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Civic education is futile: Towards a popular Political Pedagogy

This is a reappraisal of the failure of our educational system that has only succeeded in producing meek servants of a failed system. It calls to a popular pedagogy that exposes and creates a newness that gives birth to new humane worlds.



Popular political education is a means to arrival. An arriving that takes the image of seeing what one can’t un-see. A pedagogy that humanises and honours the ontological becoming of the dehumanised by unveiling the system that steals their humanity. Its goal is to see life as it should be lived as opposed to a dictation from beyond the oppressed subject who engages the world as it is, through their labour power and reproduction. When done in search of clarity —beyond a posturing for dogma and sloganeering— it makes the human who comes into contact a true friend of gravity. They are at once grounded in the material forces that create and uncreate even as they drive the engine of history. The revelation comes that perhaps after all the oppression and dispossession didn’t come from on high but are made possible by a web of complex systems rooted in this concrete context we live in. 

There is an understanding in current society that one’s education should be motivated by growth. But this is in a social composition that reduces one to a mere slave or at best a mimic of a set of lifestyles that emerges from a worldview that only desires profit and power. In this process “education” as it is known and practiced is only an indoctrination that fetters and controls one so they never can see beyond the horizons or the possibilities of new worlds. One is now turned into a stifled worshipper of their oppressor who lords over their labor, production and reproduction. Which they do gladly and with glee. 

But the glee doesn’t hold for long; the appearance of contradiction between labor and capital thus find its first true beginnings. The front is a bit too translucent as the people start to see a little bit more into the lies of the system in place. The questions of the oppressed to the oppressor tend to linger a bit longer finding no reasonable answers. The ones who control and intimidate now twitch a little bit here and there as they begin to recognise the consciousness that is arising —they shiver in the dead of night at the consequences of the self knowing of those they’ve enslaved for so long. As these questions stay shimmering in the air, a class amongst the dispossessed start seeking other ways and means of finding the truth of their relations to the purveyors of luxury in the face of so much want and lack. They slowly and painfully begin the journey of awakening to a lie that is most ancient and in constant motion. This waking up of theirs isn’t linear nor quick paced. It takes time and long nightmares which produces a host of ills pending the long walk to the knowing and the freedom that the human condition yearns for. 

#FeesMustFall protests in South Africa. A group of students raise their hands in the air to signal that they have come in peace. Photo credit: Myolisi – Own work. CC BY-SA 4.0/

The rulers and lords never give in that easy though. They bring in more education that they claim will set the oppressed free. Sometimes they call it “civic education”. They convince the people —the citizens of  this wondrous nation state — that they are only suffering because they have no idea how much freedom and rights they have. That if they can know them and fight then freedom is close by. Of course the people, ever trustful of these ideas, embark and engage them. It begins now, the rights discourse and the framing of true human development as reaching its logical conclusion in the nation state that honours the democratic covenant. But this is a perverted covenant that trades only in  indifference and theft of the life force of its wretched upholders. 

An assortment of rights and privileges are at call anytime these educational sessions are held. The constitution is printed and evangelised —this book, it’s proffered, is the fountainhead of all that’s just and righteous for the people. Heaps of it can be found in the bounds of the nation and many times translated in simple and gullible language for easy access. The human rights education goes on and the addled minds of the masses are ever excited that something good and liberating  is at hand. The system is again redeemed but for a little while. 


The right to health is nonexistent in an empty hospital with no drugs or doctors

Because soon the masses recognise their rights means nothing when it comes to realising them. That the right to health is nonexistent in an empty hospital with no drugs or doctors. The list goes on with the right to education, food, free speech etc. one after the other they are trampled upon and discarded as if they were never once the most important things the rulers spoke and wept for. They recall their earlier education at the schools the system created and remembered the success they were promised that never came. Instead they are only the handymen for the success of the already successful. It’s here that that small class of the oppressed which had hitherto started branching out come into their own and discover the laws of social development and the motive force of history. 

Now you can find them speaking of the ideas of the ruling class that have slowly taken a chokehold of the imagination of the people. They now recognised that “civic education” was nothing but an entrenchment of those who steal their labor power and life. This seeing of the system as a whole becomes the sort of revelation that dances one to the cusp of revolution. And what a beautiful and frenzied dance it is! 

Political education is popular, demanding, epiphanic and necessary

Political education is popular, demanding, epiphanic and necessary. It upholds the people as  subjects of the historical process and brings the toilers together as a class of their own who move and oil the engines of profit and value in a world that has turned them into slaves not worthy of a decent existence. They come to know they have been at war since the dawn of what we today know as the capitalist mode of production. 

File picture. Julius Malema, leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Johannesburg, South Africa, 30 April 2016 Photo: ANP/EPA Cornell Tukiri

The understanding that labor and capital will always stand at variance and are locked in a dialectical relationship who’s only just resolution is the triumph of one over the other. This contradiction now becomes the focus of their education. Questions are now asked as to how this relationship emerged. Are their objective laws that govern this intercourse between two antagonistic forces? How are these laws discovered and understood? The answers are sought through that program of education that is now rooted in the concrete context as opposed to an education that flimsily promises rest and leisure in the beyond. It’s then discovered that both educational systems belong to a class of people who’s interests it must serve. 

Education, in whatever form it takes, serves a certain class interest. It either works to entrench a system or destroy it. There you have the law of the excluded middle at work with no nuance at play. A radical, revolutionary and progressive education exposes, reframes and ignites fires long forgotten in the antechambers of a collective freedom dreams. It exposes as such when it draws out lessons from the class struggle and reminds workers and peasants that without them all stands still as the world starves. It reframes when it calls onto the hidden of history their self consciousness as a class of their own who have a world to win. On and on it goes as it reminds this class of people of their response to the challenge laid squarely on them by the large and living hands of history. Work and production is now understood as the precursor to community and the fullness of the human. It defies the false universal of generating profit at the expense of the life and afterlives of the great righteous life of working people. 

Blessed then is the sort of knowing and education that redeems and frees. It’s the undertaking that now must define the African Revolution as it enters the phase of a ruthless ideological battle. The forces that are material are exposed as something to be controlled and directed in a desired direction. The fallacy of a humanity at the mercy of its unknown environment is finally defeated as the toilers of the earth have now come into their own. 


As we end this once again a reminder that it begins here and now with a popular educational project that dismantles and recreates even as it awaken and enlighten to new worlds. The practice now is willed towards a conscious movement that inaugurates, finally, a world of hope possibility given to the highest principle and ideal. Profit and power now builds community and communion as it now moves towards a classless world of equals that begins with educating the mind to a human and humane world which escapes history and enters a newness that have only radiant worlds to build. 

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