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it is the music of his exquisite sentences which has distracted attention from their truth, and charmed us out of drawing a practical conclusion.
One more witness, the average man. He agrees with these academic witnesses when he says, as we have all said, "I wish I could have my education over again." He thinks perhaps that its deficiencies were his own fault. But, in fact, it is not his school, his teachers, himself, that he is blaming the guilt lies
at the door of a system, which tried to teach him literature and history before his mind was ripe fully to understand them, and imposed on him a tale of bricks before life had given him either the straw or the clay to make them.
Now observe the practical consequences of this. If you cannot understand in any full sense literature, history or philosophy till you have had experience of life, it is no use simply lengthening the school-age. At 15, at 16, at 17, even at 18 your pupils will still fail in the essential qualification. They will indeed benefit more from their studies at 18 than at 14: but the benefit still will be very partial; and how long shall we have to wait till 17 or 18 is the school-leaving age? We must give an effective liberal education to the masses, unless they are to be treated as inferior beings. But, if so, we must give it to them as adults at an age when they are capable of it. We must have systematic adult education. There is one country where this fact has been realised, perhaps the only country where education has profoundly touched the average man, where there is something like an educated democracy.
That country is Denmark. Yet, at first sight, the Danish system seems more backward than our own. Education for the ordinary pupil, who does not proceed to the secondary school, closes at 14. In the towns there are compulsory continuation schools but in the country the boys and girls plunge at 14 into whole-time work. There is no attempt to prolong elementary education, still less to provide secondary education for all. Instead there are the facilities given by the Folk High Schools for education, at an age when education really counts.
An admirable account of these schools and of their effect on national life has recently been published.* They are worth study. For they rank with the English public school and the German
"The Folk High Schools of Denmark and the Development of a Farming Community." By Begtrup, Lund & Manniche.
university, as the greatest educational institutions created in Europe during the last hundred and fifty years-all three, in spite of faults and weaknesses, embodying successfully a profound educational principle. The first Folk High School was founded in 1844, partly to combat German propaganda in SchleswigHolstein. In 1864 came the disastrous war with Germany. The Danish reply to defeat was to create more High Schools. In 1872 there were 54. To-day there are about 60 in Denmark, a large number for a country with not many more than three million inhabitants. They are nearly all residential, with a summer term of three months, chiefly for women, and a winter term of five months, chiefly for men. They are private ventures, usually owned by the principal. The pupils are mostly farmers and small-holders and, in a less degree, labourers. At one which I visited I found myself sitting next a girl who had recently been a domestic servant in England. With the artisan class the schools have not been successful. In 1921, out of 7000 students, less than 350 came from the towns. All students are over 18. The High School will not take them younger. There is no compulsion to attend, and no reward in the form of a degree or a diploma. The cost of living and education is about £4 per month for women, and £4 10s. od. for men. At least half of this is paid by the student. The government gives some financial help to the schools but will pay not more than 50 per cent. of the fees. Yet it is reckoned that about 30 per cent. of the agricultural community attend a High School. This is the more surprising, because they are paying hard cash for something which superficially might seem valueless for a labouring population. Though nearly all the students are and will continue to be workers on the land, there is nothing vocational in the High School curriculum. Its main subjects are literature and history. To these are added composition in Danish, mathematics, elementary science, gymnastics and (for the women) sewing. At the Askov High School the course is longer and more advanced.
And yet any Dane would hold that the High Schools have been one of the chief instruments in the economic progress of Denmark. It is worth while asking: Why? The aim of the High School is not to impart knowledge, but to awaken intelligence and idealism in their students. And for this they find no better instrument than history and literature, taught as Ruskin or Carlyle might have taught them. "When they come to us, they are sleeping,'
said the Rektor of a High School to the writer: "it is no use teaching them while they are asleep. We try to go to the centre, to arouse the spirit-the rest will follow."
What is most important, is not the amount of knowledge the students acquire, but the fact that the young people get mentally and emotionally roused. They may forget a deal of the instruction; but they leave the schools different people, having learnt to hear, to see, to think, and to use their powers.
Nor is it only intelligence which these schools quicken. They awakened in young men and women a yearning for knowledge and a desire to work; the character of the pupils was strengthened, and they left the schools with a much enlarged outlook on life. To satisfy its yearning for knowledge a current of youth flowed from the Folk High Schools to the agriculture schools, and when it afterwards passed out into life it did so with a strong feeling of fellowship, and a desire to work for common progress. Youth thus gained some of the qualifications necessary to the success of a co-operative movement.†
Spiritual inspiration has been the heart of the schools since their origin. Christian Kold, the labouring shoemaker's son, who did so much to create the high school movement, taught the young people that one can be noble-minded, even though one milks the cows or clears away the dung. He scoffed at the
progress " which revealed itself in extravagant clothes and superficial amusements. There is, indeed, an essential difference between the ordinary democracy that aims at the attainment of a culture in mere material things and the democracy of the high-schools, which strives to unite plain customs and a simple, frugal life with a genuine culture of the mind and heart.
The best pupils of the High School return to their work with quickened intelligence and a sane idealism. The latter contributes to their material prosperity as much as the former. We shall not be surprised at this, if we remember the success of the Quakers and the Evangelicals in business.
Liberal education is one paradox and principle of the High School. Another is the age of admission. When the High Schools started, Kold and Grundtvig, the parents of the movement, disagreed. Kold supported a policy allied to that of the Consultative Committee's report. He wished to have the pupils from 14 to 15, because, as he said, they were then still so far
* Ib. p. 38. Ib. p. 48. The "agriculture schools" are institutions for technical training in agriculture. The high school avoids anything vocational. Ib. p. 102.
children that they would receive their teacher's instruction with docility. Grundtvig maintained that they should be at least 18 years old, because before that age they were too immature to think about the problems of life. Both methods were tried, and the experiment converted Kold to Grundtvig's view. The younger pupils showed neither the intelligence nor the interest of the elder. Since that day, 18 has been fixed as the lowest age at which the High School can be entered, and I met no Dane who wished to change the rule. Grundtvig made the momentous discovery that secondary education for all is only an easy method of wasting money and time.
Experience proves that the same amount of information, which it takes the half-grown youth-dozing on the school forms-three to five years to learn, can be acquired by adults, who are keen on learning and who have done practical work, in the space of three to five months.* This sounds optimistic. But it has support from the results achieved in tutorial classes by students whose early education has been meagre, who in the mine and the factory have had no chances of acquiring the habit of intellectual work, and who bring to their studies a body wearied by a long day of manual labour. But they also bring something which no schoolboy can ever bring a fully grown intelligence, a sense of the value and meaning of education, and that practical experience of life, without which history, literature and philosophy are lifeless phantoms, needing, like the ghosts of the Cimmerian land, to taste blood before they can speak to us.
We may note a further advantage of the system. One of the objections to giving secondary education to all is that it too often turns good artisans into bad clerks. Mr. Lindsay, in his "Social Progress and Economic Waste " (p. 16) gives the following figures for the after-occupations of secondary school pupils in 1921, over areas studied by him,including London, Bradford and Oxfordshire. Further Education
Professional, Clerical & Commercial..
Industrial and Manual
Residue (half girls at home)
31.9 per cent.
It is not clear what occupations are included in "industrial and manual" and in " and in "agricultural and rural." If they include
* Ib. p. 132. The italics are mine.
farming on a substantial scale and the higher grades of industry, the figures are even more striking than they appear. Those who receive a liberal education to the age of 16 or later are not inclined to go back to the workshop or the land. If they are really competent for other work, this is to the good. If they are not, neither the nation nor themselves gain by their joining the overcrowded blackcoat ranks. With the Danish system, this danger does not arise. It is very uncommon for the High School to deflect its pupils from their occupations. When they go to it, they are already acclimatised in the life of peasant or farmer, and they return to that life, taking wider interests with them, raising their class instead of raising themselves out of it.
It might have seemed utopian to offer literature and history to small farmers, idle to expect them to accept it, absurd to suppose that such education could lead to material prosperity. But the audacious experiment has succeeded. Mr. Lund thus describes its result :
The Danish peasantry at the beginning of the nineteenth century was an underclass .. without culture and technical skill and seldom able to rise above the level of a bare existence. In the course of a century this underclass has been changed into a well-to-do middle class which, politically and socially, now takes the lead among the Danish people*. . . The old students of the Folk High Schools have led the way on the technical side of agriculture; they have controlled the numerous organizations which have promoted improved farming. They have controlled not only the agricultural and co-operative societies, but also the associations of small-holders which sprang up in large numbers at the close of the nineteenth and the beginning of the new century. They have been the men who, in the work of local government in the rural districts, have led and controlled.†
The High Schools have given Denmark something which no raising of the school-age will ever give us an educated democracy. Could the system be acclimatised here? It has spread to Norway and Sweden, where there are a chain of High Schools with a yearly attendance of 2000 and 4000 respectively; and there are offshoots elsewhere. But the system is easier to work in an agricultural than in an industrial community. Farm work is seasonal and a countryman can leave it for the slack winter months, while an artisan would hesitate to throw up a job to attend a school, and run the risk of losing his employment. Ireland should be a more fruitful field for High Schools than England.
* Ib. p. 32. † Ib. p. 39.