In the last two issues of Southern Cross Review we concentrated of the economic and rights (political) aspects of the Tripartite Society. Now a few words concerning the spiritual or cultural sphere.
The French revolutionaries of 1789 possessed a wonderful motto for what they hoped would be the foundation of their future society: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
As things turned out, however, they might have added a fourth quality: Guillotine. Their hopes were drenched in blood and failure. Although the motto was correct, the application was inappropriate, because they attempted to apply the three qualities to a unitary political state, when the function of the state is to insure the equality of all citizens. We are all, or should be, equal before the law. When this happens, and the state is truly democratic and defends the rights of the self-governed, the gates are open for potential freedom and, yes, fraternity in the economic sphere.
But equality is not freedom; rather it is a right. If total freedom were to reign in the economic sector—which seems to be the goal of the Bush administration—we would see many more Enron/WorldCom scams as well as the total domination of industrial power the world over—even the realization of Karl Marx’s prophecy that the world would end up being ruled by one huge capitalistic conglomerate. That this is happening to a certain extent today is the result of the confusion of the concepts of equality, rights and freedom.
The state cannot provide freedom, which is an individual matter. It can only provide the conditions in which freedom may flourish. Nevertheless, there is also an institutional, social aspect to freedom. Certain social activities belong in the spiritual/cultural sector, the most important one being education. It follows that if freedom is the necessary characteristic of the cultural sector, then the institutions belonging to this sector should be free in order to insure their healthy development. When the political state (or economic interests) administers and controls education, the result is invariably social degeneration. The fact that education is in a state of crisis the world over, regardless of the amount of money invested, is ample proof of this fact.
Historically, it was necessary that the state take over education from the church in order to provide what was once an exclusive province to the public in general. However, that happened a long time ago and society has come a long way since. To persist in believing that the state should still regulate and control schools is a grave social error.
“This book must assume the unpopular task of showing that the chaotic condition of our public life derives from the dependence of cultural/spiritual life on the political state and economic interests. It must also show that the liberation of spiritual life and culture from this dependence constitutes an important element of the burning social question.”
Rudolf Steiner: Basic Issues of the Social Question*
The obvious question then is - if the state does not govern education, who does?
Answer: the educators. Teachers receive curriculum and instruction from above, from educational or politically appointed “experts” with PhDs who probably never stood before a classroom of children. But aren’t the teachers themselves, who know the children and their needs through direct contact, the ones to decide how and what should be taught? Isn’t this common sense? If this were so, they could exercise their own freedom and bring life and the desire to learn into the classrooms. There are objections to this suggestion of course. For example – Are teachers capacitated to take on this task? Well, some are and some aren’t. There are always people who prefer to be told what to do instead of using their own initiative. Nevertheless, if given the opportunity to develop into true educators, even these, with the help of their colleagues, could master the opportunity.
The idea of a Tripartite Society envisions three semi-autonomous sectors functioning as one healthy social organism: the cultural sector in freedom; the economic/industrial sector providing the physical and service needs of the community in a fraternal manner; the rights sector (political state) guaranteeing the equal rights of all, regardless of beliefs, race or cultural origin.
Frank Thomas Smith, editor