The Marxist Approach in Education

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Se. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.”
― Karl MarxThe 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

Marxism is the most powerful competitor of religious philosophies It is true that its rapid spread is due, to some extent, to the use of force. Every student of history is well aware that ideas are not accepted because of force alone. Therefore, an understanding of the ideological roots of Marxism is most necessary.

Philosophical Rationale of Marxism

Metaphysical position

Concept of Self-

Karl Marx made it clear that “life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” and what he meant by life was actual living everyday material activity

Marxism’s descriptive title, Dialectical Materialism, indicates that has source of all life is found in matter,. “ Man, , is purely a product of nature, and not a  result of any force outside nature. In reality , he is not even a product of evolution, but of his own making. man is a productive animal. Matter and productivity are the two key concepts relating to man’s nature. His need for clothing, shelter, sex are purely material needs modified by a desire for social acceptance. But basically it is change in material conditions which effects changes in man’s ideas, views, and conceptions.”

Marxism rejects mind-body or spirit-matter dualism as an interpretation of man’s behavior. The origin of life, the reality of death have no bearing on and are not related to any supernatural order but are delicate and complex forms of matter. Mind itself is simply a product of matter.. Thus, in religion, man projects his natural needs into the realm of the spiritual (or supernatural) hoping to obtain satisfaction from such projection.

Man’s personality is not of his own making but a product of social forces and the tensions of the class struggle. Marx says : “In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will …. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but , on the  contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness…The individual man’s true freedom is achieved when he adjusts to the “collective will of the people.” The best expression of individual freedom is realized when the person knows he must act according to the laws of the collectivism and actually follows these laws .The educators of the Communist countries place a premium on thinking and acting with the collective mind and will.

In summary, the Marxist’s  basic belief about the nature of man includes the following: (1) man is a purely material being with an natural origin and destiny; (2) man is not composed of body and mind or body and soul – mind is simply a complex function of the material body; (3) man possesses no personal or individual freedom but find this freedom in following the collective will of “the people” (party); (4) all knowledge of man’s nature is derived from scientific sources. Philosophy and theology yield no valid knowledge about man’s essence; (5) the science of man is subsumed under the science of society; that is, one cannot speak of the science of man but of men.

In theory, Marxist agree that society creates individuals and that individuals will change as society changes. The Marxists, unlike traditional philosophers, believe that the state in not a natural institution, but on which arose in society when social classes began to form. Certain classes created the state as a means of protecting what they had acquired against the attempts, on the part of those who did not have any private property, to restore ownership to all the members of society. The state, then, is a creation of the greedy “haves, “ to maintain their ownership of the means of predicting wealth.

This promise of perfect happiness on earth is perhaps the point which had the greatest appeal to the downtrodden, impoverished masses.. Why should man wait for life after death to see justice done? It could never be verified by experience that wrong doers received their just deserts or that those who lived in misery and sorrow would receive comfort and joy in the afterlife. Therefore, build a perfectly classless society – one that will supply all the needs and want of man here on earth. Then man can forget the myth of heaven.

Philosophy of Change

Engels compared Marx  to Darwin. Darwin, he said, discovered the laws of biological change; Marx, the laws of change applied to historical development of human kind. Further, they insist upon the inevitability of change in human events because of the “dialectic of history.” This view, of course, is an adaptation of the well known Hegelian triad : thesis-antithesis-synthesis.  It is an adaptation of Hegel since his world was a spiritual or mental one whereas Marx’s world is purely material.

In dialectical materialism the Marxist use dialectic to explain the changes of the past and predict the events of the future in all areas, politics, economics, and education. But these changes are gradual and the new forms always contain some of the old.. Marxists apply the same dialectic to social institutions accordingly (1) The social institution in existence (thesis); (2) the human needs and demands which this institution produces (antithesis); (3) the new social institution which arises because of the relation and interaction of the existing social institutions and the human needs and demands it produced (synthesis ) .In summary, , the Marxist view involves the following beliefs about change:

  • The physical and biological realms are in a state of constant flux. These states are guided by the dialectical process which leads them inevitably from one stage of development to another.
  • The social, political, economic, and educational realms, too, are changing according to the rules of the dialectic. One type of structure must give way inevitably to another until the final synthesis is realized.
  • All change is gradual, and at time imperceptible, since every new synthesis contains elements of the previous thesis and antithesis.
  • The only thing that does not change is the schema of development – the dialectical process according to which change takes place.

Concept of God / Religion-

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” 

. Marxists deny belief in any form of religion. a spiritual intoxicant used by the oppressors to keep the workers in slavery. Religion, they averred, was used to keep the worker passive and patient in the acceptance of his unhappy lot by promising him a reward in the hereafter. “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”― Karl Marx

The next line of attack concentrates on removing the indirect influence coming from the cultural heritage of the past. Museums, libraries, textbooks, and the like are purged of any religious influence. In place of these influences, Marxists enthrone atheistic and materialistic values designed to fill the void left by the removal of religious values.

Since religion is a reality in all cultures Marxists need some way of explaining its presence in society. Marx believed that religion was simply an immature way of dealing with production and consumption of goods in the different types of societies. Engels felt that primitive men could not explain certain phenomena of their own experience, such as dreams, thought, and sensation, and hence placed the source of these activities in a spiritual soul. Since these activities were not bodily they would not die with the body, but live on. Thus, arose the idea of immortality of the soul. The idea of God evolved from the personification of natural forces which ignorant men could not explain by natural means. Eventually, by rationalistic (nonscientific) means, the belief in one God was created by men.

Epidemiological Position of Marxism

The philosophy of Marxism is not overly concerned with theory of knowledge. For the Marxist, the nature or origin of truth, the modes of knowing are not major problems. However, the Marxist view on some major issues in the theory of knowledge is available.

First, knowing does not consists in an apprehension of the “thing in itself,” but rather a grasp of the things as it exists for us. McFadden interprets the knowing process of Marxist epistemology as a combination of active and passive aspect of mind. On the one hand, the outside world acts upon man’s sense organs and thus provides a continual flow of stimuli to the knowing organism. On the other hand, the mind itself, since it is an integral part of the world (matter), partakes of the same active nature as the world and it self active in the knowing process.. In the process of acquiring knowledge, man is simultaneously changed by the knowledge he acquires changes the world by the knowledge acquired. To understand the world, the know er must perceive the relations which exist among the things of the of the real world and between himself and these external objects.

Therefore Marxist theory of knowledge cannot be classified as either realistic or idealistic but rather as a mixture of both. Consequently truth can never be objective or absolute for its is a “relative experience” which does not have set laws. If this be the case it is easy to understand why the “truths” contained in textbooks are frequently changed by Marxists.

There seems to be no doubt that Marxists have placed a priority on the scientific mode of knowing and understandably so, since in this age of science such knowledge gives power. In fact any knowledge which does not give power to its possessor is  not worthy of the name.

Lenin himself held “that the only path to truth is science which hold the materialist point of view.”Because of the major role science plays in Marxist school one might be led to believe the radical empiricism is the only epidemiological position amenable to Marxists. Such, however, is not the case, for there is a strong stain of rationalism within the system. This rationalistic strain is derived from the Hegelian notion of mind as both the source and unifying principle of experiences. This structure, which itself is a result of his formalized “dialectic”, presumes that the world is inexorable moving through the three states, thesis antithesis, and synthesis

Axiological Position of Marxism

Marxists have been somewhat ambivalent in their acceptance or rejection of traditional beliefs. In the areas of curriculum and methodology, they have reinstated much from prerevolutionary times In the realm of values, Marxism holds many of the ancient beliefs such as patriotism, love and respect for parents and elders, honesty, and distributive justice.

In spite of the many statement that Marxists have no concern for values (especially moral values) a perusal of Communist technical and educational literature reveals that more attention it paid to the moral behavior of the “faithful Communist” than any other aspect of life. The school, for example, is given the major responsibility for developing “ethical character” in pupils so that they will be law-abiding, productive citizens of the communities in which they live. Only by living the good life can they contribute to the ultimate triumph of Marxism. It is true that the leaders of Marxism rejected the traditional foundation of morality and subordinated all value theory to the interests of the working class in its struggle against the oppressors.

Ethical Values

It is well known that, shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, the Marxists threw out all the moral standards of pre-revolutionary days. In most respects, this attitude is true of all revolutionary movements including that of progressiveness in American education. “Do away with vestiges of the old regime” is the cry of the revolutionary. In so doing, they “throw out the baby with the bath.” But it does not take very long for the folly of such an attitude to become evident, even to the leaders of the revolution

Moral Character

A person with proper moral training is one who subordinates all his actions, interests, and desires to the service of the Communist state and the “People.” In order to achieve this perfect moral state, the child must learn to hate all that is contrary to the principles. Furthermore, the morally perfect Communist must be willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, to defend the doctrines of Communism.

One of the first moral principles children must learn is the respect for public property. Teachers should inculcate this principle by using stories from history but, above all, by example. If neither of these approaches succeeds in convincing the pupil, the teacher must use force to convince him of his error. The child should not be allowed to harm others by his lack of conformity to rules demanding respect for public property.

Respect for authority is another moral principle which children must learn early in life. This respect is not to be based upon fear of punishment  for, as Anton Makarenko says, cruelty begets cruelty in children. Rather, the child should learn to respect the authority of the teacher and others because these people have been helpful, understanding, fair, and firm. “True authority is founded on the making of reasonable demands on the child, combined with respect for his personality, devotion to his interests, ability to help him, clarity, firmness of educational purposes, and worthiness of personal example.”

Sex Morality

After the Russian revolution, the Communists, in their eagerness to discard all ties with “bourgeois morality”, went on a free-love binge unparalleled in modern history. The Marxist penchant for order and discipline, however, soon made such a course untenable. Also Marx himself rejected the communization of sex relations by considering such a view as the point of “infinite degradation” of the humanized man. It represents, to his mind, a state in which man seeks to satisfy his biological animal needs rather than social needs. After all, it is the expression of social needs and their fulfillment which humanizes man.


The development of good moral character is essential to Communist philosophy, but these virtues must be expressed in an unwavering devotion to the motherland. This devotion begins with love of parents, relatives and friends, the local community, and local environs. From. These immediate attachments the child can be led to an ardent devotion to the Communist party and the great prophets of Communism and a passionate hatred of their enemies.

Another aspect of the moral virtue of patriotism rests on the pride all good citizens must manifest in the achievements of Communism in the areas of production, politics, economics, art, and education. This pride should extend to those of the worker’s parties throughout the world in the battle for the destruction of capitalism.

Yet another by product of the virtue of patriotism is heroism. This virtue is expressed in bravery on the battlefield as well as in the efforts put forth to bring about the triumph of Communism throughout the world:

Finally, the student must demonstrate his patriotism by deeds, the most important of which is realized in his mastery of military skills of all kinds.

Love and Respect for Parents, Elders, and All Workers-

As mentioned above, patriotism is based upon the immediate attachment to parents, friends, relatives, and local environment. But the love of persons is a value worth cultivation for its own sake.

Education must play the important part in fostering love and respect for people. Children should be taught these noble sentiments through literature, good example, and the practice of manners expressing in word and deed the true essence of these basic values. Children should never be allowed to get away wilderness or disobedience toward parents, elders and teachers or one another. This kind of behavior is “capitalistic” and unbecoming to socialist youth of good character. However, in teaching love and respect, the negative aspects should not be overemphasized. Rather, proper training will result in the positive virtue of responsibility

Another aspect of developing respect for persons in found in the respect for truth and contempt for lying. From early childhood, children should learn to tell the truth and refrain from cheating and lying not only because these acts harm other but because they destroy the person’s own integrity. If he has made a mistake, the child should admit it and bear the responsibility for his own errors.

The Common Good -

The common good is ranked high among moral values inculcated in Marxist countries The first steps toward the full realization of this abstract good are found in comradeship and friendship. Comradeship is developed in “community of interest and action.” Sharing, cooperation, discharging social obligations, respect for school property, group work and play, coeducational projects, all are specific applications of the broader virtue, cultivation of the common good .Friendship is a more intimate and personal relationship between persons. But is should never be permitted to displace cooperation between all members of the collective. The priority of cooperation for the common good over personal friendship is emphasized by the strong pressure brought to bear upon youth to participate actively

The Value of Labor

The Marxist believes that the true value of any object is to be measured by the amount labor which has been expended in its production. Labor, then, is not be viewed as something distasteful or burdensome. On the contrary, in Communist countries work is conceived as an expression, the highest aspiration of the human person. It is a matter of “honor, glory, valor, and heroism.” It offers man the opportunity to serve his fellowman, thus promoting the common good. This Communist attitude towards labor is closely entwined with the values of discipline, patriotism, the common good, love of one’s fellow worker, and Communist morality in general. Some Marxists, in reality, consider the communist view of labor as the highest value in the hierarchy of values.

Aesthetic Values

In the field of aesthetics, the great interest and productivity of the people of Communist countries in the fine arts puts the American to shame.The handling of the artist and the development of a theory of art presented One group of extremist demanded that all art works, especially literature, preach the party line. In other words, the arts should be considered as vehicles of Communist doctrines and no deviation from these doctrines should be tolerated. The more moderate group, which included Trotsky and Bukharin felt that the arts could thrive only when the artist is given sufficient freedom to produce creative works; creativity is stifled if the artist is made to produce according to political specifications. The engineer, the agricultural expert, and the economist could be bound by Communist doctrines but the artist could not be so bound. Of course, the artist could never be permitted to use his art as a political weapon against the revolution.

In summary, the following generalizations about Communist axiology are offered:

  • All values are rooted in the class struggle of the proletariat against the oppressing classes.
  • The ultimate source of values is not found outside the realm of socialistic human experience.
  • The criterion of values is depicted best by the dictum, “What ever aids Communism is good; whatever hinders it is evil.”
  • Values are in a state of flux since each new synthesis will create new values.
  • All values must reflect devotion to the party, its leaders, and the motherland.
  • All values must develop the love esteem for labor so essential for the triumph of Communism over capitalism.

Marxism in Education

Indeed, education is the most powerful weapon, even more powerful than the sword, for the spread of Marxism

Marxists make education a tool of the state in initiating youth to the requisites of a classless society. Teaching methods are centered around the teacher rather than the student, with the lecture-recitation-test pattern predominating. The curricular content is determined exclusively by the needs of the Communist society, with heavy emphasis on training in those skills necessary for making dedicated, intelligent workers, capable of transforming an agrarian economy into a strong modern society. Discipline is essential, and students are taught the value of co-operative labor, respect for authority and the goods of the state.

The educational implication of the Marxist doctrines on the nature of man and society are evident to the world. The denial of man’s dual nature explicitly affect teaching methods, curricular content, and educational objectives. The belief that man is a product of society is evident in all the formal and informal educational activities emphasizing group allegiance, cooperativeness, and conformity. The doctrines of the desirability of dictatorship of the proletariat as the means of achieving a classless (economic) society are both preached and practice in the schools.

Aims  of Education

Unlike their American counterparts who can agree upon no ultimate goal, Communist educators are in perfect accord that the ultimate purpose of education is “strengthening the communistic  state and the building of a Classless society.” All other objectives are subsidiary. This central aim supplies the rationale for the curriculum, teaching methods, teacher-pupil freedom and discipline in the schools, which agency shall have responsibility for education, and who shall be educated.

It is worth noting that this ultimate aim of education is derived from and is wholly in harmony with the Marxist conception of change and morality. All changes is directed toward achieving a classless society in the Communist millennium: Communist morality also has the same end insofar as the criterion of all morality is the extent to which behavior contributes to or detracts from the attainment of a classless society.

Any method or technique which detracts from this central concept is unacceptable any or technique which fosters it is highly desirable. Obviously, the classroom teacher needs some “down-to-earth” objectives as guides for his daily lessons. One can locate some of the proximate goals which guide the teacher.

  • The development of knowledge in the academic areas such as mathematics, science, foreign language, and history. But knowledge or science for its own sake must be abhorred. All knowledge has a social purpose, the service of the state.
  • Competence in those vocational fields for which the greatest demand exists, such as technology and agriculture.
  • Respect for public property. Great emphasis is placed on this objective since youth are inclined to be careless with things which do not belong to them
  • Development of good health habits. Youth can be of little service to society if they are not physically fit..
  • Training of the will of students so that they will understand and conform to party discipline for the good of socialist society.
  • Development of habits of industriousness which will motivate the person to put forth maximum effort for the common good.
  • . Creation of a courageous spirit in ever Communist to enable him to fight for Communist to enable him to fight for Communism and against capitalism in both hot and cold wars. D
  • . The promotion and spread of atheism in Communist lands and throughout the world. Only when men’s minds are freed from the superstitions of theism with all its capitalistic connotations will they be freed for the work of international Communism.
  • Development of aesthetic perception to enable the student to distinguish the beautiful and the harmonious from the ugly and the vulgar.
  • Acquisition of habits governing manners, dress, and social behavior.
  • . Developing “initiative and independent thought” in harmony with the goal of Marxist-Leninist ideology.

This rather lengthy list of educational objectives should dispel the notion that schools in Communist countries are narrowly academic. In fact, since the Khrushchev era, Soviet educators have been openly critical of the intellectualistic goals of education during the Stalin era. The Communist conceives  the role of the school as one which should develop the “whole child,” not merely his intellectual powers.

Concept of Student

The equalization of educational opportunity is one aspect of the Communist program which has been most successful. The achievements of the Communists in making the benefits of education available to all at little or no cost to the individual have been the more startling since prior to the revolution education in those countries was limited to the upper socioeconomic classes. All citizens have the “guaranteed” right to free, universal, compulsory primary and secondary education. Those citizens who have talents which make them greater service to the state are assured of higher and professional education by a system of scholarships which include the cost of schooling, materials, room and board and a stipend, recreation, travel and the like. For those who are not able to pass the entrance examinations for the universities and professional schools a multiplicity of technical institutes and adult-education programs is available to all who wish to enroll. The communists boast that their free educational programs cover the span from the cradle to the grave.

Concept of Teacher

The teacher’s role in habit formation is crucial according to Marxist  educational theorists. First, the teacher teaches more by example than by precept (especially with younger children). In all his word and actions the teacher must be a perfect example of the ideal Communist so that his pupils will emulate him. The teacher who does not reflect true Soviet recognition of the power of good example, children are expected to attend nursery schools when they are three years old. At this tender age a well-disciplined cadre of Communist teachers can mold the personality of the child to fit the pattern of behavior drawn up by the leaders of the party.

Instructional Methodology

Marx made no specific recommendations for teaching school children. Nor did the early leaders of the revolution concern themselves with such matters. During the educational chaos, which followed the revolution, educators tried all kinds of methods, exerting special care to avoid using methods in vogue prior to the “people’s liberation.” For a time they eve gave serious thought to adapting progressive method to the schools. But this experiment was short-lived since progressive methods granted too much freedom to pupils failed to “discipline them” in obedience and conformity.

Instructors in polytechnic institutes use a great variety of methods (even the lecture-recitation method is still employed); both group and individual techniques are used. In the industrial arts classes – which they try to keep to fifteen students – the teacher states the aim of he course, lectures to the students o the theory of the machine, etc., and demonstrates the processes involve. When the students begin working on the machines the class is divided into smaller groups and their work is closely supervised by the instructor. The teachers use audio-visual aids and texts when available. Whenever possible individual instruction is used (and this method seems to be the most popular among polytechnic instructor). The teacher explains and demonstrates the process to each student and then observes the student’s work. This procedure is repeated until the student masters the skill. As standard manual serves as a guide for both teacher and student. In most respect the methods and materials of Soviet polytechnic education are quite similar to those used in this country.

At the university level, the lecture method is used almost exclusively. Of course,  in the sciences, laboratory work plays an important role in the teaching-learning process.

Underlying the externals of the methods described above, one finds the theoretical basis for all methodology in Communist schools, namely discipline., Discipline ranks high in the family of values which make up Communist morality. It seems correct to say that Communist educators are not overly concerned with teaching methods or techniques. Any method or techniques is acceptable so long as it contributes to the general aim of producing a disciplined member of the collective

One final theoretical consideration in connection with teaching methods is the relationship that exists between method and habit formation. The building of good habits which will make the student an effective member of the collective appears to be a primary goal of all teaching methods. Early in his school career the pupil must from habits that will enable him to perform most actions without having to ponder over them. By so dong he will “free himself” for more significant tasks. But a person who has been properly adjusted to life in the collective must be able to put aside old habits and acquire new one when those in authority or the situation call for a change. Thus a university student will have to abandon some habits he acquired in the university collective when he becomes a member of the armed forces. This change will call for a relatively quick removal of some habits and a rapid acquisition of new habits. “Adjustment to the collective” is a habit which all good Communists should possess.

The educators insist that creative potentialities in children be developed from their early school days. Group games and socially useful activities are considered excellent means of developing initiative. Teachers are encouraged to be alert for suggestions from children regarding excursions, holiday plans, assemblies, and club organizations. All of these will develop creative abilities and leadership qualities in youth.

Secondary school pupils do a few individual projects in the sciences and in the applied sciences such as agriculture and technology. It appears that the greatest opportunity for self-expression and activities related to pupil interests is afforded by the extensive programs outside school. Such extracurricular activities are under the direction of experienced teachers and often result in spectacular creative works by the pupils.. Rewards, such as certificates of merits and medals, are awarded to those students who produce outstanding work in extracurricular and class activities. Teachers encourage students to go beyond the basic requirements set down for all pupils.

The Curriculum

Since the school is the arm of the state, indoctrination in Communist ideology has a predominant place in the curriculum at all educational levels. At the University of Moscow, even a student specializing in physics must take three courses in Communist doctrine: Foundations of Marxism- Leninism, Political Economy, and Dialectical and Historical Materialism. All students in teacher –education programs, regardless of their specialty, must take History of the Communist Party., Political Economy, and Dialectical and Historical Materialism. Also, all courses in the humanities and social sciences, especially history, serve a political purpose. In the elementary and secondary schools (the ten-years school), indoctrination in Marxist ideology in integrated in the classes in history, literature, and geography. More significant perhaps than actual course at this level of education are the indirect means of political indoctrination effected through the program of discipline. The “Rules for School Children” and “training in Communist morality” permeate all the activities of the school, including such neutral subjects as mathematics and astronomy. It seems fair to assert, then, that even if the number of hours devoted to specific courses in Communist doctrine is not as large as that given to other subjects; certainly it is the most important part of the curriculum.

Next to political education, science and mathematics receive the greatest amount of consideration in the curriculum. The emphasis on sciences jibes with Lenin’s view that “science is the only path to truth”  Sciences spell power and control especially when applied via technology. Science raises the standard of living; it wins wars and conquers space. This power must be put to the use of the people’s revolution.

Mathematics, the tool of science and technology, is taken by all students for all ten-years school (Grades 1 to 10 inclusive). Geography (as a science) and biology are begun in the fourth year and continued throughout the remaining years. Physics is given in the sixth through the tenth years. Chemistry is taken for the last four years. Astronomy and psychology are given in the last year. Technical drawing, fundamentals of production, and applied science (technology) are handled in formal classes for three or four years and the students are expected to apply their learning in out of class activities under the supervision of experienced personnel.

The ten-year school devotes a relatively small amount of time to the humanities. Of course, language and literature are taken by all students every year of the ten-year school. They take six years of a foreign language and six years of singing and drawing.

When a student has completed the ten-year school (elementary and secondary) he is eligible for admission to the university or professional schools. However, the number attending the institutions of higher learning is quite limited, and admission is based on achievement in the lower schools and upon highly competitive examinations The curriculum at the university and professional schools depends upon the student’s specialty. But each specialization has a required number and sequence of courses. Thus, if a student is specializing in physics at the university, that curriculum is completely prescribed- there are no electives. All professional and advanced curricula contain the three courses in political education mentioned above.

Concept of Discipline

Yesipov and Goncharov, two well known Communist educations theorists, maintain that discipline must be an “inner condition.” Even when fear and punishment are used these should not be considered the best means of achieving true discipline. Rather, the pupil must live the disciplined life in school so that he will live it in adult life.

In the Marxist system, discipline is conceived as a virtue essential to achieve the goals of Communism. The school must insist on discipline not only because it is necessary for successful study and learning but also because it is necessary for life.

The characteristics of true Communist discipline are : (1) It must be based on an understanding of the necessity for norms of conduct. (2) It must be self-discipline, not one of obedience for obedience’ sake. The person will have so disciplined his will that he will always be ready to perform his duty in the best possible manner without waiting for the command to do so. (3) In its most perfect form, discipline will reflect as state of unquestioned obedience to authority when the situation demands that orders be given. (4) Discipline must habituate the individual to the performance of group (collective) activities. (5) True discipline must be founded on mutual respect for all members of the collective. (6)  Finally, discipline is “resolute, that is, it surmount difficulties, prompts the completion of every task, subject conduct to high purposes and conquers motives of low degree.”

The discipline of pupils is nurtured by the general practice and the whole content of the work of the school : skillful teaching of school subjects, strict regime in for the entire school life, unwavering observation by each pupil of the Rules for School Children’s collective, and rational use of measures and rewards and punishments. The leading role in this work belongs to the teachers.

The “Rules For School Children” mentioned in the quotation form an integral part of all teaching-learning methods. The student should study well, be on time for classes, pay attention to the teacher’s lecture and fellow pupils recitations, and do his own homework well. When a pupil is reciting he should stand erectly and remain standing until the teacher gives him permission to be seated. If he wishes to answer a question he should raise his hand and wait for the teacher to call him. All students must rise when the teacher (or visitor) enters or leaves the room. The “Rules” also cover dress, health habits, use of language on playground, courtesy to visitors at school, and deportment to and from school. In short, they control the behavior of school children during all their waking hours.

Academic Freedom

From the discussions on aims, methods, and curriculum, it is quite evident that academic freedom, in the sense that it is understood in the Western democracies, is nonexistent in Marxist countries. In the lower and secondary schools the teacher has no freedom in regard to course content, the way the content is to be taught, or when it is to be taught. Textbooks and syllabi are uniform.

The teachers are not allowed to mention other “points of view” in their discussion of assigned topics: there is only one point of view on any issue – that handed down by party officials. It seems that the indoctrination given elementary and secondary teachers is so effective that there are few breaches of this rigid discipline by teachers of these levels. But one wonders how the Communist countries, especially the Soviet Union, can be so advanced in research in the sciences if no academic freedom is granted to university professors involved in such research. The answer to this question seems to be that adequate freedom is given in those areas which do not touch upon politics or ideology. Thus the physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and chemist are given financial support and freedom to pursue their researches, for there is little chance that their findings will suggest changes in Communist philosophy.

Of course, the economist, historian, political scientist, and even the biologist are not so fortunate

The social scientist enjoys no academic freedom. Perhaps there is another explanation for the relatively large amount of pure research going on behind the Iron Curtain. The college teacher and researcher is encouraged to search for knowledge, especially that kind which will assist the nation to reach its goals in agriculture, production, space, and military preparedness. The results of such experimentation are submitted to the party and either accepted or rejected for theoretical or practical reasons.

Women Education

“Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.”― Karl Marx

Another aspect of the equalization of educational opportunity consisted in offering to women the same chances for lower and higher education offered to men. In general, the Communists seem to have been consistent in this policy, and within two decades after the revolution the percentage of men and women in universities and professional schools was almost the same. In some schools, the directors were quite scrupulous about the application of this principle and admitted the same number of women as men even to all those programs, such as medicine and engineering, which formerly had been open to men only. At mid-century the percentage of women in higher education is equal to that of men except in elementary education and medical-nursing services where women outnumber men. Programs of military careers, of course, are for men only. During World War II women received military training but primarily as an emergency measure.

Free, compulsory education for both sexes has its roots in Marxist egalitarianism. It is, however, fostered for very pragmatic reasons as well. It was mentioned in another context that Marxism, has recognized that education is the most powerful weapon at the disposal of the state for the reconstruction of society according to socialist principles. It would be most unwise on the part of the leaders of the revolution to exclude women from the program of indoctrination which the schools were expected to carry out. If women were not encouraged to participate in the socialist revolution they might well become a force for reactions. Therefore women as well as men must be involved in changing “the school from a weapon of bourgeois class rule into a weapon for complete destruction of this class divided society and into a weapon for communist transformation of society.”

In conclusion, the Communist had no choice but to liquidate illiteracy. One who could not read or understand the language was beyond the reach of Communist propaganda. It was an easy matter to see to it that only the right things were read and heard since the party controlled all media to communication. The revolutionaries had everything to gain by raising the educational level of all the people (young and old), and raise it they did. At the time of the revolution nearly three fourths of the population of Russia was illiterate. Forty years later, Russia had once of the best literacy records in the world. The history of education has recorded no feat as astonishing as this.

Educational Agencies

“The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother’s care, shall be in state institutions.”
― Karl Marx

In Communist countries the state is regarded as the sole educational agency. The leaders of the revolution recognized that education was the most powerful weapon at their disposal in their efforts to effect the radical change in society. In fact, they viewed education as the only means of transforming an individualistic capitalistic society to a socialistic, classless one. The ultimate aim of education was bluntly stated as “strengthening the state and the building of a classless society.” All other goals are subsidiary to this final one.

In order to destroy the influence of the family in the education of children, state-sponsored nursery schools were established as rapidly as possible. When a child was three years old he was placed in these nursery schools so that he could be given the “proper start” in his educational career and so that his mother could participate in productive labor and the political life of the nation. These nursery schools assumed the responsibility of the family in providing food, shelter, exercise, and the general physical development of the child. Character development, training of the will, and early intellectual development were given high priority in these preschool years. Habits of cleanliness, respect for his own belongings and for public property are coupled with training in cooperative activities with his fellow pupils. The whole program is designed to make the child a more effective member of the collective.

Although it is not possible for all children to be placed in nursery schools and kindergartens, great efforts are expended to enroll as many as possible. Special attention is given to those children who might be turned against the Soviet state by parents who do not sympathize with the revolution. And once the child enrolls in the first grade his working hours are largely under the control of the school and communist youth groups. Thus it appears that the communists have been most successful in eliminating the family as an educational force in the life of the Soviet children.

Little proof is needed to show that the Church’s influence in education has been negated completely. The Marxist dictum that “religion is the opiate of the people” is the key to the Communist attitude toward any Church involvement in education.

With the family and the Church “out of the show” the state has a free hand in designing an educational program to serve its needs. The centralization of educational power in the state is absolute. “School are opened, approved and run by the state. The state determines the curriculum and methods of instruction to insure that education are in line with Party and State Policy and that it can be planned and directed for the Nation as a whole.” All adult education is state owned and controlled. Even the few seminaries conducted by the Orthodox Church must follow state curricula and methods.

Some countries have centralized control of education. But this control is in the hands of educators. In the Communist countries, the party leaders decree what the schools shall teach it, and how it shall be taught. Centers for educational research exist, but their findings can be applied in the schools only when they are approved by party authorities. The only criterion applied to such research regarding its acceptability is whether or not it serves the needs of the state and is in harmony with Marxist ideology.

In this modern technological age, mass-communication media (radio, television, newspapers, periodicals) can be considered important educational agencies. In the Western democracies a significant amount of political, aesthetic, and intellectual education is carried on by these means. Even when the state owns or controls these media different points of view are presented. But in Communist countries all broadcasts and publications have one basic purpose, the service of the state. The Gordian knot has been tied again by the all-powerful dictatorship of the proletariat: there is only one educational agency, the state.

Evaluation of Marxistic Education

It seems quite clear from the above that teachers enjoy very little academic freedom in Communist countries. If teachers have no freedom, it would be foolhardy to deny that indoctrination of pupils in Communist principles is standard procedure in schools.

  • As noted above, a relatively large portion of the curriculum from kindergarten through the university is devoted to indoctrination in Marxist-Leninist principles. The lecture-recitation method, which is use in all academic classes, lends itself most effectively to indoctrination techniques. School discipline is another effective, though indirect, method of indoctrination. All the informal means of education —- youth organizations, radio, TV, and printed matter – are under the absolute control of the party and are used for indoctrination purposes. Thus it is correct to say that indoctrination in Marxism is carried on from the cradle to the grave.
  • The communist educators recognize the need to develop habits of creative thinking in those areas of nonpolitical nature. They need young people who can devise new ways of improving agricultural and industrial production. Genius in physics, chemistry, mathematics, space research, and military science is not developed by lockstep educational programs and lifeless indoctrination. But up to this time, opportunities for pupils ‘ voluntary expression and creative thinking are very limited,
  • However, from the point of view of many philosophers, this contemporary system has many deficiencies. The most significant of these is perhaps that Marxism, though it presents itself as a philosophy of life, is basically a social and economic philosophy. Thus its theory of knowledge and metaphysics are not developed to the point where they constitute a consistent system.
  • Marxism claims to be empiricist yet the application of the dialectic to economic and social change is clearly rationalistic. Also, in metaphysics, it advocates a crassly materialistic notion of the universe which is itself not even in harmony with tenets of modern physics. Thus, many philosophers view Marxism not only as inconsistent but also as thoroughly outdated despite its claim to modernity.
  • The rejection of human freedom leaves little opportunity for the development leadership qualities in the student. The individual is expected to use his talents for the good of the “cause” yet he is not permitted to develop his potentialities as he sees fit. In a similar vein Communist ethics is “situational” insofar as social norms are concerned. Yet no individual is allowed to apply the situational view of ethics to his own behavior. He must follow group norms.
  • To make the state the end of education, to put all education in the hands of the political leadership, to prohibit any other agency from participating in the educational enterprise is to destroy education’s very foundations.
  • The overemphasis on science and mathematics resulting in a neglect of the humanistic disciplines devitalizes the curriculum. Man cannot be prepared for  full living by science and mathematics alone.
  • The lecture-recitation-test method of teaching does not allow for independent or creative thinking on the part of pupils. It emphasizes memory rather than understanding; it encourages passivity rather than engages the knowing powers of the student by activity.
  • The absence of academic freedom among Communist teachers, especially at the higher educational levels, weakens the very foundations of true scholarship. Unless teachers are free to seek the truth and publicize the result of their research, an educational system will eventually destroy itself.
  • The complete indoctrination of youth found in Communist countries can only create “a land of the blind.” It may serve the immediate purposes of the party, but in the long run a nation will become educationally stunted by such spoon-feeding.

But not all is evil in Communist education. Any educational system which can advance from one of the lowest to one of the highest literacy levels in a few short decades must have something to offer. Perhaps other systems might learn a few lessons.

  • Communist countries have taken the whole business of education most seriously. They spend proportionately more of their national income on education than the Western democracies.
  • This seriousness of purpose is reflected in the attitude of youth toward education. In general, Communist youth take their studies very seriously and consider it a privilege and a duty to attend school and do their very best to promote the “common good.” There is no time wasted. Students finish elementary and secondary school in less time than the American student.
  • By expanding educational opportunity to all people, including adults, Communist educators have made full use of the abilities of the citizens. No talent “goes to waste” because the individual cannot afford to attend school.
  • Although there appears to be too great an emphasis on science, as mentioned above, one feels that a Communist youth leaves secondary school with a thorough knowledge of the basic sciences. In a “scientific age,” this seems to be a very realistic goal and one which can be achieved in democratic lands.
  • In Communist countries all educational activities are directed to an ultimate purpose. One may not agree with the ultimate goal of Communism, but one must admit that the possession of such a purpose gives direction to all activities.
  • Although there are certain disadvantages in having nationwide standards, curricula, textbooks, educational time schedules, and the like, some things are to be gained from such uniformity. For example, studies of teacher effectiveness, comparison of achievement between schools or districts, pressure to cover certain content areas are all possible when all schools are doing the same thing, in the same way, at the same time for the same purpose.


1-      Fromm, Erich, Marx’s Concept of Man (New York; Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1961).

2-      Hunt, R.N. Carew, Marxism Past and present (New York: Macmillan Co., 1955.

3-      Kalashnikov, G., people’s Education (Moscow, 1946).

4-      Lenin, V., “Materialism and Empiric Criticisms,” Selected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1943).

5-      Marx, Karl, and Engels, F., Manifesto of the Communist Party (New York: International Publishers, 1948).










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