Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Communist View Of Education Emphasizing Individualism

Democracy... must mean that every "citizen" can "govern" and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this.
Antonio Gramsci a member of the Italian communist party wrote that line in a note while in prison under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. The whole collection of those prison notes, compiled in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, articulates Gramsci's thought on politics, and though he was a communist, what fascinates me is how his ideology is premised on the individual. Indeed not just within education but throughout every sphere, the individual is the most important actor for Gramsci. He argues for a type of individualism that I dare say most liberals, classical and the like, don't venture to proclaim.

But returning to the above quoted statement, something is to be said about the truth behind it. That though in regards to that passage Gramsci was talking about how in Italy the different levels of schools perpetuated social hierarchies that limited a person's ability to advance, the idea that a democracy must have a citizenry where each has/had the potential to lead revitalizes an individualism I feel is weakening.

By an individualism that is weakening I mean that there are few who stand up and take action and many who follow it. The many follow the few, without questioning or fighting for what they as individuals believe in.

The recent election of the first black President in the United States, a man who came from very humble beginnings, would suggest that anyone can lead in that American democracy, and therefore the very type of education that Gramsci promoted has been realized; however I dare to disagree. Though most people have been processed in an education system they have no more potential to be a leader of any democracy then a still unmolded piece of clay. What they lack is want, want to change things for the better, and a belief that they can.

I believe a necessary condition for every citizen to have the potential ability to lead their democracy is that they all must want to. Without that individualism, without that want in every individual to better their country, a country not only loses the participation of the people, but loses the best leadership that only diversity brings.


The full paragraph from
Selections from the Prison Notebooks Pg 40, ed. & trans. by Hoare and Smith, International Publishers NY.
The multiplication of types of vocational school thus tends to perpetuate traditional social differences; but since, within these differences, it tends to encourage internal diversification, it gives the impression of being democratic in tendency. The labourer can become a skilled worker, for instance, the peasant a surveyor or petty agronomist. But democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that an unskilled worker can be skilled. It must mean that every "citizen" can "govern" and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this.

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