17 March 2007

Ring any bells?

Leszek Kolakowski on educational developments in the Soviet Union during the 1920s:

Schools were soon used for ideological indoctrination, and the whole educational system was greatly expanded. Universities were founded right and left ...

Initially, cultural policy was content with limited objectives. It was impossible to remove all 'bourgeois' scholars and teachers from academic institutions at a stroke, as this would have virtually put an end to learning and education. The universities were more subjected to political pressure than the research institutes ... There is naturally less strict control over bodies that are not engaged in teaching the young ...

Professorial chairs were assigned to politically reliable individuals ... The enrolment of students was subjected to class criteria so as to exclude 'bourgeois' applicants, i.e. children of the old intelligentsia or the middle class. Stress was laid on 'vocational' education, in opposition to the old idea of a 'liberal' university with a fairly flexible curriculum. The object was to prevent the creation of an intelligentsia in the old sense, i.e. a class of people who wished not only to be skilled in their own profession but to enlarge their horizons, to acquire an all-round culture and form their own opinions on general topics ...

The intensity of political pressure varied in different fields. At the outset there was practically no coercion as far as the content of natural science was concerned; in the humanities it was strongest in ideologically sensitive areas, namely philosophy, sociology, law, and modern history.
Here we go again.

* Main Currents of Marxism, Vol.3, pp47-48, my emphasis.