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Critique of High School Using Karl Marx’s Critique of Capitalism

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Karl Marx’s thought is wide-ranging and has had a massive influence on philosophy and sociology. Marx is best known for his two unsparing critiques of capitalism. The first of these critiques maintains that capitalism is essentially alienating. The second of these critiques maintains that capitalism is essentially exploitative. Marx distinguishes three specific ways of how capitalism is alienating. The first is that workers are alienated from other human beings, the second is that workers are alienated from the products of their labor, the final way Marx argues is that workers are alienated from the act of labor. While Marx’s ideas might seem to only represent the working class or proletariat, it can be used as a way to represent me as a student in a highly ostentatious high school.

The first subpoint of Marx’s first critique is that workers are alienated by other human beings. Marx writes “If the product of labor does not belong to the worker, if it confronts him as an alien power, then this can only be because it belongs to some other man than the worker. If the worker’s activity is a torment to him, to another it might be delight and life’s joy. Not the gods, not nature, but only man himself can be this alien power over man”. In simplified terms, since workers compete with each other for jobs it allows the capitalist, business owner, to decrease wages. This trend has created a society in which our humans cannot confront one another as species-beings and rather as a source of competition which thus results in a society where humans are alienated from other fellow human beings. 

While Marx is talking about the working class in a capitalist society this could be used as a metaphor in this essay to represent my life in high school with me being a fuel of competition among other students. In high school, students are forced to compete with one another to have the highest 3 digit number to show off to another school to get another 3 digit number which is used to define you for the rest of your life. Specifically, in American Heritage, this theory has proven to be true. My peers have classified me with a number as “stupid”, “dumb” while I put in an equal if not more amount of work. However, alienation in the high school environment is not being solved. My peers are rejecting to help me with simple work as they are too competitive and they might ruin their own chances of success. Whenever I ask for help from one of my “friends” the usual answer is “I don’t have time” or “It is too difficult” however the real answer is that they don’t want to see the success of others as it hurts themselves. This alienation in high school has created a learning gap where the “smart” stay “smart” and the “dumb” stay “dumb” because of the lack of compassion and assistance that most students offer. The real story comes from the classes I take. I am currently taking AP courses I do not need to take nor want to take to try to compete. However, I as a human cannot handle the stress of the courses but I still have to take them. Even though these strenuous courses are not interesting to me I am still forced to compete with students.

The second subpoint of Marx’s critique is that workers are alienated from the act of labor. Marx believes that work is what makes us human as it fulfills our species essence. Work allows humans to live, be creative, and flourish however the reality is that work destroys workers. The business owners a worker is an abstract idea who is meant to strengthen the position of the owner. Workers were meant to create products which they could not afford creating alienation and separation. Workers only lived for the few hours they were at home which they slept and ate in. 

American Heritage does the same to their students as business owners did to the workers. The school makes me work tirelessly for a minimum of eight hours for five days a week. By the time I get home, I am supposed to continue working on work the school assigns me. Every night I stay up to 12 am to complete the work I was given which could not be filled in a school day. The isolation which I feel in completing these tasks which the school forces upon me is through the loss of contact with the outside world. Ever since I have joined Heritage my social life has fallen. I have been unable to make new friends from other schools and make plans with friends from this school. I have no time of being a human anymore and I am spending more time letting the school de-humanize me. Spending quality time to spend with my friends and family will be something that I will always cherish however Heritage has stripped those memorable moments away from me. The biggest reason for this is because of the amount of work and studying Heritage has made me do. 

Marx argued that workers should enjoy their work and when they did not he said they should unite and revolt against the means of production. By following what Marx says us as students, as humans, need to protest the style of learning at American Heritage and all high schools. While that might seem impossible it is something that needs to be done. 

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