Page images

connect the school work with the interests arising from the social and industrial environment of the pupils."

The Report has been received with applause. There have been few, if any, dissenters. Yet its proposals are open to obvious criticisms. A minority report points out the cost and difficulty of providing "accommodation for half-a-million more children and the teaching and selection of about 15,000 to 20,000 teachers of a particular type." If separate schools are to be provided for all children of the age of 11, the community, especially in country districts, will be put to a very heavy expense: the use of the present schools, which will be only in part possible, presents other obvious difficulties. The transference of all children to a secondary school at 11 will be unpopular with many elementary teachers, whose work and status will be considerably affected by it. It may be doubted whether the average pupil is ripe for the transference so young, and whether his education will cease to be primary, because from the age of 11 it is called secondary : and psychologists change their minds so often, that the plain man may doubt their present view that II is the psychological age for a great educational change.

No doubt the determining argument in the minds of the committee in making these proposals was the desire to get all boys and girls in the country into what may be called the secondary train. The educational journey has two junctions at which all who wish to reach the terminus must change. At the first junction the passengers leave the Elementary Train Omnibus for the Secondary Express at the next they take their seats in the University Rapide. Hitherto some three-quarters of the children of the country have abandoned their journey at the first junction. In future, if the committee's proposals are accepted, all will enter the secondary train and, once in it, are more likely to continue their journey, if not to the terminus, at least to a further point than they reached in the past. Once in their seats, love of learning, parental pride, or vis inertia, may keep them there. This is the real significance of the committee's proposals, and goes far to justify them. If the expense can be met and the committee give no estimates of it-the change proposed is, on balance, a change for the better.

The Report is undoubtedly of great importance. For the next ten years we are not likely to get beyond it. Indeed, its framers

only expect that its recommendations will be adopted tentatively and step by step. It is the more desirable that we should not forget that it does not consider the main educational problem at all; that its proposals, even if carried out to the full, would leave us in that respect very much where we are; that, as regards the main task before us, it is a mere interim report, a mere prolegomena to our future educational system; and that there is a grave danger lest by leading us to suppose that it is a medicine for our disease, it may make us forget the disease's existence. The changes which the Report recommends will improve the education of the adolescent, but they will not give us educated adults. The vast majority of the nation will continue to be more interested in the Charles Peace and C. B. Fry of the moment than in any other actors on the world-stage. The reasons for this view may be concisely stated.

Education has two aims, and is incomplete if it does not achieve both. These aims are indicated in the famous Greek saying that the State comes into existence for the sake of life, and continues in existence for the sake of the good life. No education is adequate which does not contribute to both of these endswhich does not help the pupil to earn his livelihood, and at the same time to lead the good life. Education thus has two ends: vocational and cultural. At times the two coincide. Vocational training may be a training of the human spirit: cultural studies may enable man to earn his daily bread. But the two ends are always present; the two needs require to be satisfied; they remain as beacons by which the educationalist steers his course.

Of vocational training nothing need be said in this article. It is the easier side of education, the side on which we have been most successful. Here we are dealing with concrete, tangible things as far as anything in education is tangible—and in its limited and definite field we know what we are looking for and when we have found it. Our technical education, our training of doctors, lawyers, engineers-even, perhaps, of schoolmasters and civil servants—is satisfactory. And the Report of the Consultative Committee, with its insistence on bringing post-primary education into touch with "the social and industrial environment of the pupils," takes a farther step in the right direction.

But, what of that other education, which we call cultural, liberal, humane? The very words are foreign, remote, metaphorical, as though the thing was obscure and alien: something

which we muddle up in dark phrases, because we are doubtful of its nature and uncertain of its meaning and uses. Yet its purport and importance is clear. The human being finds himself in a strange country, landed there far more mysteriously than any marooned or shipwrecked traveller. Like Robinson Crusoe, he is faced by two needs, two duties. He has to secure food, a roof, and such comfort as circumstances allow. But he would be strangely incurious if, these needs once satisfied, he did not wish to explore his new home. This exploration we call liberal education. It comprises the sciences, in which man has mapped out the material universe, from the heavenly bodies to the human body, and studied each of its provinces ; literature where, as in some miraculous phonograph, are fixed countless human heartbeats; history, which records the evolution of his race, the various societies which he has created, his social and political life ; philosophy, which gropes after the meaning of the universe, tries to divine reality, and studies the spiritual and moral nature of man. That is liberal education, a field so wide that no man can survey more than a corner of it, so interesting and important that to remain incapable of interest in it is to be hardly human. Among the purposes of education is to awaken this interest and show how it may be satisfied. Each individual who goes through life without it is a standing reproach to education, a living witness to her negligence or failure.

And yet, as one writes the words, how ironical they sound! What proportion of the inhabitants of this country, or any country in the world, have such an interest or are aware that it exists? And so we are driven to one of three conclusions. Either it is absurd for anyone to be interested in human history, nature and destiny, or in the infinite riches and eternal miracle of the universe; in which case science is an eccentric mania and education a meaningless or disastrous folly. This view is hardly tenable. Or else these interests are the privilege of a few, of some 20 per cent. perhaps of the human race. These few can be educated. They can become citizens of the great city of the universe, partners in the intellectual heritage of man. The remainder are born to be intellectual serfs, blind followers of such leaders as chance gives them, helots and aliens in that land of knowledge, which is the greatest conquest of man. Characteristically, we have embarked on our great educational policy, without any attempt to ascertain how many people are capable of education. But there is every

reason to think that far more people are capable of a liberal education than at present receive it. If not, we shall have to revise our aims in education and our definition of democracy. But there is a third alternative, which is preferable and true. The people are capable of education; but we have not yet discovered how to educate them. Education has not yet had a chance.

Why is our education such a failure? The popular explanation is that it ends too soon; it would be absurd to expect that its harvest should be garnered by the age of 14. And the popular remedy is to prolong it till the crop can ripen-that is, to give secondary education to all. The explanation is in part correct. And it illustrates our slipshod and shortsighted ways of thought that we could have expected any satisfactory results from our present system. But the remedy is impracticable and inefficacious -impracticable, because many generations will be sacrificed before the nation can afford secondary education for all; inefficacious for reasons which shall be stated.

Hunting the will o' the wisp is a favourite occupation of man. Sometimes it diverts him from more dangerous pursuits: sometimes it costs him dear. There is every sign that we are about to attack our educational problem along lines that will not solve it, but will be very expensive and every failure to solve it means a heavy expense in human lives as well as in cash. It is not suggested that something is not gained by prolonging education to the age of 15. But, anyone who supposes that this will even partially solve our educational problem, will be disappointed. The Consultative Committee talks of giving a "humane or liberal education " through the schools which they propose. Those who remember their own education or have themselves taught in a school will know that it is as impossible to give a humane or liberal education by the age of 15 or 16, as it is to build a liner in a couple of weeks. It is physically impossible. The age of liberal and humane education, in any sense except a very rudimentary one, does not begin before 16. And, even if we can extend our school-age to 16 or even to 18, the children will only reach its threshold, and we shall find the results almost as disappointing as they are to-day.

This is due to the nature of the subjects which compose cultural education. There are some subjects which can be acquired by anyone with a sufficiency of natural intelligence and capacity. Technical skill, mathematics, science, need no more.

They are, so to speak, pre-digested, and a sound and vigorous organism absorbs them automatically. But it is not so with what are even more important subjects in a liberal education-literature, history and, for the most part, philosophy. These require to meet in the human mind what we may call the ferments of experience, without which they pass through it or remain lodged within it unabsorbed and ineffective. They need, for their realisation, as Proust says, " to have their equivalent in experience of life stored up and slowly ripening in the heart." No poem, no historical fact is fully intelligible to the ordinary man unless he has met it in life before he meets it in a book. One must have lived long enough to have seen something of that raw material out of which history and literature are made, to know what they are about, what problems they deal with, what they record. Let anyone reflect what Hamlet meant to him at the age of 18, and what it means at 40. That reflection should be witness enough.

But we will invoke in support of this paradox three witnesses : a philosopher, a great man of letters, and the unconscious confession of the average man. "Political questions," says Aristotle," are unsuitable for the young: who have no experience of actual life, which is the subject and source of these studies." What, in effect says Aristotle, is the use of studying these questions till you have lived long enough to see the raw material from which life is built? And many university teachers, watching philosophy converted by their pupils to a mental ping-pong, have known what he meant.

Consider (says Newman) how differently young and old are affected by the words of some classic author, such as Homer or Horace. Passages, which to a boy are but rhetorical commonplaces, neither better nor worse than a hundred others which any clever writer might supply, which he gets by heart and thinks very fine, and imitates, as he thinks, successfully, in his own flowing versification, at length come home to him, when long years have passed, and he has had experience of life, and pierce him as if he had never before known them, with their sad earnestness and vivid exactness. Then he comes to understand how it is that lines, the birth of some chance morning or evening at an Ionian festival, or among the Sabine hills, have lasted generation after generation, for thousands of years, with a power over the mind, and a charm, which the current literature of his own day, with all its obvious advantages, is utterly unable to rival.

Read Homer and Horace by all means, says Newman; feed ear and mind with their language and music: but do not expect to begin to know what they really mean before you are 40. Perhaps

« PreviousContinue »