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The Education of the Child

Sub-Contracting in MinesI

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-Subsidising Technical Education.

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Subsidising Technical Education. IEBATE BETWEEN MARK STARR AND WILLIAM HARRIS. INTERESTING GATHERING AT BENTLEY'S HALL. Should a trades union organisation financially support technical education? Just how keenly the Merthyr men are interested in this question was shown on Sunday morning when, in spite of shocking weather conditions, somewhere about 100 men attended the debate between Mr. Mark Starr and Mr. W. Harris (Secretary of the Merthyr Trades Council) at Bentley's. All our readers are acquainted with the genesis of the debate, but it is necessary to just lightly touch upon it to give sequence to this account, which, by the way, does not pretend to be a report of the hour and a half's pro. and con. Some few months ago Mr. Seymour Berry decided 'to com- memorate his father's close association with the Borough by donating a sum of £ 10,000 for the establishment of a centre for Technical instruc- tion in Merthyr. There were certain conditions such as the raising of scholarishps, the entitle- ment of the hall, etc., with which we need not concern ourselves, since they were accepted by the local Education Committee, and have not been questioned by Labour in general, or Sun- day's disputants in particular. What does con- cern us is that however useful that £10,000 is as a nucleus fund for the establishment of an efficient scheme of technical education, it is ridi- culously inarlequate to accomplish the task itself. My own views have been set forth at length in these columns, and 1 estimate a minimum magnification of that sum by eight. Labour felt the need for t school, and, more still, it felt that if the oitation of the school was to be countered a. vi, it must be by the participation of Labour in the scheme as an active moulder of policy. With this end in view the chairman of the Education Committee attended before a special meeting of the Trades Council, sketched a scheme, which was subsequently criticised at length in our pages, and secured the whole- hearted support of the Trades Council to some scheme of Tc-chnical -Zdti,.at-i<)r and that sup-, port was pledged to consist of financial and any other support possible. The best way of giving that support was relegated to the Education Committee who, after careful-consideration, re- commended the raising of a minimum sum of £3,000 for the endowment of not less than three scholarships. This sum it was proposed to raise by a levy of Id. per week on all workmen in the Borough, the sum to roe banked by the Trades Council and handed over when a scheme had lKendevised and approved by them. It was this decision that brought to our columns the letter of Mr. Mark Starr, a fortnight ago, challenging the principle of subscribing i. this way to an education essential to Capitalist production, and primarily a charge on Capitalism. His conten- tion was all in favour of the provision of plebian Social science by plebian organisation; leaving to the fat men the duty of providing the technical education so essential to the develop- ment of Capitalistic production. In that letter he challenged Mr. Harris to debate the point, and Sunday morning was the outcome. It is es- sential, nowever, to remember that although the whole causes of the debate were local, Mr. Starr desired to discuss the general principle without prejudice to the local position which had given rise to his challenge, and this he carefully em- phasised on Sunday. Mr. T. J. Evans was un- animously elected to the chair. Mr. Starr opened with an initial 20 minutes, in which he pointed out that both he and Mr. Harris were Socialists anxious for control of in- dustry, and that the question therefore resolved iteelf into whether that control could be more quickly brought about by subsidising technical education or social e ducation. With the neces- sity for technical education he was as much in agreement as Mr. Harris or anyone else. But working-class organisation existed for the propa- gation of the class-struggle; and class-conscious- ness should be the object and end of its activi- ties in education. Viewed from this necessary standpoint, technical education did not help the working class as a working class. Uncoupled with social science technical education was des- tined to increase the profit of the few rather than add to the happiness of the many. Techni- cal education did produce results beneficial to the Capitalist class, and with an intensification of Capitalist competition such as we had never hitherto known following this war; the provi- sion of technical education became a, vital need to the Capitalists and would therefore be pro- vided by them, and it was not the proper func- toin of trades unions to help in this work. He honoured the good intentions of gentlemen like Mr. Berry and of the Trades Council, but with a rampant Imperialistic policy committing the nation to an economic war after the war, these good intentions would be pounced upon by Capi- talism and exploited, by the powerful economic forces wielded by Capitalism in society for the purpose of upholding the status quo rather than undermining it. Technical education would se- cure no class advancement. Indeed, the working- class had been relatively worsened in the past by the advances of technical education which had been developed and would be increasingly developed by the "other side. He quite agreed that we should increasingly get control of it, but was now the time to do it? Had social science so far developed that we could safely spend our time, our money and our energy in taking up this attitude ? Mr. W. Harris read a quotation from the current copy of the Call," in which it was stated that nothing had so much hindered the cause of Socialism as the ignorance of the prole- tariat. It was this ignorance that he was out every time and all the time to combat, since the continued existence of this ignorance was all the time operating against the workers securing control over their industries and over their own li\es. The greatest retrograding force in Rus- sia to-day was the illiteracy of its peasants, its greatest driving force the intelligence—chiefly amongst its technically trained workers in chemistry. England had suffe-red communally, was suffering during this war from the shortage of sugar, and coal tar products, because we had been insufficiently educated to appreciate and utilise the discoveries of our own technical research chemists, who had been forced to mar- ket their discoveries in the more highly techni- cally trained Germany. But to take a more sel- fish view of the subject, working-class control of industry was coming, coming perhaps more rapidly than some people thought, and in order that tha.t control should be effective it was necessary that the education of the country should have been such that we were prepared with the people to go into their proper places. Then again the more highly educated the working man the more divine discontent would there be in his industry and the sooner would his intelli- gence quicken the movement towards control.' The German chemists had been turned out at a terrific rate, and they were consequently worse paid than the miners, but ultimately out of this very condition would grow a trades union or- ganisation of technical chemists and a hew key industry, with which the forces of Labour should link up at once. Let the same thing happen here. Train the men, train them in such num- bers that they were compelled to become hewerls of wood and drawers of water and the conse- quence of the training and the economic condi- tions would be a consciousness that bred real rebels of, great utility. He was all in favou-i- of social science, had taught working-class econ- omics in the municipal economics classes, and blamed us for ever having let them drop. But be was not prepared to fight for Socialism and Trade Union control at only one small spot on the battle line. He would fight all along the line, anywhere and everywhere that opportunity presented itself. If Merthyr offered facilities for werking-elass control of anything he waa not going to w-a i t until evei- going to wait until everywhere ?1? was ready. No, he was going to have that control in Mer- thyr and work for its extension. Technical edu- cation was coming, that was certain, and what he wanted was that when the scheme was being drawn up Labour could go to that table with its money in its hamd, make its demands, backed by that money, and be in a position to demand by reason of it. That way lay the road to con- trolling technical education, and he vastly pre- ferred that way to the erection of the technical shcool in conjunction, with the wo -Xshop, which wae one of the alternatives.

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