Marxism and the Group Project

Marx_and_Engels

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (via WikiMedia)

Communist-manifesto

(via WikiMedia)

In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels outlined their ideas for the communist state. Among these are the abolition of private property, state ownership of the means of production, and the “equal liability of all to labor.” In America, we have always had an aversion to communist ideas, yet they still find their way into certain facets of society. There have always been socialist ideas present in government, and even in our schools. In the case of schools, the group project can be seen as an example of Marxism in action.

In this class, one of the assignment options is the group project. Many of our classes assign group projects as a preview to working in the professional world, where working in groups is essential. In many ways, the group projects we are assigned in classes fit Marx and Engels’ ideals outlined in their Manifesto. When given a group project, students will often divide the tasks between the members of the group, just like the division of labor that is central to Marxism. They all are working together for a common grade, just like laborers under Marxism work for their common sustenance. In Marxism, the means of production are controlled by the government, similar to how a teacher controls the objectives for the project. Group projects also establish a single grade for all members of the group, getting rid of private grades just like private property.

The group project can be seen as a microcosm for the failures of modern Marxism. One of the biggest fears that come with it is that the other members of the group will not carry their weight, causing everyone’s grade to suffer. One of the biggest shortcomings of Marxism in practice is that the separation of labor is not always efficient, just like the group project. Because each member of the group is usually made responsible for their own part of the project, it is essential for everyone to do their part in order to have success.

(via WikiMedia)

(via WikiMedia)

Critics of Marxism often say that it cannot work in practice because there is no incentive for workers to do anything. There is also little incentive for students to do their work in a group project, because those who are less motivated may expect the others to pick up the slack for them. They will still reap the benefits of the group grade, but without doing any actual work.

After the Soviet Union formally collapsed in 1991, Marxism was considered a failure in practice. While we cannot expect the downfall of the group project anytime soon, it highlights many of the same problems that brought down the Communist Bloc.

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Is It The Same Test?

download (2)Education at every level from pre-school to obtaining doctorates is extremely fundamental in the development of American society. Individuals seeking an advanced education have far more opportunities in the workforce. The more educated have very increased opportunities to earn more throughout their lifetime than an uneducated person. Advanced education is a resume builder and says to employers you have taken the extra steps to gain more knowledge and are a greater advantage to their corporation.

Louis Menand wrote a article in the New Yorker called Live in Learn in which he states, “At the end of the process, graduates get a score, the G.P.A. that professional schools and employers can trust as a measure of intellectual capacity and productive potential. It’s important, therefore, that everyone is taking more or less the same test.” Is the test everyone is taking the same test? Can we say kids in underfunded urban areas are aloud to take the same intellectual test as other and if they are is it fair?

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Can Anyone Actually Be Different–And Does it Even Matter if We Are?

I knew that I wanted to write about the concept of individualism in this post, but was unsure how to do so. The subject has been swirling around in my mind since reading an excerpt of John Stuart Mill’s essay, “On Liberty.” In it, Mill brings up the

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We live in a society that “celebrates” differences, and companies like Apple Inc. have branded their image by capitalizing on this. However, if everyone uses the same product, don’t we forfeit those “differences” for the sake of conforming with our peers?

importance of being an “individual,” making it clear that it is best to be like the Greek figure, Pericles, who has self-discipline but is non-conforming to the rest of society. This view from Mill is clearly mirrored in our society, a society that consistently claims to adore the different and the strange, but manages to still stifle its definition of what it means to be an individual. We spout “How to Be an Individual” instruction manuals–which I’m sure a countless number of confused and angsty young adults turn to in an attempt to be seen as “different” while still staying within the realms of what is “acceptable.” But what does it mean to be different? And does it really matter if we are?

I think that everyone likes to believe that they are an individual. Who wouldn’t like to believe that they are one-in-a-million (something that elementary teachers and moms consistently tell us all when we are young and impressionable)? But is it even possible to be an individual? Mill seemed to think that, while a great idea, being a non-conformist is nearly impossible to achieve; he even

What does it mean to be special or different? Who gets to decide what makes us an individual or what makes us "super?" Is it ever really achievable?

What does it mean to be special or different? Who gets to decide what makes us an individual or what makes us “super?” Is it ever really achievable?

made a fail-safe, saying that it is better to be self-disciplined and to live in self-denial, than be neither. Similar to The Incredibles quote, “If everyone’s super, no one is,” the idea that if everyone is an individual, everyone is special, and everyone is different means that maybe, in the end, no one is.

I don’t mean to sound morbid and say that everyone is the same. I’ve met enough people to know that in no way is everyone the exact same. There is no carbon copy of me out there (and if there is, I hope I never have to meet them–there’s enough me in my life already), and there is no carbon copy of my friends and family out there either. But it’s easy to see the links between people–to see how they are more similar than they are different. A lot of it is an upbringing thing. Family is similar to family, friends to friends, towns to towns, etc. People bend who they are naturally to fit into their respective groups within an overarching society. To be truly individual, a person has to be raised outside of a society or groups pre-established beliefs, views, practices, etc. But that isn’t necessarily possible; we will always be brought up into a society (regardless of where, when, or how that society exists and lives) that pushes conformity upon its members, whether subconsciously or consciously. Though we celebrate certain differences, those differences don’t make us special (as others within our groups undoubtedly share similar “differences” or quirks with us as well).

So can anyone use a guide to learn how to be an individual? Is anyone a Pericles? To be honest with you, I don’t think so.

Pericles, the Greek figure that Mill idealized, represents what many of us hope to achieve: the balance between self-discipline and non-conformity. But is it possible to be like Pericles when the pressures of society often force us to conform for fear of being alone?

Pericles, the Greek figure that Mill idealized, represents what many of us hope to achieve: the balance between self-discipline and non-conformity. But is it possible to be like Pericles when the pressures of society often force us to conform for fear of being alone?

But maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe we are supposed to find people that are similar to us, share the same beliefs as us, and have some of the same experiences as us. If we were completely individual and separate than our peers, then many of us would feel lonely and as if no one truly “understood” us. To me, giving up some of my perceived individuality may be a small price to pay for feeling a connection to those around me and a sense of love and acceptance from those I care about.

McDonald’s: What exactly is it?

Yes, as pathetic and cliché that it may sound, I have worked at McDonald’s. Where I grew up, McDonald’s was “the” job that every high-schooler held, and I was one of many that swallowed my pride and got a job there. After being a part the corporation for over two years, I learned all the nooks and crannies of what McDonald’s has to offer. But, even after working at the bottom of the food chain, I never quite realized how political the system was until reading Marx and Engels’s work, The Manifesto of the Communist Party

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