Compulsory Education and Anarchism.

Compulsory Education and Anarchism.

[Liberty, September 3, 1892.]

To the Editor of Liberty:(42 ¶ 1)

While reading your lucid editorial on the above topic, some thoughts occurred to me which I venture to offer in the hope that they may serve to supplement what you have said in dealing with your scholastic friend’s well-put queries.(42 ¶ 2)

I cannot help thinking that he had in mind a very un-Anarchistic condition of things when he formulated the questions. Why is compulsory education in vogue to-day? For whom is it intended? If society had been composed of well-to-do people having all the comforts, advantages, and opportunities of civilization that some only enjoy at present, would the idea of statutory compulsion in the bringing-up and education of children ever have been thought of, much less put into force? Are such legal regulations applied, practically, to the classes superior in fortune to the majority, in whose interest (?) the regulations are supposed to be made?(42 ¶ 3)

I find myself dropping into the interrogative style, like our friendly inquirer, and while in it would like to ask him, though not wishing to usurp the functions of a father confessor, if he had not in view, perhaps vaguely and even unconsciously, when thinking over the matter that he embodied in the five points, a typical wage slave, underpaid, uneducated, unrefined, the victim of compulsory restrictions and stultifying law-made conditions, a man or woman without intelligence, whose narrow mental scope and abnormal moral nature are the result of circumstances produced by invasive tyranny,—in short, parents whose unfilial instincts and unsocial acts are the direct outcome of ages of legal oppression. To such persons only could the assumptions underlying the questions apply.(42 ¶ 4)

If our friend apprehends clearly the drift of the queries above and consequently answers them to our mutual satisfaction, he will then, I imagine, discard his third, fourth, and fifth questions as unnecessary and inapplicable to a truly Anarchist condition of society. It seems to me unwise to attempt to apply Anarchistic principles to one case of social relations, itself arising out of other relations, without at the same time tracing that case to its sources and there defining the bearings of the whole in relation to perfect liberty,—Anarchy. I would not turn aside to condemn some kinds of compulsory interference which are really attempts at ameliorating the conditions that more inimical invasion has brought about, but would rather strike straight at the previous and more vital violations of the law of equal freedom. Hence I agree with the editor when he answers No, No, No, to the last three problems, not only on the grounds he lays down, but also because I believe that the economic emancipation which would result from the adoption of Anarchy as a basic method in Society would speedily solve all such problems by relegating them to the Museum of Curiosities of the Ante-Revolution.(42 ¶ 5)

On grounds of sentiment, of sympathy, feeling, and humanity, which would probably be stronger and more generous under equal liberty than now, I would not hesitate to act in the circumstance supposed in the first and second questions, though such action would certainly not be dictated by the mere theory of Anarchism, but would be no more a violation of it than would a refusal in such cases to interfere.(42 ¶ 6)

The undoubted tendency of an adoption of Anarchy would be, however, to minimize the possibility of unsocial conduct of the character under discussion, if not to abolish it altogether. Fraternally yours,(42 ¶ 7)

William Bailie.