Gramsci and the Problem with Elite Education for a Few

Gramsci talks at length about his ideal educational system in a response letter to then Minister of Education Gamile as part of his infamous Prison Notebooks work. At this time in Italy, widespread divisions existed between the elite and non-elite group with regards to education. Elite schools effectively had every convenience and opportunity for students to grow intellectually. Non-elite schools had more limited resources which directly impacted, among other things, the number and quality of educators available to teach there. He cites increased government control over the educational system, expanding public education to include all populations, and evening the playing field for competing over scarce resources in education (During, 2010). In relating Gramsci’s perspective to my own experience as an educator, I understand his passion and motivation to see tyrannical nationalist rulers like Mussolini removed entirely from power. His vision for replacing one power structure with another might be a little short sighted because it rests entirely on the assumption of people exist who could have the power to control a people and not let it go to their head. In the context of education, Gramsci understood the socialization power of this social institution and viewed the disproportionate access to scarce resources associated with success in education he saw in his community as deliberate and calculated.

Gramsci says that the gap in education created by this class-based division created two groups: those with effectively no educational resources and those who live in “crystalised estates” and enjoy a higher quality education as a result (During, 2010, pp. 56). In many ways, I agree with Gramsci. Education is headed in the wrong direction. Resources are not being proportionately distributed. Students are falling behind in their learning. Too much time and emphasis is placed on learning skills and not enough is placed on social interaction and group problem solving in our schools. Additionally, encouraging educators to “teach to a test” is a model that inherently works to focus students on a myopic worldview that, more than likely, they are unable to relate to. This type of educational experience leaves one with a warped worldview that skews to the needs and desires of the elite in society as they likely control the means of education (e.g…

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Chicago Education Advocacy Cooperative

We collaborate with racialized and minoritized scholars to share their experiences with education and knowledge of educación.