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Spgb Forum 1956 41 Aug Sep

Spgb Forum 1956 41 Aug Sep

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Published by Wirral Socialists

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Published by: Wirral Socialists on Apr 29, 2012
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_o.
41AUG.-SEPT.1956NINEPENCE
FORUM-I
:;bscriptions:12issues10/6,6issues
5/3.
ChequesaadP.O's.shouldbemadepayabletoE.Lake,S.P.G.B.
CIALISTDISCUSSIONJOURNALWARDSBETTERUNDERSTANDING
II
TheMeaningofEducation
Theobvioushasoftentobepointed.
-:-00
often,however,itislaiddownasa"_:'2illphantconclusioninsteadofapointof'::,,?arrure.Tosaythateducationunder~:talismiseducationforcapitalismisto
_::e:
atruth,butanot-very-profoundone.
:::=
placeisatthebeginning,nottheend.Itisfarbetter,infact,toconsiderthat
::...at
istheobjectofeducationalsystemsin
=~
epochs.Educationistheprocessof
:=.2a
tingandequippingchildrenfortheoddinwhichtheylive:implanting=orality,fosteringattitudesandhabits,
:.E2
hingthebasicskiliswhichthatworldreouires.Primitivepeopleseducatetheir.::.'=ildrenfunctionally,havingthemlearnthe
"'=::cs
ofphysicallife,thelawsofsociallife
=::2
thetechniquesofeconomiclifefrom~ectcontact.Civilizedsystemsaremore.::J:nplex,lessdirect,butjustasfunctional._\singleexamplemayshowwhatis::reant.AhundredyearsagoDenmarkhad~ublic-schoolsystemwhichaimedatpro-
;:'2cing
gentlemen-farmers;itsreverences+ereforthelandandthehumanities.EightyvearsagotheGermanstatesnextdoor~ccameasinglenation-state,swellingand~eningwithaggressivenationalism..Inaupleofdecades,theDanishsystem::hangedtomeetthenewsituation;itshead-
INTHISISSUE
JOHNSTEINBECK.Another"WritersandSociety"article.NOUNITYANDNOOPPOSITES.Part3of"DoWeNeedtheDialectic?"CAPITALISMIN1956.CuttingsfromacurrentSurvey.SOVIETPOST-MORTEMONSTALIN.FromofficialRussiansources.STUDYCLASSNOTES
TheopinionsexpressedinFORUMarethose::Theindividualwriters,andarenottobe~enastheSocialistParty'sofficialviews.
mastersbecameKaptains,itstoneloudlypatriotic.Alleducationworkslikethat,aimingatnomoreandnolessthantofittheyoungtoliveinandmaintaintheirsociety-notasarulers'conspiracy,butasanecessaryfunction.Everycommunity,everysocietymusthaveit,andtheshapeittakesisgenerallytheshapeofsociety'sdominanteconomicunit.Thus,incommunal,tribalgroups,educationiscommunalorthroughthefamily;thus,sinceweliveinafactoryworldoureducationisgiveninfactoriesandonfactorylines.TheActsof1870and1871werenotanewdeparturebutthecompletionandregularizationofaprocesswhichhadbeengoingonthroughthenineteenthcentury.Itiswrongtosuppose-asmanypeopledo-thatnon-onecouldreadorwritebeforetherewereBoardschools.IntheMiddleAges,priestswereteachers;ChaucerdescribestheClerkofOxenford:-"...gladlywouldhelearn,andgladlyteach."Atalltimestherewasagooddealoffamilyeducation,andapprenticeshiptomostcraftsimpliedlearningthethreeRs.Itwasestimatedin1850thateightmillion,orjustunderaquarter,ofthepopulationofBritaincouldneitherreadnorwrite.Thewell-to-dohadtheirownschools,ofcourse;theworkingpopulation'schiefinstructorsweretheChurchofEngland's"NationalSocietyforPromotingtheEducationofthePoorinthePrinciplesoftheEstablishedChurch"andtheNoncon-formist"BritishandForeignSchoolSociety."Inaddition,thereweretheRaggedSchools,SundaySchoolstheDames'Schools(five-penceorsixpenceaweek),andahostofunclassiabledesultorydayoreveningschools.Allpredominantlyinthetowns,ofcourse;inMiddlesexandSurrey,theLondoncounties,illiteracywasonlyhalfwhatitwaselsewhere.
If
itiswrongtoassumegeneralilliteracybeforetheEducationActs,itwouldbeequallywrongtoassumeuniversalliteracyafterthem.Foralltheoutcryinrecentyearsaboutunletteredadolescents,therewasundoubtedlymoresheerilliteracyforty-fiveyearsagothanthereisnow.Itwasconcealedbyteachers,simplybecausetherewasa"payment-by-results"systeminwhichinspectorscouldanddidrecommendpayreductionforteacherswhosechargesshowedlackofreading;nevertheless,theArmybefore1914hadtoteachalargeproportionofitsrecruitstoreadfromtheC-A-T:
cat
stage.WhatactualiyhappensintheStateeduca-tionalsystem?Tostart,allschoolingfromelevenupwardshasbeencategorizedintogrammar,technicaland"modern"sincethe1944EducationActwasgiveneffect.Allchildrenmuststayatschooluntiltheyarefifteen;itisnotsowidelyknownthatanEducationActasfarbackas1921empoweredandrecommendedlocalauthoritiestoextendtheleavingagetofifteen,butnonewasknowntodoso.Again,thequestionof"educationeconomies"isnonewone.Educationalreformhasalwaysbeendirectedbytheneedsofmajorindustryandresistedbythegreengrocersonthetowncouncils,whointhiscasewantedtoloseneithertheirseatsbyariseintheratesnortheircheaplabourbyariseintheschool-leavingage.Uptoeleven,schoolingis"primary"-thatis,preliminarytotheselection-by-examinationforthethreetypesofsecondaryeducation.Infact,however,theselectionbeginsthreeorfouryearsearlier.Practicallyallinfant'andjuniorschoolsusethe"streaming"method,bywhichchildrenaregradedaccordingtoabilityasA,BandC."A's"arefeasiblescholarship-winnersandareegged-onandprovided-foroccordingly;"C's"arethesub-standardones,theslow,recalcitrantanddefective.Intheory,"C,'.childrenarecarefullytended,receivingspecialattentiontohelpthemovercometheirdifficulties.Thepractice,however,isusuallyratherdifferent.Afewteachersdospecializeinworkingwithbackwardchildren.Mostly,however,theycomeinfortheworstaccommodationandequipmentandtheirteachersarethenewbeingtried-out,the.oldwhohavebeentriedtoooften,andthosewhohavedrawnbadlyintheannuallotteryforclasses.Thatdoesnotnecessarilyimplycallous-nessorindifferenceonthepartofheadteachersoreducationauthorities.Thepressureforscholarshipsissogreatthatthe"A's"virtually
have
tobegiventhebestofwhateverthereis.Inanytown,perhaps3,500childrencompeteeveryyearfor200201
 
~<illlillarschoolplaces-oneinsixforthe-_-\"children.Andifanyschoolfailsto
=;:::,_
itsquota,thentheschoolmanagers,the_'peetorsandtheparentsallwanttoknow
---"2\.
Thesnobberyandjealousyoverscholar-
{:ips
isremarkable.Otherwisesaneand=n:ieratepeoplewillpaytenshillingsan
::_;:r::r
forcoaching,promisegoldwatches
==rl
bicyclesasrewardsforpassing,andnag
-'-ill
childrenintoneurastheniaover"thes::holarship."Thestrongestmotiveofallis
r:.."
snobone.Cyrilgoestoa
nice
school-::eretheyhavetowearauniform-andhe's.earning
French
now.Fromthispointof
-:EW
itmattersnotthatCyrilwillprobably-zrguishunhappilyatthebottomofthe
:;r;:m
forfiveyearsandendupabadly-paid~crkinashippingoffice:bettertoservein-=-~,enthanreigninhell.Thequestionofwhatisactuallyproved~intelligencetestsandexaminationswill
::e
dealtwithlater.Themoreimportant-:uiutatthisjunctureisthecontinualcream-~?-Qffprocesswhichgoesonateverystage
C'
theeducationalsystem.Startingintheearliestyears,thereisrepeatedselectionof
-'-;:0
mostsuitablechildrenfortrainingas-=cersandN.C.O's.inthewage-earning
E:::ly.
Itcontinuesaftereleven;thereare
=--'
sidiaryexaminationsandcoursesofall~dsinthesecondaryschoolstoensure
-""t
industrygetsjustwhatitwants.:.~timately,aboutthree-fifthsofthepopula-:ianofthiscountryreceives"secondary=ooern"education-thatis,elementary==lOolingaimedatproducingclerks,artisans,~passistants,factoryworkersandlabourers.Thescopeofthiskind.ofelementaryducationhaswidenedtremendouslyinrecentyears.Asecondarymodernschoolto-dayprovidesforanextensiverangeofactivities.ApartfromwhatisnowacceptedastheordinaryclassroomcurriculumofEnglish,mathematics,history,science,geo-graphyandsoon,thereareroomsandteachersforart,handicrafts,woodwork,metalwork,plastics,gardening,housecraftandneedlework;courseincurrentaffairs;facilitiesforsocialactivities,films,gamesandphysicalexercise.Thisisthesortofthingwhichsuperficialthoughtsnatchesasanindicationoftremendousimprovementinworking-classconditions.Infact,thechangeinthecontentofpopulareducationisaproductofchangedcapitalistneeds.Take,forexample,thegirllearningcookeryandlaunderinginthehousecraftroomofamodernsecondaryschool.Shehasatrainedinstructor,andistaughtinaroomequippedwithelectriccookers,washingmachines,refrigeratorsandeveryrelevantgadget.Sheisbeingeducatedintwoways.First,innecessaryskillswhichhergrandmotherlearned"inservice"orinthe-home,wayswhichhavedisappearedasthenatureofbothupper-classandworking-classhomeshaschanged.Andsecond,sheisbeingeducatedasaconsumer,afuturebuyerinthemarketfornewkindsofdomesticgoods.Shegrowsuptoregardelectriclabour-saversaspartofherwayoflife:afuturehire-purchasecustomerready-made.Whatpartdoesreligionplayineducation?The1944Actgaveitastrongerfootingthanithadformerlyhadinschools,bymakingadailyreligiousassemblycompulsoryandlayingdownsyllabusesofreligiousinstruc-tion(formerlydependentchieflyontheteachers'disposition).Thetrainingofteachersoriginallywasentirelyinthehandsofreligiousbodies,butnowthereisafairnumberoftrainingcollegesrunbylocaleducationauthorities.Itisstillgenerallyassumedthatteachersshouldbereligiouspeople,however.TheEducationActallowsteacherstowithdrawfromallreligiousbusinessandlaysdownthattheyshallnotbepenalisedfordoingso.Theyare,allthesame:anopenlyatheisticteacher'schancesofadvancementaresmall,andhecanhavethingsmadehotforhimbyatrulyChristianheadmaster.Thetruthisthatschools
do
educate-inthestrictestsenseoftheword.
Exducere
istoleadforth,educeistodrawout,andoureducationalsystemdrawsoutofchildrentheirpotentialvaluetocapitalismanddrillsthemaccordinglyinskillsandattitudes.ThereisafeelingprevalentevenamongSocialiststhat,nevertheless,onegetssome-thingnecessaryandworthwhileoutofelementaryschooling.Don'tbelieveit.Ifthatwerethequestion,childrenwouldlearnasmuchandmorebyrunningthestreetsallday.Indeed,ifyouconsiderthat30percent.ofschoolleaversareclassedas"backwardreaders"(whichincludesilliterates),itseemsobviousthattheycouldhardlylearnless.R.COSTER.
This
is
thefirstofthreearticles.Thenext,intheOctober-NovemberFORUMwilldealwithintelligencetests,examinationsandthepositionofteachers.
\\riters
andSociety-3
JOHN
JohnSteinbeckisanovelistwhofits~erthanmostintothecategoryof-wtersaboutsociety."Hehasfairlycon-~ently,atleastinthe'thirties,writtenof
:::::x:
poor,theoutcastsandmisfitsinsociety,
==d
oftheirsufferings.Thisisnottosay-'-[hebelongstothatgroupof"social~ts"ofthe'thirtieswiththeirstilted,=eelingproletarianplotsthatfollowedthe
s:
l
line.AsF.
J.
Hoffmansaysin
The~odernNovelinAmerica,
Steinbeckisone;::;:those"whoseworkliftsthemabovethe-=""dleveloftheproletarianformulanovel."
GrapesofWrath,
whichisperhapshis
zest
knownwork,dealswithagroupof-;;grantfruit-pickersintheU.S.A.Ittells
e:
afarmingfamily,dispossessedoftheir=-'d,whotrekacrossAmericainanancient,"-eredtrucktofindworkpickingfruitin
("2
'ifornia.Whentheyarriveinthepromised
"=d,
theyfindthatbadfood,appallingliving:::;Dditionsandbrutalityisthelotofthe-Okies,"asthemigrantsarecalled.They
STEINBECK
findthatthousandsuponthousandsoftheunemployedanddispossessedhavecometoCalifornia,likethemselvesattractedbyhandbillspromisinghighwages.Notonlyaretheunprotectedandunorganised"Okies"beatenandcheatedbythefruitgrowers,buttheyarehatedbythelocalinhabitants,whoseeinthemathreattotheirlivelihoodandproperty.Theelderboyinthefamily,Tom,isreleasedfromprisononparole,andbecomesembitteredbythetreatmentthathisfamilyreceivesatthehandsofthefruitgrowers,and,whenhisfriendismurderedbystrike-breakers,hekillsoneofthemandbecomesarenegade.Thisnovelattainedgreatpopularitywhenitwaspublished(1939),andcreatedquiteafurore,andeventuallythegovernmenthadtotakestepstoprovideforthe"Okies"reasonablelivingquartersandsomekindofprotectionagainstthefruit-growers.Themessageofthebook,however,isstillrelevant,forthemigrantworkersarestilltheworst-paidandleastorganisedsectionoftheAmericanworkingclass.Inspiteofsomeratherlabouredsymbolism,andphilosophicalreflectionsofthefatalistickind,thisnovel
is
amostmovingandimpressivestudyofthestrugglesofasectionofthesubject-class.Steinbeck'ssympathyfortheoppressedappearsinanothernovel,
InDubiousBattle,
whichisastoryofastrikeamongfruit-pickersintheTorgasValley,anditcouldbesaidthat
GrapesofWrath
developeddirectlyfromthiswork,inspiteofthedifferencesinpresentation.Thestoryislargelyanaccountofthereactionsofthethreeprincipalcharacterstothestrike-theexperiencedstrike-leader,thenovice,andadoctorwhoisintheroleofanobserver.Thediscussionsthattakeplacebetweenthethreemenhaveacertainamountofinterest,andthestudyofthereactionsoftheindividualsconcernedmakesthisanunusualnovelthatstandsoutamongthemanythatthedepressionbrought
 
forthdealingwithsimilarsubject-matter.ThestrikeleadersareCommunists,butofapeculiarkind.Steinbeckhimselfwrote:"MyinformationforthisbookcamemostlyfromIrishandItalianCommunistswhosetrainingwasinthefield,notinthedrawingroom.Theydon'tbelieveinideologiesandidealtactics.Theyjustdowhattheycanunderthecircumstances."Inthisbookalso,Steinbeck'ssomewhatconfusedphilosophyappears(inthiscasefromthemouthofthedoctor),althoughitmustbesaidinfairnesstohimthatheisalwaysinteresting,andsometimesringsthebell,aswhenthetyroJimsuggeststhattheviolenceoftheconflictisnecessaryandthatone"oughttothinkonlyoftheend;outofthisstruggleagoodthingisgoingtogrow,"towhichthedoctorrepliesthat"inhislittleexperience,theendisneververydifferentinitsnaturetothemeans."ThecharacterswhoseemparticularlytoappealtoSteinbeckarethetramps,thelazy,'good-natured,unemployablenativesofthepoorquartersoftheCaliforniancoastaltowns.
CanneryRow
(1945)and
TortillaFlat
(1935)bothdealwithgroupsofthiskind,thelatter,improbablethoughitmayseem,beingbasedontheArthurianlegend.ThisbookdealswithagroupofMexicansandtheirleader,Danny,whoarebynormalcapitaliststandards,misfits.Itisasomewhatepisodicseriesofadventuresofthisgroup,andtheirstruggle(ifsuchatermcanbeused)toexisthappilywithoutworking.Althoughnomorethanafolk-tale,thebookisextremelysuccessfulinholdingone'sinterestandprovidingentertainment,whichismorethanonecansayforninetypercent.oftheoutputofmodernfictionwriters.
CanneryRow
isasimilartale,alsoepisodicincharacter,butthistimeaboutagroupofwhitevagabonds.Bothofthesebooks,althoughlackingthesociologicalpunchofthetwoearlier-mentionedbooks,areextremelyreadableaccountsofwhatwas,andprobablystillis,anaspectofAmericanlife.
TheWaywardBus
(1947)isalsosimilarincharacter,andoneofSteinbeck'slastpublishedworks,
SweetThursday,
isasequelto
CanneryRow.
Thecharactersare,inthemain,thesameasintheearlierbook,andtheactiontakesplaceafterthelastwar.Thebookisamusingenough,buthardlyjustifiesthere-openingofaminethatStein-beckhadalreadyfullyworkedout.
OfMiceandMen,
anotherofSteinbeck'smorewell-knownnovels,isalsoaboutmigrantworkers,butthistimeitisastoryoftwoindividuals.Oneisafeeble-mindedlumberinggiant,andtheotherashort,toughmanwhohasbecometheother'sprotectorandguide.Itisashort,well-constructedbook,whichpacksintoitspagesawealthoftellingdescriptionandquiteconvincingactionanddialogue.Lennie,thegiant,hasmurderousimpulses,morefromanimalfearthanfrombadness,andGeorge,hisprotector,isconstantlystrugglingtopreventLenniefromgettingintotrouble.Thetragicclimaxisextremelytautandmoving,andthenovelasawholeiscertainlyoneofSteinbeck'smoresuccess-fulventures.Alaternovel,
TheMoon
is
Down,
(alsopublishedinplayform)seemstobearegressionfromthevaluesthatSteinbeckappearedtoupholdinhisearlierwork.Thisstoryofanoccupiedcountry(presumablyNorway)duringthelastwar,appearstohavebeenwrittenmorewithaneyeonHollywoodthanonsocialproblems,andinfactthenovelwasturnedintoaplayandfilmscriptalmostwithoutalteration.Thepointthatitmakesisthatthehumanspiritcannotbebroken,and,thatanoccupyingpowerwillneverbeabletoforcethesub-missionofa"freepeople."Itcertainlydoesnotgiveanaccuratepictureoftheoccupiedcountries,butasitwasawartimeproduction,thisishardlysurprising.AswiththemajorityofWesternwritersandintellectuals,thedestructionoffascismpresumablybe-camethemostpressingneedinSteinbeck'seyes.Steinbeck'searliernovels,suchas
CupofGold
and
ThePasturesofHeaven,
arenotparticularlyinteresting,astheycontainallthefaultsofthelaterbooks,withoutanyoftheircompensatingmerits.Theshortstoriesaresomewhatbetter,butheretoo,oneisconfrontedwiththetop-heavyphilosophyandapreoccupationwithplants,insectsandanimals.EdmundWilson,on
TheBoysintheBackRoom,
haslevelledmuchconstructivecriti-cismatSteinbeckandhiswork,buthedoeshimlessthanjusticewhenhesuggeststhatallofSteinbeck'scharactersarelackinginhumanity,andthattheyarepresentedinaclinicaldetachedwayinthemannerofwhitemiceorinsectsinthedissectingroom.ItistruethatSteinbeck,whoisakeenbiologist,isengrossedintheminutia:oftheanimalandplantkingdoms,andisespeciallyfascinatedbythewantonslaughterthatgoesoninthem.Intheearlypagesof
TheGrapesofWrath,
forinstance,thereisalengthyaccountofaturtlelaboriouslymak-ingitswayacrossafieldtotheroad.TherearemanyexamplesofthiskindofthinginSteinbeck,andapartfromthesymbolism,theyaddlittleornothingtotheplotsoractionofhisstories,exceptwhentheyarebroughtinasanincidentalactivityofbiologically-mindedcharacters(aswithDoc,in
SweetThursday).
Thepreoccupationwithbiology,however,islittlemorethanapersonalfoible,anddoesnotaffectSteinbeck'spresentationofhischaracterstoanyrealextent.Tom[oad,Ma,Caseyandtheothersin
GrapesofWrath
couldnot,byanystretchoftheimagination,bedescribedasclinicalstudies,andinfacttheirhumanityandsufferingissoskilfullypresentedastomakethemcom-pletelyconvincing.EdmundWilsonhimselfrecognisedoneaspectofthiswhenhewrote"thereremainsbehindthejournalism,thetheatricalities,andthetricksofhisotherbooks,amindwhichdoesseemfirst-rateinitsunpanickyscrutinyoflife."Itcouldbesaidwithsomejustification,thatafterhisviolenceandfervourduringthedepression,Steinbeckhasdriedup,saidnothingfurtherofanyimportance,andismerelysettlingdowntoafinanciallystableexistenceproducinglight,harmless,Holly-wood-intendedworkswithlittleornobearinguponsocietyoritsproblems.ItissomewhatearlyinSteinbeck'scareertomakesuch
a
judgment,however,andonecanonlyhopethatSteinbeckwillturnhisattentionandskilltothemanyproblemsthatAmericaofferstotheintelligentwriter.Evenifthisdoesnothappen,Steinbeckwillhavealreadyearnedanicheinthenotovercrowdedgalleryofstimulatingwritersaboutsociety.A.W.I.
StudyClassNotes
(Concludedtrampage
208)
2.
Morality.
Chivalry,chastity,co-rela-tivesofland-inheritancecustoms.Divorcepermittedwhennoheir.Usuryveryimmoral.Worstpossiblecrimewasfelony.
i.e.,
breachoffaithwithoverlord.C.HISTORICALFUNCTION.Thedevelopmentofaworldmarket
via.
theadvancementofproductivetechniqueasemployedinhandicrafts,
Definition:
Feudalismisasystemofsocietybaseduponlandtenure,sub-jecttomilitaryand/oragriculturalservice.BOOKS.Engels:
OriginoftheFamily.
Adams:
Feudalism
(EncyclopsediaBritannica
I9II
Edition).Bogdanov:
ShortCourseofEconomicScience.
Stenton:
EnglishFeudalism.
Gibbins:
IndustrialHistoryofEngland.
Therehavebeenagoodmanyfunnythingssaidandwrittenabouthardupishness,buttherealityisnotfunny,forallthat.Itisnotfunnytohavetohaggleoverpennies.Itisn'tfunnytobethoughtmeanandstingy,
It
isn'tfunnytobeshabby,andtobeashamedofyouraddress.No,thereisnothingatallfunnyinpoverty-tothepoor...Apoormanisdespisedthewholeworldover;despisedasmuchbyaChristianasbyalord,asmuchbyademagogueasbyafoot-man,andnotallthecopy-bookmaximssetforink-stainedyouthwillmakehimrespected.Appearances
are
everything,sofarashumanopiniongoes;andthemanwhowillwalkdownPiccadillyarminarmwiththemostnotoriousscampinLondon,providedheisawell-dressedone,willslinkupabackstreettosayacoupleofwordstoaseedy-lookinggentleman.
TheIdleThoughtsofanIdleFellow
-Jerome
K.
Jerome.
20
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