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International Socialism, Autumn 1965


Sarah Watson

Rags to Niches


From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, p.29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Experience of Higher Education
Peter Marris
Routledge, 25s

Education and Values
G.H. Bantock
Faber, 25s

These two books illustrate in different ways the irresponsible and haphazard nature of education in a capitalist society. The first book is an account of a small survey of student attitudes in four universities and a CAT. It shows that many students arrive at University more or less by mistake, because it is expected of them, and not as the result of a conscious choice. Once at university many are disappointed by the low standard of the lectures, and find the other students less intellectually stimulating than they had expected. They feel uncomfortable about their class position and are politically apathetic. This book, which started as evidence for the Robbins Committee, asks the relevant question: what is it we want to expand in expanding University education? The answer is plain enough to socialists — any real education teaches that everything must be questioned, nothing taken on trust, and this is one of the most subversive forces in any society, but our universities are among the most conformist of all our institutions. This survey can be faulted for being too small, for being, consequently, too subjective, but it goes part of the way towards revealing the sterility of the sausage machine universities, and that makes it worth reading.

Education and Values is, as its title suggests, the work of a linguistic philosopher, and typical of most linguistic philosophy. It is a book about books about ideas about education, it attacks the exponents of progessive education, and those who oppose streaming and segregation because they confuse facts and values. Certainly, most writing on education has faults, but the values underlying a desire to end streaming or to make education freer are easily stated, and the facts needed are rapidly being produced. Some linguistic philosophy has the merit of clarity and wit, this book has neither, it is turgid and essentially reactionary. To attack the advocates of change because their arguments are badly expressed is to be irresponsible. The responsible thing for the experts in words to do is to help clarify the questions and suggest what facts can contribute to the answers.

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