LIBERAL EDUCATION IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
“The mystery of a person, indeed, is ever divine, to him that has a sense for the godlike.”
We must either reverence or despise children; and while we regard them as incomplete and undeveloped beings who will one day arrive at the completeness of man, rather than as weak and ignorant persons, whose ignorance we must inform and whose weakness we must support, but whose potentialities are as great as our own, we cannot do otherwise than despise children, however kindly and even tenderly we commit the offence.
As soon as he gets words with which to communicate with us, a child lets us know that he thinks with surprising clearness and directness, that he sees with a closeness of observation that we have long lost, that he enjoys and that he sorrows with an intensity we have ceased to experience, that he loves with an abandon and a confidence which, alas, we do not share, that he imagines with a fecundity no artist among us can approach that he acquires intellectual knowledge and mechanical skill at a rate so amazing, that, could the infant’s rate of progress be kept up to manhood, he would surely appropriate the whole field of knowledge in a single lifetime! (It is worth while in this connection to re-read the early chapters of David Copperfield.)
I am considering a child as he is, and am not tracing him, either with Wordsworth, to the heights above, or, with the evolutionist, to the depths below; because a
person is a mystery, that is, we cannot explain him or account for him, but must accept him as he is. This wonder of personality does not cease, does not disappear, when a child goes to school; he is still ‘all there’ in quite another sense from that of the vulgar catch-word. But we begin to lose the way to his mind from the day that he enters the schoolroom; the reason for this is, we have embraced the belief that ‘knowledge is sensation,’ that a child knows what he sees and handles rather than what he conceives in his mind and figures in his thoughts. I labour this point because our faith in a child’s spiritual, i.e., intellectual educability is one of our chief assets. Having brought ourselves face to face with the wonder of mind in children, we begin to see that knowledge is the aliment of the mind as food is that of the body. In the days before the War, a lifetime ago it seems, our insular contempt for knowledge was a by-word; except for a schoolmaster or other thinker here and there, nobody took knowledge seriously; we announced boldly that it did not matter what a child learned but only how he learned it. As for mere ‘book-learning,’ for that we had a fine contempt! But we have changed all that. We are beginning to suspect that ignorance is our national stumbling-block, a chief cause of those difficulties at home which hinder our efforts abroad. For ignorance there is only one cure, and that is, knowledge; his school is the seat of knowledge for a child, and whatever else his teachers do for him, first of all they must sustain him with knowledge, not in homeopathic doses, but in regular, generous servings. If we ask, what is knowledge?—there is no neat and ready answer at hand. Matthew Arnold, we know, classifies all knowledge under three heads,—the knowledge of God, divinity, the knowledge of man, known as the ‘humanities’ and the knowledge of the physical world, science, and that is enough to go on with. But I should
Nobliest lady, doomed to slaughter,
An unlov’d, unpitied daughter,
Though Cordelia thou may’st be,
“Love’s ” the fittest name for thee;
If love doth not, maid, bestow
Scorn for scorn, and “no” for “no,”
If love loves through scorn and spite,
If love clings to truth and right,
If love’s pure, maid, as thou art,
If love has a faithful heart,
Thou art then the same as love;
Come from God’s own realms above!
M. K, C. 10 10/12 Form II.
A life of Livingstone (read in connection with the Geography of Africa) is thus epitomised,—
“The whole of Africa is desert bare,
Except around the coast.” So people said,
And thought of that great continent no more.
“The smoke of thousand villages I’ve seen!”
So cried a man. He knew no more. His words
Sank down into one heart there to remain.
The man who heard rose up and gave his all:
Into the dark unknown he went alone.
What terrors did he face? The native’s hate,
The fever, tetse-fly and loneliness.
But to the people there he brought great Light.
Who was this man, the son of some great lord?
Not so. He was a simple Scottish lad
Who learnt to follow duty’s path.
His name Was Livingstone, he will not be forgot.
E. P. (15.) Form IV.
 cf. “Introduction.”
 pp. 13 to 15.
 The P.U.S. was started in 1891.