“Education” Part One – Introduction

NB – This continues the ongoing transcription of a 2002 ‘Manifesto for a Democratic Socialist Bermuda’, which I wrote for the purpose of initiating discussion about organising a democratic socialist (DS) Party in Bermuda. I am reproducing it here for it’s historical interest, it’s role in the genesis of this blog itself, and for the purpose of stimulating discussion in the future.

Part One

A goal of the DS is to provide the people of Bermuda with an all-round education based on second-language learning, scientific education, social studies, the arts, physical education (including martial arts) and technical education. In addition, the DS seeks to make post-secondary education – to the equivalent of current A-levels/Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureates – mandatory, while guaranteeing, to all who wish to pursue it, further studies. This needs to be qualified by adding that those who seek to be solely students in occupation, that is, not working in addition to pursuing further education, will be faced with the aforementioned statement of ‘don’t work, don’t eat.’ [The DS fully advocates that the entire population should be lifelong students in as much as constantly expanding their education and minds, but opposes parasitic ‘students for life.’]

The DS rejects the notion, prevalent amongst certain sections of Bermuda (notably the white-collar middle-class and certain sections of the bosses) that: (a) ‘You just can’t teach some people’; and (b) ‘You can’t teach a old dog new tricks.’

In opposition to these class prejudices the DS puts forward the belief (stated earlier) that any one human can achieve (relatively) that which any other human may achieve, only that some may require greater effort than others to do so. Not only does practical experience demonstrate that these prejudices are mistaken (other common ‘folk-sayings’ indeed contradict them – ‘practice makes perfect’, etc.), but even modern science, most clearly in the cognitive field of Connectionist Theory, provides empirical evidence and a model in support of our position.

[A short essay on Connectionist Theory will be found in the appendices to this document, but it may be useful to provide an overview of it here. Essentially it states that ones ability to perform a task – primarily cognitive, but also complex physical skills – increases with the strength of the connection between the neurons involved. The strength of these connections may be consciously (and also unconsciously) increased in several ways (and hence ones ability to perform the task in question), namely through rehearsal (practice/repetition), emotion and relation to other skills/memories. In many ways the Connectionist Theory of modern cognitive science should be viewed as complementary – or as a negation – of the work of Vygotsky.]

In general the DS puts forward the belief that while all may achieve what any other may achieve (relatively), and we qualify this statement further by saying that the energy required to achieve such relative equality increases with age (that is, it is easier to increase the strength of neural connections when young, and increasingly harder to do so with age). Furthermore, one does not simply culture ones ‘connections’ in a vacuum, but, instead, the ability to do so is largely based on ones ability to stimulate ones mind, and the skills one needs to culture in order to survive. With our current economic system, which necessitates economic inequality, the ability to achieve this or that skill freely, and indeed to achieve the full rounded development of the individual, is largely constrained by one’s socio-economic conditions, with only extremely rare cases being able to ‘transcend’ the economic.

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