Higher Education for All
Letter published in Labour Worker, 15 March 1965.
Ian Taylor makes an important point in the debate about comprehensives when he stresses that the interest of capitalism in any form of education is to cream off an elite. If comprehensives make this creaming more efficient, so much the better for our meritocratic society.
The demand of “no streaming” can be won under the present system. What cannot be won without making a fundamental challenge to a society based on class division is the demand for the abolition of all selection at all stages. We should call for “Higher education for all” – now – not in some Utopian future.
The argument that only a small section of the population have the ability to profit from higher education does not fit the facts. A large number of potential students are now rejected by the Universities, and are forced to study in colleges with inferior facilities, or to give up the idea of higher education altogether.
They are rejected, not because of lower intelligence, but because of arbitrary selection procedure (interview plus examination result) or because of deficiencies (lack of grounding in a subject, or difficulty in self-expression) which can be remedied without difficulty. How many more potential students are prevented from continuing their studies by financial circumstances, home pressure, etc., etc.?
In one way this demand is a revolutionary one – it cannot be granted under capitalism. Yet at the same time, with the constant advance of automation, it is an increasingly relevant and realistic one. Where revolution and realism are close together, there is a field for socialists to be active.