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The well-to-do usually feel
obligated to pay for the private education of their own children, and
even where public institutions are at their disposal they are forced to
support these children through all the years of study. This is
expensive, but this very expensiveness gives the children of the
well-to-do a practical monopoly of the opportunities which this
education brings. How are they to be brought to favor, and, since they
are the chief taxpayers, to _pay for_ the extension of these same
opportunities to ten times the number of children who now have them?

In the meanwhile Dr. Eliot himself seems to have become discouraged and
to have abandoned his own ideal, for only seven years after writing the
above he came to advocate the division of the whole national school
system into three classes: that for the upper class, that for the middle
class, and that for the masses of the people--and he even insisted that
this division is democratic if the elevation of the pupil from one class
to the other is made "easy."[87] Now democracy does not require that the
advance of the child of the poor be made what is termed _easy_, but that
he be given an _equal_ opportunity with the child of the rich as far as
all useful and necessary education is concerned. Democracy does not
tolerate that in education the children of the poor should be started in
at the bottom, while the children of the rich are started at the top.

Those few who do rise under such conditions only strengthen the position
of the upper classes as against that of the lower. Tolstoi was right
when he said that when an individual rises in this way he simply brings
another recruit to the rulers from the ruled, and that the fact that
this passage from one class to another does occasionally take place, and
is not absolutely forbidden by law and custom as in India, does not mean
that we have no castes.[88] Even in ancient Egypt, it was quite usual,
as in the case of Joseph, to elevate slaves to the highest positions.
This singling out and promotion of the very ablest among the lower
classes may indeed be called the basis of every lasting caste system.
All those societies that depended on a purely hereditary system have
either degenerated or were quickly destroyed. If then a ruling class
promotes from below a number sufficient only to provide for its own need
of new abilities and new blood, its power to oppress, to protect its
privileges, and to keep progress at the pace and in the direction that
suits it will only be augmented--and universal equality of opportunity
will be farther off than before. Doubtless the numbers "State Socialism"
will take up from the masses and equip for higher positions will
constantly increase. But neither will the opportunities of these few
have been in any way equal to those of the higher classes, nor will even
such opportunities be extended to any but an insignificant minority.

Nor does President Eliot's advocacy of class schools stand as an
isolated phenomenon. Already in America the development of free
secondary schools has been checked by the far more rapid growth of
private institutions. The very classes of taxpayers who control city and
other local governments and school boards are educating their own
children privately, and thus have a double motive for resisting the
further advance of school expenditure. As if the expense of upkeep
during the period of education were not enough of a handicap, those few
children of the wage earners who are brave enough to attempt to compete
with the children of the middle classes are now subjected to the
necessity of attending inferior schools or of traveling impracticable
distances. The building of new high schools, for example, was most rapid
in the Middle West in the decades 1880-1899, and in the Eastern States
in the decade 1890-1900. But within a few years after 1900 the rate of
increase had fallen in the Middle West to about one half, and in the
East to less than one third, of what it formerly had been.[89] It might
be thought that, the country being now well served with secondary
schools, the rate of growth must diminish. This may be true of a part of
the rural districts, but an examination of the situation or school
reports of our large cities will show how far it is from being true
there.

In Great Britain the public secondary schools for the most part and some
of the primary schools, _though supported wholly or largely by public
funds, charge a tuition fee_. The fact that a very small per cent of the
children of the poor are given scholarships which relieve them of this
fee only serves to strengthen the upper and middle classes, without in
any appreciable degree depriving them of their privileged position. In
London, for example, fees of from $20 to $40 are charged in the
secondary schools, and their superintendents report that they are
attended chiefly by the children of the "lower middle classes," salaried
employees, clerks, and shopkeepers, with comparatively few of the
children of the professional classes on the one hand or of the best-paid
workingmen on the other. An organized campaign is now on foot in New
York City also, among the taxpayers, to introduce a certain proportion
of primary pay schools, for the frank purpose of separating the lower
middle from the working classes, and to charge fees in all secondary
schools so as to bring a new source of income and _decrease_ the number
of students and the amounts spent on the schools. This in spite of the
annual plea of Superintendent Maxwell for more secondary schools, more
primary teachers, and primary school buildings. Instead of going in the
direction indicated by Dr. Eliot and preparing to spend four or five
times the present amount, there is a strong movement to spend less. And
nothing so hastens this reactionary movement as the tendency, whether
automatic or consciously stimulated, towards class (or caste)
education--such as Dr. Eliot and so many other reformers now directly or
indirectly encourage--usually under the cloak of industrial education.

The most anti-social aspects of capitalism, whether in its individualist
or its collectivist form, are the grossly unequal educational and
occupational privileges it gives the young. An examination of the better
positions now being obtained by men and women not yet past middle age
will show, let us say, that ten times as many prizes are going to
persons who were given good educational opportunities as to those who
were not. But as the children of those who can afford such opportunities
are not a tenth as numerous as the children of the rest of the people,
this would mean that the latter have only a _hundredth part_ of the
former's opportunities. Under this supposition, one tenth of the
population secures ten elevenths of the positions for which a higher
education is required. As a matter of fact, the existing inequality of
opportunity is undoubtedly very much greater than this, and the unequal
distribution of opportunities is visibly and rapidly becoming still less
equal. In 1910, of nineteen million pupils of public and private schools
in this country, only one million were securing a secondary, and less
than a third of a million a higher, education. Here are some figures
gathered by the Russell Sage Foundation in its recent survey of public
school management. The report covers 386 of the larger cities of the
Union. Out of every 100 children who enter the schools, 45 drop out
before the sixth year; that is, before they have learned to read
English. Only 25 of the remainder graduate and enter the high schools,
and of these but 6 complete the course.

The expense of a superior education, including upkeep during the
increasing number of years required, is rising many times more rapidly
than the income of the average man. At the same time, both the wealth
and the numbers of the well-to-do are increasing in greater proportion
than those of the rest of the people. While the better places get
farther and farther out of the reach of the children of the masses,
owing to the overcrowding of the professions by children of the
well-to-do, the competition becomes ever keener, and the poor boy or
girl who must struggle not only against this excessive competition, but
also against his economic handicap, confronts an almost superhuman task.

It is obvious that this tendency cannot be reversed, no matter how
rapidly the people's income is increased, unless it rises _more rapidly_
than that of the well-to-do. And this, Socialists believe, has never
happened except when the masses obtained political power and made full
use of it _against_ the class in control of industry and government.

No amount of material progress and no reorganization of industry or
government which does not promise to equalize opportunity,--however
rapid or even sensational it may be,--is of the first moment to the
Socialists of the movement. Wages might increase 5 or 10 per cent every
year, as profits increase to-day; hours might be shortened and the
intensity of labor lessened; and yet the gulf between the classes might
be growing wider than ever. If society is to progress toward industrial
democracy, it is necessary that the people should fix their attention,
not merely on the improvement of their own condition, but on their
progress _when compared with that of the capitalist classes, i.e._ when
measured by present-day civilization and the possibilities it affords.

_No matter how fast wages increase, if profits increase faster, we are
journeying not towards social democracy, but towards a caste society._
Thus to insist that we must keep our eyes on the prosperity of others in
order to measure our own seems like preaching envy or class hatred. But
in social questions the laws of individual morality are often reversed.
It is _the social duty_ of every less prosperous class of citizens,
their duty towards the whole of the coming generation as well as to
their own children, to measure their own progress solely by a standard
raised in accordance with the point in evolution that society has
attained. What would have been comparative luxury a hundred years ago it
is our duty to view as nothing less than a degrading and life-destroying
poverty to-day.

Opportunity is not becoming equal.



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