These things it is the clear business of our New Republicans to alter. It follows, indeed, but it is in no way secondary to the work of securing sound births and healthy childhoods, that we should secure a vigorous, ample mental basis for the minds born with these bodies. We have to save, to revive this scattered, warped, tarnished and neglected language of ours, if we wish to save the future of our world. We should save not only the world of those who at present speak English, but the world of many kindred and associated peoples who would willingly enter into our synthesis, could we make it wide enough and sane enough and noble enough for their honour.
To expect that so ample a cause as this should find any support among the festering confusion of the old politics is to expect too much. There is no party for the English language anywhere in the world. We have to take this problem as we took our former problem and deal with it as though the old politics, which slough so slowly, were already happily excised. To begin with, we may give our attention to the foundation of this foundation, to the growth of speech in the developing child.
From the first the child should hear a clear and uniform pronunciation about it, a precise and careful idiom and words definitely used. Since language is to bring people together and not to keep them apart, it would be well if throughout the English-speaking world there could be one accent, one idiom, and one intonation. This there never has been yet, but there is no reason at all why it should not be. There is arising even now a standard of good English to which many dialects and many influences are contributing. From the Highlanders and the Irish, for example, the English of the South are learning the possibilities of the aspirate h and wh, which latter had entirely and the former very largely dropped out of use among them a hundred years ago. The drawling speech of Wessex and New England—for the main features of what people call Yankee intonation are to be found in perfection in the cottages of Hampshire and West Sussex—are being quickened, perhaps from the same sources. The Scotch are acquiring the English use of shall and will, and the confusion of reconstruction is world-wide among our vowels. The German w of Mr. Samuel Weller has been obliterated within the space of a generation or so. There is no reason at all why this natural development of the uniform English of the coming age should not be greatly forwarded by our deliberate efforts, why it should not be possible within a little while to define a standard pronunciation of our tongue. It is a less important issue by far than that of a uniform vocabulary and phraseology, but it is still a very notable need.
We have available now for the first time, in the more highly evolved forms of phonograph and telephone, a means of storing, analyzing, transmitting, and referring to sounds, that should be of very considerable value in the attempt to render a good and beautiful pronunciation of English uniform throughout the world. It would not be unreasonable to require from all those who are qualifying for the work of education, the reading aloud of long passages in the standard accent. At present there is no requirement of this sort in England, and too often our elementary teachers at any rate, instead of being missionaries of linguistic purity, are centres of diffusion for blurred and vicious perversions of our speech. They must read and recite aloud in their qualifying examinations, it is true, but under no specific prohibition of provincial intonations. In the pulpit and the stage, moreover, we have ready to hand most potent instruments of dissemination, that need nothing but a little sharpening to help greatly towards this end. At the entrance of almost all professions nowadays stands an examination that includes English, and there would be nothing revolutionary in adding to that written paper an oral test in the standard pronunciation. By active exertion to bring these things about the New Republican could do much to secure that every child of our English-speaking people throughout the world would hear in school and church and entertainment the same clear and definite accent. The child's mother and nurse would be helped to acquire almost insensibly a sound and confident pronunciation. No observant man who has lived at all broadly, meeting and talking with people of diverse culture and tradition, but knows how much our intercourse is cumbered by hesitations about quantity and accent, and petty differences of phrase and idiom, and how greatly intonation and accent may warp and limit our sympathy.
And while they are doing this for the general linguistic atmosphere, the New Republicans could also attempt something to reach the children in detail.
By instinct nearly every mother wants to teach. Some teach by instinct, but for the most part there is a need of guidance in their teaching. At present these first and very important phases in education are guided almost entirely by tradition. The necessary singing and talking to very young children is done in imitation of similar singing and talking; it is probably done no better, it may possibly be done much worse, than it was done two hundred years ago. A very great amount of permanent improvement in human affairs might be secured in this direction by the expenditure of a few thousand pounds in the systematic study of the most educational method of dealing with children in the first two or three years of life, and in the intelligent propagation of the knowledge obtained. There exist already, it is true, a number of Child Study Associations, Parents' Unions, and the like, but for the most part these are quite ineffectual talking societies, akin to Browning Societies, Literary and Natural History Societies: they attain a trifling amount of mutual improvement at their best, the members read papers to one another, and a few medical men and schools secure a needed advertisement. They have no organization, no concentration of their energy, and their chief effect seems to be to present an interest in education as if it were a harmless, pointless fad. But if a few men of means and capacity were to organize a committee with adequate funds, secure the services of specially endowed men for the exhaustive study of developing speech, publish a digested report, and, with the assistance of a good writer or so, produce very cheaply, advertise vigorously, and disseminate widely a small, clearly printed, clearly written book of pithy instructions for mothers and nurses in this matter of early speech they would quite certainly effect a great improvement in the mental foundations of the coming generation. We do not yet appreciate the fact that for the first time in the history of the world there exists a state of society in which almost every nurse and mother reads. It is no longer necessary to rely wholly upon instinct and tradition, therefore, for the early stages of a child's instruction. We can reinforce and organize these things through the printed word.
For example, an important factor in the early stage of speech-teaching is the nursery rhyme. A little child, towards the end of the first year, having accumulated a really very comprehensive selection of sounds and noises by that time, begins to imitate first the associated motions, and then the sounds of various nursery rhymes—"Pat-a-cake," for example. In the book I imagine, there would be, among many other things, a series of little versicles, old and new, in which, to the accompaniment of simple gestures, all the elementary sounds of the language could be easily and agreeably made familiar to the child's ears. [Footnote: Messrs. Heath of Boston, U.S.A., have sent me a book of Nursery Rhymes, arranged by Mr. Charles Welsh, which is certainly the best thing I have seen in this way. It is worthy of note that the neglect of pedagogic study in Great Britain is forcing the intelligent British parent and teacher to rely more and more upon American publishers for children's books. The work of English writers is often very tasteful and pretty, but of the smallest educational value. ]
And the same book I think might well contain a list of foundation things and words and certain elementary forms of expression which the child should become perfectly familiar with in the first three or four years of life. Much of each little child's vocabulary is its personal adventure, and Heaven save us all from system in excess! But I think it would be possible for a subtle psychologist to trace through the easy natural tangle of the personal briar-rose of speech certain necessary strands, that hold the whole growth together and render its later expansion easy and swift and strong. Whatever else the child gets, it must get these fundamental strands well and early if it is to do its best. If they do not develop now their imperfection will cause delay and difficulty later. There are, for example, among these fundamental necessities, idioms to express comparison, to express position in space and time, elementary conceptions of form and colour, of tense and mood, the pronouns and the like. No doubt, in one way or another, most of these forms are acquired by every child, but there is no reason why their acquisition should not be watched with the help of a wisely framed list, and any deficiency deliberately and carefully supplied. It would have to be a wisely framed list, it would demand the utmost effort of the best intelligence, and that is why something more than the tradesman enterprise of publishers is needed in this work. The publisher's ideal of an author of an educational work is a clever girl in her teens working for pocket-money. What is wanted is a little quintessential book better and cheaper than any publisher, publishing for gain, could possibly produce, a book so good that imitation would be difficult, and so cheap and universally sold that no imitation would be profitable.
Upon this foundation of a sound accent and a basic vocabulary must be built the general fabric of the language. For the most part this must be done in the school. At present in Great Britain a considerable proportion of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses—more particularly those in secondary and private schools—are too ill-educated to do this properly; there is excellent reason for supposing things are very little better in America; and, to begin with, it must be the care of every good New Republican to bring about a better state of things in this most lamentable profession. Until the teacher can read and write, in the fullest sense of these words, it is idle to expect him or her to teach the pupil to do these things. As matters are at present, the attempt is scarcely made. In the elementary and lower secondary schools ill-chosen reading-books are scampered through and abandoned all too soon in favour of more pretentious "subjects," and a certain preposterous nonsense called English Grammar is passed through the pupil—stuff which happily no mind can retain. Little girls and boys of twelve or thirteen, who cannot understand, and never will understand anything but the vulgarest English, and who will never in their lives achieve a properly punctuated letter, are taught such mysteries as that there are eight—I believe it is eight—sorts of nominative, and that there is (or is not) a gerundive in English, and trained month after month and year after year to perform the oddest operations, a non- analytical analysis, and a ritual called parsing that must be seen to be believed. It is no good mincing the truth about all this sort of thing. These devices are resorted to by the school teachers of the present just as the Rules of Double and Single Alligation and Double Rule of Three, and all the rest of that solemn tomfoolery, were "taught" by the arithmetic teachers in the academies of the eighteenth century, because they are utterly ignorant, and know themselves to be utterly ignorant, of the reality of the subject, and because, therefore, they have to humbug the parent and pass the time by unreal inventions. The case is not a bit better in the higher grade schools. They do not do so much of the bogus teaching of English, but they do nothing whatever in its place.
Now it is little use to goad the members of an ill-trained, ill- treated, ill-organized, poorly respected and much-abused [Footnote: Peccavi.] profession with reproaches for doing what they cannot do, or to clamour for legislation that will give more school time or heavier subsidies to the pretence of teaching what very few people are able to teach. We all know how atrociously English is taught, but proclaiming that will not mend matters a bit, it will only render matters worse by making schoolmasters and schoolmistresses shameless and effortless, unless we also show how well English may be taught. The sane course is to begin by establishing the proper way to do the thing, to develop a proper method and demonstrate what can be done by that method in a few selected schools, to prepare and render acceptable the necessary class-books, and then to use examination and inspector, grant in aid, training college, lecture, book and pamphlet to spread the sound expedients. We want an English Language Society, of affluent and vigorous people, that will undertake this work. And one chief duty of that society will be to devise, to arrange and select, to print handsomely, to illustrate beautifully and to sell cheaply and vigorously everywhere, a series of reading books, and perhaps of teachers' companions to these reading books, that shall serve as the basis of instruction in Standard English throughout the whole world. These books, as I conceive them, would begin as reading primers, they would progress through a long series of subtly graded stories, passages and extracts until they had given the complete range of our tongue. They would be read from, recited from, quoted in exemplification and imitated by the pupils. Such splendid matter as Henley and Whibley's collection of Elizabethan Prose, for example, might well find a place toward the end of that series of books. There would be an anthology of English lyrics, of all the best short stories in our language, of all the best episodes. From these readers the pupil would pass, still often reading and reciting aloud, to such a series of masterpieces as an efficient English Language Society could force upon every school. At present in English schools a library is an exception rather than a rule, and your clerical head-master on public occasions will cheerfully denounce the "trash" reading, "snippet" reading habits of the age, with that defect lying like a feather on his expert conscience. A school without an easily accessible library of at least a thousand volumes is really scarcely a school at all—it is a dispensary without bottles, a kitchen without a pantry. For all that, if the inquiring New Republican find two hundred linen-covered volumes of the Eric, or Little by Little type, mean goody-goody thought dressed in its appropriate language, stored away in some damp cupboard of his son's school, and accessible once a week, he may feel assured things are above the average there. My imaginary English Language Society would make it a fundamental duty, firstly to render that library of at least a thousand volumes or so specially cheap and easily procurable, and secondly, by pamphlets and agitation, to render it a compulsory minimum requirement for every grade of school. It is far more important, and it would be far less costly even as things are, than the cheapest sort of chemical laboratory a school could have, and it should cost scarcely more than a school piano.
I know very little of the practical teaching of English, my own very fragmentary knowledge of the more familiar cliches of our tongue was acquired in a haphazard fashion, but I am inclined to think that in addition to much reading aloud and recitation from memory the work of instruction might consist very largely of continually more extensive efforts towards original composition. Paraphrasing is a good exercise, provided that it does not consist in turning good and beautiful English into bad. I do not see why it should not follow the reverse direction. Selected passages of mean, stereotyped, garrulous or inexact prose might very well be rewritten, under the direction of an intelligent master. Retelling a story that has just been read and discussed, with a change of incident perhaps, would also not be a bad sort of exercise, writing passages in imitation of set passages and the like. Written descriptions of things displayed to a class should also be instructive. Caught at the right age, most little girls, and many little boys I believe, would learn very pleasantly to write simple verse. This they should be encouraged to read aloud. At a later stage the more settled poetic forms, the ballade, the sonnet, the rondeau, for example, should afford a good practice in handling language. Pupils should be encouraged to import fresh words into their work—even if the effect is a little startling at times—they should hunt the dictionary for material. A good book for the upper forms in schools dealing in a really intelligent and instructive way with Latin and Greek, so far as it is necessary to know these languages in order to use and manipulate technical English freely, would, I conceive, be of very great service. It must be a good exercise to write precise definitions of words. Logic also is an integral portion of the study of the mother-tongue.
But to throw out suggestions in this way is an easy task. The educational papers are full of this sort of thing, educational conferences resound with it. What the world is not full of is the capacity to organize these things, to drag them, struggling and clinging to a thousand unanticipated difficulties, from the region of the counsel of perfection to the region of manifest practicability. For that there is needed attention, industry, and an intelligent use of a fair sum of money. We want an industrious committee, and we want one or two rich men. A series of books, a model course of instruction, has to be planned and made, tried over, criticised, revised and altered. When the right way is no longer indicated by prophetic persons pointing in a mist, but marked out, levelled, mapped and fenced, then the scholastic profession, wherever the English language is spoken, has to be lured and driven along it. The New Republican must make his course cheap, attractive, easy for the teacher and good for the teacher's pocket and reputation. Just as there are plays that, as actors say, "act themselves," so, with a profession that is rarely at its best and often at its worst, and which at its worst consists of remarkably dull young men and remarkably dreary young women, those who want English well taught must see to it that they provide a series of books and instructors that will teach by themselves, whatever the teacher does to prevent them.
Surely this enterprise of text-books and teachers, of standard phonographs and cheaply published classics, is no fantastic impossible dream! So far as money goes—if only money were the one thing needful— a hundred thousand pounds would be a sufficient fund from first to last for all of it. Yet modest as its proportions are, its consequences, were it done by able men throwing their hearts into it, might be of incalculable greatness. By such expedients and efforts as these we might enormously forward the establishment of that foundation of a world-wide spacious language, the foundation upon which there will arise for our children subtler understandings, ampler imaginations, sounder judgments and clearer resolutions, and all that makes at last a nobler world of men.
But in this discussion of school libraries and the like, we wander a little from our immediate topic of mental beginnings.
At the end of the fifth year, as the natural outcome of its instinctive effort to experiment and learn, acting amidst wisely ordered surroundings, the little child should have acquired a certain definite foundation for the educational structure. It should have a vast variety of perceptions stored in its mind, and a vocabulary of three or four thousand words, and among these, and holding them together, there should be certain structural and cardinal ideas. They are ideas that will have been gradually and imperceptibly instilled, and they are necessary as the basis of a sound mental existence. There must be, to begin with, a developing sense and feeling for truth and for duty as something distinct and occasionally conflicting with immediate impulse and desire, and there must be certain clear intellectual elements established already almost impregnably in the mind, certain primary distinctions and classifications. Many children are called stupid, and begin their educational career with needless difficulty through an unsoundness of these fundamental intellectual elements, an unsoundness in no way inherent, but the result of accident and neglect. And a starting handicap of this sort may go on increasing right through the whole life.
The child at five, unless it is colour blind, should know the range of colours by name, and distinguish them easily, blue and green not excepted; it should be able to distinguish pink from pale red and crimson from scarlet. [Footnote: There could be a set of colour bands in the book that the English Language Society might publish.] Many children through the neglect of those about them do not distinguish these colours until a very much later age. I think also—in spite of the fact that many adults go vague and ignorant on these points—that a child of five may have been taught to distinguish between a square, a circle, an oval, a triangle and an oblong, and to use these words. It is easier to keep hold of ideas with words than without them, and none of these words should be impossible by five. The child should also know familiarly by means of toys, wood blocks and so on, many elementary solid forms. It is matter of regret that in common language we have no easy, convenient words for many of these forms, and instead of being learnt easily and naturally in play, they are left undistinguished, and have to be studied later under circumstances of forbidding technicality. It would be quite easy to teach the child in an incidental way to distinguish cube, cylinder, cone, sphere (or ball), prolate spheroid (which might be called "egg"), oblate spheroid (which might be called "squatty ball"), the pyramid, and various parallelepipeds, as, for example, the square slab, the oblong slab, the brick, and post. He could have these things added to his box of bricks by degrees, he would build with them and combine them and play with them over and over again, and absorb an intimate knowledge of their properties, just at the age when such knowledge is almost instinctively sought and is most pleasant and easy in its acquisition. These things need not be specially forced upon him. In no way should he be led to emphasize them or give a priggish importance to his knowledge of them. They will come into his toys and play mingled with a thousand other interests, the fortifying powder of clear general ideas, amidst the jam of play.
In addition the child should be able to count, [Footnote: There can be little doubt that many of us were taught to count very badly, and that we were hampered in our arithmetic throughout life by this defect. Counting should be taught be means of small cubes, which the child can arrange and rearrange in groups. It should have at least over a hundred of these cubes—if possible a thousand; they will be useful as toy bricks, and for innumerable purposes. Our civilization is now wedded to a decimal system of counting, and, to begin with, it will be well to teach the child to count up to ten and to stop there for a time. It is suggested by Mrs. Mary Everest Boole that it is very confusing to have distinctive names for eleven and twelve, which the child is apt to class with the single numbers and contrast with the teens, and she proposes at the beginning (The Cultivation of the Mathematical Imagination, Colchester: Benham & Co.) to use the words "one-ten," "two-ten," thirteen, fourteen, etc., for the second decade in counting. Her proposal is entirely in harmony with the general drift of the admirably suggestive diagrams of number order collected by Mr. Francis Gallon. Diagram after diagram displays the same hitch at twelve, the predominance in the mind of an individualized series over quantitatively equal spaces until the twenties are attained. Many diagrams also display the mental scar of the clock face, the early counting is overmuch associated with a dial. One might perhaps head off the establishment of that image, and supply a more serviceable foundation for memories by equipping the nursery with a vertical scale of numbers divided into equal parts up to two or three hundred, with each decade tinted. When the child has learnt to count up to a hundred with cubes, it should be given an abacus, and it should also be encouraged to count and check quantities with all sorts of things, marbles, apples, bricks in a wall, pebbles, spots on dominoes, and so on; taught to play guessing games with marbles in a hand, and the like. The abacus, the hundred square and the thousand cube, will then in all probability become its cardinal numerical memories. Playing cards (without corner indices) and dominoes supply good recognizable arrangements of numbers, and train a child to grasp a number at a glance. The child should not be taught the Arabic numerals until it has counted for a year or more. Experience speaks here. I know one case only too well of a man who learnt his Arabic numerals prematurely, before he had acquired any sound experimental knowledge of numerical quantity, and, as a consequence, his numerical ideas are incurably associated with the peculiarities of the figures. When he hears the word seven he does not really think of seven or seven-ness at all, even now, he thinks of a number rather like four and very unlike six. Then again, six and nine are mysteriously and unreasonably linked in his mind, and so are three and five. He confuses numbers like sixty-three and sixty-five, and finds it hard to keep seventy-four distinct from forty-seven. Consequently, when it came to the multiplication table, he learnt each table as an arbitrary arrangement of relationships, and with an extraordinary amount of needless labour and punishment. But obviously with cubes or abacus at hand, it would be the easiest thing in the world for a child to construct and learn its own multiplication table whenever the need arose.] it should be capable of some mental and experimental arithmetic, and I am told that a child of five should be able to give the sol-fa names to notes, and sing these names at their proper pitch. Possibly in social intercourse the child will have picked up names for some of the letters of the alphabet, but there is no great hurry for that before five certainly, or even later. There is still a vast amount of things immediately about the child that need to be thoroughly learnt, and a premature attack on letters divides attention from these more appropriate and educational objects. It should, for the reason given in the footnote, be still ignorant of the Arabic numerals. It should be able to handle a pencil and amuse itself with freehand of this sort:—and its mind should be quite uncontaminated by that imbecile drawing upon squared paper by means of which ignorant teachers destroy both the desire and the capacity to sketch in so many little children. Such sketching could be enormously benefited by a really intelligent teacher who would watch the child's efforts, and draw with the child just a little above its level. For example, the teacher might stimulate effort by rejoining to such a sketch as the above, something in this vein:—
The child will already be a great student of picture-books at five, something of a critic (after the manner of the realistic school), and it will be easy to egg it almost imperceptibly to a level where copying from simple outline illustrations will become possible. About five, a present of some one of the plastic substitutes for modelling clay now sold by educational dealers, plasticine for example, will be a discreet and acceptable present to the child—if not to its nurse.
The child's imagination will also be awake and active at five. He will look out on the world with anthropomorphic (or rather with paedomorphic) eyes. He will be living on a great flat earth—unless some officious person has tried to muddle his wits by telling him the earth is round; amidst trees, animals, men, houses, engines, utensils, that are all capable of being good or naughty, all fond of nice things and hostile to nasty ones, all thumpable and perishable, and all conceivably esurient. And the child should know of Fairy Land. The beautiful fancy of the "Little People," even if you do not give it to him, he will very probably get for himself; they will lurk always just out of reach of his desiring curious eyes, amidst the grass and flowers and behind the wainscot and in the shadows of the bedroom. He will come upon their traces; they will do him little kindnesses. Their affairs should interweave with the affairs of the child's dolls and brick castles and toy furniture. At first the child will scarcely be in a world of sustained stories, but very eager for anecdotes and simple short tales.
This is the hopeful foundation upon which at or about the fifth year the formal education of every child in a really civilized community ought to begin. [Footnote: One may note here, perhaps, the desirability too often disregarded by over-solicitous parents, and particularly by the parents of the solitary children who are now so common, of keeping the child a little out of focus, letting it play by itself whenever it will, never calling attention to it in a manner that awakens it to the fact of an audience, never talking about it in its presence. Solitary children commonly get too much control, they are forced and beguiled upward rather than allowed to grow, their egotism is over-stimulated, and they miss many of the benefits of play and competition. It seems a pity, too, in the case of so many well-to-do people, that having equipped nurseries they should not put them to a fuller use—if in no other way than by admitting foster children. None of this has been very fully analyzed, of course (there are enormous areas of valuable research in these matters waiting for people of intelligence and leisure, or of intelligence and means), but the opinion that solitary children are handicapped by their loneliness is very strong. It is nearly certain that as a rule they make less agreeable boys and girls, but to me at any rate it is not nearly so certain that they make adult failures. It would be interesting to learn just what proportion of solitary children there is on the roll of those who have become great in our world. One thinks of John Ruskin, a particularly fine specimen of the highly focussed single son. Prig perhaps he was, but this world has a certain need of such prigs. A correspondent (a schoolmistress of experience) who has collected statistics in her own neighbourhood, is strongly of opinion not only that solitary children are below the average, but that all elder children are inferior in quality. I do not believe this, but it would be interesting and valuable if some one could find time for a wide and thorough investigation of this question.]
THE MAN-MAKING FORCES OF THE MODERN STATE
So far we have concerned ourselves with the introductory and foundation matter of the New Republican project, with the measures and methods that may be resorted to, firstly, if we would raise the general quality of the children out of whom we have to make the next generation, and, secondly, if we would replace divergent dialects and partial and confused expression by a uniform, ample and thorough knowledge of English throughout the English-speaking world. These two things are necessary preliminaries to the complete attainment of the more essential nucleus in the New Republican idea. So much has been discussed. This essential nucleus, thus stripped, reveals itself as the systematic direction of the moulding forces that play upon the developing citizen, towards his improvement, with a view to a new generation of individuals, a new social state, at a higher level than that at which we live to-day, a new generation which will apply the greater power, ampler knowledge and more definite will our endeavours will give it, to raise its successor still higher in the scale of life. Or we may put the thing in another and more concrete and vivid way. On the one hand imagine an average little child let us say in its second year. We have discussed all that can be done to secure that this average little child shall be well born, well fed, well cared for, and we will imagine all that can be done has been done. Accordingly, we have a sturdy, beautiful healthy little creature to go upon, just beginning to walk, just beginning to clutch at things with its hands, to reach out to and apprehend things with its eyes, with its ears, with the hopeful commencement of speech. We want to arrange matters so that this little being shall develop into its best possible adult form. That is our remaining problem.
Is our contemporary average citizen the best that could have been made out of the vague extensive possibilities that resided in him when he was a child of two? It has been shown already that in height and weight he, demonstrably, is not, and it has been suggested, I hope almost as convincingly, that in that complex apparatus of acquisition and expression, language, he is also needlessly deficient. And even upon this defective foundation, it is submitted, he still fails, morally, mentally, socially, aesthetically, to be as much as he might be. "As much as he might be," is far too ironically mild. The average citizen of our great state to-day is, I would respectfully submit, scarcely more than a dirty clout about his own buried talents.
I do not say he might not be infinitely worse, but can any one believe that, given better conditions, he might not have been infinitely better? Is it necessary to argue for a thing so obvious to all clear- sighted men? Is it necessary, even if it were possible, that I should borrow the mantle of Mr. George Gissing or the force of Mr. Arthur Morrison, and set myself in cold blood to measure the enormous defect of myself and my fellows by the standards of a remote perfection, to gauge the extent of this complex muddle of artificial and avoidable shortcomings through which we struggle? Must one, indeed, pass in review once more, bucolic stupidity, commercial cunning, urban vulgarity, religious hypocrisy, political clap-trap, and all the raw disorder of our incipient civilization before the point will be conceded? What benefit is there in any such revision? rather it may overwhelm us with the magnitude of what we seek to do. Let us not dwell on it, on all the average civilized man still fails to achieve; admit his imperfection, and for the rest let us keep steadfastly before us that fair, alluring and reasonable conception of all that, even now, the average man might be.
Yet one is tempted by the effective contrast to put against that clean and beautiful child some vivid presentation of the average thing, to sketch in a few simple lines the mean and graceless creature of our modern life, his ill-made clothes, his clumsy, half-fearful, half- brutal bearing, his coarse defective speech, his dreary unintelligent work, his shabby, impossible, bathless, artless, comfortless home; one is provoked to suggest him in some phase of typical activity, "enjoying himself" on a Bank Holiday, or rejoicing, peacock feather in hand, hat askew, and voice completely gone, on some occasion of public festivity —on the defeat of a numerically inferior enemy for example, or the decision of some great international issue at baseball or cricket. This, one would say, we have made out of that, and so point the New Republican question, "Cannot we do better?" But the thing has been done so often without ever the breath of a remedy. Our business is with remedies. We mean to do better, we live to do better, and with no more than a glance at our present failures we will set ourselves to that.
To do better we must begin with a careful analysis of the process of this man's making, of the great complex of circumstances which mould the vague possibilities of the average child into the reality of the citizen of the modern state.
We may begin upon this complex most hopefully by picking out a few of the conspicuous and typical elements and using them as a basis for an exhaustive classification. To begin with, of course, there is the home. For our present purpose it will be convenient to use "home" as a general expression for that limited group of human beings who share the board and lodging of the growing imperial citizen, and whose personalities are in constant, close contact with his until he reaches fifteen or sixteen. Typically, the chief figures of this group are mother, brothers and sisters, and father, to which are often added nursemaid, governess, and other servants. Beyond these are playmates again. Beyond these acquaintances figure. Home has indeed nowadays, in our world, no very definite boundaries—no such boundaries as it has, for example, on the veldt. In the case of a growing number of English upper middle-class children, moreover, and of the children of a growing element in the life of the eastern United States, the home functions are delegated in a very large degree to the preparatory school. It is a distinction that needs to be emphasized that many so-called schools are really homes, often very excellent homes, with which schools, often very inefficient schools, are united. All this we must lump together— it is, indeed, woven together almost inextricably—when we speak of home as a formative factor. The home, so far as its hygienic conditions go, we have already dealt with, and we have dealt, too, with the great neglected necessity, the absolute necessity if our peoples are to keep together, of making and keeping the language of the home uniform throughout our world-wide community. Purely intellectual development beyond the matter of language we may leave for a space. There remains the distinctive mental and moral function of the home, the determination by precept, example, and implication of the cardinal habits of the developing citizen, his general demeanour, his fundamental beliefs about all the common and essential things of life.
This group of people, who constitute the home, will be in constant reaction upon him. If as a whole they bear themselves with grace and serenity, say and do kindly things, control rage, and occupy themselves constantly, they will do much to impose these qualities upon the new- comer. If they quarrel one with another, behave coarsely and spitefully, loiter and lounge abundantly, these things will also stamp the child. A raging father, a scared deceitful mother, vulgarly acting, vulgarly thinking friends, all leave an almost indelible impress. Precept may play a part in the home, but it is a small part, unless it is endorsed by conduct. What these people do, on the whole, believe in and act upon, the child will tend to believe in and act upon; what they believe they believe, but do not act upon, the child will acquire also as a non-operative belief; their practices, habits, and prejudices will be enormously prepotent in his life. If, for example, the parent talks constantly of the contemptible dirtiness of Boers and foreigners, and of the extreme beauty of cleanliness and—even obviously—rarely washes, the child will grow to the same professions and the same practical denial. This home circle it is that will describe what, in modified Herbartian phraseology, one may call the child's initial circle of thought; it is a circle many things will subsequently enlarge and modify, but of which they have the centering at least and the establishment of the radial trends, almost beyond redemption. The effect of home influence, indeed, constitutes with most of us a sort of secondary heredity, interweaving with, and sometimes almost indistinguishable from, the real unalterable primary heredity, a moral shaping by suggestion, example, and influence, that is a sort of spiritual parallel to physical procreation.
It is not simply personalities that are operative in the home influence. There is also the implications of the various relations between one member of the home circle and another. I am inclined to think that the social conceptions, for example, that are accepted in a child's home world are very rarely shaken in afterlife. People who have been brought up in households where there is an organized under-world of servants are incurably different in their social outlook from those who have passed a servantless childhood. They never quite emancipate themselves from the conception of an essential class difference, of a class of beings inferior to themselves. They may theorise about equality—but theory is not belief. They will do a hundred things to servants that between equals would be, for various reasons, impossible. The Englishwoman and the Anglicised American woman of the more pretentious classes honestly regards a servant as physically, morally, and intellectually different from herself, capable of things that would be incredibly arduous to a lady, capable of things that would be incredibly disgraceful, under obligations of conduct no lady observes, incapable of the refinement to which every lady pretends. It is one of the most amazing aspects of contemporary life, to converse with some smart, affected, profoundly uneducated, flirtatious woman about her housemaid's followers. There is such an identity; there is such an abyss. But at present that contrast is not our concern. Our concern at present is with the fact that the social constitution of the home almost invariably shapes the fundamental social conceptions for life, just as its average temperament shapes manners and bearing and its moral tone begets moral predisposition. If the average sensual man of our civilization is noisy and undignified in his bearing, disposed to insult and despise those he believes to be his social inferiors, competitive and disobliging to his equals; abject, servile, and dishonest to those he regards as his betters; if his wife is a silly, shallow, gossiping spendthrift, unfit to rear the children she occasionally bears, perpetually snubbing social inferiors and perpetually cringing to social superiors, it is probable that we have to blame the home, not particularly any specific class of homes, but our general home atmosphere, for the great part of these characteristics. If we would make the average man of the coming years gentler in manner, more deliberate in judgment, steadier in purpose, upright, considerate, and free, we must look first to the possibility of improving the tone and quality of the average home.
Now the substance and constitution of the home, the relations and order of its various members, have been, and are, traditional. But it is a tradition that has always been capable of modification in each generation. In the unlettered, untravelling past, the factor of tradition was altogether dominant. Sons and daughters married and set up homes, morally, intellectually, economically, like those of their parents. Over great areas homogeneous traditions held, and it needed wars and conquests, or it needed missionaries and persecutors and conflicts, or it needed many generations of intercourse and filtration before a new tradition could replace or graft itself upon the old. But in the past hundred years or so the home conditions of the children of our English-speaking population have shown a disposition to break from tradition under influences that are increasing, and to become much more heterogeneous than were any home conditions before. The ways in which these modifications of the old home tradition have arisen will indicate the means and methods by which further modifications may be expected and attempted in the future.
Modification has come to the average home tradition through two distinct, though no doubt finally interdependent channels. The first of these channels is the channel of changing economic necessities, using the phrase to cover everything from domestic conveniences at the one extreme to the financial foundation of the home at the other, and the next is the influx of new systems of thought, of feeling, and of interpretation about the general issues of life.
There are in Great Britain three main interdependent systems of home tradition undergoing modification and readjustment. They date from the days before mechanism and science began their revolutionary intervention in human affairs, and they derive from the three main classes of the old aristocratic, agricultural, and trading state, namely, the aristocratic, the middle, and the labour class. There are local, there are even racial modifications, there are minor classes and subspecies, but the rough triple classification will serve. In America the dominant home tradition is that of the transplanted English middle class. The English aristocratic tradition has flourished and faded in the Southern States; the British servile and peasant tradition has never found any growth in America, and has, in the persons of the Irish chiefly, been imported in an imperfect condition, only to fade. The various home traditions of the nineteenth century immigrants have either, if widely different, succumbed, or if not very different assimilated themselves to the ruling tradition. The most marked non- British influence has been the intermixture of Teutonic Protestantism. In both countries now the old home traditions have been and are being adjusted to and modified by the new classes, with new relationships and new necessities, that the revolution in industrial organization and domestic conveniences has created.
The interplay of old tradition and new necessities becomes at times very curious. Consider, for example, the home influences of the child of a shopman in a large store, or those of the child of a skilled operative—an engineer of some sort let us say—in England. Both these are new types in the English social body; the former derives from the old middle class, the class that was shopkeeping in the towns and farming in the country, the class of the Puritans, the Quakers, the first manufacturers, the class whose mentally active members become the dissenters, the old Liberals, and the original New Englanders. The growth of large businesses has raised a portion of this class to the position of Sir John Blundell Maple, Sir Thomas Lipton, the intimate friend of our King, and our brewer peers; it has raised a rather more numerous section to the red plush glories of Wagon-Lit trains and their social and domestic equivalents, and it has reduced the bulk of the class to the status of employees for life. But the tradition that our English shopman is in the same class as his master, that he has been apprentice and improver, and is now assistant, with a view to presently being a master himself, still throws its glamour over his life and his home, and his child's upbringing. They belong to the middle class, the black coat and silk-hat class, and the silk hat crowns the adolescence of their boys as inevitably as the toga made men in ancient Rome. Their house is built, not for convenience primarily, but to realize whatever convenience is possible after the rigid traditional requirements have been met; it is the extreme and final reduction of the plan of a better class house, and the very type of its owner. As one sees it in the London suburbs devoted to clerks and shopmen, it stands back a yard or so from the road, with a gate and a railing, and a patch, perhaps two feet wide, of gravel between its front and the pavement. This is the last pathetic vestige of the preliminary privacies of its original type, the gates, the drive-up, the front lawn, the shady trees, that gave a great impressive margin to the door. The door has a knocker (with an appeal to realities, "ring also") and it opens into a narrow passage, perhaps four feet wide, which still retains the title of "hall." Oak staining on the woodwork and marbled paper accentuate the lordly memory. People of this class would rather die than live in a house with a front door, even had it a draught-stopping inner door, that gave upon the street. Instead of an ample kitchen in which meals can be taken and one other room in which the rest of life goes on, these two covering the house site, the social distinction from the servant invades the house space first by necessitating a passage to a side-door, and secondly by cutting up the interior into a "dining-room" and a "drawing-room." Economy of fuel throughout the winter and economy of the best furniture always, keeps the family in the dining-room pretty constantly, but there you have the drawing-room as a concrete fact. Though the drawing-room is inevitable, the family will manage without a bath-room well enough. They may, or they may not, occasionally wash all over. There are probably not fifty books in the house, but a daily paper comes and Tit Bits or Pearson's Weekly, or, perhaps, M.A.P., Modern Society, or some such illuminant of the upper circles, and a cheap fashion paper, appear at irregular intervals to supplement this literature.
The wife lives to realize the ideal of the "ladylike"—lady she resigns to the patrician—and she insists upon a servant, however small. This poor wretch of a servant, often a mere child of fourteen or fifteen, lives by herself in a minute kitchen, and sleeps in a fireless attic. To escape vulgar associates, the children of the house avoid the elementary schools—the schools called in America public schools—where there are trained, efficient teachers, good apparatus, and an atmosphere of industry, and go to one of those wretched dens of disorderly imposture, a middle-class school, where an absolute failure to train or educate is seasoned with religious cant, lessons in piano- playing, lessons in French "made in England," mortarboard caps for the boys, and a high social tone. And to emphasize the fact of its social position, this bookless, bathless family tips! The plumber touches his hat for a tip, the man who moves the furniture, the butcher-boy at Christmas, the dustman; these things also, the respect and the tip, at their minimum dimensions. Everything is at its minimum dimensions, it is the last chipped, dwarfed, enfeebled state of a tradition that has, in its time, played a fine part in the world. This much of honour still clings to it, it will endure no tip, no charity, no upper-class control of its privacy. This is the sort of home in which the minds of thousands of young Englishmen and Englishwomen receive their first indelible impressions. Can one expect them to escape the contagion of its cramped pretentiousness, its dingy narrowness, its shy privacy of social degradation, its essential sordidness and inefficiency?
Our skilled operative, on the other hand, will pocket his tip. He is on the other side of the boundary. He presents a rising element coming from the servile mass. Probably his net income equals or exceeds the shopman's, but there is no servant, no black coat and silk hat, no middle-class school in his scheme of things. He calls the shopman "Sir," and makes no struggle against his native accent. In his heart he despises the middle class, the mean tip-givers, and he is inclined to overrate the gentry or big tippers. He is much more sociable, much noisier, relatively shameless, more intelligent, more capable, less restrained. He is rising against his tradition, and almost against his will. The serf still bulks large in him. The whole trend of circumstance is to substitute science for mere rote skill in him, to demand initiative and an intelligent self-adaptation to new discoveries and new methods, to make him a professional man and a job and pieceworker after the fashion of the great majority of professional men. Against all these things the serf element in him fights. He resists education and clings to apprenticeship, he fights for time- work, he obstructs new inventions, he clings to the ideal of short hours, high pay, shirk and let the master worry. His wife is a far more actual creature than the clerk's; she does the house herself in a rough, effectual fashion, his children get far more food for mind and body, and far less restraint. You can tell the age of the skilled operative within a decade by the quantity of books in his home; the younger he is the more numerous these are likely to be. And the younger he is the more likely he is to be alive to certain general views about his rights and his place in the social scale, the less readily will his finger go to his cap at the sight of broad-cloth, or his hand to the proffered half-crown. He will have listened to Trade Union organizers and Socialist speakers; he will have read the special papers of his class. The whole of this home is, in comparison with the shopman's, wide open to new influences. The children go to a Board School, and very probably afterwards to evening classes—or music-halls. Here again is a new type of home, in which the English of 1920 are being made in thousands, and which is forced a little way up the intellectual and moral scale every year, a little further from its original conception of labour, dependence, irresponsibility, and servility.
Compare, again, the home conditions of the child of a well-connected British shareholder inheriting, let us say, seven or eight hundred a year, with the home of exactly the same sort of person deriving from the middle class. On the one hand, one will find the old aristocratic British tradition in an instructively distorted state. All the assumptions of an essential lordliness remain—and none of the duties. All the pride is there still, but it is cramped, querulous, and undignified. That lordliness is so ample that for even a small family the income I have named will be no more than biting poverty, there will be a pervading quality of struggle in this home to avoid work, to frame arrangements, to discover cheap, loyal servants of the old type, to discover six per cent. investments without risk, to interest influential connections in the prospects of the children. The tradition of the ruling class, which sees in the public service a pension scheme for poor relations, will glow with all the colours of hope. Great sacrifices will be made to get the boys to public schools, where they can revive and expand the family connections. They will look forward as a matter of course to positions and appointments, for the want of which men of gifts and capacity from other social strata will break their hearts, and they will fill these coveted places with a languid, discontented incapacity. Great difficulty will be experienced in finding schools for the girls from which the offspring of tradesmen are excluded. Vulgarity has to be jealously anticipated. In a period when Smartness (as distinguished from Vulgarity) is becoming an ideal, this demands at times extremely subtle discrimination. The art of credit will be developed to a high level.
Now in the other family economically indistinguishable from this, a family with seven or eight hundred a year from investments, which derives from the middle class, the tradition is one that, in spite of the essential irresponsibility of the economic position, will urge this family towards exertion as a duty. As a rule the resultant lies in the direction of pleasant, not too arduous exertion, the arts are attacked with great earnestness of intention, literature, "movements" of many sorts are ingredients in these homes. Many things that are imperative to the aristocratic home are regarded as needless, and in their place appear other things that the aristocrat would despise, books, instruction, travel in incorrect parts of the world, games, that most seductive development of modern life, played to the pitch of distinction. Into both these homes comes literature, comes the Press, comes the talk of alien minds, comes the observation of things without, sometimes reinforcing the tradition, sometimes insidiously glossing upon it or undermining it, sometimes "letting daylight through it"; but much more into the latter type than into the former. And slowly the two fundamentally identical things tend to assimilate their superficial difference, to homologize their traditions, each generation sees a relaxation of the aristocratic prohibitions, a "gentleman" may tout for wines nowadays—among gentlemen—he may be a journalist, a fashionable artist, a schoolmaster, his sisters may "act," while, on the other hand, each generation of the ex-commercial shareholder reaches out more earnestly towards refinement, towards tone and quality, towards etiquette, and away from what is "common" in life.
So in these typical cases one follows the strands of tradition into the new conditions, the new homes of our modern state. In America one finds exactly the same new elements shaped by quite parallel economic developments, shopmen in a large store, skilled operatives, and independent shareholders developing homes not out of a triple strand of tradition, but out of the predominant home tradition of an emancipated middle class, and in a widely different atmosphere of thought and suggestion. As a consequence, one finds, I am told, a skilled operative already with no eye (or only an angry eye) for tips, sociable shopmen, and shareholding families, frankly common, frankly intelligent, frankly hedonistic, or only with the most naive and superficial imitation of the haughty incapacity, the mean pride, the parasitic lordliness of the just-independent, well-connected English.
These rough indications of four social types will illustrate the quality of our proposition, that home influence in the making of men resolves itself into an interplay of one substantial and two modifying elements, namely:—
(2) Economic conditions.
(3) New ideas, suggestions, interpretations, changes in the general atmosphere of thought in which a man lives and which he mentally breathes.
The net sum of which three factors becomes the tradition for the next generation.
Both the modifying elements admit of control. How the economic conditions of homes may be controlled to accomplish New Republican ends has already been discussed with a view to a hygienic minimum, and obviously the same, or similar, methods may be employed to secure less materialistic benefits. You can make a people dirty by denying them water, you can make a people cleaner by cheapening and enforcing bath- rooms. Man is indeed so spiritual a being that he will turn every materialistic development you force upon him into spiritual growth. You can aerate his house, not only with air, but with ideas. Build, cheapen, render alluring a simpler, more spacious type of house for the clerk, fill it with labour-saving conveniences, and leave no excuse and no spare corners for the "slavey," and the slavey—and all that she means in mental and moral consequence—will vanish out of being. You will beat tradition. Make it easy for Trade Unions to press for shorter hours of work, but make it difficult for them to obstruct the arrival of labour-saving appliances, put the means of education easily within the reach of every workman, make promotion from the ranks, in the Army, in the Navy, in all business concerns, practicable and natural, and the lingering discolouration of the serf taint will vanish from the workman's mind. The days of mystic individualism have passed, few people nowadays will agree to that strange creed that we must deal with economic conditions as though they were inflexible laws. Economic conditions are made and compact of the human will, and by tariffs, by trade regulation and organization, fresh strands of will may be woven into the complex. The thing may be extraordinarily intricate and difficult, abounding in unknown possibilities and unsuspected dangers, but that is a plea for science and not for despair.
Controllable, too, is the influx of modifying suggestions into our homes, however vast and subtle the enterprise may seem. But here we touch for the first time a question that we shall now continue to touch upon at other points, until at last we shall clear it and display it as the necessarily central question of the whole matter of man-making so far as the human will is concerned, and that is the preservation and expansion of the body of human thought and imagination, of which all conscious human will and act is but the imperfect expression and realization, of which all human institutions and contrivances, from the steam-engine to the ploughed field, and from the blue pill to the printing press, are no more than the imperfect symbols, the rude mnemonics and memoranda.
But this analysis of the modifying factors in the home influence, this formulation of its controllable elements, has now gone as far as the purpose of this paper requires. It has worked out to this, that the home, so far as it is not traditional organization, is really only on the one hand an aspect of the general economic condition of the state, and on the other of that still more fundamental thing, its general atmosphere of thought. Our analysis refers back the man-maker to these two questions. The home, one gathers, is not to be dealt with separately or simply. Nor, on the other hand, are these questions to be dealt with merely in relation to their home application. As the citizen grows up, he presently emerges from his home influences to a more direct and general contact with these two things, with the Fact of the modern state and with the Thought of the modern state, and we must consider each of these in relation to his development as a whole.
The next group of elements in the man-making complex that occurs to one after the home, is the school. Let me repeat a distinction already drawn between the home element in boarding-schools and the school proper. While the child is out of the school-room, playing—except when it is drilling or playing under direction—when it is talking with its playmates, walking, sleeping, eating, it is under those influences that it has been convenient for me to speak of as the home influence. The schoolmaster who takes boarders is, I hold, merely a substitute for the parent, the household of boarders merely a substitute for the family. What is meant by school here, is that which is possessed in common by day school and boarding-school—the schoolroom and the recess playground part. It is something which the savage and the barbarian distinctively do not possess as a phase in their making, and scarcely even its rudimentary suggestion. It is a new element correlated with the establishment of a wider political order and with the use of written speech.
Now I think it will be generally conceded that whatever systematic intellectual training the developing citizen gets, as distinguished from his natural, accidental, and incidental development, is got in school or in its subsequent development of college, and with that I will put aside the question of intellectual development altogether for a later, fuller discussion. My point here is simply to note the school as a factor in the making of almost every citizen in the modern state, and to point out, what is sometimes disregarded, that it is only one of many factors in that making. The tendency of the present time is enormously to exaggerate the importance of school in development, to ascribe to it powers quite beyond its utmost possibilities, and to blame it for evils in which it has no share. And in the most preposterous invasions of the duties of parent, clergyman, statesman, author, journalist, of duties which are in truth scarcely more within the province of a schoolmaster than they are within the province of a butcher, the real and necessary work of the school is too often marred, crippled, and lost sight of altogether. We treat the complex, difficult and honourable task of intellectual development as if it were within the capacity of any earnest but muddle-headed young lady, or any half- educated gentleman in orders; we take that for granted, and we demand in addition from them the "formation of character," moral and ethical training and supervision, aesthetic guidance, the implanting of a taste for the Best in literature, for the Best in art, for the finest conduct; we demand the clue to success in commerce and the seeds of a fine passionate patriotism from these necessarily very ordinary persons.
One might think schoolmasters and schoolmistresses were inaccessible to general observation in the face of these stupendous demands. If we exacted such things from our butcher over and above good service in his trade, if we insisted that his meat should not only build up honest nerve and muscle, but that it should compensate for all that was slovenly in our homes, dishonest in our economic conditions, and slack and vulgar in our public life, he would very probably say that it took him all his time to supply sound meat, that it was a difficult and honourable thing to supply sound meat, that the slackness of business- men and statesmen in the country, the condition of the arts and sciences, wasn't his business, that however lamentable the disorders of the state, there was no reasonable prospect of improving it by upsetting the distribution of meat, and, in short, that he was a butcher and not a Cosmos-healing quack. "You must have meat," he would say, "anyhow." But the average schoolmaster and schoolmistress does not do things in that way.
What a school may do for the developing citizen, the original and the developed function of the school, and how its true work may best be accomplished, we shall discuss later. But it may be well to expand a little more fully here the account of what the school has no business to attempt, and what the scholastic profession is, as a whole, quite incapable of doing, and to point to the really responsible agencies in each case.
Now, firstly, with regard to all that the schoolmaster and schoolmistress means by the "formation of character." A large proportion of the scholastic profession will profess, and a still larger proportion of the public believes, that it is possible by talk and specially designed instruction, to give a boy or girl a definite bias towards "truth," towards acts called "healthy" (a word it would puzzle the ordinary schoolmaster or schoolmistress extremely to define, glib as they are with it), towards honour, towards generosity, enterprise, self-reliance, and the like. The masters in our public schools are far from blameless in this respect, and you may gauge the quality of many of these gentlemen pretty precisely by their disposition towards the "school pulpit" line of business. Half an hour's "straight talk to the boys," impromptu vague sentimentality about Earnestness, Thoroughness, True Patriotism, and so forth, seems to assuage the conscience as nothing else could do, for weeks of ill- prepared, ill-planned teaching, and years of preoccupation with rowing- boats and cricket. The more extreme examples of this type will say in a tone of manly apology, "It does the boys good to tell them plainly what I think about serious things"—when the simple fact of the case is too often that he does all he can not to think about any things of any sort whatever, except cricket and promotion. Schoolmistresses, again, will sometimes come near boasting to the inquiring parent of our "ethical hour," and if you probe the facts you will find that means no more and no less than an hour of floundering egotism, in which a poor illogical soul, with a sort of naive indecency, talks nonsense about "Ideals," about the Higher and the Better, about Purity, and about many secret and sacred things, things upon which wise men are often profoundly uncertain, to incredulous or imitative children. All that is needed to do this sort of thing abundantly and freely is a certain degree of aggressive egotism, a certain gift of stupidity, good intentions, and a defective sense of educational possibilities and limitations.
In addition to moral discussions, that at the best are very second-rate eloquence, and at the worst are respect destroying, mind destroying gabble, there are various forms of "ethical" teaching, advocated and practised in America and in the elementary schools of this country. For example, a story of an edifying sort is told to the children, and comments are elicited upon the behaviour of the characters. "Would you have done that?" "Oh, no, teacher!" "Why not?" "Because it would be mean." The teacher goes into particulars, whittling away at the verdict, and at last the fine point of the lesson stands out. Now it may be indisputable that such lessons can be conducted effectively and successfully by exceptionally brilliant teachers, that children may be given an excellent code of good intentions, and a wonderful skill in the research for good or bad motives for any given course of action they may or may not want to take, but that they can be systematically trained by the average teacher at our disposal in this desirable "subject" is quite another question. It is one of the things that the educational reformer must guard against most earnestly, the persuasion that what an exceptional man can do ever and again for display purposes can be done successfully day by day in schools. This applies to many other things besides the teaching of ethics. Professor Armstrong can give delightfully instructive lessons in chemistry according to the heuristic method, but in the hands of the average teacher by whom teaching must be done for the next few years the heuristic system will result in nothing but a pointless fumble. Mr. Mackinder teaches geography—inimitably—just to show how to do it. Mr. David Devant—the brilliant Egyptian Hall conjuror—will show any assembly of parents how to amuse children quite easily, but for some reason he does not present his legerdemain as a new discovery in educational method.
To our argument that this sort of teaching is not within the capacity of such teachers as we have, or are likely to have, we can, fortunately enough, add that whatever is attempted can be done far better through other agencies. More or less unknown to teachers there exists a considerable amount of well-written literature, true stories and fiction, in which, without any clumsy insistence upon moral points, fine actions are displayed in their elementary fineness, and baseness is seen to be base. There are also a few theatres, and there might be more, in which fine action is finely displayed. Now one nobly conceived and nobly rendered play will give a stronger moral impression than the best schoolmaster conceivable, talking ethics for a year on end. One great and stirring book may give an impression less powerful, perhaps, but even more permanent. Practically these things are as good as example—they are example. Surround your growing boy or girl with a generous supply of good books, and leave writer and growing soul to do their business together without any scholastic control of their intercourse. Make your state healthy, your economic life healthy and honest, be honest and truthful in the pulpit, behind the counter, in the office, and your children will need no specific ethical teaching; they will inhale right. And without these things all the ethical teaching in the world will only sour to cant at the first wind of the breath of the world.
Quite without ethical pretension at all the school is of course bound to influence the moral development of the child. That most important matter, the habit and disposition towards industry, should be acquired there, the sense of thoroughness in execution, the profound belief that difficulty is bound to yield to a resolute attack—all these things are the necessary by-products of a good school. A teacher who is punctual, persistent, just, who tells the truth, and insists upon the truth, who is truthful, not merely technically but in a constant search for exact expression, whose own share of the school work is faultlessly done, who is tolerant to effort and a tireless helper, who is obviously more interested in serious work than in puerile games, will beget essential manliness in every boy he teaches. He need not lecture on his virtues. A slack, emotional, unpunctual, inexact, and illogical teacher, a fawning loyalist, an incredible pietist, an energetic snob, a teacher as eager for games, as sensitive to social status, as easy, kindly, and sentimental, and as shy really of hard toil as—as some teachers—is none the better for ethical flatulence. There is a good deal of cant in certain educational circles, there is a certain type of educational writing in which "love" is altogether too strongly present; a reasonably extensive observation of school-children and school-teachers makes one doubt whether there is ever anything more than a very temperate affection and a still more temperate admiration on either side. Children see through their teachers amazingly, and what they do not understand now they will understand later. For a teacher to lay hands on all the virtues, to associate them with his or her personality, to smear characteristic phrases and expressions over them, is as likely as not to give the virtues unpleasant associations. Better far, save through practice, to leave them alone altogether.
And what is here said of this tainting of moral instruction with the personality of the teacher applies still more forcibly to religious instruction. Here, however, I enter upon a field where I am anxious to avoid dispute. To my mind those ideas and emotions that centre about the idea of God appear at once too great and remote, and too intimate and subtle for objective treatment. But there are a great number of people, unfortunately, who regard religion as no more than geography, who believe that it can be got into daily lessons of one hour, and adequately done by any poor soul who has been frightened into conformity by the fear of dismissal. And having this knobby, portable creed, and believing sincerely that lip conformity is alone necessary to salvation, they want to force every teacher they can to acquire and impart its indestructible, inflexible recipes, and they are prepared to enforce this at the price of inefficiency in every other school function. We must all agree—whatever we believe or disbelieve—that religion is the crown of the edifice we build. But it will simply ruin a vital part of the edifice and misuse our religion very greatly if we hand it over to the excavators and bricklayers of the mind, to use as a cheap substitute for the proper intellectual and ethical foundations; for the ethical foundation which is schooling and the ethical foundation which is habit. I must confess that there is only one sort of man whose insistence upon religious teaching in schools by ordinary school teachers I can understand, and that is the downright Atheist, the man who believes sensual pleasure is all that there is of pleasure, and virtue no more than a hood to check the impetuosity of youth until discretion is acquired, the man who believes there is nothing else in the world but hard material fact, and who has as much respect for truth and religion as he has for stable manure. Such a man finds it convenient to profess a lax version of the popular religion, and he usually does so, and invariably he wants his children "taught" religion, because he so utterly disbelieves in God, goodness, and spirituality that he cannot imagine young people doing even enough right to keep healthy and prosperous, unless they are humbugged into it.
Equally unnecessary is the scholastic attempt to take over the relations of the child to "nature," art, and literature. To read the educational journals, to hear the scholastic enthusiast, one would think that no human being would ever discover there was any such thing as "nature" were it not for the schoolmaster—and quotation from Wordsworth. And this nature, as they present it, is really not nature at all, but a factitious admiration for certain isolated aspects of the universe conventionally regarded as "natural." Few schoolmasters have discovered that for every individual there are certain aspects of the universe that especially appeal, and that that appeal is part of the individuality—different from every human being, and quite outside their range. Certain things that have been rather well treated by poets and artists (for the most part dead and of Academic standing) they regard as Nature, and all the rest of the world, most of the world in which we live, as being in some way an intrusion upon this classic. They propound a wanton and illogical canon. Trees, rivers, flowers, birds, stars—are, and have been for many centuries Nature—so are ploughed fields—really the most artificial of all things—and all the apparatus of the agriculturist, cattle, vermin, weeds, weed-fires, and all the rest of it. A grassy old embankment to protect low-lying fields is Nature, and so is all the mass of apparatus about a water-mill; a new embankment to store an urban water supply, though it may be one mass of splendid weeds, is artificial, and ugly. A wooden windmill is Nature and beautiful, a sky-sign atrocious. Mountains have become Nature and beautiful within the last hundred years—volcanoes even. Vesuvius, for example, is grand and beautiful, its smell of underground railway most impressive, its night effect stupendous, but the glowing cinder heaps of Burslem, the wonders of the Black Country sunset, the wonderful fire-shot nightfall of the Five Towns, these things are horrid and offensive and vulgar beyond the powers of scholastic language. Such a mass of clotted inconsistencies, such a wild confusion of vicious mental practices as this, is the stuff the schoolmaster has in mind when he talks of children acquiring a love of Nature. They are to be trained, against all their mental bias, to observe and quote about the canonical natural objects and not to observe, but instead to shun and contemn everything outside the canon, and so to hand on the orthodox Love of Nature to another generation. One may present the triumph of scholastic nature-teaching, by the figure of a little child hurrying to school along the ways of a busy modern town. She carries a faded cut-flower, got at considerable cost from a botanical garden, and as she goes she counts its petals, its stamens, its bracteoles. Her love of Nature, her "powers of observation," are being trained. About her, all unheeded, is a wonderful life that she would be intent upon but for this precious training of her mind; great electric trains loom wonderfully round corners, go droning by, spitting fire from their overhead wires; great shop windows display a multitudinous variety of objects; men and women come and go about a thousand businesses; a street-organ splashes a spray of notes at her as she passes, a hoarding splashes a spray of colour.
The shape and direction of one's private observation is no more the schoolmaster's business than the shape and direction of one's nose. It is, indeed, possible to certain gifted and exceptional persons that they should not only see acutely, but abstract and express again what they have seen. Such people are artists—a different kind of people from schoolmasters altogether. Into all sorts of places, where people have failed to see, comes the artist like a light. The artist cannot create nor can he determine the observation of other men, but he can, at any rate, help and inspire it. But he and the pedagogue are temperamentally different and apart. They are at opposite poles of human quality. The pedagogue with his canon comes between the child and Nature only to limit and obscure. His business is to leave the whole thing alone.
If the interpretation of nature is a rare and peculiar gift, the interpretation of art and literature is surely an even rarer thing. Hundreds of schoolmasters and schoolmistresses who could not write one tolerable line of criticism, will stand up in front of classes by the hour together and issue judgments on books, pictures, and all that is comprised under the name of art. Think of it! Here is your great artist, your great exceptional mind groping in the darknesses beneath the surface of life, half apprehending strange elusive things in those profundities, and striving—striving sometimes to the utmost verge of human endeavour—to give that strange unsuspected mystery expression, to shape it, to shadow it in form and wonder of colour, in beautiful rhythms, in phantasies of narrative, in gracious and glowing words. So much in its essential and precious degree is art. Think of what the world must be in the wider vision of the great artist. Think, for example, of the dark splendours amidst which the mind of Leonardo clambered; the mirror of tender lights that reflected into our world the iridescent graciousness of Botticelli! Then to the faint and faded intimations these great men have left us of the things beyond our scope, comes the scholastic intelligence, gesticulating instructively, and in too many cases obscuring for ever the naive vision of the child. The scholastic intelligence, succulently appreciative, blind, hopelessly blind to the fact that every great work of art is a strenuous, an almost despairing effort to express and convey, treats the whole thing as some foolish riddle—"explains it to the children." As if every picture was a rebus and every poem a charade! "Little children," he says, "this teaches you"—and out comes the platitude!
Of late years, in Great Britain more particularly, the School has been called upon to conquer still other fields. It has become apparent that in this monarchy of ours, in which honour is heaped high upon money- making, even if it is money-making that adds nothing to the collective wealth or efficiency, and denied to the most splendid public services unless they are also remunerative; where public applause is the meed of cricketers, hostile guerillas, clamorous authors, yacht-racing grocers, and hopelessly incapable generals, and where suspicion and ridicule are the lot of every man working hard and living hard for any end beyond a cabman's understanding; in this world-wide Empire whose Government is entrusted as a matter of course to peers and denied as a matter of course to any man of humble origin; where social pressure of the most urgent kind compels every capable business manager to sell out to a company and become a "gentleman" at the very earliest opportunity, the national energy is falling away. That driving zeal, that practical vigour that once distinguished the English is continually less apparent. Our workmen take no pride in their work any longer, they shirk toil and gamble. And what is worse, the master takes no pride in the works; he, too, shirks toil and gambles. Our middle-class young men, instead of flinging themselves into study, into research, into literature, into widely conceived business enterprises, into so much of the public service as is not preserved for the sons of the well connected, play games, display an almost oriental slackness in the presence of work and duty, and seem to consider it rather good form to do so. And seeking for some reason and some remedy for this remarkable phenomenon, a number of patriotic gentlemen have discovered that the Schools, the Schools are to blame. Something in the nature of Reform has to be waved over our schools.