Education and Capital

a. Capital needs the state to educate

Capital needs workers who can navigate modern life, as well high skilled workers to perform specialised tasks. But taking on the task of educating its workers to these levels would be bad business: workers do not belong to the company, so their education is not an investment in the capital of the company. The state happily takes on this task, because as well as wanting to improve chances of capital success in the future, it also wants to educate its subjects on how to be good citizens. The form in which the states organises school reflects this latter aim: students have to compete for results within the the boundaries of pre-established rules, and punishments are readily handed out for those that break them.

With these purposes in mind, the state organises education in the most economical way possible. It frequently assesses its own and capital’s needs and adapts curriculums accordingly, by cutting down on areas which aren’t necessary anymore and introducing new subjects that have become indispensable.

b. Triage

Capital has a need for a variety of skills with different degrees of educational requirements. The educational system is the tool that sorts future workers into this hierarchy of occupations.

The obligation to participate in this triage process is presented and seen as an opportunity by those subjected to it. Students accept that the rules imposed on them form the conditions for their success. As such, education is always defended as a right to be cherished.

At school, knowledge is dispensed in a pre-determined amount of time, indifferent to the student’s understanding. It’s the student’s obligation to pick it up in that time. The student is then tested for their ability to reproduce the material, also is a pre-determined period. Their efficiency is the measure of success.

The grade obtained in tests determines the advancement or not into further education. This way, those who need less time and help to acquire knowledge are pushed along further in the educational system, and those who require more help are excluded from it. Functional illiteracy is not, therefore, a sign of a failing educational system but rather its expected result.

School treats everyone the same, regardless of background or support at home. The result is that education reproduces in children the respective social class position of their parents.

c. Hierarchy

It is generally accepted that one must study hard to escape the most abject poverty. And it is true that it is school which sorts people into the hierarchy of occupations, where, as a rule of thumb, the less education the worker needs to have, the less income they will be able to procure. But ultimately, it is not education which determines someone’s status in society.

Status in this world derives not from knowledge someone has acquired, but rather from this knowledge’s function for state and capital, what is often referred to as “qualifications”. Whether someone is qualified or not does not depend on their knowledge, but in the calculated usefulness of that person’s knowledge to an employer. If a particular knowledge ceases to be useful for capital, or there is an abundance of people with those skills, it also ceases to be a resource for those who possess it. Therefore, even though someone without an education has less chances of earning a nice income, having an education is no guarantee of a good life. It is simply an offer to the employers which they are free to ignore.

The fact that the educational triage is a basis for admission in the professional hierarchy is used to legitimise the competition arena: in principle, everyone occupies the place that they deserve based on their school performance and has had an opportunity to shape their destiny. Few question the soundness of translating differences in knowledge into social status and wealth. It is no surprise, then, that despite all most people see school as a service provided to them.