The eighth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda for Education’.
Bernays opens this chapter with the contention that the public is yet to fully appreciate the value of education. Here he laments that the role of educator has not kept pace with social change, and is operating according to obsolete logic. This is a common theme throughout this book, which is striking for having been written in 1928.
Teachers ought to understand that they have a job as propagandist as well. This is not only in regard to what they teach, but they have to propagandise for the same reason as any other concern, such as a business: public understanding of the teacher’s role, and their acceptance and goodwill, is necessary.
This is not only of advantage to the teachers, who will get a higher salary if their work is more appreciated, but is of advantage to society as a whole, because the profession will be able to attract a higher grade of person. It is necessary to do this because the higher education system gets funding from central governments, and the actions of these governments are subject to public goodwill.
It’s important that institutions of higher learning don’t become dependent on endowments, because this risks that they lose political independence. If the funding is dependent on industry men, those industry men are liable to coerce the university into becoming closer to a polytechnic. As such, the cultural benefits of the institution are lost.
To this end, many of these institutions have employed public relations men. This is one of several points in the book at which Bernays appears to act as a public relations man for the public relations industry itself.
Propaganda can do more for the education industry than to simply raise its profile. Through using a public relations man to stay onside with the newspapers, and thereby establishing friendly relations with the public, the colleges and universities can make sure to attract the best quality of person.
All of the general principles outlined earlier in this book also apply to education. The fact that the public now takes an active interest in the affairs of the companies and businesses that share space with it is noteworthy. This has created a new demand for propagandists, whose job is to keep the public onside.
Bernays concludes this chapter with a warning. Propaganda can be abused. It can be used to create a false image of an institution in cases where such a false image is of benefit to that institution. In this sense, education is little different to business or politics. “There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse.”
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.