2.12 Science, the arts, education and democracy in the transition

In this section we rely heavily on our own life-long participation in studying and making contributions to the kinds of cultural change we identify with green social democracy, as defined in this work. We are participant-observers of the role of science, the arts, education and democracy in the transition to a green social democracy with emphasis on participation rather than observation. We leave it to our readers to judge from their own experience the extent to which our voice on needed cultural change reasonably reflects emergent green social democratic trends. Some of our arguments might, of course, turn out to be idiosyncratic. We do hope, however, that you will give serious consideration to our views on these matters when formulating your own.

Essential roles in the transition to a green social democratic culture belong to the arts, science and education. The green social democrats' aim of a just, sustainable human society can only be achieved if there is informed participation in democratic decision-making on all matters of public concern. For this there also needs to be a corresponding development of human imagination so that we are able to envision alternatives to present policies and practices.

Such cultural changes begin in the course of political struggle. Characterized by human solidarity and voluntary participation, the fight for green social democracy fuels the inherent human desire for artistic expression, scientific knowledge, education and inclusion in democratic decision making. In other words, social democratic cultural aims are achieved through struggle for a more just, sustainable society. This is nowhere more evident than in the current struggles to achieve these aims.

Free public education for all at all levels and in all its forms. The fight for public education and universal access to it, for public information media accessible freely to all, for funding of science and scientific research conducted in the public interest and for a full flowering of the arts and imagination is an integral part of the political struggle that leads to a green social democracy.

Well short of green social democracy, these needs already exist. Indeed, without public education, public science, disinterested information media and imagination, informed choices between the products and services offered by privately owned companies cannot be made. In that sense, capitalism cannot function in the public interest without at least a limited form of democracy that includes disinterested public education, science and information sources. The capitalist drive to privatization of education, science, the arts and information media undermines even this limited form of capitalist democracy and hastens the need for a transition to a green social democracy.

A green social democracy will need to go beyond the more limited form of democracy that characterizes even the most democratic of capitalist societies. Logically speaking, a green social democracy will only be fully achieved when all education is public, all research is conducted openly by scientists working in the public interest, all information is provided by publicly funded and accountable enterprises and consequently all political and economic decisions of concern to society can be made on the basis of the best information and in a transparent, democratic manner. Although these aims may never be fully attained, they nevertheless are defining aims of green social democracy, constituting one measure of the extent to which a green social democracy has been achieved.

Multiple independent local centers of research, education and information. There is no proposal here that scientific research, the arts, education and information media in a green social democracy be managed by centralized governmental bodies. On the contrary, to achieve the necessary diversity and efficiency, multiple independent local centers of research, education and information are needed, each funded publicly and made accountable to the public. For such accountability, our elected spokespersons will need to assume as one of their major responsibilities making clear, but broad statements of society's aims in regard to research, education and information and the measures to be used to determine their fulfilment, while avoiding micromanagement.

The legislatively established new system of science, research, education and information is likely to function more efficiently if, periodically, the weakest performing enterprises in each sphere in each locality is identified and disbanded and new enterprises formed in their place. These new enterprises can be formed from personnel relieved from the retired enterprises and new workers entering the field, with leadership from qualified people with a successful track record.

In contrast, our present capitalist societies are characterized, at least in most countries, by:

  • an absence of universal, free access to all levels of education;
  • the influence over education of private enterprises that have self-interests apart from the interests of the students;
  • the private conduct of much research, the full results of which are often kept secret;
  • and the private ownership and control of most information media.

These limitations and barriers to the development of a well-informed, well-educated public equate to an enormous waste of human and natural resources. This result is nowhere more evident than in the existence and effects of private-for-profit advertising. A source of misleading information and a cause of mindless consumerism, commercial advertising represents a waste of the limited natural and human resources that are needed for education and disinterested, science-based information, including about available products and services.

Separation of Church and state. Although frequently mandated by the constitutions of capitalist democracies, the separation of Church and state is more evident by a lack of enforcement in the field of public education. Government endorsement and funding of Church run schools and the inclusion of religious services as a mandatory part of public school curriculum is practiced in much of the capitalist world.

While there are no guarantees against intolerance, only the intention to oppose it, one measure of the achievement of a green social democracy is its success in upholding the right of all to freedom of religion and belief, including the right to voluntary, privately funded religious education, while providing a publicly funded, non-religious education for all. In particular, an education in science would be the right of all children in a green social democracy, a necessary condition for learning to live in harmony with nature. The denial to their children by parents of this right would likely be met with moral opprobrium and countered by the requirement that all children have a public education, including education in the social and natural sciences.

Education beyond the "basics". Science education is not the only field of education at least partially stifled by authoritarian influence over education in capitalist democracies. Perhaps fearful of a citizenry capable of changing society, the political right wing in capitalist democracies has had considerable success limiting education to the so-called "basics", by which they mean emphasis on the skills needed to function within the workplace. They apparently believe - in spite of all the evidence to the contrary - that these skills can be learned effectively outside the contexts in which they have meaning to students and society.

Green social democracies, on the other hand, will need to build on the traditions of the progressive education stream within capitalist democracy. Progressive education is characterized by study in contexts that are meaningful and engaging to students, by the development of the ability to learn on one's own, to think imaginatively and to creatively engage in problem solving using knowledge of the natural and social environment.

A particularly prominent place in education should belong to civics, characterized by active engagement by students in the practice of democracy. To be an effective means of learning about civic institutions, their strengths and limitations, the laboratory for civic education should extend beyond the school. A typical principal assignment could be student election of a change they believe would be beneficial to society and their informed public advocacy of that change. What better way for them to gain a knowledge of civic institutions and an introduction to life-long participation in civic affairs?

Opportunities for all students to engage in literature, the arts, crafts and design are also characteristic of progressive education and instrumental in developing the creative imagination and abilities of students. Needed is an increasing allocation of human and material resources to this end, resources which can be found by reallocating them from their largely wasteful use on misleading commercial advertising.

Knowledge and information as public property. Intellectual property rights are another characteristic of capitalist democracies that act as a barrier to achieving a just, sustainable human society. Those that contribute new ideas and inventions in green social democratic societies would have the right to recognition of their contribution and rewards established by law. These rewards should be sufficient to permit and encourage the contributors' continuing research and innovation. But no barrier should be permitted to the sharing of the products of the human intellect, which are in any case social products.

Welcome!

This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New

NEW & REVISED

Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them

OPINION

Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement

REVIEWS

Charles McFadden, The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.

US CORNER

William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class

CANADA CORNER

George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP

RECOMMENDED

Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018

FEATURED WORK

ECONOMICS

1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism

HISTORY

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems

LABOR

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.