Education: A totalitarian device

I am grateful that I was lucky enough to hear Dr Liam Gearon give his inaugural lecture as a Professor in Plymouth and later an exposition of his thinking connected to CONTEMPORARY ISSUES in HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION. This is worth a read, here’s a section of the introduction:

“Human rights education must constantly evolve in order to respond to the changing needs and circumstances of today’s societies. Furthermore, it is not enough to simply educate children on tolerance and non-violence in the classroom if they are exposed to violent acts or prejudices within their homes or communities. Intercultural dialogue cannot be described as a best practice without being demonstrated and reinforced by educators, parents, the  community and wider civil society. Only through a holistic and cooperative approach can human rights education be truly effective in guaranteeing respect for the rights of all.”

I his inaugural lecture, Liam explained and discussed the way that education is used as a device of totalitarian regimes as a highly effective way of managing and controlling the proletariat.

I’m going to use the following definition of Totalitarianism:

“The officially proclaimed ideology penetrates into the deepest reaches of societal structure and the totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens” Pipes, R(1995) Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime

Education has been a device of totalitarian regimes since the the first millenium, when the main sponsor of education in the UK was the Church, the focus was religious instruction and the study of the classics, from this grew the Universities of Oxford and then Cambridge.  This comes from Derek Gillard who has done a very useful work on the History of Education in England.

Anyway, blah blah, The Church used education through out the ages to further its own survival & populate its clergy with well educated people to perpetuate its existence.

Through history, governments have used education as a device to control and shape the thinking of the people, making it easier for the government to retain power.


“Education was at the heart of Soviet attempts to create a new society. While children from the peasantry and working classes were given priority in the new educational system, the initial, child-centered system failed, and Stalin, after 1932, returned the system to a more traditional, disciplined and expectation-driven one. This system, while again stressing the importance of education to the children of the masses, was strongly technological and scientific.

While the study of Marxism-Leninism remained in the curriculum, technological education reined paramount, although accompanied by the state’s overwhelming urge to indoctrinate the students into the benefits of communism.”


The good old US of A:

Did much the same with the Japanese education system after WW2, the system had been a totalitarian device of centralised control, feeding the war effort for Japan.  The Americans, in rebuilding Japan, sought to deploy the same tool for a different totalitarian end, that of democratization and what I think is called Neo-Liberalism.  Basically the USA sought ot make sure that Japanes culture was so changed that they would never again be led into such a war.

Liberal Totalitarianism:

In Britain we now use education to different totalitarian ends, those of liberal totalitarianism. In other words, the state has determined the correct way for people in society to act and they are using devices such as citizenship, SEAL, healthy eating, minimum time for PE as tools to further the State’s ends.  These have flaws, they are no necessarily wrong, but ask yourself, who actually decided they were ‘right’ and why…..Here’s something Sir Peter Newsam wrote , he is former director of the Institue of Education.

I leave you with some Pink Floyd:

The Fletcher Memorial Home

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