I once drew attention to a passage from a book by Malcolm X, in which the legendary African-American activist demanded black community control of black educational institutions, and jokingly suggested that Michael Gove could use the reference when next speaking in support of free schools.
Now the Tory education secretary has gone one step further, and invoked the name of the great Italian revolutionary socialist Antonio Gramsci in support of coalition education policy.
This has been bugging me ever since I read about it online at work, and the first thing I did when I got back home was to dust off my Gramsci books and remind myself what the great man actually said about education. I suspect Gove would not approve:
In a parliamentary-democratic state there can be no technical or political solution to the problem of the school. Ministers of education are placed in office because they belong to a political party, not because they know how to administer and direct the educational function of the state.
Mmmm. I see, Antonio. Do go on.
The bourgeoisie, as the class which controls the state, takes no interest in the school. It lets the bureaucrats make or destroy it as they are able and allows the education ministers to be chosen according to the caprice of political competition, through partisan intrigue, so as to attain a happy balance of parties in the cabinet.
Gosh, spooky. It’s almost as if Gramsci is looking on from beyond the grave. I’m sure he did not have any particular contemporary British politicians in mind. But what positive programme did comrade G actually advocate? How did he see the future?
In the state of the [workers’] councils, the school will represent one of the most important and essential of public activities. Indeed, to the development and success of the school is linked the development of the communist state …
Hey! Gove left that bit out!
The school will have the task of rearing the new generations … those who will reap, after the transitional period of national proletarian dictatorships, the fullness of life and development of international communist democracy.
But let’s be reasonable. It would be churlish not to welcome Gove’s conversion to these ideals. I don’t half look forward to the next education white paper, which must now surely embody a Gramscist perspective.