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'State Education'
J.A. Andrews, in 'The Australian Radical' June, 1889.

One of the earlist members of the MAC, he had to overcome a severe stutter and depression brought on by a tormented childhood, an above-average intelligence and a fragmented cultural background. He developed skill as an inventor, poet and linguist, and was prepared to push his beliefs to the extremes of squatting and living off the land. Renouncing respectability, such as 'the yoke' of collar and tie, and devoting himself entirely to the cause, he impressed his hearers with his learning and sincerity, but was easily picked off by the establishment on trumped-up charges, when the police failed to establish evidence of dynamitings against him. He gave up mass agitational work in 1895, but continued writing and moving in labor circles, becoming editor of 'Tocsin' in 1901, but dying of consumption in 1903.

I am asked by some to express my views on this subject.

So far as the system and scope of education go, I am of opinion that State schools are not much worse or much better than the majority of other schools. But, in general, I do not believe in schools at all for education.

Classes are, I think, on altogether different ground from schools, there being as much difference between the two modes of organisation as between the anarchist commune and the State. The child, under proper conditions, would gather its general education, including not only what is usually called such, but a rudimentary knowledge, handicrafts, and applied science, and some practice, also, in the course of its everyday life, that is to say, instead of being shut out from the practical world it would enter it and endeavour at once to procure by its own efforts the gratification of its desires.

I am convinced that half the individual helplessness of mankind arises from our accursed system which puts the child in an artificial world and so to speak locks him up in it, this repressing the natural creative and resolving instinct, and then dropping him as over a prison wall into the world for the most of the purposes of which the stored experiences of his past years have about as much fitted him as a prison would - the child would hear and see and remember some things, inquire about others, be 'told' and 'shown' instead of 'taught', and also find out a good many things independently, which the system of School Education almost prevents it from doing, by laying down the law in matters of knowledge and thus crushing its own judgement. Anything then in which it became by disposition or necessity interested to the extent of really studying with the aid of one already initiated, it should be able to take up in a class at any reasonable hour, much as in the case of a man who wants to learn shorthand of a teacher; but there is a moral certainty that little societies of youngsters with kindred tastes and aspirations would get on swimmingly with no teaching, or what is commonly called teaching, at all. Further, I am convinced that any ordinary boy can from 13 or 14 till up to when he is 20 educate himself in the most pleasant and effectual manner in language, arts and sciences, as well as in the every day affairs of life, to a higher degree than is possible by any system of 'instruction' which also cuts him off from the every-day affairs of life.

Evidently it is impossible for the State to undertake this kind of education; therefore, even were that afforded by the State the best and fullest of its kind, this is a sufficient indictment against it. The teacher is a nearly useless animal unless you make him necessary by depriving the child of natural opportunities and the stimulus of natural conditions. If the State is really so benevolent as to wish to educate the people for their benefit, it had better stop helping the exploiters to rob the people of these opportunities, abolish itself and leave everyone free to repudiate the demands of the exploiters.

Mr Weber is sadly in error in imagining that the State system is 'the co-operation of the whole community for the purpose of education!' Even were the curriculum not half worthless, and admitting it for the sake of argument to be all that the whole of the people desire as far as it goes, and the payment and distribution of taxes to be voluntary, it is evident that there is no co-operation in the work of instruction between any two schools, and precisely the same result, at the same total cost would be attained if each school and staff of teachers were provided and maintained by the co-operative endeavours of those whose children attend that school ...

Lastly, as to 'compulsory education'. Under natural conditions, I repeat, every child will naturally, gradually and pleasantly learn all that it needs to learn, and all that it is naturally fitted to learn; therefore to prescribe compulsory education is either super-erogatory or a tyranny against the child, by making it learn something instead. As to the parents no man has a right to aggress upon the liberty of his child by prohibiting or retarding its education, and in an anarchic society any one would very soon see that he did not, if he attempted it. The present system merely throws upon the parents the onus of furnishing a poor substitute for the natural facilities which the capitalists and rulers have destroyed, and which, if there is any compulsion at all in the matter the capitalists and rulers should be compelled to restore at their own expense...

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Last modified: May 1, 1999

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