Cambridge Essays on Education
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Courage, endurance, self-control, public spirit, fair play, leadership, these are the virtues which we find may be encouraged by the practice of games at school. It is not a complete list of the Christian virtues, perhaps rather we might call them Pagan virtues, but it is a fine list for all that. And the best of it is that they are as it were unconsciously learnt, acquired by practice, not by inculcation. The boy who follows virtue for its own sake would be, I fear, a sad prig, but the boy who follows a football for the sake of his house, may develop virtue and enjoy the process.

But what are we to put on the other side of the account? If it be true that athletics is a fine school for character, what is the ground for the frequent complaint that the public schools make a "fetish" of athleticism? What precisely is the complaint? It is this, that boys regard, and are encouraged to regard their games as the most important side of their school life, that their interest in them is so overpowering that they have no interest left for the development of the intellect or the acquisition of knowledge, that prominent athletes, not brilliant scholars, are the heroes of a boy community, and that in consequence many men of the better nourished classes, after they have left school, look upon their amusements as the main business of life, give to them the industry and concentration which should be bestowed upon science, letters or industry, and swell the ranks of the amiable and incompetent amateur. It is argued that schools are converted into pleasant athletic clubs, and that boys, instead of learning there to work, merely learn to play. Now this is a serious indictment; it is a good thing to learn to play, but it is not the only thing a school should teach. Riding, shooting and speaking the truth may have been an adequate curriculum for an ancient Persian, but it would not provide a sufficient equipment to enable a man to face the stress of modern competition, or to understand the developments of the science and industry of to-day.

Is too much time given to the playing of games? In winter time I should say No. I suppose that if we include teaching hours and preparation, a boy spends some six hours a day on his intellectual work, or if you prefer, he is supposed to spend that time. A game of football two or three times a week, does not last more than an hour and a quarter; if you add a liberal allowance for changing and baths, two hours is the whole time occupied. A game of fives or a physical drill class need not demand more than an hour. The game that really wastes time—and I am sorry to admit it—is cricket. I am not thinking so much of the long waits in the pavilion when two batsmen on a side are well set, and the rest have nothing to do but to applaud. I see no way out of that difficulty, so long as wickets are prepared as they are now by artistic groundsmen. I am thinking rather of the excessive practice at nets. An enthusiastic house captain is apt to believe that by assiduous practice the most unlikely and awkward recruit can be converted into a useful batsman, and the result is that he will drive all his house day after day to the nets, until they begin to loathe the sight of a cricket ball.

We should recognise that cricket is a game for the few; the majority of boys can never make good cricketers. And happy are those schools which are near a river and can provide an alternative exercise in the summer, which does not require exceptional quickness of eye and wrist and does provide a splendid discipline of body and spirit. In the summer it is well to exempt all boys from cricket, who have really a taste for natural history or photography. Summer half-holidays are emphatically the time for hobbies, and it is a serious charge against our games if they are organised to such a pitch that hobbies are practically prohibited. The zealous captain will object that such "slacking" is destroying the spirit of the house. We must endeavour to point out to him that the unwilling player never makes a good player, and that such a boy may be finding his proper development in the pursuit of butterflies, a development which he would never gain by unsuccessful and involuntary cricket. House masters too are apt to complain that freedom for hobbies is subversive of discipline, and to quote the old adage about Satan and idle hands. That there is risk, is not to be denied. But you cannot run a school without taking risks. Our whole system of leaving the government largely in the hands of boys is full of risks. Sometimes it brings shipwreck; more often it does not. For in the majority of cases the policy of confidence is justified by results.

There is one way of wasting time that is heartily to be condemned, the waste involved in looking on. I am inclined to think that if all athletic contests took place without a ring of spectators, we should get all the good of games and very little of the evil. Certainly professional football would lose its blacker sides if there were no gate money and no betting. Few men or boys are the worse for playing games; it is the applause of the mob that turns their heads. But I am afraid I am not logical enough to say that I would forbid boys to watch matches against another school; the emotions that lead to the "breathless hush in the Close" are so compounded of patriotism and jealousy for the honour of the school, that they are far from ignoble. But I would not have boys compelled to watch the games against clubs and other non-school teams. Above all, if they watch, they must have a run or a game to stir their own blood. The half-holiday must not be spent in shivering on a touchline and then crowding round a fire.

That the athlete is a school hero and the scholar is not, is most certainly true. The scholar may once in a way reflect glory on the school by success in an examination, but generally he is regarded as a self-regarding person, who is not likely to help to win the matches of the year. But the hero-worship is not undiscriminating; conceit, selfishness, surliness will go far to nullify the influence of physical strength and skill. Boys' admiration for physical prowess is natural and not unhealthy. The harm is done by the advertisement given to such prowess by foolish elders. Foremost among such unwise influences I should put the press. Even modest boys may begin to think their achievements in the field are of public importance when they find their names in print. Some papers publish portraits of prominent players, or a series of articles on "Football at X—" or "The prospects of the Cricket Season at Y—". The suggestion that there is a public which is interested in the features of a schoolboy captain, or wishes to know the methods of training and coaching which have led to the success of a school fifteen, is likely to give boys an entirely exaggerated notion of their own importance and to justify in their minds the dedication of a great deal of time to the successes which receive this kind of public recognition.

Next there is the parent. Our ever active critics are apt to forget that schools are to a large extent mirrors, reflecting the tone and opinion of the homes from which boys come. The parent who says when the boy joins the school, "I do not mind whether he gets in the sixth, but I want to see him in the eleven," is by no means an uncommon parent. I have no objection to his wanting to see his boy in the eleven, the deplorable thing is that he is indifferent to intellectual progress. I have heard an elder brother say, "Tom has not got into his house eleven yet, but he brought home a prize last term. I have written to tell him he must change all that, we can't have him disgracing the family." When a candidate has failed to qualify for admission to the school at the entrance examination, I have had letters of surprised and pained protest, pointing out that Jack is an exceptionally promising cricketer. It is assumed that we should be only too glad to welcome the athlete without regard to his standard of work. If we could get the majority of parents to recognise the schoolmaster's point of view, that while games are an important element of education, they are only one element, and that there are others which must not be neglected, we should have made a real step forward towards the elimination of the excessive reverence paid to the athlete.

After the press and the parent comes millinery. Perhaps it is Utopian to suggest that "caps" can be entirely abolished; but the enterprise of haberdashers and the weakness of school authorities have led to a multiplication of blazers, ribbons, caps, jerseys, stockings, badges, scarves and the like, which certainly tend to mark off the successful player from his fellows, and to make him a cynosure of the vulgar and an object of complacent admiration to himself. Success in games should be its own reward. In some cases it certainly is. And the paradox is that very often it is those who are least bountifully endowed by nature who profit most. Some there are who have such natural gifts of strength and dexterity, that from the first they can excel at any game. Triumphs come to them without hard struggle, and they breathe the incense of applause. But others have a clumsier hand, a slower foot, and yet they have a determination to excel, a resolution in sticking to their task that brings them at the last to a fair measure of skill. Such a boy is already rewarded by the toughening of the will that perseverance brings: he does not need a ribbon on his sweater. To give the other, the natural athlete, a coloured scarf, is to run the risk of making him over-value the gifts he owes to nature.

There is no reason why a boy who excels in games should not excel in work. The two are not competing sides of education, they are complementary. The schoolmaster's ideal is that his boys should gain the advantages of both. The athlete who neglects his work, grows up with a poorly furnished mind and an untrained judgment. The student who neglects his games, grows up without the nervous development that fits his body to be the instrument of his will, and without the knowledge of men and the habit of dealing with men which are indispensable in many callings. It has been proved again and again that it is possible to get the advantages of both these sides of school life. There is no reason why the playing of school games should be anything but a help to the intellectual development of a boy.

But the constant talking about games is by no means harmless, though it is true boys might be talking of worse things. It is related that a French educational critic was once descanting to an English head master on the monotony of the conversation of English public school boys: "they talk of nothing but football." But when he was asked, "And of what do French school boys generally talk?" he was silent. But if "cricket shop" saves us from worse topics, it certainly is destructive of rational conversation on subjects of more general interest. In great boarding schools we collect a population of boys under quite abnormal conditions, cut off for the greater part of their social life from intercourse with older people. It is, I think, a general experience that boys who have been at day schools and are the sons of intelligent parents, have their minds more awakened to the questions of the day in politics, or art, or literature than boys of equal ability who have been at a boarding school. They have had the advantage of hearing their father and his friends discussing topics which are outside the range of school life. Boarding schools are often built in some country place away from the surging life of towns, where the noise of political strife and the roar of the traffic of the world are but dimly heard. In such seclusion the life of the school, particularly the active life of the playing fields, occupies the focus of a boy's consciousness. The geographical conditions tend to narrow the range of his interests, and he remains a boy when others are growing to be men. Those who have the wider tastes, are deterred from talking about them by the ever present fear of "side." They will talk freely to a master of architecture or music or Japanese prints, but they are chary of betraying these enthusiasms to their fellows. And masters are not free from blame: I suppose we all of us sometimes bow down in the house of Rimmon, and when the conversation languishes at the tea-table, fall back on a discussion of the last house match. It is the line of least resistance, and after a strenuous day's work it is not easy to maintain a monologue about Home Rule. Not the least of the boons of the war is that it has ousted games from the foremost place as a topic of conversation. I have not noticed that they are less keenly played, although the increase of military work has diminished the time given to them; but they have ceased to monopolise the thoughts of boys. The problem then of reducing the absorption in games is the problem of finding and providing other absorbing interests. We cannot, fortunately, always have the counter-irritant of war. Where we fail now, is that the intellectual training of a boy does not interest him enough in most cases to give him subjects of conversation out of school. We give some few new interests by means of societies, literary, antiquarian or scientific. But the main problem is to make every boy see that the work he does in school is connected with his life, that it is meant to open to him the shut doors around him through which he may go out into all the highways and byways of the world.

Do school games produce the man who regards games as the main business of life? We must emphasise "main." It is certain that they do encourage Englishmen to devote some part of their working life to healthy exercise—and few, I suppose, would wish them to do otherwise. The Indian civilian does not make a worse judge for playing polo, nor is Benin worse administered since golf-links were laid out there. But there are men who never outgrow the boyish narrowness of view that games are the things that matter most. These remain the ruling passion, because no stronger passion comes to drive it out. For this the schools must bear part of the blame, for they have not taught clearly enough that athletics are a means but not an end. Not all the blame, for surely some must rest on a society which tolerates the idler, and has no reproach for the man who says "I live only for hunting and golf." And here as elsewhere, I believe we are judged more by a few failures than by many successes. We can all of us in our experience recall many an honest athlete who is now doing splendid service to Church or State, doughty curates, self-sacrificing doctors, soldiers who are real leaders of men. When they became men they put away childish things, but they have not forgotten what they owe to the discipline of their boyish games. Games are not the first thing in life for them now, but they have no doubt that they can do their work better from an occasional afternoon's play. They see things in their right proportion, because they know that the first thing is to have a job and do it well. If we can teach boys to begin to understand that truth while they are at school, we shall have exorcised the bogey of athleticism. I should expect to find (though I do not know) that the authorities at Osborne and Dartmouth do not need to bother their minds about that bogey. Their boys play games with all a sailor's heartiness, but their ambition is not to be a first-class athlete, but to be a first-class sailor, and the games take their proper place. It may be desirable to reduce the time devoted to games, though as I have said I doubt if there is any need to do so, except for cricket. It may be that we should give more time to handicraft, or military drill. But these things will not change the spirit. What we need to do is to make clearer the object of education in which athletics form a part, that there may be more sense of reality in the boy's school time, more understanding that he is at school to fit himself manfully and capably to play his part on the wider stage of life.

[Footnote 1: C.W. Saleeby, Parenthood and Race Culture, pp. 62, 63.]




Head Master of Bedales School

To teach a sensible use of leisure, healthy both for mind and body, is by no means the least important part of education. Nor is it by any means the least pressing, or the least difficult, of school problems. "Loafing" at times that have no recognised duties assigned them, is generally a sign of slackness in work and play as well; and if we do not find occupation for thoughts and hands, the rhyme tells us who will. The devils of cruelty and uncleanness will be ready to enter the empty house, and fill it at least with unwholesome talk, and thoughtless if not ill-natured "ragging." Yet work and games, whatever keenness we arouse and encourage in these, cannot fill a boy's whole time and thoughts—or, if they do, his life, whether he is student or athlete, or even the occasional combination of both, is still a narrow one and likely to get narrower as years go by. If life to the uneducated means a soulless round of labour varied by the public-house and the "pictures," so to the half-educated it is apt, except in war time, to mean the office and the club, with interests that do not go beyond golf and motoring and bridge. If our lives are emptier and our interests narrower than they need be, it is partly the result of a narrow and unsatisfying education, which leaves half our powers undeveloped and interests untouched, and too often only succeeds in giving us a distaste for those which it touches. Both for the sake of the present, therefore, to avoid the dangers of unfilled leisure, and still more for the sake of the future, the wise schoolmaster does all he can to foster, in addition to keenness in the regular work and games, interests, both individual and social, of other kinds as well. He will make opportunities for various handicrafts: he will try to stimulate lines of investigation not arranged for in the class-routine; he will encourage the formation of societies both for discussion and active pursuits, for instruction and entertainment. It is the purpose of this essay to suggest what, along these lines, is possible in the school.

But the reasons so far given for the encouragement of leisure-time interests are mainly negative. In order to realise to the full the importance of this side of education, we must look rather at their positive value. From whichever point of view one looks at it, physical, intellectual, or social, this value is not small. Some of these interests contribute directly to health in being outdoor pursuits; and these, in not letting games furnish the only motive and means of exercise, can help to establish habits and motives of no little help in later life, when games are no longer easy to keep up. And even in the years when the call of games is strongest, some rivalry of other outdoor pursuits is useful as a preventive of absorption in athleticism, easily carried to excess at school so as to shut out finer interests and influences. It was a consciousness of this that led Captain Scott, in the letter written in those last hours among the Antarctic snows, thinking of his boy at home, and the education that he wished for him, to write: "Make the boy interested in natural history, if you can; it is better than games: they encourage it in some schools."

Besides health—and health, we must remember, is not only a bodily matter, but depends on mental as well as bodily activity, and on the enjoyment of the activity that comes from its being mainly voluntary—the pursuits that we are considering can do much to train skill of various kinds. The class-work represents the minimum that we expect a boy to know; but there is much that necessarily lies outside it of hardly less value. Many a boy learns as much from the hobby on which he spends his free time as from the work he does in class. Sometimes, indeed, such a free-time hobby reveals the bent that might otherwise have gone undiscovered, and determines the choice of a special line of work for the future career.

But the chief value of such interests lies rather in their influence on other work, and on the general development of character. In giving scope for many kinds of skill, they are helping the intellectual training; and however ready we may be to pay lip-service to the principle of learning by doing, and to admit the educational importance of the hand in brain-development, in most of our school work we still ignore these things, so far as any practical application of them is concerned. One is sometimes tempted to wonder if in the future there may not be so complete a reaction from our present ideas and methods as to make what are now regarded as mere hobbies the main matter of education, and to relegate much of the present school course, as the writing of verses has already been relegated, to the category of optional side-shows. At any rate these free-time interests can supply a very useful stimulus to much of the routine work. In these a boy may find himself for the first time, and discover, despite his experience in class, that he is no fool. Or at least he may find there a centre of interest, otherwise lacking, round which other interests can group, and to which knowledge obtained in various class-subjects can attach itself, and so get for him a meaning and a use. And further, if we do not make the mistake of narrowing the range of choice, and allow, at any rate at first, a succession of interests, the very range and variety of these pursuits is an antidote against the tendency to early specialisation, encouraged by scholarship and entrance examinations, which is one of the dangers against which we need to be on our guard. If, therefore, without mere dissipation of interest, we can widen the range of mental activities and encourage, by discussions, essays, lectures and so forth, reading round and outside the subjects dealt with in class, this is all to the good.

And all this has a social as well as an individual aspect. The meetings for the purposes just mentioned, as well as those for entertainment, have, like games, a real educational value, and do much to cement the comradeship of common interests and common aims that is one of the best things school has to give. And not only among those of the same age. These are things in which the example and influence of the older are particularly helpful to the younger. They can become, like the games, and perhaps to an even greater extent, one of the interests that help to bind together past and present members of a school. And they afford an opportunity for masters to meet boys on a more personal and friendly footing, and to get the mutual knowledge and respect which are all-important if education is to be, in Thring's definition, a transmission of life through the living to the living. That the organisation of leisure-time pursuits is of the utmost help to the school as well as to the boy, is the unanimous verdict of the schools in which it has long been a tradition. The master who has had charge, for the past five-and-twenty years, of this organisation in one such school writes that there they consider such pursuits as the very life-blood of the school, and the only rational method of maintaining discipline.

If what has here been said is admitted, it is plain that to teach, by every means in our power, the use of leisure, is one of the most important things a school has to do. We might, therefore, turn at once to the consideration of the various means for such teaching that experience has shown to be practicable in the school. But before doing so, there is yet another reason, the most far-reaching of all, to be urged for regarding this as a side of education fully as necessary, at the present time above all, as those sides that none would question. Great as is the direct and immediate value of the interests and occupations thus to be encouraged, their indirect influence is more valuable still, if they teach not only handiness and adaptiveness, but also call forth initiative and individuality, and so help to develop the complete and many-sided human personality which is the crown and purpose of education as of life. We do not now think of education as merely book-learning, nor even as concerned only with mind and body, or only as fitting preparation for skilled work and cultured leisure; but rather as the development of the whole human being, with all his possibilities, interests, and motives, as well as powers, his feelings and imagination no less than reason and will. In a word, education is training for life, with all that this connotes, and, as we learn to live only by living, must be thought of not merely as preparation for life, but as a life itself. Plainly, if we give it a meaning as wide as this, a great part of education lies outside the school, in the influences of the home surroundings and, after school, of occupation and the whole social environment. But during the school years—and they are the most impressionable of all—it is the school life that is for most the chief formative influence; and now more necessarily so than ever. When, a few generations back, life was still, in the main, life in the country, and most things were still made at home or in the village, the most important part of education lay, except for a few, outside the school. Now it is the other way. Town life, the replacing of home-made by factory-made goods, the disappearance of the best part of home life before the demands of industry on the one side and the growth of luxury on the other—these things are signs of a tendency that has swept away most of the practical home-education, and thrown it all upon the school. And the schools have even yet hardly realised the full meaning of this change. Instead of having to provide only a part of education—the specially intellectual and, in the public schools at least, the physical side—we have now to think of the whole nature of the growing boy or girl, and, by the environment and the occupations we provide, to appeal to interests and motives, and give occasion for the right use of powers, that may otherwise be undeveloped or misused. A school cannot now consist merely of class-rooms and playing fields. This is recognised by the addition of laboratories and workshops, gymnasium, swimming-bath, lecture-hall, museum, art-school, music-rooms—all now essentials of a day school as much as of a boarding school. But many of these things are still only partially made use of, and are apt to be regarded rather as ornamental excrescences, to be used by the few who have a special bent that way, at an extra charge, than as an integral part of education for all. All the interests and means of training that they represent, and others as well, need to be brought more into the daily routine; to some extent in place of the too exclusively literary, or at least bookish, training, that has hitherto been the staple of education, but more, perhaps, since it is not possible to include in the regular curriculum all that is of value, as optional subjects and free-time occupations, though organised as part of the school course. For it is not only the few who already know their bent who need opportunity to be made for following it, but rather those who will not discover their powers without practice, or their interests without suggestion or encouragement. In this respect the war has brought opportunities of no little value to the school, not only in the absorbing interest in the war itself and the desire for knowledge and readiness for effort that it awakens, but also in the demands it has made for practical work of many kinds that boys and girls can do, and the lessons of service that it has taught. Work on the land and in the shops, for those whose school time is already too short, is a curtailment, only to be made as a last resort, of the kind of learning they will have no other opportunity to acquire; but it gives to the public schoolboy the feeling of reality that most of his school work lacks. Such opportunities of doing what is seen to be productive and necessary work, are, like the making of things for those at the front, and for the wounded, both in themselves and in the motives that inspire them, a valuable part of education that should not be forgotten when the present need for them is over.

If, then, by the fullest use of leisure occupations, we are, like Canning, to call in a new world to redress the balance of the old, what, in actual practice, is possible in the school? For an answer to this question one has only to see what is done in the schools of the Society of Friends, in which the use of leisure in these ways has always been a strongly marked feature long before it was taken up by others, with a tradition, indeed, in the older schools, of sixty or a hundred years of accumulated experience behind it. Instead of singling out, for description of the use it makes of leisure, any one school in which it might be supposed that there were special conditions present, it will be best to enumerate the various activities that have long been practised in several different schools. Of those selected for the purpose not all are connected with the Society of Friends; some are for boys and some for girls only, and some co-educational; but alike in being boarding schools, and in keeping their boys and girls from an early age until, at the end of their school life, they go on to the university or to their business or professional training. A few of the pursuits to be mentioned are obviously more appropriate for boys, others for girls; but the differences between those that are followed in schools for boys and those for girls are surprisingly small, and to give separate lists would only involve much needless repetition.

For the sake of clearness, it may be well to group the various activities according as they are mainly outdoor or indoor occupations. In the outdoor group, games and sports need not be included, as being, in most cases, as much a part of the ordinary school course as the class-work. They only become free-time pursuits, in the sense here intended, in so far as practice for them is optional, and a large amount of free time spent upon it. Thus, for example, while swimming is, or should be, compulsory for all, and a regular time found for it in the school time-table, it is entirely a voluntary matter to go in, as in many schools a large number do, for the tests of the Royal Humane Society. Apart from games, the outdoor pursuit that occupies the largest place is probably, in most of these schools, some branch of natural history (which may perhaps be held to include geology as well as the study of plant and animal life)—not so much by the making of collections, though this usually serves as a beginning, as by the keeping of diaries, notes of observations illustrated by drawings and photographs, and experimental work, in connection, perhaps, with work done in science classes. Similarly in the study of archaeology, visits to places of interest—there are always many old churches within reach, if not other buildings of equal interest—give matter for written notes as well as for drawings and photographs; and in at least one case, the fact that the neighbourhood is rich in Roman remains has given opportunity, under the guidance of a keen classical archaeologist, for the laying bare of more than one Roman villa, and for making interesting additions to the school museum. Besides their use in the service of other pursuits, sketching and photography also have many votaries for their own sake, though the former is usually more dependent on encouragement from above. Then there is gardening. The tenure of a plot of ground is a joy to many children; and in the opinion of the writer, some experience, and some experimental work, in the growing of the most necessary food plants, as well as flowers, should form part of the education of all at a certain stage, whether in school time or in free time. For some, where the conditions are favourable, this can be extended to the care of fruit-trees, bees, poultry, and to some kinds of farm-work. The needs of war-time have brought something of this into many schools, to the real gain of education, now and later, if it can be retained, at least as a possibility of choice. So also with the care of the playing fields: the more that the work needed for a game is thrown upon the players themselves, the more does it contribute to education. And so too with constructive work of any kind that, with some help of suggestion or direction, is within the compass even of comparatively unskilled labour. A lengthy list could be given of things accomplished in this way, with an educational value all the greater for their practical purpose, from Ruskin's famous road down to the last field levelled and pavilion built or shed put up, by voluntary effort and in time found by the workers without encroaching on regular school work. And lastly, an outdoor occupation for free time which, in the earlier days of school life, we shall do well to encourage—both for its own value and the manifold interests that it encourages and lessons that it teaches, and also for its bearing on questions of national service that will remain to be answered after the war—is the wide range of activities comprised in scouting, undoubtedly one of the chief educational advances of our time. Whatever differences of views there may be on the wider questions of military service for national defence, and of making military training a specific part of education, few can deny that, with a view to national service of some kind, the use made by Sir Robert Baden-Powell of instincts natural to all at a particular stage of growth, by an organisation which can be kept entirely free from the failings of militarism, is a development of the utmost educational, as well as national, value. If a school already develops, by other means, all the activities trained by scouting, and utilises in other ways the instincts and motives to which it makes appeal, there may be little or nothing to be gained by its adoption. But of how many schools can this be said? For the rest it undoubtedly offers a way of doing, at the stage of growth for which it is best fitted, much of what, if there is any truth in what has been urged above, is, from the point of view of individual development, of greater importance now than ever before. If, in addition to this, it will go far to solve the problem of national service, and to remove the need for conscription in the continental form, there is every reason to give it a prominent place in the activities encouraged, if not insisted upon, at school.

Let us now turn to the group of indoor pursuits, which, if they have not quite so direct a bearing upon health, are in another way even more important; for a large part of leisure, even at school and still more, in all probability, afterwards, falls at times and under conditions that make some indoor occupation necessary, and the waste or misuse of these times is likely to be greater. In this group certain things need be no more than mentioned, as either applying, at any given time, only to a few picked individuals, or else likely, in the majority of schools, to be made a regular part of the school routine; such as, of the one kind, the editing of the school magazine, or membership of the school fire-brigade with the frequent practices that this involves; or, of the other kind, special gymnastics (including such things as boxing and fencing), or lectures and concerts and other entertainments given to the school, as distinguished from those given by members of it, the preparation for which gives occupation beforehand to much of their leisure. Of the free-time pursuits more properly so called, in which many can share, the commonest are probably the various school societies. Most schools have one or more debating societies, with meetings at regular intervals throughout the winter terms, for the discussion of questions of general or special interest; the difficulty being more often to find a subject than speakers. Many also have Essay or Literary societies, for reading papers and discussing the books and writers treated of, which involve a considerable amount of previous reading. Besides these most schools now have similar societies, in addition to those for carrying out the field-work already mentioned, for holding lectures and discussions on various branches of science. Some also have a musical society for gaining fuller acquaintance with the works of the chief composers; and a dramatic society for reading and acting plays as occasion allows. Allied with these interests is voluntary laboratory work in some branch of science, both by individuals and groups, which may not unfairly be dignified with the name of research, even if it is only the re-discovery of what has been worked out by others. In some schools special provision is made for encouraging optional work of this kind in astronomy; in others it may be wireless telegraphy, or the use of vegetable dyes, and so forth. In some of this work even the younger can take part; and of the many reasons for its encouragement not the least is the wide field it opens to individual initiative.

Besides all these more specially intellectual interests, and of still wider appeal, various kinds of handicrafts afford abundant occupation, some for the longer and some also for the shorter periods of leisure. Wood-work, carving, work in metal or leather, pottery, basket-plaiting, bookbinding, needlework and embroidery, knitting, netting hammocks and so forth—the only limit to the number of such crafts is the limit to the knowledge and energy of those who can start and direct them, and to the space available, as some can only be carried on in rooms reserved for such work. So, too, with various kinds of art-work—drawing, modelling, lettering, making posters for entertainments; or music, both individual and concerted, orchestra practice, part-singing, glee-clubs and so on; or morrice and other folk-dances, now happily being widely revived. And lastly there are indoor games, some of which, like chess (cards are probably best confined to the sanatorium), have a high training value, and others afford a useful occasional outlet to high spirits; and entertainments got up by some society, or perhaps by a single form, for the rest of the "house" or school, such as a concert or play or even an occasional fancy-dress dance, the preparation for which will happily occupy free time for as long beforehand as is allowed, and does much to encourage ingenuity, especially if strict conditions are imposed that all that is required must be made for the purpose and not bought.

But by this time many questions will have arisen in the mind of the reader, especially if much of what has been enumerated lies outside his school experience; questions that demand an immediate answer. Even if all this free-time work and play may have a certain value, how can time be found for it without encroaching on the regular work and games which, after all, must be the main concern of the school? And even supposing that time could be found for both, will not all this voluntary activity and pleasure-work absorb the interests and energies that ought to be given to the more serious, if less attractive, studies? And again, how can all this wide range of activity be controlled? Who is going to teach, or look after, all these things? How are they to be kept going? Are they, or any of them, to be compulsory, or is a boy or girl to be allowed to do anything or nothing, or to flit, butterfly-fashion, from one to another, learning nothing except to fritter away energy in endless mental dissipation?

Only a brief answer can be attempted to these questions. It might indeed be given in the answer to the old puzzle, solvitur ambulando; for, given a clear aim and common sense, most difficulties in education disappear as one goes on. It is, in fact, a question of educational values; that settled, matters of detail soon settle themselves. From what has been said above, it will be plain that the writer is one of those who think these voluntary free-time activities of such value that they are willing, in order to make room for them, to jettison some of the traditions that have gathered about school work and games. Let the morning hours be reserved for the severer kinds of class work, but let the afternoons be mainly given to active pursuits of other kinds as well as games; and on one of them at least let expeditions in pursuit of the outdoor interests above outlined be an alternative to the games chosen by the keen players, or compulsory for those without an equivalent hobby. Then, too, in the evenings let preparation be varied with handicrafts (the result will be an intellectual gain rather than loss), and time be reserved for the meetings of societies or for entertainments. It may be well to say here that while every one of the things above mentioned is an actual fact in some school, in none, probably, are all attempted at once, nor, of course, do any of their members take up many of these pursuits at the same time; but it is surprising how much can be done by treating a part of some afternoons and evenings in the week as leisure time for these pursuits. When this is done, there is usually a particular member of the Staff whose task it is, either permanently or in rotation, to see what is being done, to give suggestions and encouragement to beginners, and to see, if necessary, that freedom does not mean disorder. Naturally, in the case of handicrafts, others also take part as actual teachers or at least as fellow-workers; but though it is generally helpful for members of the Staff to join in all such work and in discussions, the aim of it all is likely to be more fully attained if as much as possible of the organisation and direction is left to members of the school. So, too, with the question of compulsion. Not all have so strong a bent as to know what they want to do, and sometimes interests come only by actual experience. It is well, therefore, to have an understanding that, at certain times, all must follow some one of the possible occupations; but the more it can be left to the individual choice, and the wider the range of choice, the better for the purpose we have in view. Not all country rambles need have a definite object, nor all time be actively filled that might be left for reading. But without a definite object few will make a habit of walking, or learn to know and love the country; and not all, especially where there is a multiplicity of other interests, will form the habit of reading unless regular times are set apart for it, times when books must be read and not merely magazines. How far freedom of change from one occupation to another is desirable is largely an individual question. The younger need to try many things before they can settle down to one, in order to discover their real interests and to exercise their faculties. But it is well to have a strict limit to the number of things that may be taken up at once, and a fixed length of time to be given to each before it may be replaced by another. With the older, this, as a rule, settles itself, on the one hand by growing interest in one or two directions, and on the other by the increasing demands of the school work and approaching examinations. It is the younger, therefore, who need most encouragement. In schools where, as said above, there is a long tradition of such free-time work, there is the less need for anything beyond suggestions and general supervision. Yet even in these it is found helpful to have, at the beginning of the year, talks upon the subject by some member of the Staff, or an old boy perhaps who has devoted himself to some particular branch, in order to explain what can be done and the standard to be maintained. In several of them prizes are offered every year, either by the school or by the Old Scholars' Association or by individual old scholars, for good work in many of the categories mentioned above; these in some schools being the only prizes given. In some cases they are money prizes, as in certain kinds of work the tools or materials used are costly; in others the prizes are not given to individuals, but in the form of a "trophy" to the form or "house" that shows up the best record for the term or year; in others, again, the need of prizes is not felt, but interest and keenness to maintain a good standard are kept up by the public show, held each year, of work done in leisure time. And, it may be added, a great stimulus in itself is the wider freedom that can be earned by those who follow certain branches of study, in the way, for instance, of expeditions, on foot or by bicycle, to places where they can be pursued.

But with all this there is, of course, the danger that so much energy may be absorbed in these pursuits that little is left for the ordinary school work. In some few cases, where there is a strong natural bent and the free-time pursuit is a serious object of study, this may be a thing not to be discouraged, as it will provide the truest means of education. But in most cases care is needed to see that the due proportion is kept, and especially that mere amusement is not allowed to occupy the whole of leisure, still less to distract thought and effort from serious work. By making entertainments, which might, if too frequent or too elaborate, have this effect, dependent on the school work being well done, this danger can be minimised. For the rest, if free-time work is found to take the first place in a boy's thoughts, may not this be a sign that the ordinary curriculum and methods of teaching are capable of improvement, and that more use of these natural interests may with advantage be made in class time as well? Not that work of any kind can be all pleasure or always outwardly interesting; there is plenty of hard spade-work needed in any study seriously followed, in class or out. But if in education keenness is the first essential and personality the final aim, interest and freedom must have a larger place than is usually allowed them in the class-room if the real education is not to centre in the self-chosen and self-directed pursuits of leisure.

One word more. It must not be supposed that all that has been described is only possible, or only needed, in the boarding school or only for a specially leisured class. If, as has here been urged, these activities and interests form an integral part of education in its fullest meaning, they are just as necessary in the day school and cannot be left to chance and the home to see to. And of all the needed reforms in elementary education, amongst the most needed is the greater utilisation of the active interests and instincts of children, in a training that would have a wider outlook and a closer bearing, through practical experience, both on the work of life and the use of leisure.




Head Master of Mill Hill School


It is, perhaps, the chief glory of the Ideal Commonwealth that each and every member thereof is found in his right place. His profession is also his vocation; in it is his pride; through it he attains to the joie de vivre; by it he makes his contribution to the happiness of his fellows and to the welfare and progress of the State. The contemplation of the Ideal, however, would seem to be nature's anodyne for experience of the Actual. In practical life, all attempts, however earnest and continuous, to realise this ideal are frustrated by one or more of many difficulties; and though the Millennium follows hard upon Armageddon, we cannot assume that in the period vaguely known as "after the war" these difficulties will be fewer in number or less in magnitude. Some of the more obvious may be briefly considered.

In theory, every child is "good for something"; in practice, all efforts to discover for what some children are good prove unavailing. The napkin may be shaken never so vigorously, but the talent remains hidden. In every school there are many honest fellows who seem to have no decided bent in any direction, and who would probably do equally well, or equally badly, in any one of half-a-dozen different employments. Some of these boys are steady, reliable, not unduly averse from labour, willing—even anxious—to be guided and to carry out instructions, yet are quite unable to manifest a preference for any one kind of work.

Others, again, show real enthusiasm for a business or profession, but do not possess those qualities which are essential to success therein; yet they are allowed to follow their supposed bent, and spend the priceless years of adolescence in the achievement of costly failure. Many a promising mechanic has been spoiled by the ill-considered attempts to make a passable engineer; and the annals of every profession abound in parallel instances of misdirected zeal. In saying this, however, one would not wish to undervalue enthusiasm, nor to deny that it sometimes reveals or develops latent and unsuspected talents.

The life-work of many is determined largely, if not entirely, by what may be termed family considerations. There is room for a boy in the business of his father or some other relative. The fitness of the boy for the particular employment is not, as a rule, seriously considered; it is held, perhaps, to be sufficiently proved by the fact that he is his father's son. He is more likely to be called upon to recognise the special dispensations of a beneficent Providence on his behalf. It is natural that a man should wish the fruits of his labour to benefit his family in the first instance, at any rate; and the desire to set his children well on the road of life's journey seems entirely laudable. It is easy to hold what others have won, to build on foundations which others have laid, and to do this with all their experience and goodwill to aid him. Hence when the father retires he has the solid satisfaction of knowing that

Resigned unto the Heavenly Will, His son keeps on the business still.

It cannot be denied that this policy is often successful; but it is equally undeniable that it is directly responsible for the presence of many incompetent men in positions which none but the most competent should occupy. There are many long-established firms hastening to decay because even they are not strong enough to withstand the disastrous consequences of successive infusions of new (and young) blood.

Many, too, are deterred from undertaking congenial work by reason of the inadequate income to be derived therefrom, and the unsatisfactory prospects which it presents. Let it suffice to mention the teaching profession, which fails to attract in any considerable numbers the right kind of men and women. A large proportion of its members did not become teachers from deliberate choice, but, having failed in their attempt to secure other employment, were forced to betake themselves to the ever-open portals of the great Refuge for the Destitute, and become teachers (or, at least, become classified as such). True there are a few "prizes" in the profession, and to some of the rude donati the Church holds out a helping hand; but the lay members cannot look forward even to the "congenial gloom of a Colonial Bishopric."

Others, again, are attracted to employments (for which they may have no special aptitude) by the large salaries or profits which are to be earned therein, often with but little trouble or previous training—or so, at least, they believe. The idea of vocation is quite obscured, and a man's occupation is in effect the shortest distance from poverty which he cannot endure, to wealth and leisure which he may not know how to use.

It frequently happens, too, that a young man is unable to afford either the time or the expense necessary to qualify for the profession which he desires to enter, and for which he is well adapted by his talents and temperament. Not a few prefer in such circumstances to "play for safety," and secure a post in the Civil Service.

It is plain from such considerations as these that all attempts to realise the Utopian ideal must needs be, for the present at least, but very partially successful. Politics are not the only sphere in which "action is one long second-best." Even if it were possible at the present time to train each youth for that calling which his own gifts and temperament, or the reasoned judgment of his parents, selected as his life-work, it is very far from certain that he would ultimately find himself engaged therein. English institutions are largely based on the doctrine of individual liberty, and those statutes which establish or safeguard individual rights are not unjustly regarded as the "bulwarks of the Constitution." But the inalienable right of a father to choose a profession for his son, or of the son to choose one for himself, is often exercised without any real inquiry into the conditions of success in the profession selected. Hence the frequent complaints about the "overcrowding of the professions" either in certain localities or in the country at large. The Bar affords a glaring example. "There be many which are bred unto the law, yet is the law not bread unto them." The number of recruits which any one branch of industry requires in a single year is not constant, and, in some cases, is subject to great fluctuations; yet there are few or no statistics available for the guidance of those who are specially concerned with that branch, or who are considering the desirability of entering it. The establishment of Employment Exchanges is a tacit admission of the need of such statistics, and—though less certainly—of the duty of the Government to provide them. Yet even if they were provided it seems beyond dispute that, in the absence of strong pressure or compulsion from the State, the choice of individuals would not always be in accordance with the national needs. The entry to certain professions—for instance that of medicine—is most properly safeguarded by regulations and restrictions imposed by bodies to which the State has delegated certain powers and duties. It may happen that in one of these professions the number of members is greatly in excess, or falls far short of the national requirements; yet neither State nor Professional Council has power to refuse admission to any duly qualified candidate, or to compel certain selected people to undergo the training necessary for qualification. It is quite conceivable, however, that circumstances might arise which would render such action not merely desirable but absolutely essential to the national well-being; indeed it is at least arguable that such circumstances have already arisen. The popular doctrine of the early Victorian era, that the welfare of the community could best be secured by allowing every man to seek his own interests in the way chosen by himself, has been greatly modified or wholly abandoned. So far are we from believing that national efficiency is to be attained by individual liberty that some are in real danger of regarding the two as essentially antagonistic. The nation, as a whole, supported the Legislature in the establishment of compulsory military service; it did so without enthusiasm and only because of the general conviction that such a policy was demanded by the magnitude of the issues at stake. Britons have always been ready, even eager, to give their lives for their country; but, even now, most of them prefer that the obligation to do so should be a moral, rather than a legal one. The doctrine of individual liberty implies the minimum of State interference. Hence there is no country in the world where so much has been left to individual initiative and voluntary effort as in England; and, though of late the number of Government officials has greatly increased, it still remains true that an enormous amount of important work, of a kind which is elsewhere done by salaried servants of the State, is in the hands of voluntary associations or of men who, though appointed or recognised by the State, receive no salary for their services. Nor can it be denied that the work has been, on the whole, well done. A traditional practice of such a kind cannot be (and ought not to be) abandoned at once or without careful consideration; yet the changed conditions of domestic and international politics render some modification necessary.

If the Legislature has protected the purchaser—in spite of the doctrine of "caveat emptor"—by enactments against adulteration of food, and has in addition, created machinery to enforce those enactments, are not we justified in asking that it shall also protect us against incompetence, especially in cases where the effects, though not so obvious, are even more harmful to the community than those which spring from impure food? The prevention of overcrowding in occupations would seem to be the business of the State quite as much as is the prevention of overcrowding in dwelling-houses and factories. The best interests of the nation demand that the entrance to the teaching profession—to take one example out of many—should be safeguarded at least as carefully as the entrance to medicine or law. The supreme importance of the functions exercised by teachers is far from being generally realised, even by teachers themselves; yet upon the effective realisation of that importance the future welfare of the nation largely depends. Doubtless most of us would prefer that the supply of teachers should be maintained by voluntary enlistment, and that their training should be undertaken, like that of medical students, by institutions which owe their origin to private or public beneficence rather than to the State; nevertheless, the obligation to secure adequate numbers of suitable candidates and to provide for their professional training rests ultimately on the State. The obligation has been partially recognised as far as elementary education is concerned, but it is by no means confined to that branch.

It is well to realise at this point that the efficient discharge of the duty thus imposed will of necessity involve a much greater degree of compulsion on both teachers and pupils than has hitherto been employed. The terrible spectacle of the unutilised resources of humanity, which everywhere confronts us in the larger relations of our national life, has been responsible for certain tentatives which have either failed altogether to achieve their object, or have been but partially successful. Much has been heard of the educational ladder—incidentally it may be noted that the educational sieve is equally necessary, though not equally popular—and some attempts have been made to enable a boy or girl of parts to climb from the elementary school to the university without excessive difficulty. To supplement the glaring deficiencies of elementary education a few—ridiculously few—continuation schools have been established. That these and similar measures have failed of success is largely due to the fact that the State has been content to provide facilities, but has refrained from exercising that degree of compulsion which alone could ensure that they would be utilised by those for whose benefit they were created. "Such continuation schools as England possesses," says a German critic, "are without the indispensable condition of compulsion." The reforms recently outlined by the President of the Board of Education show that he, at any rate, admits the criticism to be well grounded. A system which compels a child to attend school until he is fourteen and then leaves him to his own resources can do little to create, and less to satisfy, a thirst for knowledge. During the most critical years of his life—fourteen to eighteen—he is left without guidance, without discipline, without ideals, often without even the desire of remembering or using the little he knows. He is led, as it were, to the threshold of the temple, but the fast-closed door forbids him to enter and behold the glories of the interior. Year by year there is an appalling waste of good human material; and thousands of those whom nature intended to be captains of industry are relegated, in consequence of undeveloped or imperfectly trained capacity, to the ranks, or become hewers of wood and drawers of water. Many drift with other groups of human wastage to the unemployed, thence to the unemployable, and so to the gutter and the grave. The poor we have always with us; but the wastrel—like the pauper—"is a work of art, the creation of wasteful sympathy and legislative inefficiency."

We must be careful, however, in speaking of "the State" to avoid the error of supposing that it is a divinely appointed entity, endowed with power and wisdom from on high. It is, in short, the nation in miniature. Even if the Legislature were composed exclusively of the highest wisdom, the most enlightened patriotism in the country, its enactments must needs fall short of its own standards, and be but little in advance of those of the average of the nation. It must still acknowledge with Solon. "These are not the best laws I could make, but they are the best which my nation is fitted to receive." We cannot blame the State without, in fact, condemning ourselves. The absence of any widespread enthusiasm for education, or appreciation of its possibilities; the claims of vested interests; the exigencies of Party Government; and, above all, the murderous tenacity of individual rights have proved well-nigh insuperable obstacles in the path of true educational reform. On the whole we have received as good laws as we have deserved. The changed conditions due to the war, and the changed temper of the nation afford a unique opportunity for wiser counsels, and—to some extent—guarantee that they shall receive careful and sympathetic consideration.

It may be objected, however, that in taking the teaching profession to exemplify the duty of the State to assume responsibility for both individual and community, we have chosen a case which is exceptional rather than typical; that many, perhaps most, of the other vocations may be safely left to themselves, or, at least left to develop along their own lines with the minimum of State interference. It cannot be denied that there is force in these objections. It should suffice, however, to remark that, if the duty of the State to secure the efficiency of its members in their several callings be admitted, the question of the extent to which, and the manner in which control is exercised is one of detail rather than of principle, and may therefore be settled by the common sense and practical experience of the parties chiefly concerned.

A much more difficult problem is sure to arise, sooner or later, in connection with the utilisation of efficients. Some few years ago the present Prime Minister called attention to the waste of power involved in the training of the rich. They receive, he said, the best that money can buy; their bodies and brains are disciplined; and then "they devote themselves to a life of idleness." It is "a stupid waste of first-class material." Instead of contributing to the work of the world, they "kill their time by tearing along roads at perilous speed, or do nothing at enormous expense." It has needed the bloodiest war in history to reveal the splendid heroism latent in young men of this class. Who can withhold from them gratitude, honour, nay even reverence? But the problem still remains how are the priceless qualities, which have been so freely devoted to the national welfare on the battlefield, to be utilised for the greater works of peace which await us? Are we to recognise the right to be idle as well as the right to work? Is there to be a kind of second Thellusson Act, directed against accumulations of leisure? Or are we to attempt the discovery of some great principle of Conservation of Spiritual Energy, by the application of which these men may make a contribution worthy of themselves to the national life and character? Who can answer?

But though it is freely admitted on all hands that some check upon aggressive individualism is imperatively necessary, and that it is no longer possible to rely entirely upon voluntary organisations however useful, there are not a few of our countrymen who view with grave concern any increase in the power and authority of the State. They point out that such increase tends inevitably towards the despotism of an oligarchy, and that such a despotism, however benevolent in its inception, ruthlessly sacrifices individual interests and liberty to the real or supposed good of the State; that even where constitutional forms remain the spirit which animated them has departed; that officialism and bureaucracy with their attendant evils become supreme, and that the national character steadily deteriorates. They warn us that we may pay too high a price even for organisation and efficiency; and, though it is natural that we should admire certain qualities which we do not possess, we ought not to overlook the fact that those methods which have produced the most perfect national organisation in the history of the world are also responsible for orgies of brutality without parallel among civilised peoples. That such warnings are needful cannot be doubted; but may it not be urged that they indicate dangers incident to a course of action rather than the inevitable consequences thereof? In adapting ourselves to new conditions we must needs take risks. No British Government could stamp out voluntaryism even if it wished to do so; and none has yet manifested any such desire. The nation does not want that kind of national unity of which Germany is so proud, and which seems so admirably adapted to her needs; for the English character and genius rest upon a conception of freedom which renders such a unity foreign and even repulsive to its temper. Whatever be the changes which lie before us, the worship of the State is the one form of idolatry into which the British people are least likely to fall.


The recent adaptation of factories and workshops to the production of war material is only typical of what goes on year by year in peace time, though, of course, to a less degree and in less dramatic fashion. Not only are men constantly adapting themselves and their machinery to changed conditions of production, but they are applying the experience and skill gained in the pursuit of one occupation to the problems of another for which it has been exchanged. The comparative ease with which this is done is evidence of the widespread existence of that gift which our enemies call the power of "muddling through," but which has been termed—without wholly sacrificing truth to politeness—the "concurrent adaptability to environment." The British sailor as "handy man" has few equals and no superiors, and he is, in some sort, typical of the nation. The testimony of Thucydides to Themistocles ([Greek: kratistos de oytos aytoschediazein ta deonta egeneto]) might with equal or even greater truth be applied to many Englishmen to-day. As this power [Greek: aytoschediazein ta deonta] in the present war saved the Allies from defeat at the outset, so we hope and believe it will carry them on to victory at the last. Yet it becomes a snare if it leads its possessor to neglect preparation or despise organisation, for neither of which can it ever be an entirely satisfactory substitute, albeit a very costly one. At the same time we should recognise that any system of training which seriously impairs this power tends to deprive us of one of the most valuable of our national assets. It follows that, for the majority at least, exclusive or excessive specialisation in training—vocational or otherwise—so far from being an advantage, is a positive drawback; for, as we have seen, a large proportion of our youth manifest no marked bent in any particular direction, and of those who do but a small proportion are capable of that hypertrophy which the highest specialisation demands.

It is important to remember that, though school life is a preparation for practical life, vocational education ought not to begin until a comparatively late stage in a boy's career, if indeed it begins at all while he remains at school. On this it would seem that all professional bodies are agreed; for the entrance examinations, which they have accepted or established are all framed to test a boy's general education and not his knowledge of the special subjects to which he will afterwards devote himself. The evils of premature specialisation are too well known to require even enumeration, and they are increased rather than diminished if that premature specialisation is vocational. The importance of technical training as the means whereby a man is enabled rightly to use the hours of work can hardly be exaggerated; but the value of his work, his worth to his fellows, and his rank in the scale of manhood depend, to at least an equal degree, upon the way in which he uses the hours of leisure. It is one of the greatest of the many functions of a good school to train its members to a wise use of leisure; and though this is not always achieved by direct means the result is none the less valuable. In every calling there must needs be much of what can only be to all save its most enthusiastic devotees—and, at times, even to them—dull routine and drudgery. A man cannot do his best, or be his best, unless he is able to overcome the paralysing influences thus brought to bear upon him by securing mental and spiritual freshness and stimulus; in other words his "inward man must be renewed day by day." There are many agencies which may contribute to such a result; but school memories, school friendships, school "interests" take a foremost place among them. Many boys by the time they leave school have developed an interest or hobby—literary, scientific or practical; and the hobby has an ethical, as well as an economic value. Nor is this all. Excessive devotion to "Bread Studies," whether voluntary or compulsory, tends to make a man's vocation the prison of his soul. Professor Eucken recently told his countrymen that the greater their perfection in work grew, the smaller grew their souls. Any rational interest, therefore, which helps a man to shake off his fetters, helps also to preserve his humanity and to keep him in touch with his fellows. Dr A.C. Benson tells of a distinguished Frenchman who remarked to him, "In France a boy goes to school or college, and perhaps does his best. But he does not get the sort of passion for the honour and prosperity of his school or college which you English seem to feel." It is this wondrous faculty of inspiring unselfish devotion which makes our schools the spiritual power-houses of the nation. This love for an abstraction, which even the dullest boys feel, is the beginning of much that makes English life sweet and pure. It is the same spirit which, in later years, moves men to do such splendid voluntary work for their church, their town, their country, and even in some cases leads them "to take the whole world for their parish."

However much we may strive to reach the beautiful Montessori ideal, the fact remains that there must be some lessons, some duties, which the pupil heartily dislikes and would gladly avoid if he could; but they must be done promptly and satisfactorily, and, if not cheerfully, at least without audible murmuring. Eventually he may, and often does, come to like them; at any rate he realises that they are not set before him in order to irritate or punish him, but as part of his school training. It will be agreed that the acquirement of a habit of doing distasteful things, even under compulsion, because they are part of one's duty is no bad preparation for a life in which most days bring their quota of unpleasant duties which cannot be avoided, delegated, or postponed.

At the present time, however, there is a real danger—in some quarters at least—of unduly emphasising the specifically vocational, or "practical" side of education. The man of affairs knows little or nothing of young minds and their limitations, of the conditions under which teaching is done, or of the educational values of the various studies in a school curriculum. He is prone to choose subjects chiefly or solely because of their immediate practical utility. Thus in his view the chief reason for learning a modern language is that business communications will thereby be facilitated. One could wish that he would be content to indicate the end which he has in view, and which he sees clearly, and leave the means of obtaining it to the judgment and experience of the teacher; for in education, as in other spheres of action, the obvious way is rarely the right way, and very often the way of disaster. Yet it is a distinct gain to have the practical man brought into the administration of educational affairs; for teachers are, as a rule, too little in contact with the world of commerce to know much of the needs and ideas of business men. The Board of Education has already established a Consultative Committee of Educationists. Why should not a similar standing Committee, consisting of representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of the country be also appointed? Such a Committee could render, as could no other body, invaluable service to the cause of education.

From a recent article by Professor Leacock we learn that some twenty years ago there was a considerable change in the Canadian schools and universities. "The railroad magnate, the corporation manager, the promoter, the multiform director, and all the rest of the group known as captains of industry, began to besiege the universities clamouring for practical training for their sons." Mr Leacock tells of a "great and famous Canadian public school," which he attended, at which practical banking was taught so resolutely that they had wire gratings and little wickets, books labelled with the utmost correctness, and all manner of real-looking things. It all came to an end, and now it appears that in Canada they are beginning to find that the great thing is to give a schoolboy a mind that will do anything; when the time comes "you will train your banker in a bank." It may be that everybody has not recognised this, and that the railroad magnates and the rest of them are not yet fully convinced; but Mr Leacock declares that the most successful schools of commerce will not now attempt to teach the mechanism of business, because "the solid, orthodox studies of the university programme, taken in suitable, selective groups, offer the most practical training in regard to intellectual equipment, that the world has yet devised."

To the same purport is the evidence given by Mr H.A. Roberts, Secretary of the Cambridge Appointments Board (see Minutes of Evidence taken before the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, 22nd November 1912-13th December 1912, pp. 66-73). The whole of this testimony deserves careful study. For some few years past the heads of the great business firms, in this country and abroad, have been applying in ever increasing numbers to Cambridge (and to Oxford also, though in this case statistics do not appear to be available) for men to take charge of departments and agencies; to become, in fact, "captains of industry." In the year before the war (1913-14) about 135 men were transferred from Cambridge University to commercial posts through the agency of the Board[1]. One might naturally suppose that the majority of these were science men; on the contrary, owing no doubt to the greater number of other posts open to them, they were fewer than might have been expected. Graduates from every Tripos are found in the 135 in numbers roughly proportional to the numbers in the various Tripos lists. Shortly before the war an advertisement of an important managership of some works—in South America, if I remember rightly—ended with the intimation that, other things being equal, preference would be given to a man who had taken a good degree in Classical Honours.

That most of such men are successful in their occupations might be deemed to be proved by the steady increase in the number of applications made for their services. There is, however, more definite evidence available. A member of one of the largest business firms in the country testified to the same Royal Commission that of the 46 Cambridge men who had been taken into his employment during the previous seven years 43 had done excellently well, two had left before their probationary period was ended to take up other work; and one only had proved unsatisfactory. This evidence could easily be supplemented did space permit. It is clear, then, that in many callings what is wanted—to begin with, at any rate—is not so much technical knowledge as trained intelligence.

Another reason for thus choosing university men is not difficult to discover. When Mr W.L. Hichens (Chairman of Cammell, Laird and Co.) addressed the Incorporated Association of Headmasters in January last he declared that in choosing university graduates for business he looked out for the man who might have got a First in Greats or history, if he had worked—a man who had other interests as well, who was President of the Common Room, who had been pleasant in the Common Room, or on the river, or rowed in his college "Eight," or had done something else which showed that he could get on with his fellow-men. In business getting on means getting on with men.

The experience of Mr Hichens is so valuable that I cannot do better than quote further. "A big industrial organisation such as my firm, has, or should have three main sub-divisions—the manufacturing branch, the commercial branch, and the research or laboratory branch.... I will not deal with the rank and file, but with the better educated apprentices, who expect to rise to positions of responsibility. On the workshop side, we prefer that the lads should come to us between sixteen and seventeen, and, if possible (after serving an apprenticeship in the shops and drawing office), that they should then go to a university and take an engineering course.

"On the commercial side also we prefer to get the boys between sixteen and seventeen. We have recently, however, reserved a limited number of vacancies for university men. The research department also is, in the main, recruited from university men. But there is this difference, that, whereas the research men should have received a scientific training at the university we require no specialised education in the case of university men joining the commercial side. Specialised education at school is of no practical value. There is ample time after a boy has started business to acquire all the technical knowledge that his brain is capable of assimilating. What we want when we take a boy is to assure ourselves that he has ability and moral strength of character, and I submit that the true function of education is to teach him how to learn and how to live—not how to make a living. We are interested naturally to know that a boy has an aptitude for languages or mathematics, but it is immaterial to us whether he has acquired his aptitude, say for learning languages, through learning Latin and Greek or French and German. The educational value is paramount, the vocational negligible. If, therefore, modern languages are taught because they will be useful in later life, while Latin and Greek are omitted because they have no practical use, although their educational value may be greater, you will be bartering away the boy's rightful heritage of knowledge for a mess of pottage."

There are doubtless many different opinions as to the best way of training boys to become engineers, and in giving the results of his experience Mr Hichens does not claim that he is voicing the unanimous and well-considered judgments of the whole profession. His statement that "specialised education at school is of no practical value to us" would certainly be challenged by those schools which possess a strong, well-organised engineering side for their elder boys. But there would be substantial unanimity—begotten of long and often bitter experience—in favour of his plea that a sound general education up to the age of sixteen or seventeen at any rate, is an indispensable condition of satisfactory vocational training. "I venture to think," says Mr Hichens, "that the tendency of modern education is often in the wrong direction—that too little attention is given to the foundations which lie buried out of sight, below the ground, and too much to a showy superstructure. We pay too much heed to the parents who want an immediate return in kind on their money, and forget that education consists in tilling the ground and sowing the seed—forget, too, that the seed must grow of itself."

It would appear from what has already been said that though the necessity for vocational training exists in most, if not in all cases, the time in a boy's life at which such training ought to begin is far from being the same for all callings. Even where there is general agreement as to the normal age, exceptional circumstances or exceptional ability may justify the postponement of vocational instruction to a much later period than would usually be desirable. Thus the fact that two of the most distinguished members of the medical profession graduated as Senior Wrangler and Senior Classic respectively, will not justify the average medical student in waiting until he is twenty-three before commencing his professional training. If it be true that in some quarters "specialised education" has been demanded for young boys, it is equally true that many youths pass through school and enter the university without any clear idea of whither they are tending. This uncertainty may be due to a belief that "something is sure to turn up," to the magnitude of their allowances and the ease of their circumstances, occasionally, perhaps, to excessive timidity or underestimation of their powers; but, from whatever cause it springs, such an attitude of mind is deplorable in itself, and fraught with grave moral dangers. It ought to be possible in the case of a boy of sixteen or seventeen to say with some approach to certainty, for what employments he is quite unsuitable, and to indicate the general direction, at least, in which he should seek his life-work. The onus of choice is too often laid upon the boy himself; and the form in which the question is put—What would you like to be?—makes him the judge not only of his own desires and abilities, but also of the conditions of callings with which he can, at best, be but imperfectly acquainted. There is here fine scope for the co-operation of parents and teachers not only with each other but with the various professional and business organisations. It is generally supposed to be the duty of a head master to observe and study the boys committed to his care. It is equally important that he should extend that study and observation to their parents—as an act of justice to the boys, if for no other reason. But there are other reasons. There is knowledge to be gotten from every parent—or at least from every father—about his profession or business—knowledge which, as a rule, he is quite willing to impart. If, in addition, a head master avails himself of the opportunities of getting into touch with men of affairs, leaders of commerce, professional men of all kinds, his advice to parents as to suitable careers for their sons becomes enormously more valuable. At the very least he may save them from some of the more flagrant forms of error; for instance, he may convince them that there are other and more valuable indications of fitness for engineering than the ability to take a bicycle to pieces, and a desire "to see the wheels go round"; and that a boy who is "good at sums" will not, of necessity, make a good accountant. In short, he may prevent them from mistaking a hobby for a vocation.

[Footnote 1: In this connection it may be noted that 43 per cent. of the members of Trinity College—where the normal number of undergraduates in residence is over 600—on leaving the university devote themselves to business.]


It ought to be clearly stated that in writing of schools I have had in mind those which are usually known as public schools; for in the general preparation for practical life the public school boy enjoys many advantages which do not fall to the lot of his less-favoured brother in the elementary school. Not only does his education continue for some years longer, but it is conducted along broader lines, and gives him a greater variety of knowledge and a wider outlook. He comes, too, as a rule, from those classes of the community in which there are long standing traditions of discipline, culture, and what may be called the spirit of noblesse oblige. These traditions do not, of themselves, keep him from folly, idleness, or even vice; but they do help him to endure hardship, to submit to authority, to cultivate the corporate spirit, to maintain certain standards of schoolboy honour, and, as he himself would say, "to play the game." Though in the class-room it may be that appeals are largely made to individualism and selfishness, yet on the playing fields he learns something of the value of co-operation and the virtue of unselfishness. From the very first he begins to develop a sense of civic and collective responsibility, and, in his later years at school, he finds that as a prefect or monitor he has a direct share in the government of the community of which he is a member, and a direct responsibility for its welfare. Nor does this sense of corporate life die out when he leaves, for then the Old Boys' Association claims him, and adds a new interest to the past, while maintaining the old inspiration for the future.

With the elementary school boy it is not so. To him, as to his parents, the primal curse is painfully real: work is the sole and not always effectual means of warding off starvation. He realises that as soon as the law permits he is to be "turned into money" and must needs become a wage-earner. As a contributor to the family exchequer he claims a voice in his own government, and resists all the attempts of parents, masters, or the State itself to encroach upon his liberty. He begins work with both mind and body immature and ill-trained. There has been little to teach him esprit de corps; he has never felt the sobering influence of responsibility; the only discipline he has experienced is that of the class-room, for the O.T.C. and organised games are to him unknown; and when he leaves there is very rarely any Association of Old Boys to keep him in touch with his fellows or the school. Here and there voluntary organisations such as the Boy Scouts have done something—though little—to improve his lot; but, in the main, the evils are untouched. To find the remedy for them is not the least of the many great problems of the future.

The improvement of any one branch of industry ultimately means the improvement of those engaged therein. Scientific agriculture, for example, is hardly possible until we have scientific agriculturists. In like manner real success in practical life depends on the temper and character of the practitioner even more than upon his technical equipment. There are, however, three great obstacles to the progress of the nation as a whole, obstacles which can only be removed very gradually, and by the continuous action of many moral forces. We are far too little concerned with intellectual interests. "No nation, I imagine," says Mr Temple, "has ever gone so far as England in its neglect of and contempt for the intellect. If goodness of character means the capacity to serve our nation as useful citizens, it is unobtainable by any one who is content to let his mind slumber." Then again we suffer from the low ideal which leads us to worship success. From his earliest years a boy learns from his surroundings, if not by actual precept, to strive not so much to be something as somebody. The love of power rather than fame may be the "last infirmity of noble minds," but it is probably the first infirmity of many ignoble ones. Herein lies the justification of the criticism of a friendly alien. "You pride yourselves on your incorruptibility, and quite rightly; for in England there is probably less actual bribery by means of money than in any other country. But you can all be bribed by power." Lastly (to quote Mr Hichens yet once more), "Strong pressure is being brought to bear to commercialise our education, to make it a paying proposition, to make it subservient to the God of Wealth and thus convert us into a money-making mob. Ruskin has said that 'no nation can last that has made a mob of itself.' Above all a nation cannot last as a money-making mob. It cannot with impunity—it cannot with existence—go on despising literature, despising science, despising art, despising nature, despising compassion, and concentrating its soul on pence."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse