Bertrand Russell on Education and the Social Order

“Children are instinctively hostile to anything ‘odd’ in other children, especially in the ages from ten to fifteen. If the authorities realize that this conventionality is undesirable, they can guard against it in various ways, and they can place the cleverer children in separate schools. The intolerance of eccentricity that I am speaking of is strongest in the stupidest children, who tend to regard the peculiar tastes of clever children as affording just grounds for persecution. When the authorities also are stupid (which may occur), they will tend to side with the stupid children, and acquiesce, at least tacitly, in rough treatment for those who show intelligence. In that case, a society will be produced in which all the important positions will be won by those whose stupidity enables them to please the herd.

Such a society will have corrupt politicians, ignorant schoolmasters, policemen who cannot catch criminals, and judges who condemn innocent men. Such a society, even if it inhabits a country full of natural wealth, will in the end grow poor from inhability to choose able men for important posts. Such a society, though it may prate of Liberty and even erect statues in her honour, will be a persecuting society, which will punish the very men whose ideas might save it from disaster.

All this will spring from the too intense pressure of the herd, first at school and then in the world at large. Where such excessive pressure exists, those who direct education are not, as a rule, aware that it is an evil; indeed, they are quite apt to welcome it as a force making for good behaviour.”

Bertrand Russell, Education and the Social Order (1932)


Image: Members of the DJ Fähnlein Hitler Youth (German: Hitlerjugend often abbreviated as HJ in German) a so-called elite branch youth organization of the Nazi Party in Germany and to a lesser extent in Austria. The members of the Hitler Youth were viewed as future “Aryan supermen” and were indoctrinated to believe racism and especially antisemitism by their schoolmasters. The primary aim was to instill the “proper motivation” that would enable its members to become soldiers, to fight faithfully for Adolph Hitler and his Third Reich. Needless to say, there was more emphasis on physical and military training than on academic and intellectual study.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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