE CAPITAL- LABOR RELATION

The first distinguishing feature for Marxists is the salience of class as compared with other forms of structural oppression, discrimination and inequality. Marxists in general stand with the reforms suggested, enacted by non-Marxist reformists, together with social movements and civil rights campaigners in opposing racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. But Marxists go further than criticizing (and acting against) social discrimination, oppressions, into economic rights. And further than that, that full economic rights cannot be achieved under a capitalist economic system, but only under a socialist or communist (socialism being the stage on the road to full communism). And that only the organized working class can organize and replace Capitalism.

The Communist Manifesto3 is startlingly powerful and relevant in its analysis of capitalism. Capitalism is the systemic and systematic exploitation by the capitalist class of the labor power of the working class(es), with the capitalists appropriating the surplus value created by the labor of the working class(es). This is the Capital-Labor Relation. With capitalists pocketing this surplus value as profit.

In Capitalism each of the two (major) classes of society engage in permanent struggle over increasing the proportion of surplus value (the value left when raw materials, rents, and wages/salaries have been paid) that should go into capitalists’ pockets as profits, or into workers’ pockets as wages, plus, as welfare benefits- into the social wage.

There is, under capitalism, a continuous ‘class war’, a continuous antagonistic relationship between the exploiting class and the exploited class, whatever the state of subjective appreciation/understanding/political and class consciousness is. In the words of The Communist Manifesto, “society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat4”. In today’s language, the 0.1%, ‘the rulers of the universe’, pitted against most of the rest, the 99%5 6.

CAPITALISM MUST BE REPLACED BY SOCIALISM AND THAT CHANGE IS REVOLUTIONARY

Marxists believe that reforms are not sustainable under capitalism, even if, when they are implemented, they are welcome. Reforms, social benefits and provision, are stripped away when there are the (recurrent and systemic) crises of capital, as happened in the 1930s, 1970s, and since 2008.

Social democratic politicians and parties, such as Pablo Iglesias/Podemos in Spain, Alexis Tsipras/Syriza in Greece, Jeremy Corbyn/the Labor Party in the Britain, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in the USA, do not want to replace capitalism. They just want to manage it better, to regulate it, to reform it- to make it work better, with more ‘social justice’.

In classical Marxist analysis capitalism is never acceptable, whether regulated, reformed, social democratic or not, because it is the exploitation (economic, therefore political, cultural, social oppression) of humans by humans. What defines classical and revolutionary Marxists is an analysis that capitalism must be replaced.

This is why Marxist activists work to develop class-consciousness, a sense of the working class being ‘a class for itself’ (a class with class consciousness) as opposed to ‘a class in itself’ (simply a class of people with the same relationship to the means of production, distribution and exchange7), a class with ‘good sense’ as opposed to ‘common sense’8. In The Communist Manifesto9 explicitly identify the “formation of the proletariat into a class” as the key political task facing the communists.

Therefore, what is needed is a revolution to replace, to get rid of, the capitalist economic system with its capitalist economic and social relations of production. The ballot box alone cannot bring about revolution. An elected socialist government would not be able to bring about much change which went against the interests of the capitalist class because the military, judiciary, police and corporate hierarchy are not democratic. The national and global capitalist class use state violence, and/or the instruments of global or US capitalist economy or military to stop Socialism.

REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION OF ECONOMY AND SOCIETY NEED TO BE PRECEDED BY AND ACCOMPANIED BY A CLASS PROGRAMME, ORGANIZATION, AND ACTIVISM

The third point of difference between Marxist and non-Marxist radicals is that in order to replace capitalism, Marxists have to actually work to organize for that movement, for that action. Thus a duty as a Marxist is activist praxis, within the limits of one’s ability and competing demands. Most Marxists move beyond proposal into activism and praxis- praxis is action guided by theory, or theory in motion. Thus Marxist teacher educators focus on political activism and developing political and class consciousness within formal teacher education courses and its wider education structures. As Marx notes, ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point is to change it10’.

Marxists recognise that political organization, programme development, and political intervention are necessary. Revolutions do not fall off trees, like apples. As Lenin, in ‘State and Revolution’ wrote, socialist revolutions have to be fought for- and defended.

EDUCATE, AGITATE, ORGANIZE

There are various arenas in which Marxist and Critical Educators and Teacher Educators can be, are, and should be active. Within the:

1) classroom/seminar room/lecture theatre;

2) wider school community/organization- such as the staffroom, the trade union branch;

3) local community/town/city- for example in tenants’, benefits’, anti-racist, anti-austerity, environmentalist or other local community organizations and movements- and within town-wide/city-wide political parties, social movements and trade unions;

4) national levels in such social movements, parties and organizations.

These are arenas for transformative political social and educational activism since education takes place outside formal schooling and education systems as well as within. Many Marxists engage in what Jennifer Sandlin, Henry Giroux and Mike Cole call ‘public pedagogy’, and what Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci, McLaren et al call for- developing class, political consciousness. However, this chapter focuses on some aspects of education and schooling within formal education systems and relate these to various issues in Marxist theory.

Both in the education arena – including in teacher education courses- and in the wider society, Marxists seek to serve and advance the interests of the working class- recognising the fundamental nature of class exploitation and also the multiple oppressions based on identities and subjectivities and the gendered and raced; nature of social class. We, as teachers, as educators, are working class, too, those of us on permanent contracts, tenure, are a relatively well paid level, or stratum, of the working class. Those of us in precarious/ casual work on far lower levels of income: we all sell our labor power to capitalists and to the apparatuses of the capitalist state, such as schools and universities.

Marxists have to consistently and courageously challenge the dominant hegemonic ideology of the ruling capitalist class, and what Althusser called, its Ideological State Apparatuses- its universities, departments and schools of teacher training/teacher education, schools, media, and their allies in the institutions of religion.

The context is not just a war of ideas, an ideological war, a war of discourse. It is an economic class war, where the social and economic conditions and well-being of the working class are undermined and degenerated by the ruling class 11 12. Capitalist onslaughts result in deaths for ‘superfluous’ workers and sections of the non-working industrial reserve army. The poor get sick earlier and die young.

A MARXIST MANIFESTO FOR EDUCATION

Elsewhere13 is set out a Manifesto for Education, partly drawing on an attempt at a Marxist teacher education course14. Many of these proposals are supported by other reform and social justice groups. But taken together, they offer a sustained challenge to neoliberal/neo-conservative, pre-/proto/quasi fascist capitalism.

[1] Cut class sizes

[2] Abolish league tables and abolish most externally set assessment tasks

[3] Restore local democratic control of state schools that have been handed over to private corporations, charities and individuals to run, and establish local democratic control of such schools

[4] Establish a fully Comprehensive Secondary School system so that each school has a broad social class mix and mix of attainment levels 

[5] Remove Private Profiteering from Schools/Education services that have been privatized. Return these services to public/social control

[6] Integrate private schools and colleges/universities into the state education system

[7] Remove organised religion from schools and end state Faith Schools.

[8] Provide a good, and local, school for every child

[9] Provide free, nutritious, balanced school meals

[10] Provide free adult education classes, non-vocational and cultural as well as vocational

[11] Restore or establish free, state-funded residential centres and Youth Centres/Youth clubs

[12] Free up curricula that are over-prescriptive, to move beyond ‘the basics curriculum’

[13] Revise school inspectorial and surveillance systems so they are supportive and advisory rather than punitive

[14] Encourage Critical Thinking across the curriculum. Teach children not ‘what to think’, but ‘how to think’. Teach about Marxist analysis and the class exploitative nature of capitalism

[15] Teach in schools for ecological literacy and a readiness to act for environmental justice as well as for economic and social justice.

[16] Ensure that schools are anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic and are environmentalist

[17] Provide an honest sex education curriculum in schools that teaches children not just ‘when to say no’, but also ‘when to say yes’.

[18] Develop proper recognition of all school workers, with no compulsory job redundancies

[19] Set up school councils which include student as well as teacher and non-teacher worker voices

[20] Broaden teacher education and training on the detailed lines suggested below, so it is theorised and socially and politically contextualised, not restricted (primarily or totally) to technical ‘delivery’ and control skills

[21] Set up a completely Free, fully funded, publicly owned and democratic education system from pre-school right through to university, with no fees, and with financial grants for poorer students post 16 and for further and higher education.

To repeat, most of these proposals would be accepted by social democrats. Marxists develop and propagate them in the context of the three basic principles of Marxism set out earlier. Social democrats don’t.

TEACHER EDUCATION: AN ECO-MARXIST POLICY

Now, congruent with these proposal for teacher education/training (based on Edwards, Hill and Boxley15) are proposals for a Marxist manifesto for teacher education for economic, environmental and social justice. Such a programme should:

Engage in pedagogic theory in which the socio-political, economic and environmental contexts of schooling and education are explicit. This includes understanding of children, schooling, society and nature, their inter-relationships, and alternative views and methods of, for example, classroom organization, schooling, and the economic and political relationship of schooling to society and nature;

Develop equal opportunities policies and praxis so that children do not suffer from labelling, under-expectation, stereotyping or prejudice;

Enable student teachers to develop as critical, reflective teachers, able, for example, to decode media, ministerial (and indeed, Radical Left) distortion, bias, and propaganda. This encourages the development of teachers, able to interrelate and critique theory and practice (their own and that of others);

Include not only technical reflection, but also Marxist critical reflection, so as to question a particular policy or theory, and to ask such critical questions as ‘whose interests are served’’; ‘who wins?’ (if only by legitimating the status quo) and ‘who loses?’;

Enable student teachers to understand the social, economic and environmental inequalities and injustices present in their places of work and communities, and to challenge them.

CURRICULUM CONTENT IN AND FOR THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF TEACHERS

The first three areas of Curriculum Content below are common across different ideological positions. Because of their near universality these are not developed here. The next two are also widely shared. The final ten propositions, 6 to 16, are more specifically eco-Marxist/Radical Left.

The Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Curriculum should include:

Classroom skills and competencies. Teachers need reflective skills and understanding of learning, teaching and classroom management.

Subject Knowledge.

The development of higher level analytical and intellectual skills. This demands that teachers are capable of acting and thinking at an abstract level as understood by, for example, Vygotsky’s ‘scientific’ thinking.

Support for a major role for higher education institutions in ITE and opposition to school-led routes. Higher Education institutions focus on developing the theoretical perspectives outlined above, promoting the advance of pedagogy through a theory-practice dialectic.

Welcoming of different routes into teaching concordant with graduate teacher status and the above principles.

A commitment to economic, social and environmental justice, and recognition of the interconnection between the three. If equal opportunities policies stop at celebrating cultural diversity and establishing positive and non-stereotypical role models, and do not see themselves as a development of broader economic justice, then they can be viewed as, in essence, conservative, for failing to challenge the status quo, based as it is on (raced and gendered) social class exploitation.

Research evidence on equality issues: on racism, sexism, social class inequality, homophobia, and discrimination/prejudice/regarding disability and special needs, and the intersection of these factors with economic and environmental inequalities.

A class-based approach to social, economic and environmental justice in the curriculum.

Skills in dealing with the incidence of classist, homophobic, racist, and sexist remarks and other types of harassment at various levels, such as within the classroom and throughout the institution and society.

Developing within institutions open fora on social and ecological justice where students and staff in institutions can meet in a supportive environment.

Critiques of competing approaches, ideologies, curricula, pedagogies of schooling, teacher education and society.

Developing knowledge and skills to critically examine the ideological nature of teaching and the nature of teachers’ work.

The concurrent rather than the consecutive development of critical reflection, throughout and from the beginning of the ITE course. If the social context of schooling is left until “post-initial training,” then many newly qualified teachers will miss out. Many do not receive any post-initial/ in-service training other than what are, currently, instrumentalist, non-critical, in-service training programmes concerned with how to “deliver” results, working within the current schooling system.

Substantially predetermined rather than primarily negotiated curriculum objectives/Should a critically reflective teaching program have predefined content or be negotiated? At various times the focus has been on programme content, critical analysis and curriculum development, pedagogic relationships between teachers/teacher educators and pupils/students. Arguably, heavy use of learner-centred discussion militates against the development of the broad span of critical theoretical insights argued for here. For organic intellectuals, the goal is not ‘to tell the people what to think’ but to enable them to think clearly to provide them with the tools such as critical literacy to engage in cultural action incorporating the exercise of critical (dialectical) consciousness aimed at social transformation.

The application of critical evaluation to school-based practice and experience. Theory can provide the analytic and conceptual apparatus for thinking about practice, within the formal and hidden curriculum, while practice can provide the opportunity for the testing and assimilation of theory. Successive governments in the USA and UK for example have prioritised school-led and school-based ITE programmes. The detheorization of teacher education is a major problem in the development of effective teaching, critical skills, awareness and teaching, and in the development of a revolutionary transformative critical pedagogy.

Environmental justice pedagogy. This entails active engagement between students, communities and the environment and addresses complex social, economic and environmental issues so that students can develop critical, historical and transformative knowledge. This is important for students and teachers living and working in economically disadvantaged urban communities – because it can reorient the curriculum to deal with specific environmental justice issues that these communities face.

THE ROLES OF MARXIST ACTIVIST EDUCATORS

The role of organic Marxist public intellectuals is crucial. Marxist public intellectuals – such as the ‘political’ shop steward, or union organizer, the member of a socialist/Marxist party or group,, the teacher, the teacher educator, the youth worker – intellectualise social, political, cultural, economic matters from the standpoint of what Gramsci termed `good sense’, from a class – conscious perspective. Herein lies Marxists’ pedagogical importance, of party, organization, leaflets, newspapers, booklets, books and social media; here, as well as in conversation and in rhetorical speeches, we carry out the role of socialist analysis, of revolutionary pedagogy, of connecting the here and now of a rent strike, a pro-immigrant rally, an anti-austerity march, a picket line of a zero-hours contract employer, an occupation of a tax avoiding multinational company owned shop: here is essential Marxist pedagogy.

Marxists are necessary, necessary in leading and developing changes in consciousness, a change in class consciousness, and in playing a contributory role organizing to replace capitalism.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Edwards G., Hill D. and Boxley S., Critical Teacher Education for Economic, Environmental and Social Justice. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies 16(3), 2019, url http://www.jceps.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/16-3-1.pdf

Gramsci A., Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Hoare, Q. and Nowell Smith, G. (eds. and trans.), International Publishers, New York 1971.

Hill D., Critical Teacher Education, Critical Pedagogy and Equality: A Critical Transformative Teacher Education: a four-year Marxist undergraduate programme, in “British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference”, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, Sept 14-18, 2004, url http://www.ieps.org.uk/papers1.php

Hill D., A Socialist Manifesto for Education, 2010, url http://www.ieps.org.uk/PDFs/socialistmanifestofored.pdf

Hill D., Class struggle and education: Neoliberalism, (neo)-conservatism, and the capitalist assault on public education, in “Critical Education”, 4(10), 2013, url http://www.ieps.org.uk/media/1147/class-struggle-and-education-2013-dave-hill-in-critical-education.pdf

Hill D., La educación marxista contra el capitalismo en la era neoliberal (Marxist Education Against Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era), in “Nuestra Bandera: Theoretical Journal of the Spanish Communist Party”, 236, 2017.

Hill D., Marxist Education and Teacher Education Against Capitalism in NeoLiberal/ NeoConservative/ NeoFascist/ Times, in “Cadernos do GPOSSHE On-line”, 2, (1), Universidade Estadual do Ceará Fortaleza, Brazil (Grupo de Pesquisa Ontologia do Ser Social, História, Educação e Emancipação Humana, 2019 url https://revistas.uece.br/index.php/CadernosdoGPOSSHE/article/view/1524/1275?fbclid=IwAR349OKt6lL5HRD1SiJK-6Iv7EwlQLoJpbNlVQqrjvH-LW89JHT5fAeXdFA

Marx K., The Poverty of Philosophy. Marxist Internet Archive, 1847, url https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/

Marx K., Theses on Feuerbach. Marxist Internet Archive, 1845/ 2002, url https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/index.htm

Marx K. and Engels, F., The Communist Manifesto. Marxist Internet Archive, 1848/2010, url https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

Prendergast L.M., Hill D. and Jones S., Social Exclusion, Education and Precarity: neoliberalism, neoconservatism and class war from above, in “Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies”, 15(2), 2017, url http://www.jceps.com/archives/3526

Footnotes

1 D. Hill, La educación marxista contra el capitalismo en la era neoliberal (Marxist Education Against Capitalism in the Neoliberal Era), in “Nuestra Bandera: Theoretical Journal of the Spanish Communist Party” 236, 2017.

2 D. Hill, Marxist Education and Teacher Education Against Capitalism in NeoLiberal/ NeoConservative/ NeoFascist/ Times, in “Cadernos do GPOSSHE On-line” 2 (1), Universidade Estadual do Ceará Fortaleza, Brazil (Grupo de Pesquisa Ontologia do Ser Social, História, Educação e Emancipação Humana), 2019. url https://revistas.uece.br/index.php/CadernosdoGPOSSHE/article/view/1524/1275?fbclid=IwAR349OKt6lL5HRD1SiJK-6Iv7EwlQLoJpbNlVQqrjvH-LW89JHT5fAeXdFA

3 K, Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto. Marxist Internet Archive, 1848/2010. url https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf

4 Ibid.

5 D. Hill, ibid, 2017.

6 D. Hill, ibid., 2019.

7 K. Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy. Marxist Internet Archive, 1847, Online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/

8 A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, Hoare, Q. and Nowell Smith, G. (eds. and trans.), International Publishers, New York 1971.

9 K. Marx and F. Engel, cit.

10 K. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach. Marxist Internet Archive, 1845/ 2002, Online at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/index.htm

11 D. Hill, Class struggle and education: Neoliberalism, (neo)-conservatism, and the capitalist assault on public education, in “Critical Education”, 4(10), 2013, url http://www.ieps.org.uk/media/1147/class-struggle-and-education-2013-dave-hill-in-critical-education.pdf

12 L.M. Prendergast, D. Hill and S. Jones, Social Exclusion, Education and Precarity: neoliberalism, neoconservatism and class war from above, in “Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 15(2), 2017, url http://www.jceps.com/archives/3526

13 D. Hill, A Socialist Manifesto for Education, 2010, url http://www.ieps.org.uk/PDFs/socialistmanifestofored.pdf

14 D. Hill, Critical Teacher Education, Critical Pedagogy and Equality: A Critical Transformative Teacher Education: a four-year Marxist undergraduate programme, in “British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference”, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, Sept 14-18, 2004. url http://www.ieps.org.uk/papers1.php

 

15 G. Edwards, D. Hill and S. Boxley, S, Critical Teacher Education for Economic, Environmental and Social Justice. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies 16(3), 2018, url http://www.jceps.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/16-3-1.pdf

 

Dave Hill is a Marxist political, trade union and education activist. Emeritus Professor at Anglia Ruskin University, UK, and a Visiting Professor at Middlesex and Athens universities. Founder/ Managing Director of the free online academic journal, the Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies (www.jceps.com) which has had one and a half million free downloads, co-founder of and co-organiser with Kostas Skordoulis of the annual ICCE (International Conference on Critical Education). He edits the Routledge Studies in Education, Neoliberalism and Marxism series, online at https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Studies-in-Education-Neoliberalism-and-Marxism/book-series/RSEN. He has written/ co-written/ edited 23 books, some of them translated into many languages. Around 50 of his articles are online at www.ieps.org.uk, the website of the independent educational and publishing organisation he founded in 1989, The Institute for Education Policy Studies, ww.iepsorg,uk.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Hill_(professor)

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