Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index

Student Action for Education (1966)

1966 saw the start of the movement towards militant professionalism amongst teachers and campaigns for improvements in secondary education by N.U.A.U.S.'s university constituents. The anarchists joined into the latter student campaign and also contacted more radical teachers to see if there was a possibility of joint action. It was decided to set up a specifically anarchist education group aiming at starting a secondary school student movement (something that didn't happen until the late 60's). To do this the anarchists at Melbourne and Brisbane universities tried to affiliate clubs called 'Student Action for Education'. The aims section of the common constitution is printed below together with a leaflet written for the campaign by a student at MacRobertson Girls High School.


The aim of the club shall be to start a student movement within schools and universities in co-operation with sympathetic members of the teaching profession and other interested groups or individuals to:

  1. Present plans for reform
  2. Agitate and fight for these reforms
  3. Develop a student structure that will tend to take increasing responsibility for aspects of both the discipline and the education of its members.

The Melbourne University/Queensland University club shall act as the financial arm of the above movement as well as acting as part of the movement on the above basis.

This sheet is Written in the conviction that by united action alone can students and teachers effect essential reforms in education. We lives ostensibly in a democracy, but there is no democracy in education. The student has no say in making the rules (if sixth formers are old enough to enforce the rules, then they are old enough to help make them). The student has no part in shaping his curricula (neither do his teachers); his choice of course is largely determined by others. At the moment students and teachers are forbidden to a great extent from communicating on the subject of education. What else would it be possible to discuss?

Hitler, Mussolini, Mr. Rylah and the University of Tasmania all maintained that those in power, themselves, acted in the best interests of their subjects or subordinates. Germans, Italians, Victorians and Tasmanians disagreed. It serves the ends of authority to render resistance on the part of students hopeless and ineffectual. What is of importance to the administrators is the production of qualified economic units; human sausage-skills are crammed indiscriminately with a miscellaneous jumble of information to be regurgitated when the dreaded prod of examinations is applied. The finished products then plop neatly off the conveyer belt into one of several predetermined social receptacles. No provision is made for academic failures or for those (a small minority) who deem the whole process iniquitous and meaningless. The intelligent and questioning are stunted by unimaginative system-bound teachers, the sensitive often maimed mentally for life. Any benefits are gained despite the system rather than because of it.

There is marked emphasis on outward semblance, on ritual blindly observed. The captive audience at assemblies responds collectively to administered stimuli: feats performed for the school are praised and dutifully applauded, orders given are executed, warnings dispensed and heeded. Extra curricular activities assume special precedence; a scintillating array of these greets the new student, who is encouraged to take part and have his surplus energies channeled harmlessly. Yet another means is found to bolster the school's reputation. Sports matches, socials, house activities and inter-school competitions all savour of regimentation. To bring honour to the school and perpetuate the illusion of enjoyment within strictly defined limits are the aims students are exhorted to strive for. The distraction afforded by a school function helps fill time that might otherwise be wasted in idle thought, or worse still, dangerous criticism.

If ideas contrary to those of the regime are expressed, they are suppressed on the grounds that they will corrupt innocent school children. Controversial issues are avoided like the plague, problems are never frankly examined. The traditional picture of the mass of pupils seems to be one of a flock of milk-white lambs requiring careful supervision and protection, hormetically sealed off from all evil. To contradict this there is the readiness of authority to presume offenders guilty and the rest potentially so - to protect them from themselves and their baser instincts. Both these misconceptions can be used to threaten the passive majority and to eliminate the disobedient. All keep silent because they exist in a state of fear.

The only way this can be remedied is by united and purposeful action. The teachers have already started agitating, but there is much the student can do. A powerful student body could request reforms in conjunction with teachers. It could demonstrate, hold discussions on appropriate topics taboo in schools. It would hence assume, along with progressive teachers, much of the responsibility for educating itself for "life" not for exams.

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