A Philosophy of Education Volume 6 Book 2 Chapter 2


MIGHTY is the power of persistent advertisement. The author of The Pagan may or may not be bringing an indictment against Pelmanism*, but without any doubt ‘Pelmanism’ is bringing an indictment against secondary education. Half a million souls, Judges and Generals, Admirals and Barristers, are protesting that they have not been educated. No doubt the spirit that informs advertisements is often a lying spirit but claims so well attested as these may have something in them, and we who are engaged in secondary education are uneasy. Again, we have the Board of Education desiring that returns should be made promptly of all schools not already in communication with the State, which, by the way, is taking paternal action in several directions to secure a liberal education for all His Majesty’s lieges. “Pay the schoolmaster well and you will get education” is the panacea of the moment, and so we get in one neighbourhood a village schoolmaster with a salary of £350 and a house, and a singularly able curate, an Oxford man, with a wife and family and no house who flourishes on £150 a year! Work, however, is more than wages, and this exclusive stress on high salaries is a tacit under valuing of teachers. Most of us know of fine educational work being done with little inducement in the way of either pay or praise. The real drawback to a teacher’s work and the stumbling-block in the way of a liberal
education is the monotonous drudgery of teaching continually what no one wants to learn. Before the War, the President of the British Association complained that education was uninteresting alike to pupils, teachers and parents. That is why we are always learning and never knowing, and why teachers exert themselves to invent a ‘Play Way,’ why handicrafts, ‘Eurhythmics’ and the like are offered, not as adjuncts to, but as substitutes for, education, why our Public Schools are exhorted to change their ways and our lesser private schools are threatened with extinction.
          And with all this the intelligence and devotion, the enthusiasm and self-sacrificing zeal of teachers generally is amazing. They realise that education is, not merely an interest, but a passion; and this is true not only of the heads and the staffs of great schools but of those hundreds of little private schools scattered over the country.
          We have all heard of “the two Miss Prettymans, who kept a girls’ school at Silverbridge. Two more benignant ladies than the Miss Prettymans never presided over such an establishment.” As for Miss Annabella Prettyman, the elder, “it was considered….that she did all the thinking, that she knew more than any other woman in Barsetshire, and that all the Prettyman schemes for education emanated from her mind. It was said, too, by those who knew them best, that her sister’s good nature was as nothing to hers, that she was the most charitable, the most loving, the most conscientious of schoolmistresses.” To be sure Miss Ann, the younger sister, knew more about Roman History and Roman Law than about current history and English Law, but what would you have?
          Here was a type of school with which Trollope was familiar generations ago, and perhaps it would not be hard to find such another school in every ‘Silverbridge’ of
to-day. To-day, however, we are uneasy, and in our unrest produce “Joan and Peter” types of education; that is, small schools indulge in freaks and great schools with much reason to believe in themselves are aware of a hitch somewhere, for they fail to turn out many boys or girls who have intellectual interests, or have that flexibility of mind which Matthew Arnold tells us their Academy gives to our neighbours across the Channel. There is that bugbear of ‘Pelmanism’ urging a charge of inadequacy against our methods; there is always some new book by a man who brings railing accusations against his particular school; and here is a tempered protest from Colonel Repington which is telling:—
          “When I look back upon Eton schooling I regard it with mixed feelings, for I loved my five years at Eton, gloried in its beauties and traditions, and was in upper division when I left. But all the same I was conscious that Eton was not teaching me the things that I wanted to know, and was trying to teach me things that revolted me, particularly mathematics and classics. I wanted to learn history, geography, modern languages, literature, science, and political economy, and I had a very poor chance at Eton of obtaining anything but a smattering of any one of them. I do not agree that we learnt nothing or were lazy. We worked very hard, but at what, to my mind, were useless things, and, with my feet planted firmly in the ground, I resisted in a mulish way all attempts to teach me dead languages and higher mathematics. I believe that I was right. Classics have left nothing with me but some ideas that I could have learnt better from a crib.”

Probably the writer is mistaken as to what he owes to Eton. Without those five years he might not have become the authority on the theory and practice of war he is admitted to be. Who knows how much ‘Cæsar’ may have influenced him as a small boy! No doubt Public Schools have many defects but they also have the knack of turning out men who do the work of the world. We know about the ‘playing fields’, but perhaps when all is said it is the tincture of the classics
that every public schoolboy gets which makes him ‘to differ.’ Nevertheless such protests as ‘Eton was not teaching me the things I wanted to know’ deserve consideration.
          It is easy to condemn the schools, but the fact is, a human being is born with a desire to know much about an enormous number of subjects. How is the school time table to get them all in or an adequate treatment of any one of them? Then, boys (and girls too) offer a resisting medium of extraordinary density. Every boy ‘resists in a mulish way’ attempts to teach him, not only dead languages and higher mathematics, but literature and science and every subject the master labours at; with the average boy a gallon of teaching produces scarce a gill of learning, and what is the master to do? It is something to know, however, that behind all this ‘mulishness’ there is avidity for knowledge, not so much for the right sort (every sort is the right sort), but put in the right way, and we cannot say that every way is the right way.
          I put before the reader what we (of the P.N.E.U.) have done towards the solution of this educational problem with sincere diffidence, but also with courage, because I know that no persons are more open to conviction on reasonable grounds than are many distinguished Headmasters and Mistresses; may they, if convinced, have the courage of their convictions! So little is known about the behaviour of mind that it is open to anyone to make discoveries in this terra incognita. I speak, not of psychology, of which we hear a great deal and know very little, but of mind itself, whose ways are subtle and evasive; nevertheless that education only is valid which has mind for its objective. The initial difficulty is the enormous field of knowledge to which a child ought to be introduced in right of his human nature and of those “first born affinities” which
he lives to make good. First and chiefest is the knowledge of God, to be got at most directly through the Bible; then comes the knowledge of man, to be got through history, literature, art, civics, ethics, biography, the drama, and languages; and lastly, so much knowledge of the universe as shall explain to some extent the phenomena we are familiar with and give a naming acquaintance at any rate with birds and flowers, stars and stones; nor can this knowledge of the universe be carried far in any direction without the ordering of mathematics. The programme is immense and school life is limited. What we may call the ‘Academic’ solution of the problem is,—teach a boy to know one thing thoroughly, say, Greek or Chemistry or Mathematics, and you give him the key to all knowledge. Therefore, we are told, it is not what you know that matters, but how you learn it; and a grammar grind, a mathematics grind or a laboratory ‘stunt,’ with a few odd matters thrown in, is supposed to answer all the purposes of education. The plan answers fairly well with the dozen best boys or girls in any school, because these are so keen and intelligent that they forage for themselves in various directions; but it does not answer with the average pupil, and he is coming in for his share of public attention. Shortly we shall have a new rule,—every school must educate every scholar in the three sorts of knowledge proper to him as a human being. What is knowledge? some one will say, and there is no pat, neatly-framed answer to be given; only this we can assert,—Knowledge is that which we know; and the learner knows only by a definite act of knowing which he performs for himself. But appalling incuria blocks the way. Boys and girls do not want to know; therefore they do not know; and their future intellectual requirements will be satisfied by bridge at night and golf by day.
          It has come to us of the Parents’ Union School to discover
great avidity for knowledge in children of all ages and of every class, together with an equally remarkable power of attention, retention, and intellectual reaction upon the pabulum consumed. The power which comes into play in the first place is, of course, attention, and every child of any age, even the so-called ‘backward’ child seems to have unlimited power of attention which acts without mark, prize, place, praise or blame. This fact clearly recognised opens great possibilities to the teacher; though his first impulse be to deny statements which seem to him sweeping and absurd. But the education of the future will probably offer us intellectual assets in human nature as surprising as the ethical values exhibited by the War.
          We have not attained but I think we are on the way to attainment. After over a quarter of a century of experiment on a wide scale and consequent research, we have discovered what children are able to know and desire to know; what their minds will act upon in the ways of judgment and imagination; what they are incapable of knowing; and under what conditions knowledge must be offered to them. We do not want a ‘play-way,’ nor need we substitute arts and crafts or eurhythmics or even ‘rugger’ and the swimming bath, as things that boys take to, whereas learning goes against the grain. Physical and mechanical training are necessary for the up-bringing of the young, but let us regard them for the moment as training rather than education,—which ought to concern itself with things of the mind. Education as we know it is admirably designed to develop the faculties’; but if “All that’s an exploded idee,” if there be no faculties to develop, but only mind,—alert, self-active, discriminating, logical, capable alike of great flights and of minute processes—we must necessarily alter our educational tactics. Mind is benefitted by occasional gymnastics just as is ‘Brother Body,’ but cannot subsist on
these any more than ‘Body’ can live on Swedish drill.
          As I have said, knowledge, that is, roughly, ideas clothed upon with facts, is the proper pabulum for mind. This food a child requires in large quantities and in great variety. The wide syllabus I have in view is intended in every point to meet some particular demand of the mind, and the curious thing is that in a syllabus embracing a score of subjects the young learner is quite unconfused, makes no howlers, and never mixes, say, a fact of English with a fact of French history.
          Again, we have made a rather strange discovery,—that the mind refuses to know anything except what reaches it in more or less literary form. It is not surprising that this should be true of children and persons accustomed to a literary atmosphere but that it should be so of ignorant children of the slums points to a curious fact in the behaviour of mind. Persons can ‘get up’ the driest of pulverised text-books and enough mathematics for some public examination; but these attainments do not appear to touch the region of mind. When we get a young Pascal who enters voluntarily and eagerly into the study of mathematics he finds himself in a region of high thinking and self-existent law of the very nature of poetry; minds of this calibre assert themselves; but this is a gift and does not come of plodding. For the general run of scholars probably the “Association of Head Mistresses” are right and a less exacting standard should be set for public examinations.
          Of Natural Science, too, we have to learn that the way into the secrets of nature is not through the barbed wire entanglements of science as she is taught but through field work or other immediate channel, illustrated and illuminated by books of literary value.
          The French Academy was founded to advance Science and Art, a fact which may account for the charming lucidity and the exquisite prose of many French books
on scientific subjects. The mind is a crucible which brings enormous power to act on what is put into it but has no power to distil from sand and sawdust the pure essence of ideas. So much for the manner of food which that organism (if I may be allowed the figure) called the mind requires for its daily subsistence. How various this sustenance must be I have already indicated and we remember how urgently Dr. Arnold insisted on ‘very various reading’ in the three parts of knowledge, knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe.
          But the mind was a deceiver ever. Every teacher knows how a class will occupy itself diligently by the hour and accomplish nothing, even though the boys think they have been reading. We all know how ill we could stand an examination on the daily papers over which we pore. Details fail us, we can say,—“Did you see such and such an article?” but are not able to outline its contents. We try to remedy this vagueness in children by making them take down, and get up, notes of a given lesson: but we accomplish little. The mind appears to have an outer court into which matter can be taken and again expelled without ever having entered the inner place where personality dwells. Here we have the secret of learning by rote, a purely mechanical exercise of which no satisfactory account has been given, but which leaves the patient, or pupil, unaffected. Most teachers know the dreariness of piles of exercises into which no stray note of personality has escaped. Now there is a natural provision against this mere skimming of the ground by the educational plough. Give children the sort of knowledge that they are fitted to assimilate, served in a literary medium, and they will pay great attention. What next? A clever questionnaire? Questions, as Dr. Johnson told us, are an intrusion and a bore; but here we have a word of ancient wisdom for our guidance; “The mind can know nothing except what it can express
in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself.” Observe, not a question put by an outsider, but, put by the mind to itself. We all know the trick of it. If we want to tell the substance of a conversation, a sermon, a lecture, we ‘go over it in our minds’ first and the mind puts its question to itself, the same question over and over again, no more than,—What next?—and lo, we have it, the whole thing complete! We remember how one of Burke’s pamphlets, by no means light affairs, was told almost verbatim at a College supper. We admire such a feat and think it quite out of our reach but it is the sort of thing that any boy or girl of fifteen could do if allowed to read the pamphlet only once; a second reading would be fatal because no one can give full attention to that which he has heard before and expects to hear again. Attention will go halt all its days if we accustom it to the crutch. We as teachers offend deeply in this matter. We think that we shall be heard for our much speaking and we repeat and enforce, explain and illustrate, not altogether because we love the sound of our own voices, but because we depreciate knowledge, we depreciate children, and we do not understand that the mind and knowledge are as the two members of a ball and socket joint, each of them irrelevant without the other. ‘Education’ will have turned over a new leaf once we realise that knowledge is to the mind as food is to the body, without which the one faints and flags and eventually perishes as surely as does the other.
          The way to bring this panacæa into use is exceedingly simple. Let the child (up to any age while he is an infant in the eye of the law) tell what he has read in whole or in part on the instant, and again, in an examination paper months later. ‘Mere verbal memory,’ some reader will say, and there is no answer to be given but that which one must give to oneself. Let the objector read an essay of Lamb’s, say, or of Matthew Arnold’s, Lycidas or the
‘raven’ scene in Barnaby Rudge and then put himself to sleep or wile away an anxious or a dull hour by telling to himself what he has read. The result will be disappointing; he will have forgotten this and that turn of thought, link in the chain of argument, but he will know the whole thing in a surprising way; the incidents, the figures, the delicate play of thought in the author will be brought out in his mind like the figures in the low relief which the sculptor produces from his block. He finds he has taken in mind stuff’ which will come into use in a thousand ways perhaps as long as he lives.
          Here we get the mind forces which must act continuously in education,-—attention, assimilation, narration, retention, reproduction. But what of reason, judgment, imagination, discrimination, all the corps of ‘faculties’ in whose behoof the teacher has hitherto laboured? These take care of themselves and play as naturally and involuntarily upon the knowledge we receive with attention and fix by narration as do the digestive organs upon duly masticated food-stuff for the body. We must feed the mind as the body fitly and freely; and the less we meddle with the digestive processes in the one as in the other the more healthy the life we shall sustain. It is an infinitely great thing, that mind of man, present in completeness and power in even the dullest of our pupils; even of him it may be said,—
          “Darkness may bound his Eyes, not his Imagination. In his Bed he may lie, like Pompey and his Sons, in all quarters of the Earth, may speculate the Universe, and enjoy the whole World in the Hermitage of Himself.”
          We are paying in our education of to-day for the wave of materialism that spread over the country a hundred years ago. People do not take the trouble to be definitely materialistic now, but our educational thought has received a trend which carries us whither we would not. Any apostle of a new method is welcome to us. We have
ceased to believe in mind, and though we would not say in so many words that “the brain secretes thought as the liver secretes bile,” yet the physical brain rather than the spiritual mind is our objective in education; therefore, “things are in the saddle and ride mankind,” and we have come to believe that children are inaccessible to ideas or any knowledge.
          The message for our age is, Believe in mind, and let education go straight as a bolt to the mind of the pupil. The use of books is a necessary corollary, because no one is arrogant enough to believe he can teach every subject in a full curriculum with the original thought and exact knowledge shown by the man who has written a book on perhaps his life-study. But the teacher is not moved by arrogance but by a desire to be serviceable. He believes that children cannot understand well-written books and that he must make of himself a bridge between the pupil and the real teacher, the man who has written the book. Now we have proved that children, even children of the slums, are able to understand any book suitable for their age: that is, children of eight or nine will grasp a chapter in Pilgrim’s Progress at a single reading; children of fourteen, one of Lamb’s Essays or a chapter in Eöthen, boys and girls of seventeen will ‘tell’ Lycidas. Perhaps this is the key to the enormous difficulty of humanistic teaching in English. We are no longer overpowered by the mass of the ‘humanities’ confronted with the slow process of getting a child to take in anything at all of the author he is reading. The slow process is an invention of our
own. Let the boy read and he knows, that is, if he must tell again what he has read.
          This, of telling again, sounds very simple but it is really a magical creative process by means of which the narrator sees what he has conceived, so definite and so impressive is the act of narrating that which has been read only once. I dwell on the single reading because, let me repeat, it is impossible to fix attention on that which we have heard before and know we shall hear again.
          Treat children in this reasonable way, mind to mind; not so much the mind of the teacher to that of the child,—that would be to exercise undue influence—but the minds of a score of thinkers who meet the children, mind to mind, in their several books, the teacher performing the graceful office of presenting the one enthusiastic mind to the other. In this way children cover an incredible amount of ground in the time at their disposal.
          Perhaps there is no better way of measuring a person of liberal education than by the number of substantives he is able to use with familiarity and discrimination. We remember how Scott tried a score of openings with the man on the coach and got no further until he hit upon ‘bent leather’; then the talk went merrily for the man was a saddler. We have all had such experiences and know to our shame that we ourselves have victimised interlocutors who have not been able to find our particular ‘bent leather.’ Now, this is a matter for teachers to consider. There are a thousand subjects on which we should have definite knowledge and be able to speak with intelligence; and, indeed, do we not set ‘general knowledge’ papers, with the result that boys and girls are ‘out’ for scrappy information and provide material for comic paragraphs? There is no remedy for this state of things but a great deal of consecutive reading from very various books, all of some literary value; and this we find can be accomplished readily in school hours because one
reading is sufficient; nor should there be any revision for the distant examination. Here is an uncorrected list of 200 names, used with ease and fitness in an examination on one term’s work by a child of eleven in Form II.
Abinadab, Athenian, Anne Boleyn, Act of Uniformity, Act of Supremacy, America, Austria, Alcibiades, Athens, Auckland, Australia, Alexandria, Alhambra. Bible, Bishop of Rochester, Baron, Beanshoots, Bluff, Bowen Falls, Bishoprics, Blind Bay, Burano. Currants, Cupid, Catholic, Court of High Commission, Cranmer, Charles V, Colonies, Convent, Claude, Calais, Cook Strait, Canterbury Plain, Christchurch, Cathedral, Canals, Caliph of Egypt, Court of the Myrtles, Columbus, Cordova. David, Defender of the Faith, Duke of Guise, Dunedin, Doge’s Palace. England, Emperor, Empire, Egmont (Count), English Settlement. Flour, Fruits, French, Francis I, Francis of Guise, Ferdinand, Foveau Strait, Fuchsias, Fiords, Ferns. Greek, Germany, Gondolas, “Gates of the Damsels,” Gondoliers, Granada, Gate of Justice, Gypsies. Henry VIII, History, Hooper, Henry II, Hungary, Haeckel. Israel, Italian (language), Italy, Infusoria. Jesse, Jonathan, Joseph, John, Jerusalem, James, Jane Seymour, King of Denmark, King of Scotland, Kiwi. “Love-in-Idleness,” Lord Chancellor, Lord Burleigh, Lord Robert Dudley, Lime, Lyttleton, N.Z., Lake Tango. Mary (The Virgin), More (Sir Thomas), Music, Martyr’s Memorial, Milan, Metz, Monastery, Mary, Queen of Scots, Mediterranean, Microscope, Messina, Middle Island, Mount Egmont, Mount Cook, Milford Sound, Museum, Moa, Maoris, Mussulman, Moorish King. Naomi, Netherlands, Nice, New Zealand, North Island, Napier, Nelson. Oberon, Oxford, Orion. Pharisees, Plants, Parliament, Puck, Pope, Protestant, Poetry, Philosophy, “Paix des Dames,” Philip II, Paris, Planets, “Pink Terraces,” Piazetta, Philip of Burgundy. Queen Catherine, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Queen Isabella, Queen Juana.
Ruth, Robin Goodfellow, Ridley, Reformation, Radiolaria, Rotomaliana (Lake), Rea. Saul, Samuel, Simeon, Simon Peter, Sunshine, Sugar-cane, Spices, Sultan, Spain, St. Quentin, Socrates, Stars, Sycamore, Seed-ball, Stewart Island, Seaports, Southern Alps, Scotch Settlement, St. Mark, St. Theodore, St. Maria Formosa (Church), Sierra Navada. Temple, Titania, Testament, Treaty, Turks, Toul, Thread Slime, Tree Ferns, Timber Trees, Trieste, Toledo. Verdure, Venus (Planet), Volcano, Volcanic Action, Venice. Wheat, Wiltshire, William Cecil, Walsingham, Winged Seed, Wellington, Waikato. Zaccharias, Zebedee.
          The fitness and simplicity with which these substantives are employed is evidenced in the complete sets of papers that follow.[1]        Supposing we have succeeded in shifting a conscientious and intelligent teacher from one mental position to another, suppose that he give up the notion of developing ‘faculties’ because he perceives that mind is complete and sufficient and wants nothing but its proper pabulum; that, again, he yield his place as the medium of all knowledge because his boys are qualified to deal with knowledge at first hand from the right books; suppose he scrap all the text-books and compendiums he has in use, perceiving that only that curious outsider, the verbal memory, and not the mind, will consent to deal with these dry-as-dust compilations; suppose he concede that much knowledge of various sorts and therefore a wide curriculum is necessary for the production of an intelligent and magnanimous citizen; supposing he has proved that any boy can face such a curriculum because all boys have immense power of attention and are able to know their work after a single reading,—-surely he has still one or two strongholds that have not been attacked! What he aims at, he will tell you, is, not to open avenues of approach to the subjects
about which intelligent citizens should know something, but to give pretty thorough knowledge in two or three directions and to turn out straight Englishmen; that is, he looks upon school as a nursery for the formation of character rather than for the acquisition of knowledge. As for the one or two subjects, practically, classics and mathematics, I have nothing to say; those subjects are of real value and also under existing regulations pretty high attainments in them are necessary as a preliminary to professional advancement. It is possible that when a boy has the habit of covering the ground rapidly he may get more into the given ‘period’ and leave a margin for the wider range of subjects proper to a liberal education. Experiments in this direction are being tried in one of our great Grammar Schools, and how important such experiments are to us as a democracy, I need not be at pains to show. There is every promise that the ‘masses’ will learn to read in their schools in such wise as to produce in a terminal examination as considerable a list of names as those on the preceding page. If the masses know ‘Sancho Panza,’ Elsinore, ‘Excalibur,’ ‘Rosinante,’ ‘Mrs. Jellaby,’ redstart, ‘Bevis,’ bogbean,—the classes must know these things too with easy intimacy. If the one class is familiar with the pictures of the Van Eycks, with ‘Comus,’ ‘Duessa,’ ‘Baron of Bradwardine,’ the other class must know them too, and be able to use the knowledge with such effect as does the ‘Honourable Member’ when he quotes a familiar tag from Horace. He touches a spring to which all hearts rise, because allusions to what we know are like the light on ‘old familiar faces.’ What we want is a common basis of thought, such a ground work as we get from having read the same books, grown familiar with the same pictures, the same musical compositions, the same interests; when we have such a fundamental basis, we shall be able to speak to each other whether in
public speaking or common talk; we shall “all hear….in our own tongue the wonderful works of God” because we have learned a common speech through those who in their books have lived to educate the race. And how persuasively shall we speak to those who know, and therefore do not present the dead front of opposition—the natural resource of ignorance!
          A democratic education must have new features. We must all be able to ‘take the front’ of men and women by speaking of that which they have known and felt and already found joy in. So shall we cease to present motives of self interest and personal advantage as incentives to public action; we shall touch springs of poetry, of heroism, to which all natures have the habit of rising; and thus shall we build “Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.” Towards this, we must have read the same books, only in English rather than in Latin or Greek, because the people will probably never have time to attain proficiency in these; neither, as a matter of fact, has the average boy at our great schools. If we must still have an exclusive education to which only the few best in a school can attain,-—and it seems to me that we must, that this is, in fact, the one thing we have achieved, an education that has accomplished great results in character and conduct;-—but if we would keep this possession, we must at the same time broaden its base and narrow its bounds. We must give wide reading in the lower forms, reading that everybody has read, and we must so compress our classical and mathematical work in the higher Forms that much history and ‘English’ may be included. I speak without authority but is it not true that there is overlapping in the passage from Preparatory to Public School, from one Form to a higher, from the Sixth to the University? Probably it will be found possible to give the old training which has produced such notable results, but to make it an inclusive not an exclusive
education, to take in the books which everyone should know, the pictures everyone should be familiar with, the history, the travel, in which we should all be at home, some understanding of the phenomena which come before us all. Once we give up the notion that education is a development of the ‘faculties’ to be accomplished by the teacher, and realize that it is on the contrary an appropriation of wide knowledge which the pupil must get for himself, there is some fear that the old exclusive education must go by the board; but this would be a national calamity. We must keep that to which we have attained and add to it the wide reading of a liberal education. The careers of ‘Joan’ and ‘Peter,’ as depicted by Mr. Wells are instructive. Peter is not entered for a recognised Public School for his guardian had many things against such schools, but games are his chief concern. Later we find the two at College, and of Joan it is said, “No religion has convinced her of a purpose in her life, neither Highmorton nor Cambridge has suggested any mundane devotion to her nor pointed her ambitions to a career. The only career these feminine schools and Colleges recognised was a career of academic success and teaching.” The implicit charge against the schools is that they try each in its own way to find a substitute for the saving grace of knowledge. Academic success and knowledge are not the same thing and many excellent schools fail to give their pupils delight in the latter for its own sake or to bring them in touch with the sort of knowledge that influences character and conduct. The slow, imperceptible, sinking-in of high ideals is the gain that a good school should yield its pupils.
          We have, if not a higher, yet another standard which it may be interesting to consider. We offer children knowledge for its own sake and our pupils discover that ‘studies serve for delight.’ We do not give our best attention to brilliant children, it is not necessary; these work
well on their own account and so do the average and even the dull pupils. Historical characters become real to them and a fairly wide historical field comes under their purview; they do not grow up in crass ignorance of the history of foreign countries; they understand, for example, the India of to-day the better because they have some slight intimacy with Akbar as a contemporary of Elizabeth. They take to themselves a lesson from the youthful presumption of ‘Phaëton’; ‘Midas’ and ‘Circe,’ Xerxes and Pericles enrich the background of their thoughts. The several Forms get through a great deal of reading because we have discovered that a single reading suffices to secure a clear knowledge (as far as it goes) of a subject, given the right book. Therefore, many books are necessary, and each is read consecutively so that the knowledge acquired is not scrappy and insecure. I know that teachers enjoy the work set term by term fully as much as do the children and that a schoolroom life in which there is no monotony, no dulness, little or no idleness or inattention, does away with the necessity to make games the paramount interest of the school—to make them indeed a stern necessity rather than a joyous relaxation.
          The introduction of the methods I advocate has a curious effect on a whole family. The old nurse and the gardener are told of the adventures of ‘Waverley.’ “A.B. has named a moss her father picked on the tip-top of Ben Lawers. It is very rare and only grows on Ben Lawers and one other mountain. She is so pleased,” and so, no doubt, is her father! The whole household thinks of and figures to itself great things, for nothing is so catching as knowledge and that fine temper of mind that knowledge brings with it. Children so taught are delightful companions because they have large interests and worthy thoughts; they have much to talk about and such casual talk benefits society. The fine sense,
like an atmosphere, of things worth knowing and worth living for, this it is which produces magnanimous citizens, and we feel that Milton was right in claiming magnanimity as the proper outcome of education.        When we compare the large number of books, of historical and literary personages, the range of natural phenomena, with which children brought up on these lines are acquainted, with the sterile syllabus, not very well mastered, which is the schoolboy’s normal fare, we find matter for reflection. Yet I suppose that in few things is the general moral and intellectual progress evidenced more than in the culture common among the teachers of secondary schools. Every Head knows how to draw up the best possible syllabus and to secure good work, if upon narrow lines, but we (of the P.N.E.U.) work at an advantage when, as I have said, we recognise one or two natural laws.

          I have no doubt that some of my readers are interested in the work we are doing in Elementary schools,—a work the more astonishing because children who have little vocabulary to begin with, no trace of literary background, show themselves able to hear or read a work of literary value and after a single reading to narrate pages with spirit and accuracy, not hedging at the longest names nor muddling complicated statements. This was a revelation to us, and it signifies that a literary education is open to all, not after tedious and laborious preparation, but immediately. The people wait only for the right books to be put into their hands and the right method to be employed.
          Let me repeat that we live in times critical for every body, but eminently critical for teachers, because it rests with them whether personal or general good shall be aimed at, whether education shall be merely a means of getting on, or a means of general progress towards
high thinking and plain living, and therefore an instrument of the greatest national good.
          Let me beg that Heads of schools, so far in sympathy with me that they perceive we are at the parting of the ways, will consider a method which brings promise of relief.
          We are in a condition, for example, to answer the questions to be considered by the Departmental Committee on English:—
          “Can history and literature be brought into closer relations with the school curriculum than is the case at present? How much grammar is necessary? Could not oral composition and drama and debate, do something to cure our national aphasia? How can the preparatory schools improve their English teaching? How can the school essay be redeemed from barrenness? How can examinations be made a test of English without destroying the love of literature?”
          These questions might have been framed with a view to bring out the attainments of the Parents’ Union School. History, European as well as English, runs in harness with literature. Some Syntax is necessary and a good deal of what may be called historical Grammar, but, not in order to teach the art of correct writing and speaking; this is a native art, and the beautiful consecutive and eloquent speech of young scholars in narrating what they have read is a thing to be listened to not without envy. As to aphasia, to quote a Director of Education on this subject,—“Conversational readiness becomes a characteristic. A quarter of a century of these methods with all the children of England and the strong silent Englishman should be a rare bird!” A schoolmaster remarks that his big boys are now eager to speak at some length—a thing new in his experience. Consider what an asset this should be to a country whose safety will depend more and more upon the power in the middle classes of clear and conclusive speech. Oral composition is the habit of the school from the age of six to
eighteen. “Children of ten who read Shakespeare” is the heading of an article in a local newspaper which sent a reporter to investigate the P.N.E.U. method at work in a school as the result of an article in the Nineteenth Century and After written by the Headmaster. As for preparatory schools, we can do no more than offer them a method the results of which in teaching English are rather surprising. The final question as to how examinations may be made a source of intellectual profit is I think sufficiently answered in the P.US. children’s examination papers.
          We do not invite Heads of schools to take up work lightly, which implies a sound knowledge of certain principles and as faithful a practice. The easy tolerance which holds smilingly that everything is as good as everything else, that one educational doctrine is as good as another, that, in fact, a mixture of all such doctrines gives pretty safe results,—this sort of complacent attitude produces lukewarm effort and disappointing progress. I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous. “Oh, we could do anything with books like those,” said a master; he tried the books and failed conspicuously because he ignored the principles. We teachers are really modest and diffident and are not prepared to say that we are more capable of handling a subject than is a carefully chosen author who writes especially upon that subject. “Yes, but,” says a young and able teacher, “we know better how to reach the minds of children than does the most eloquent author speaking through the dull pages of a book.” This is a contention of which we have finally disposed. We have shown that the mass of knowledge, evoking vivid imagination and sound judgment, acquired in a term from the proper books, is many times as great, many times more thoroughly visualised by the
scholars, than had they waited upon the words of the most able and effective teacher. This is why we insist upon the use of books. It is not that teachers are not eminently capable but because information does not become knowledge unless a child perform the ‘act of knowing’ without the intervention of another personality.
          Heads of schools are a generous folk and perhaps they have some reason to think parents are niggardly, but the provision of the necessary books by the parents is a sine quâ non*. It is our part to see to it that books take root in the homes of our scholars and we must make parents understand that it is impossible to give a liberal education to children who have not a due provision of very various books. Moreover, it is impossible to teach children to spell when they do not read for themselves; we hear complaints of the difficulties of spelling, of the necessity to do violence to the language which is dear to us all in order to make ‘spelling made easy’; but in thousands of cases that come before us we find that children who use their books for themselves spell well because they visualise the words they read. Those who merely listen to their teacher have no guide (in English at any rate) to the spelling of the words they hear. We are, perhaps, opposed to oral lessons or lectures except by way of occasional review or introduction. For actual education children must do their own work out of their own books under the sympathetic guidance of an intelligent teacher. We find, I may add, that once parents recognise how necessary a considerable supply of books is, they make no difficulty about getting those set in our programmes. Mr. Fisher says,—“there are books and text-books,” and the day is at hand when we shall all see that the latter are of no educational value. We rarely use text-books in the Parents’ Union School but confine ourselves as far as possible to works with the imaginative grasp, the touch of originality, which distinguish
a book from a text-book. Perhaps we should apologise for ourselves as purveyors not precisely of books but of lists of books. Every headmaster or mistress is able to draw up such lists, but think of the labour of keeping some 170 books in circulation with a number of changes every term! Here is our excuse for offering our services to much-occupied teachers. There has been talk from time to time about interfering with the liberty of teachers to choose their own books, but one might as well contend for everyman’s liberty to make his own boots! It is one of those questions of the division of labour which belong to our civilisation; and if the question of liberty be raised at all, why should we not go further and let the children choose their books? But we know very well that the liberty we worship is an elusive goddess and that we do not find it convenient to do all those things we are at liberty to do.
          The terminal examinations are of great importance. They are not merely and chiefly tests of knowledge but records which are likely to be permanent. There are things which every child must know, every child, for the days have gone by when ‘the education befitting a gentleman’ was our aim.
          The knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and no teaching of the Bible which does not further that knowledge is of religious value. Therefore the children read, or if they are too young to read for themselves the teacher reads to them, a passage of varying length covering an incident or some definite teaching. If there are remarks to be made about local geography or local custom, the teacher makes them before the passage has been read, emphasizing briefly but reverently any spiritual or moral truth; the children narrate what has been read after the reading; they do this with curious accuracy and yet with some originality, conveying the spiritual teaching which the teacher has indicated. Now
this is no parrot-exercise, but is the result of such an assimilation of the passage that it has become a part of the young scholar. It is only by trying the method oneself on such an incident, for example, as the visit of Nicodemus or the talk with the woman of Samaria, that we realise the wonderful clearness with which each incident is brought out, the fullness of meaning with which every phrase is invested by such personal effort. This method of teaching is especially valuable in dealing with the Gospel history, but none of us who read during the War the daily lessons appointed by the Church could fail to be struck by the fact that the law and the prophets still interpret the ways of God, and we shall not do well if we tacitly treat the Old Testament as out-of-date as a guide to life. Let Amyot tell us,—
          “How greatly is the reading of histories to be esteemed, which is able to furnish us with more examples in one day, than the whole course of the longest life of any man is able to do. Insomuch that they which exercise themselves in reading as they ought to do, although they be but young, become such in respect of understanding of the affairs of this world, as if they were old and grayheaded and of long experience. Yea, though they never have removed out of their houses, yet are they advertised, informed and satisfied of all things in the world.”
          Hence, the great value of the Old Testament,—history and poetry, the law and the prophets; and perhaps no one was more sensible of this educative value of the Scriptures than Goethe, though he was little sensible of their more spiritual worth. We endeavour to bring records contemporary with the Bible before children,
using the contents of certain Rooms of the British Museum as a basis. Episodes of Greek and Roman history come in, partly for their historical, partly for their distinctly ethical value. Plutarch is, of course, our great authority.
          “(Plutarch) hath written the profitable story of all authors. For all other were fain to take their matter, as the fortune of the countries whereof they wrote fell out: But this man being excellent in wit, learning, and experience, hath chosen the special acts of the best persons, of the famousest nations of the world.” (North).
using the contents of certain Rooms of the British Museum as a basis. Episodes of Greek and Roman history come in, partly for their historical, partly for their distinctly ethical value. Plutarch is, of course, our great authority.
          “(Plutarch) hath written the profitable story of all authors. For all other were fain to take their matter, as the fortune of the countries whereof they wrote fell out: But this man being excellent in wit, learning, and experience, hath chosen the special acts of the best persons, of the famousest nations of the world.” (North).

English History is always with us, but only in the earliest years is it studied alone. It is not, as we know, possible always to get the ideal book, so we use the best we can find and supplement with historical essays of literary value. Literature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English; and whether it be contemporary or merely illustrative; and it is astonishing how much sound learning children acquire when the thought of an age is made to synchronise with its political and social developments. A point which I should like to bring before the reader is the peculiar part which poetry plays in making us aware of this thought of the ages, including our own. Every age, every epoch, has its poetic aspect, its quintessence, as it were, and happy the people who have a Shakespeare, a Dante, a Milton, a Burns, to gather up and preserve its meaning as a world possession.
          Let me repeat that what is called ‘composition’ is an inevitable consequence of this free yet exact use of books and requires no special attention until the pupil is old enough to take naturally a critical interest in the use of words. Civics takes place as a separate subject, but it is so closely bound up with literature and history on the one hand and with ethics, or, what we call every-day morals, on the other, that the division of subjects is only nominal.
          We have considered in a previous chapter[2] what we do for children as inhabitants of a world ordered by natural law. Here we have a contention with some teachers of science who maintain that a child can only learn what he discovers for himself de novo. The theory is plausible, but the practice is disappointingly narrow and inexpansive. The teacher has got his knowledge through books; why then are they taboo for the children? Probably the reason is that text-books of science are dessicated to the last degree, so the teacher hopes to make up for their dryness by familiar talk about the Hydra, for example, as a creature capable of close friendships, about the sea-anemone as a ‘Granny’ of enormous longevity; that is, the interest of the subject is made to depend upon side issues. The French scientists know better; they perceive that as there is an essence of history which is poetry so there is an essence of science to be expressed in exquisite prose. We have a few books of this character in English and we use them in the P.U.S. in conjunction with field work and drawing—a great promoter of enthusiasm for nature.
          I have already shown[3] what we do, for example, in the way of affording children familiar acquaintance with great music and great pictures. An eminent art-dealer in London paid us a pretty compliment when he said,—“Lord help the children!” were our work to come to an end; and he had reason for he had just sold to P.U.S. children thousands of little exquisite reproductions of certain pictures by Velasqeuz which were the study of the term; no wonder that a man who loves art and believes in it should feel that something worth while was being done. In drawing, the scholars work very freely in colour from natural figures and objects and draw scenes visualised in the term’s reading. We do not teach drawing as a means of self-expression;


the scholars express, not themselves, but what they can see and what they conceive.
          I have already gone into the teaching of languages; the habit of fixed attention and ready narration which the P.U.S. pupils acquire should be of value in this branch of work, and I believe a new era is opening for us and we English will at last become linguists. At the House of Education the students narrate in French[4],—more readily and copiously than they do in English,—the courses of lectures in French history and literature which form part of their work. In German and Italian they are able to read a scene in a play and ‘tell’ the scene in character, or a short passage from a narrative. We rather emphasise Italian, the language is so beautiful and the literature so rich, and I should like to suggest that schools should do the same. Latin and Greek we learn in the usual ways, but we apply the method of narration to the former.
          I must commend any further study of the rationale of our syllabus to the reader’s own kind consideration; he will perceive that we have a principle of correlation in things essential, but no fatiguing practice of it in detail. But to one more statement, a very daring one, I beg for favourable attention. The common theory and practice of education are on trial. It is idle to ‘develop the faculties’ if there be no faculties, but only mind, which, like Wordsworth’s cloud, moves altogether when it moves at all. Therefore, those subjects whose raison d’être is to develop this and the other faculty are practically out of court and we must seek another basis for education. Subjects of instruction which would be valuable if reason, judgment, imagination, had to be ‘developed’ become as meretricious, as much ‘accomplishments,’ as those early Victorian accomplishments over which we make merry. Education must be in touch
with life. We must learn what we desire to know. Nobody talks to his friend about ‘stinks,’ about the niceties of Greek accents, nor, unless the two be mathematicians, about surds. But, when Jupiter is regnant, how good to tell and to learn! What a welcome companion is he who can distinguish between songs that differ in the vespers of the birds! How grateful the company of the reader of history who brings forward parallels to episodes in the great War! We are apt to work for one thing in the hope that we shall get another and a very different thing; we don’t. If we work for public examinations, the questions in which must be of a narrow academic cast, we get a narrow, accurate, somewhat sterile type of mind. We reap as we have sown.
          The future of England depends largely upon Secondary schools; let the Heads of these lay out a liberal field of study and astonishingly fair things will grow in that garden of mind in which we are invited to sow the seeds of all knowledge. My bold proposal is that the Heads of Secondary Schools from the least to the greatest should adopt a scheme of work following the lines I have indicated, faute de mieux, that of the Parents’ Union School, and that they should do this for the nation’s sake.
          Mr. Masefield remarks,—
          “There can be no great art without great fable. Great art can only exist where great men brood intensely on something upon which all men brood a little. Without a popular body of fable there can be no unselfish art in any country. Shakespeare’s art was selfish till he turned to the great tales in the four most popular books of his time, Holinshed, North’s Plutarch, Cinthio and De Belleforest. Since the newspaper became powerful, topic has supplanted fable and subject comes to the artist untrimmed and unlit by the vitality of many minds.”
          It is this vitality of many minds that we aim at securing and entreat educational workers and thinkers to join in forming a common body of thought which shall make England great in art no doubt, and also great in life.
          This is the way to make great men and not by petty efforts to form character in this direction or in that. Let us take it to ourselves that great character comes out of great thoughts, and that great thought must be initiated by great thinkers; then we shall have a definite aim in education. Thinking and not doing is the source of character.
(Here followed a set of examination answers in each form. Space forbids their inclusion but specimen sets can be seen at the P.N.E.U. Office.)

*Note: Pelmanism = a System of training to improve the memory but strengthening the mind such as one can strengthen the body. The Memory card matching game is an example. It promised to cure forgetfulness, depression, and procrastination. It was popular in the UK during the first half of the 20th century (which would be at the time C.M. was writing Vol 6)

*Note:sine quâ non= indispensable, essential

[1] These are omitted for want of space but other sets can be seen at the Office of the P.N.E.U.

[2] Chapter X

[3] Chapter X.

[4] See Chapter X.

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