A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
A. S. NEILL, M.A.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
A DOMINIE'S LOG A DOMINIE DISMISSED THE BOOMING OF BUNKIE
HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED
3 YORK STREET ST. JAMES'S
To Homer Lane, whose first lecture convinced me that I knew nothing about education. I owe much to him, but I hasten to warn educationists that they must not hold him responsible for the views given in these pages. I never understood him fully enough to expound his wonderful educational theories.
A. S. N.
FORFAR, AUGUST 12, 1920.
A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
"Just give me your candid opinion of A Dominie's Log; I'd like to hear it."
Macdonald looked up from digging into the bowl of his pipe with a dilapidated penknife. He is now head-master of Tarbonny Public School, a school I know well, for I taught in it for two years as an ex-pupil teacher.
Six days ago he wrote asking me to come and spend a holiday with him, so I hastily packed my bag and made for Euston.
This evening had been a sort of complimentary dinner in my honour, the guests being neighbouring dominies and their wives, none of whom I knew. We had talked of the war, of rising prices, and a thousand other things. Suddenly someone mentioned education, and of course my unfortunate Log had come under discussion.
I had been anxious to continue my discussion with a Mrs. Brown on the subject of the relative laying values of Minorcas and Buff Orpingtons, but I had been dragged to the miserable business in spite of myself.
Now they were all gone, and Macdonald had returned to the charge.
"It's hardly a fair question," said Mrs. Macdonald, "to ask an author what he thinks of his own book. No man can judge his own work, any more than a mother can judge her own child."
"That's true!" I said. "A man can't judge his own behaviour, and writing a book is an element of behaviour. Besides, there is a better reason why a writer cannot judge his own work," I added.
"Because he never reads it?" queried Macdonald with a grin.
I shook my head.
"An author has no further interest in his book after it is published."
Macdonald looked across at me. It was clear that he doubted my seriousness.
"Surely you don't mean to say that you have no interest in A Dominie's Log?"
"None whatever!" I said.
"You mean it?" persisted Macdonald.
"My dear Mac," I said, "an author dare not read his own book."
"Dare not! Why?"
"Because it's out of date five minutes after it's written."
For fully a minute we smoked in silence. Macdonald appeared to be digesting my remark.
"You see," I continued presently, "when I read a book on education, I want to learn, and I certainly don't expect to learn anything from the man I was five years ago."
"I think I understand," said Macdonald. "You have come to realise that what you wrote five years ago was wrong. That it?"
"True for you, Mac. You've just hit it."
"You needn't have waited five years to find that out," he said, with a good-natured grin. "I could have told you the day the book was published—I bought one of the first copies."
"Still," he continued, "I don't see why a book should be out-of-date in five years. That is if it deals with the truth. Truth is eternal."
"What is truth?" I asked wearily. "We all thought we knew the truth about gravitation. Then Einstein came along with his relativity theory, and told us we were wrong."
"Did he?" inquired Macdonald, with a faint smile.
"I am quoting from the newspapers," I added hastily. "I haven't the remotest idea what relativity means. Perhaps it's Epstein I mean—no, he's a sculptor."
"You're hedging!" said Macdonald.
"Can you blame me?" I asked. "You're trying to get me to say what truth is. I am not a professor of philosophy, I'm a dominie. All I can say is that the Log was the truth . . . for me . . . five years ago; but it isn't the truth for me now."
"Then, what exactly is your honest opinion of the Log as a work on education?"
"As a work on education," I said deliberately, "the Log isn't worth a damn."
"Not a bad criticism, either," said Macdonald dryly.
"I say that," I continued, "because when I wrote it I knew nothing about the most important factor in education—the psychology of children."
"But," said Mrs. Macdonald in surprise—hitherto she had been an interested listener—"I thought that the bits about the bairns were the best part of the book."
"Possibly," I answered, "but I was looking at children from a grown-up point of view. I thought of them as they affected me, instead of as they affected themselves. I'll give you an instance. I think I said something about wanting to chuck woodwork and cookery out of the school curriculum. I was wrong, hopelessly wrong."
"I'm glad to hear you admit it," said Macdonald. "I have always thought that every boy ought to be taught to mend a hen-house and every girl to cook a dinner."
"Then I was right after all," I said quickly.
Macdonald stared at me, whilst his wife looked up interrogatively from her embroidery.
"If your aim is to make boys joiners and girls cooks," I explained, "then I still hold that cookery and woodwork ought to be chucked out of the schools."
"But, man, what are schools for?" I saw a combative light in Macdonald's eye.
"Creation, self-expression . . . . the only thing that matters in education. I don't care what a child is doing in the way of creation, whether he is making tables, or porridge, or sketches, or—or—"
"Snowballs!" prompted Macdonald.
"Or snowballs," I said. "There is more true education in making a snowball than in listening to an hour's lecture on grammar."
Mrs. Macdonald dropped her embroidery into her lap, with a little gasp at the heresy of my remark.
"You're talking pure balderdash!" said Macdonald, leaning forward to knock the ashes from his pipe on the bars of the grate.
"Very well," I said cheerfully. "Let's discuss it. You make a class sit in front of you for an hour, and you threaten to whack the first child that doesn't pay attention to your lesson on nouns and pronouns."
"Discipline," said Macdonald.
"I don't care what you call it. I say it's stupidity."
"But, hang it all, man, you can't teach if you haven't got the children's attention."
"And you can't teach when you have got it," I said. "A child learns only when it is interested."
"But surely, discipline makes them interested," said Mrs. Macdonald.
I shook my head. "It only makes them attentive."
"Same thing," said Macdonald.
"No, Mac," I replied. "It is not the same thing. Attention means the applying of the conscious mind to a thing; interest means the application of both the conscious and the unconscious mind. When you force a child to attend to a lesson for fear of the tawse, you merely engage the least important part of his mind—the conscious. While he stares at the blackboard his unconscious is concerned with other things."
"What sort of things?" asked Macdonald.
"Very probably his unconscious is working out an elaborate plan to murder you," I said, "and I don't blame it either," I added.
"And the snowballs?" queried Mrs. Macdonald.
"When a boy makes a snowball, he is interested; his whole soul is in the job, that is, his unconscious and his conscious are working together. For the moment he is an artist, a creator."
"So that's the new education . . . making snowballs?" said Macdonald.
"It isn't really," I said; "but what I want to do is to point out that making snowballs is nearer to true education than the spoon-feeding we call education to-day."
* * * * *
Duncan does not like me. He is a young dominie of twenty-three or thereabouts, a friend of Macdonald, and he has just been demobilised. He was a major, and he does not seem to have recovered from the experience. He has got what the vulgar call swelled head. Last night he was dilating upon the delinquencies of the old retired teacher who ran the school while Duncan was on active service. It seems that the old man had allowed the school to run to seed.
"Would you believe it," I overheard Duncan say to Macdonald, "when I came back I found that the boys and girls were playing in the same playground. Why, man, some of them were playing on the road! And the discipline! Awful!"
Poor children! I see it all; I see Duncan line them up like a squad of recruits, and march them into school with never a smile on their faces or a word on their lips. Macdonald tells me that he makes them lift their slates by numbers.
And the amusing thing is that Duncan thinks himself one of the more advanced teachers. He reads the educational journals, and eagerly devours the articles about new methods in teaching arithmetic and geography. His school is only a mile and a half away, and I hope that he will come over to see Mac a few times while I am here.
I have seen the old type of dominie, and I have seen the new type. I prefer the former. He had many faults, but he usually managed to do something for the human side of the children. The new type is a danger to children. The old dominie leathered the children so that they might make a good show before the inspector; the new dominie leathers them because he thinks that children ought to be disciplined so that they may be able to fight the battle of life. He does not see that by using authority he is doing the very opposite of what he intends; he is making the child dependent on him, and for ever afterwards the child will lack initiative, lack self-confidence, lack originality.
What the new dominie does do is to turn out excellent wage-slaves. The discipline of the school gives each child an inner sense of inferiority . . . . what the psycho-analysts call an inferiority complex. And the working-classes are suffering from a gigantic inferiority complex . . . . otherwise they would not be content to remain wage-slaves. The fear that Duncan inspires in a boy will remain in that boy all his life. When he enters the workshop he will unconsciously identify the foreman with Duncan, and fear him and hate him. I believe that many a strike is really a vague insurrection against the teacher. For it is well known that the unconscious mind is infantile.
* * * * *
To-night I dropped in to see my old friend Dauvit Todd the cobbler. Many an evening have I spent in his dirty shop. Dauvit works on after teatime, and the village worthies gather round his fire and smoke and spit and grunt. I have sat there for an hour many a night, and not a single word was said. Peter Smith the blacksmith would give a great sigh and say: "Imphm!" There would be silence for ten minutes, and then Jake Tosh the roadman would stare at the fire, shake his head, and say: "Aye, man!" Then a ploughman would smack his lips and say: "Man, aye!" A southerner looking in might have jumped to the conclusion that the assembly was collectively and individually bored, but boredom never enters Dauvit's shop. We Scots think better in crowds.
To-night the old gang was there. The hypothetical southerner again would have marvelled at the reception I received. I walked into the shop after an absence of five years.
"Weel, Dauvit," I said, and sat down in the basket chair. Dauvit and I have never shaken hands in our lives. He looked up.
"Back again!" he said, without any evident surprise; then he added: "And what like a nicht is 't ootside?"
Gradually other men dropped in, and the same sort of greeting took place. The weather continued to be discussed for a time. Then the blacksmith said: "Auld Tarn Davidson's swine dee'd last nicht."
Dauvit looked up from the boot he was repairing.
"What did it dee o'?" and there followed an argument about the symptoms of swine fever.
An English reader of The House with the Green Shutters would have concluded that these villagers were deliberately trying to put me in my place. By ignoring me might they not be showing their contempt for dominies who have just come from London? Not they. They were glad to see me again, and their method of showing their gladness was to take up our friendship at the point where it left off five years ago.
The only time a Scot distrusts other Scots is when they fuss over him. The story goes in Tarbonny that when young Jim Lunan came home unexpectedly after a ten years' farming in Canada, his mother was washing the kitchen floor.
"Mother!" he cried, "I've come hame!"
She looked over her shoulder.
"Wipe yer feet afore ye come in, ye clorty laddie," she said.
But there is a garrulous type of Scot . . . or rather the type of Scot that tries to make the other fellow garrulous. In our county we call them the speerin' bodie. To speer means to ask questions. The speerin' bodie is common enough in Fife, and I suppose it was a Fifer who entered a railway compartment one morning and sat down to study the only other occupant—an Englishman.
"It's a fine day," said the Scot, and there was a question in his tone.
The Englishman sighed and laid aside his newspaper.
"Aye, mester," continued the inquisitive Fifer, "and ye'll be——"
The Englishman held up a forbidding hand.
"You needn't go on," he said; "I'll tell you everything about myself. I was born in Leeds, the son of poor parents. I left school at the age of twelve, and I became a draper. I gradually worked my way up, and now I am traveller for a Manchester firm. I married six years ago. Three kids. Wife has rheumatism. Willie had measles last month. I have a seven room cottage; rent L27. I vote Tory; go to the Baptist church, and keep hens. Anything else you want to know?"
The Scot had a very dissatisfied look.
"What did yer grandfaither dee o'?" he demanded gruffly.
When the argument about swine fever had died down, Dauvit turned to me.
"Aye, and how is Lunnon lookin'?"
"Same as ever," I answered.
"Ye'll have to tak' Dauvit doon on a trip," laughed the smith.
Dauvit drove in a tacket.
"Man, smith, I was in Lunnon afore you was born," he said.
"Go on, Dauvit," I said encouragingly, "tell us the story." I had heard it before, but I longed to hear it again. Dauvit brightened up.
"There's no muckle to tell," he said, as he tossed the boot into a corner and wiped his face with his apron. "It'll be ten years come Martimas. Me and Will Tamson gaed up by boat frae Dundee. Oh! we had a graund time. But there's no muckle to tell."
"What about Dave Brownlee?" I asked.
Dauvit chuckled softly.
"But ye've a' heard the story," he said, but we protested that we hadn't.
"Aweel," he began, "some of you will no doubt mind o' Dave Broonlee him that stoppit at Millend. Dave served his time as a draper, and syne he got a good job in a Lunnon shop. Weel, me and Will Tamson was walkin' along the Strand when Will he says to me, says he: 'Cud we no pay a veesit to Dave Broonlee?' Then I minded that Dave's father had said something aboot payin' him a call, but I didna ken his address. All I kent was that he was in a big shop in Oxford Street.
"Weel, Will and me we goes up to a bobby and speers the way to Oxford Street. When we got there Will he goes up to another bobby and says: 'Please cud ye tell me whatna shop Dave Broonlee works intil?' At that I started to laugh, and syne the bobby he started to laugh. He laughed a lang time and syne when I telt him that it was a draper's shop he directed us to a great big muckle shop wi' a thousand windows.
"'Try there first,' says the bobby.
"Weel, in we goes, and a mannie in a tail coat he comes forart rubbin' his hands.
"'And what can I do for you, sir?' he says to Will.
"'Oh,' says Will, 'we want to see Dave Broonlee,' but the man didna ken what Will was sayin'. It took Will and me twenty meenutes to get him to onderstand.
"'Oh,' says he, 'I understand now. You want to see Mr. Brownlee?'
"'Ye're fell quick in the uptak,' says Will, but of coorse the man didna ken what he was sayin'.
"He went to the backshop to speer aboot Dave, and when he cam back he says, says he: 'I'm sorry, but Mr. Brownlee has gone out to lunch. Will you leave a message?'
"Will turned to the door.
"'Never mind,' says he, 'we'll see him doon the toon.'"
* * * * *
In reading my Log I am appalled by the amount of lecturing I did in school. Since writing it I have visited most of the best schools in England, and I found that I was not the only teacher who lectured. But we are all wrong. I fancy that the real reason why I lectured so much was to indulge my showing-off propensities. To stand before a class or an audience; to be the cynosure of all eyes; to have a crowd hanging on your words . . . . all showing off! Very, very human, but . . . . bad for the audience.
When a teacher lectures he is unconsciously giving expression to his desire to gain a feeling of superiority. That, I fancy, is the deepest wish of every one of us . . . . to impress others, to be superior. You see it in the smallest child. Give him an audience, and he will show off for hours. The boy at the top of the class gains his feeling of superiority by beating the others at arithmetic, while the dunce at the bottom of the class gains his in more original ways . . . punching the top boy at playtime, scoring goals at football, spitting farther than anyone else in school. I have seen a boy smash a window merely to draw attention to himself, and thus to gain a momentary feeling of superiority.
And we grown-ups are boys at heart. The boy is the father to the man. Take, for instance, a childish trait—exhibitionism. Most children at an early age love to run about naked, to show off their bodies. Later the conventions of society make the child repress this wish to exhibit himself. But we know that a repressed wish does not die; it merely buries itself in the unconscious. Many years later the exhibition impulse comes out in sublimated form as a desire to show off before the public . . . hence our politicians, actors, actresses, street-corner revivalists, and—er—dominies.
Now I hasten to add that there is nothing to be ashamed of in being a politician or a dominie. But if I lecture a class I am making the affair my show, and I am not the most important actor in the play; I am the scene-shifter; the real actors who should be declaiming their lines are sitting on hard benches staring at me and wondering what I am raving about. Each little person is thirsting to show his or her superiority, and he never gets the chance. Occasionally I may ask a sleepy-looking urchin what are the exports to Canada, and he may gain a slight feeling of superiority if he can tell the right answer. Yet I fancy that his unconscious self despises me and my question. Why in all the earth should I ask a question when I know the answer? The whole thing is an absurdity. The only questions asked in a school should be asked by the pupils.
The truth is that our schools do not give education; they give instruction. And it is so very easy to instruct, and so very easy to go on talking, and so very easy to whack Tommy when he does not listen. Our prosy lectures are wasted time. The children would be better employed playing marbles.
Of course if a child asks for information that is a different story. He is obviously interested . . . that is if he isn't trying to tempt you into a long explanation so that you will forget to hear his Latin verbs. Children soon understand our little vanities, and they soon learn to exploit them.
* * * * *
"I had a scene in school to-day," remarked Mac while we were at tea to-night.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Tom Murray was wrong in all his sums, and he wouldn't hold out his hand," and by Mac's grim smile I knew that the bold Tom had been conquered.
"What would you have done in a case like that?" asked Mac.
"I would never have a case like that, Mac. If he had all his sums wrong I should sit down and ask myself what was wrong with my teaching."
"I didn't mean that," he said; "what I meant was: what would you do if Tom defied you?"
"That wouldn't happen either, Mac. Tom couldn't defy me because you can only defy an authority, and I'm not an authority."
Mac shook his head.
"You won't convince me, old chap. A boy like Tom has to be dealt with with a firm hand."
I studied his face for a time.
"You know, Mac," I said, "you puzzle me. You're one of the kindest decentest chaps in the world, and yet you go leathering poor Tom Murray. Why do you do it?"
"You must keep discipline," he said.
I shook my head.
"Mac, if you knew yourself you wouldn't ever whack a child."
This seemed to tickle him.
"Good Lord!" he laughed, "I could write a book about myself! I'm one of the most introspective chaps ever born."
"And you understand yourself?"
"I have no illusions about myself at all, old chap. I know my limitations."
"Well, would you mind telling me why you are a bit of a nut?" I asked. "It isn't usual for a country dominie to wear a wing collar, a bow tie, and shot-silk socks."
"That's easy," he said quickly. "I think that teachers haven't the social standing they ought to have, and I dress well to uphold the dignity of the profession. Don't you believe me?" he demanded as I smiled.
"Quite! I believe you're quite honest in your belief, but it's wrong you know. There must be a much more personal reason than that."
"Rot!" he said. "Anyway, what is the reason?"
"I don't know, Mac; it would take months of research to discover it. I can't explain your psychology, but I'll tell you something about my own. These swagger corduroys I'm wearing . . . when I bought them someone asked me why I chose corduroy, and I at once answered: 'Economy! They'll last ten years!' But that wasn't the real reason, I bought them because I wanted to have folk stare at me. I've got an inferiority complex, that is an inner feeling of inferiority. To compensate for it I go and order a suit that will make people look at me; in short, that I may be the centre of all eyes, and thus gain a feeling of outward superiority."
This sent Mac off into a roar of laughter.
"You're daft, man!" he roared.
After a minute or two he said; "But what has all this to do with Tom Murray?"
"A lot," I said seriously. "You think you whack Tom because you must have discipline, but you whack him for a different reason. In your deep unconscious mind you are an infant. You want to show your self-assertion just as a kid does. You leather Tom because you've never outgrown your seven-year-old stage. On market-day, when Tom walks behind a drove and whacks the stots over the hips with a stick, he is doing exactly what you did this afternoon. You are both infants."
I have had to give up lecturing Mac, for he always takes me as a huge joke. He is a good fellow, but he has the wonderful gift of being blind to anything that might make him reconsider his values. Many people protect themselves in the same way—by laughing. I have more than once seen an alcoholic laugh heartily at his wrecked home and lost job.
What an amount of excellent material Mac and his kind are spoiling. Tom Murray is a fine lad, full of energy and initiative, but he has to sit passive at a desk doing work that does not interest him. His creative faculties have no outlet at all during the day, and naturally when free from authority at nights he expresses his creative interest anti-socially. He nearly wrecked the five-twenty the other night; he tied a huge iron bolt to the rails. Mac called it devilment, but it was merely curiosity. He had had innumerable pins and farthings flattened on the line, and he wanted to see what the engine really could do.
There is devilment in some of Tom's activities, for example in his deliberate destruction of Dauvit's apple tree. Mac and the law would give him the birch for that, but fortunately Mac and the law don't know who did it. Tom's destructiveness is only the direct result of Mac's authority. Suppression always has the same result; it turns a young god into a young devil. Had I Tom in a free school all his activities would be social and good.
And yet nearly every teacher believes in Mac's way. They suppress all the time, and what is worst of all they firmly believe they are doing the best thing.
"Look at Glasgow!" cried Mac the other night when I was talking about the crime of authority. "Look at Glasgow! What happened there during the war? Juvenile crime increased. And why? Because the fathers were in the army and the boys had no control over them; they broke loose. That proves that your theories are potty."
I believe that juvenile crime did increase during the war, and I believe that Mac's explanation of the phenomenon is correct. The absence of the father gave the boy liberty to be a hooligan. But no boy wants to be a hooligan unless he has a strong rebellion against authority. No boy is destructive if he is free to be constructive. I think that the difference between Mac and myself is this: he believes in original sin, while I believe in original virtue.
I wonder why it is so difficult to convert the authority people to the new way of thinking. There must be a deep reason why they want to cling to their authority. Authority gives much power, and love of power may be at the root of the desire to retain authority. Yet I fancy that it is deeper than that. In Mac, for instance, I think that his quickness in becoming angry at Tom's insubordination is due to the insubordination within himself. Like most of us Mac has a father complex, and he fears and hates any authority exercised over himself. So in squashing Tom's rebellion he is unconsciously squashing the rebellion in his own soul. Tom's rebellion could not affect me because I have got rid of my father complex, and his rebellion would touch nothing in me.
Authority will be long in dying, for too many people cling to it as a prop. Most people like to have their minds made up for them; it is so easy to obey orders, and so difficult to live your own life carrying your own burden and finding your own path. To live your own life . . . that is the ideal. To discover yourself bravely, to realise yourself fully, to follow truth even if the crowd stone you. That is living . . . but it is dangerous living, for that way lies crucifixion. No one in authority has ever been crucified; every martyr dies because he challenges authority. . . Christ, Thomas More, Jim Connolly.
* * * * *
Duncan and McTaggart the minister were in to-night, and we got on to the subject of wit and humour. Having a psycho-analysis complex I mentioned the theory that we laugh so as to give release to our repressions. The others shook their heads, and I decided to test my theory on them. I told them the story of the golfer who was driving off about a foot in front of the teeing marks. The club secretary happened to come along.
"Here, my man!" cried the indignant secretary, "you're disqualified!"
"What for?" demanded the player.
"You're driving off in front of the teeing mark."
The player looked at him pityingly.
"Away, you bletherin' idiot!" he said tensely, "I'm playing my third!"
"Now," I said to the others, "I'm going to tell you one by one what your golf is like. You, McTaggart, are a scratch man or a plus man. Is that so?"
"Plus one," he said in surprise. "How did you guess?"
"I didn't guess," I said with great superiority. "I found out by pure science. You didn't laugh at my joke; you merely smiled. That shows that bad golf doesn't touch any complex inside you. The man who takes three strokes to make one foot of ground means nothing to you because, as I say, there's nothing in yourself it touches."
"Wonderful!" cried the minister.
"It's quite simple," I crowed, "and now for Mac! You, Mac, are a rotten player; you take sixteen to a hole."
"Only ten," protested Mac hastily. "How the devil did you know? I've never played with you."
"Deduction, my boy. You roared at my joke, because it touched your bad golf complex. In fact you were really laughing at yourself and your own awful golf."
"What about me?" put in Duncan.
Now there was something in Duncan's eye that should have warned me of danger, but I was so proud of my success that I plunged confidently.
"Oh, you don't play golf," I said airily.
"Wrong!" he cried, "I do! And I'm worse than Mac too!"
I was astounded.
"Impossible!" I cried. "You never laughed at my story at all; that is it touched nothing whatsoever inside you."
Duncan shook his head.
"You're completely wrong this time."
"Well, why didn't you laugh?" I asked.
"I dunno. Possibly it is because I first heard that joke in my cradle."
* * * * *
Mac's infant mistress was off duty to-day owing to an attack of influenza, and he gladly accepted my offer to take her place.
Half-an-hour after my entry into the room Mac came in to see how I was getting on. Most of the infants were swarming over me, and Mac frowned. At his frown they all crept back silently to their seats.
"You seem to have the fatal gift of demoralising children," he growled.
It hadn't struck me before, but it is a fact; I do demoralise children. Not long ago I entered a Montessori school, and I spoke not one word. In five minutes the insets and long stairs were lying neglected in the middle of the floor, and the kiddies were scrambling over me. I felt very guilty for I feared that if Montessori herself were to walk in she would be indignant. I cannot explain why I affect kiddies in this way. It may be that intuitively they know that I do not inspire fear or respect; it may be that they unconsciously recognise the baby in me. Anyway, as Mac says, it is a fatal gift.
I think Miss Martin the infant mistress is a good teacher. Her infants do not fear her, and I am sure they love her. The only person they fear is Mac, poor dear old Mac, the most lovable soul in the world. He tries hard to show his love for the infants but somehow they know that behind his smile is the grim head-master who leathers Tom Murray. I sent wee Mary Smith into Mac's room to fetch some chalk to-day, and she wept and feared to enter. Occasionally, I believe, Mac will enter the room, seize a wee mite who is speaking instead of working, and give him or her a scud with the tawse. I wonder how a good soul like Mac can do it.
I have an unlovely story of a board school. An infant mistress lay dying, and in her delirium she cried in terror lest her head-master should come in again and strap her dear, wee infants. It is a true story, and it is the most damning indictment of board school education anyone could wish for. She was a good woman who loved children, and if fear of her head-master brought terror to her on her deathbed, what terrors are such men inspiring in poor wee infants? The men who beat children are exactly in the position of the men who stoned Jesus Christ; they know not what they do, nor do they know why they do it.
* * * * *
There was a stranger in Dauvit's shop when I entered to-day, a seedy-looking whiskered man with a threadbare coat and extremely dirty linen. Shabby genteel would be the Scots description of him.
Dauvit asked me a casual question about London, and the stranger became interested at once.
"Ah," he said, "you're from London, are ye? Man, yon's a great place, a wonderful place!"
I nodded assent.
"Man," he continued, "yon's the place for sichts! Could anything beat the procession at the Lord Mayor's show, eh?"
I meekly admitted that I had never seen the Lord Mayor's show, and he raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"But I'll tell ye what's just as good, mister, and that's the King and Queen opening Parliament. Man, yon's a sicht, isn't it?"
"I—er—I haven't had the opportunity of seeing it," I said.
He looked more surprised than ever.
"But, man, I'll tell ye what's just as good, and that's a big London fire. Man, to see the way the firemen go up the ladders like monkeys. Yon's a sicht for sair een!"
"I never had the luck to see a fire in London," I said hesitatingly. "When were you last in town?"
He did not seem to hear my question; he was evidently thinking of other London thrills.
"Man," he said ruminatingly, "often while I sit in the Tarbonny Kirk I just sit and think aboot Westminster Abbey. Man, yon's a kirk! I suppose you'll be there ilka Sunday?"
I found it difficult to tell him that I had never been in the Abbey, but I managed to get the words out, and then I avoided his reproachful eye. He knocked out his pipe, and I took the action to be a symbolic one meaning: You are an empty sort of person. He studied me critically for a time, then he brightened.
"Aye," he said cheerfully, "London's a graund place, but, for sichts give me New York."
I felt more humble than ever, for I had never travelled. He seemed to guess that by the look of me, for he never asked my opinion of New York.
"Man," he said warmly, "yon's a place! Yon skyscrapers! Phew!" and he whistled his wonder and admiration. "And the streets! Man, ye canna walk on the sidewalk at the busy times. A wonderfu' place, New York, but, as for me, give me the West, California and Frisco."
"You have travelled much, sir," I said reverently. The "sir" seemed to come naturally; my inferiority complex was touched on the raw.
Again he ignored me.
"To see yon cowboys! Man, yon's what I call riding! And the Indians!"
He sighed; it was obvious that he was living over again his life in the western wilds. A wistful look crept into his eyes, and I began to construct his sad story. He loved a maid, but the bruiser of the camp loved her also . . . hence the broken-down clothes, the dirty collar. But anon he cheered up again.
"Yes," he said, "I love the West, but for colour and climate give me Japan."
I was so confused now that I had to blow out my pipe vigorously. I glanced at Dauvit, but he was sharpening his knife on the emery hone, and did not appear to be interested. I felt a vague anger against Dauvit; why wasn't he helping me in my trial?
"Japan," continued the irrepressible stranger, "is one of the finest countries in the world, but, for climate give me Siberia."
I hastily thought to myself that if I were Lenin I . . . but I did not follow out my daydream, for the stranger brought me back to earth by inquiring what was my honest and unbiassed opinion of the Peruvians. I very cleverly pretended that I had swallowed some nicotine, and, after a polite pause for my answer, he went off to the subject of pearl fishing at Thursday Island. Then he looked at Dauvit's clock.
"Jerusalem!" he gasped, "the pub shuts at twa o'clock!" and he rushed out of the shop. I heaved a great sigh of relief, and then I heaved a greater sigh of relief.
I seized Dauvit by the arm.
"Dauvit," I gasped, "who—who is your cosmopolitan friend?"
"My what kind o' a friend?"
"Your world-travelled friend, Dauvit. Tell me who he is."
Dauvit laughed softly.
"That," he said, "was Joe Mill. He bides wi' his old mother in that cottage at the foot o' the brae. To the best o' my knowledge he hasna been further than Perth in his life."
"But!" I cried in amazement, "he has been everywhere!"
"He hasna," said Dauvit shortly, "but he works the cinema lantern at the Farfar picter hoose."
* * * * *
I had a long talk to-night with Macdonald about self-government in schools, and I told him of my plans for running a self-governing school in Highgate. At the end of the discussion I had the biggest surprise of my life. Mac smoked for a long time in silence, then he turned to me suddenly.
"Look here, old chap, I'll have a shot at introducing self-government to-morrow," he said with enthusiasm.
I grasped his hand.
"Excellent! Mac, you're a wonder! You're a brave man!"
"I don't feel brave," he said nervously. "It's going to be a very difficult job."
"It is," I said grimly, "and the most difficult part is for you to keep out of it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that you have been an authority for so long that you'll find yourself issuing orders unthinkingly. More than that the kiddies are so much dependent on you that they will wait to see how you vote."
"What's the best way to begin it?" he asked.
"Simply walk in to-morrow and say: 'Look here, you are going to govern yourselves. I have no power; I won't order anyone to do anything; I won't punish anyone. Now, do what you like'."
Mac looked frightened.
"But, good Lord, man, they'll—they'll wreck the school!"
"Funk!" I laughed.
His eyes were full of excitement.
"It'll be an awful job to keep my hands off them," he said half to himself.
"Funk!" I said again.
"It's all very well, but . . . well, I'm rather strict you know."
"So much the better! All the better a row!"
"You Bolshevist!" he laughed. He was like a boy divided between two desires—to steal the apples and to escape the policeman. I half feared that his courage would desert him.
"Here," he said, "why not come over to school?"
The temptation was great and I wavered.
"No," I said at last, "I can't do it. My presence would distract the children, and . . . they won't smash all the windows in front of a stranger. You want my support, you dodger!"
But I would give ten pounds to be in Mac's schoolroom to-morrow morning.
* * * * *
I went out this morning and sat on the school wall and smoked my pipe. I strained my ears for the first murmur of the approaching storm. Not a sound came from the schoolroom.
"Mac has funked it after all," I groaned, and went in to help Mrs. Macdonald to pare the potatoes.
When Mac came over at dinner-time his face wore a thoughtful look.
"You coward!" I cried.
"Coward!" he laughed. "Why, man, the scheme is in full swing!"
Then I asked him to tell me all about it.
"Your knowledge of children is all bunkum," he began. "You said there would be a row when I announced that I gave up authority."
"And wasn't there?"
"Not a vestige of one. The kids stared at me with open mouth, and . . ."
"Oh, they simply got out their books and began their reading lesson. As quiet as mice too."
"And do you mean to tell me that it made no difference?" I asked.
"None whatever. I tell you they just went on with the timetable as usual."
"But didn't they talk to each other more?"
"There wasn't a whisper."
I considered for a minute.
"What exactly did you say to them when you announced that they were to have self-government?"
"I just said what you told me last night."
"Did you add anything?"
He avoided my eye.
"Of course I said that I trusted them to carry on the school as usual," he admitted reluctantly.
"Thereby showing them that you didn't trust them at all," I explained. "Mac, you must have been a thundering strict disciplinarian. The kiddies are dead afraid of you. I fear that you'll never manage to have self-government. This fear of you must be broken, and you've got to break it."
"But how?" he asked helplessly.
"By coming down off your pedestal. You must become one of the gang. One dramatic exhibition will do it."
"What do you mean?"
"Smash a window; chuck books about the room . . . anything to break this idea that you are an exalted being whose eye is like God's always ready to see evil."
Mac looked annoyed and injured.
"What good will my fooling do?" he asked.
"But," I protested seriously, "it's essential. You simply must break your authority if you are to have a free school. There can be no real self-expression if you are always standing by to stamp out slacking and noise."
"But," he protested, "didn't I tell 'em I was giving up my authority?"
"Yes, but they don't believe you. You've got the eye of an authority."
He was by this time getting rather indignant.
"I can't go the length you do," he said sourly. "I'm not an anarchist."
"In that case I'd advise you to chuck the experiment, Mac," I said with an indifferent shrug of my shoulders. The shrug nettled Mac; he is one of the bull-dog breed, and I saw his lips set.
"I've begun it, and I won't chuck it," he said firmly. "And I hope to prove that your methods are all wrong. Let it come gradually; that's what I say."
When he came over at four o'clock his face glowed with excitement. He slapped me on the back with his heavy hand.
"Man," he cried, "it's going fine! We had our first trial this afternoon."
"Go on," I said.
"Oh, it was a first class start. Jim Inglis threw his pencil at Peter Mackie."
"I hope he didn't miss," I said flippantly.
Mac ignored my levity.
"And then I didn't know what to do. My first impulse was to haul him out and strap him, but of course I didn't. I just said to the class: 'You saw what Jim Inglis did? You have to decide what is to be done about it'."
"And they answered: 'Please, sir, give him the tawse'?" I said.
"That's exactly what they did say, but I told them that they were governing themselves, and suggested that they elect a chairman and decide by vote."
"Bad tactics," I commented. "You should have left them to settle their own procedure. What happened then?"
"They appointed Mary Wilson as chairman, and then John Smith got up and proposed that the prisoner get six scuds with the tawse from me. The motion was carried unanimously."
"You refused of course?" I said.
"Man, I couldn't refuse. I was alarmed, because six scuds are far too many for a little offence like chucking a pencil. I made them as light as possible."
"What would you have done?" he asked.
"Taken the prisoner's side," I said promptly, "I should have chucked every pencil in the room at the judge and jury. Then I should have pointed out that I refused to do the dirty work of the community."
"But where does the self-government come in there?" he protested. "Chucking things at the jury is anarchy, pure anarchy."
"I know," I said simply. "But then anarchy is necessary in your school. You don't mean to say that the children thought that throwing a pencil was a great crime? What happened was that they projected themselves on to you; unconsciously they said: 'The Mester thinks this a crime and he would punish it severely.' They were trying to please you. I say that anarchy is necessary if these children are to get free from their dependence on you and their fear of you. So long as you refuse to alter your old values you can't expect the kids to alter their old values. Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of—er—self-government."
I know that Mac's experiment will fail, and for this reason; he wants his children to run the school themselves, but to run it according to his ideas of government.
* * * * *
I think of an incident that happened when I was teaching in a school in London. I had a drawing lesson, and the children made so much noise that the teacher in the adjoining room came in and protested that she couldn't make her voice heard. The noise in my room seemed to increase . . . and the lady came in again. The noise increased.
Next day I went to my class.
"You made such a noise yesterday that the teacher next door had to stop teaching. She rightly complained. Now I want to ask you what you are going to do about it."
"You should keep us in order," said Findlay, a boy of eleven.
"I refuse," I said; "it isn't my job."
This raised a lively discussion; the majority seemed to agree with Findlay.
"Anyway," I said doggedly, "I refuse to be your policeman," and I sat down.
There was much talking, and then Joy got up.
"I think we ought to settle it by a meeting, and I propose Diana as chairman."
The idea was hailed with delight, and Diana was elected chairman and she took my desk seat and I went and sat down in her place.
Joy jumped up again.
"I propose that Mr. Neill be put out of the room."
The motion was carried.
"Righto!" I said, as I moved to the door, "I'll go up to the staff-room and have a smoke. Send for me if you want me."
I smoked a cigarette in the staff-room, and as I threw the stump into the grate Nancy came in.
"You can come down now."
I went down.
"Well," I said cheerily, "have you decided anything?"
"Yes," said the chairman, "we have decided that——"
Joy was on her feet at once.
"I propose that we don't tell Mr. Neill what we have decided. We can ask him at the end of the week if he notices any difference in our behaviour."
Others objected, and the matter was put to the vote. The voting was a draw, and Diana gave the casting vote in favour of my being told. Then she said that the meeting had agreed that if anyone made a row in class, he or she was to be sent to Coventry for a whole day.
"What will happen if I speak to the one that has been sent to Coventry?" asked Wolodia.
"We'll send you to Coventry too," said Diana, and the meeting murmured agreement.
No one was ever sent to Coventry, but I had no further complaints against the class. One interesting feature in the affair was this: Violet, a lively girl full of fun, one day got up and, as a joke, proposed that Mr. Neill be sent to Coventry. The others, usually willing to laugh with Violet, protested.
"That's just silly, Violet," they said. "If you propose silly things like that we'll send you to Coventry."
Then someone got up and proposed that Violet be sent to Coventry for being silly, and Diana at once took the chair. I got up and moved the negative, pointing out that I made no charge against her, and she was acquitted by a majority of one. I mention this to show that children of eleven and twelve can take their responsibilities seriously.
When I told the story to Macdonald he said: "But why didn't you join in their noise?"
"For two reasons, Mac," I said. "Firstly these children were not under the suppression of government schools; secondly it wasn't my school."
The servant girl at the Manse has had an illegitimate child, and Meg Caddam, the out-worker at East Mains is cutting her dead. Thus the gossip of Mrs. Macdonald. Meg Caddam is the unmarried mother of three.
I have noticed again and again that the most severe critic of the unmarried mother is the unmarried mother, and I have many a time wondered at the fact. Now I know the explanation; it is the familiar Projection of a Reproach. Meg feels guilty because of her three children, but her guilt is repressed, driven down into the unconscious.
She dare not allow her conscious mind to face the truth, for then the truth would lower her self-respect; it would be unpleasant, out of harmony with her ego-ideal. But it is easy for her to project this inner reproach on to someone else, hence her blaming of the Manse lassie. Meg Caddam is really condemning herself, but she does not know it.
I used to despise the Meg Caddams as hypocrites, but, poor souls, they are not hypocrites. Their condemnation of their fallen sisters is genuine. It is wonderful how we all manage to divide our minds into compartments. Sandy Marshall of Brigs Farm is a most religious man, yet the other day he was fined for watering his milk. It is unjust to say that his religion is hypocritical. What happens is that his religion is shut up in one compartment of his mind, and his dishonesty is shut up in another compartment . . . and there is no direct communication between the compartments.
The mind is like one of the older railway carriages; education's task is to convert the old carriage into a new corridor carriage with communication between the compartments. Meg Caddam's own transgression against current morality is locked up in one compartment; her condemnation of the Manse girl is in another compartment. There is an unconscious communication, but there is no conscious communication. I don't know what Meg would say if a cruel friend pointed out to her that she also was a fallen woman.
I think that the gossip of this village mostly consists of projected reproaches. Liz Ramsay, an old maid and the super-gossip of Tarbonny, came into the schoolhouse this morning.
"Do ye ken this," she said to Mrs. Macdonald, "it's my opeenion that Mrs. Broon died o' neglect. I went to the door the day afore she died to speer hoo she was, and her daughter cam to the door, and do ye ken this? That lassie was smiling . . . smilin' . . . and her auld mother upstairs at death's door. Eh, Mrs. Macdonald, she's a heartless woman that Mary Broon. She killed her mother by neglect, that's what she did."
After she had gone I said to Mrs. Macdonald: "Who nursed Liz's mother when she died last June?"
"Nobody," said Mrs. Macdonald grimly. "Liz had too much gossip to retail in the village, and I'm told that Liz was seldom in the house."
I think I am guessing fairly rightly when I say that Liz feels guilty of neglecting her own mother, and like Meg Caddam she projects the reproach on to someone else.
* * * * * *
Last Friday night I gave a lecture to the literary Society in Tarby, our nearest town. I chose the subject of forgetting, and I told the audience of Freud and his great work in connection with the unconscious. To-day's Tarby Herald in reporting the lecture prints phonetically the spelling "Froid," but the Tarby Observer goes one better when it says: "Mr. Neill is an exponent of the new science of Cycloanalysis."
Which reminds me of a painful episode that took place when I was eighteen. I was much enamoured of a young university student, and I always strove to gain her favour by being interested in the things she liked. One day she informed me that she intended to take the Psychology class at St. Andrews the following session. I had never heard the word before, and I made a bold guess that it had something to do with cycles. In consequence we talked at cross purposes for a while.
"I'd love a subject like that," I said warmly.
"Most of it will be experimental psychology," she said.
My enthusiasm increased. I thought of the many experiments I had tried with my old cushion-tyred cycle.
"Excellent!" I cried. "A sort of training in inventing. Cranks, eh?" At that time my one ambition in life was to invent a folding crank that would give double power on hills.
The lady looked at me sharply.
"Why cranks?" she demanded. "I don't see it. Psychology has nothing to do with crystal-gazing you know."
I was gravelled.
"But what's the idea?" I asked. "Improvement of design?"
This made her think hard.
"H'm, yes, I think I know what you mean," she said slowly. "But remember that before you can improve the psyche you must know the psyche."
I hastened to agree.
"Certainly, but all the same there is much room for improvement. You don't want to come off at every hill, do you?"
This seemed to make her more thoughtful still.
"No," she said, "but don't you think that the mind makes the hill?"
This staggered me.
"Eh?" I gasped. "Mean to say that I broke my chain on Logie Brae yesterday because——"
"I'm afraid it is too difficult for me," she said apologetically. "I get lost in metaphors."
Then I asked her something about ball bearings, and she threw me a grateful smile . . . for changing the subject—as she thought.
The most amusing joke is the joke about the innocent or ignorant. Everyone is tickled at the Hamlet joke I referred to in my Log.
The school inspector was dining with the local squire.
"Funny thing happened in the village school to-day," he said. "I was a little bit ratty, and I fired a question at a sleepy-looking boy at the bottom of the class.
"Here, boy, who wrote Hamlet?"
The little chap got very flustered.
"P—please, sir, it wasna me!"
The squire laughed boisterously.
"And I suppose the little devil had done if after all!" he cried.
We laugh at that story because we have all made mistakes owing to ignorance, and blushed for them a hundred times later. When we laugh at the squire, we are really laughing at ourselves; we are getting rid of our pent-up self-shame. That's why a good laugh is a medicine; it allows us to get rid of psychic poison, just as a good sweat rids us of somatic poison. Charlie Chaplin has possibly cured more people than all the psycho-analysts in the world.
* * * * *
Public speaking is a most difficult thing. It is difficult enough when you know your subject, and it is almost impossible if you don't. At a dinner someone asks you to get up and propose the health of the ladies. I tried proposing that toast once; luckily most of the diners were under the table by that time. What can one say about the ladies?
When you have a definite subject to talk about, and when you know everything about it, even then public speaking is difficult. You stand up before a sea of faces. You see no one; you dare not catch anyone's eye. The best plan is to fix your eye on the blurred face of the man at the back of the hall. You feel that the audience is vaguely hostile.
At one time I used to go straight into my subject . . . "Ladies and gentlemen, the subject of evolution has occupied the minds of—" Then the audience began to rustle, and the women turned to look at the hats behind them.
Nowadays I am more wary. I stand up and gaze over the sea of faces for a full minute. There is absolute silence. I put my hands into my trouser pockets and gaze at the ceiling, as if I were considering whether I should go on or give it up and go home. Even the boys at the back of the hall begin to look towards the platform.
Then I look down and find that my tie is hanging out of my waistcoat, and I adjust it. A girl of ten giggles.
"What can you expect for fivepence half-penny?" I ask, and the audience gasps.
"Why doesn't someone invent a long tie that won't come out at the ends?" I ask wearily, and there is a laugh. I go on from ties to collars, and there is another laugh. After that I can speak on education for two hours, and everyone in the hall will listen with great attention.
The first thing in public speaking is to get on good terms with your audience, and I claim that the best way to do this is to show them the human side of yourself. Some of your hearers are agin you; they have come out to criticise you. You disarm them at once by treating yourself as a joke. Of course you must suit your tactics to your audience. The tie remark will put me on good terms with a rural audience, but it would fail in a lecture to teachers in the Albert Hall.
An important thing to remember is that crowd humour is quite different from individual humour. A crowd will roar with delight if the lecturer accidentally knocks over the drinking glass on the table, but no individual ever laughs when a similar accident happens in a private room. Read the reports of speeches in the House of Commons. You will read that Lloyd George, in a speech, says: "And now let us turn to Ireland (loud laughter)." But in cold print it isn't a very good joke.
Quite a good way of commencing a lecture is to tell a short story . . . about the chairman if possible. But you must be careful. Keep off the topic of the chairman's marital affairs; he may have lodged a divorce petition the week before.
On second thoughts I think it better not to mention the chairman at all. Last winter the local mayor was presiding at a lecture I gave in an English town. After I had delivered the lecture, he got up.
"I came to this meeting feeling dead tired," he said, "but after Mr. Neill's lecture I feel as fresh as a daisy."
I rose in alarm.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I said hastily, "the mayor has been sitting behind me. Do tell me: has he been asleep?"
In the ante-room afterwards he assured me solemnly that he hadn't been asleep.
On Friday night I began thus: "Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to talk about Forgetting." Then I put my hand in my inside coat pocket; then I tried another pocket, and got very excited while I rummaged every pocket I had.
"I must apologise," I said, "but I have forgotten my notes."
The audience laughed, and we became the best of friends.
* * * * *
Forgetting is very often intentional. We forget what we do not want to remember. Brown writes to me saying that he is taking the wife and kids to the seaside, and would I please pay him the fiver I owe him? I at once sit down and write: "My dear Brown, I enclose a cheque for five quid. Many thanks for the loan. Hope you all have a good time at the sea."
Three days later Brown replies.
"Thanks for your letter, old man, but you forgot to enclose the cheque."
Why did I forget the cheque? Because I did not want to pay up. Consciously I did want to pay, for I wrote out the cheque all right, but my unconscious did not want to pay, and it was my unconscious that made me slip the cheque under the blotter.
Last summer I was invited to spend the week-end with some people at Stanmore. I did not want to go; a previous week-end with them had been most boring. However, I reluctantly consented to go out on the Saturday morning. When Saturday morning came I was not very much surprised to find that I had forgotten to put out my boots to be cleaned the night before.
"It looks as if I weren't keen on this trip," I said to myself.
I went down to Baker Street and got into the train. We stopped at many stations, and after an hour's journey I began to wonder what was wrong. I asked another man in the compartment when we were due at Stanmore, and he looked surprised.
"Why," he said, "you're on the wrong line; you ought to have changed at Harrow."
I got out at the next station and found that I had an hour to wait for the return train to Harrow. As I sat on the platform I took from my pocket my host's letter.
"Remember," it ran, "to change at Harrow," and the words were underlined.
I arrived four hours late . . . and spent a pleasant week-end.
One night I was dining out in London, and I told my host the new theory of forgetting.
"That's all bunkum," he said. "Why, there is a flower growing at the front door there, and I can never remember the name of it. I am fond of flowers and never have any difficulty in remembering their names as a rule."
"What flower is it?" I asked.
He tried to recall it, and had to give it up.
"It's the joke of the family," said his wife. "He can never remember the name Begonia."
"Begonia!" cried my host, "that's the name! But surely you don't mean to tell me that I want to forget it? Why should I?"
"It may be associated with something unpleasant in your life," I said.
"Nonsense!" he laughed. "The name conveys nothing to me."
We began to talk about other things. Ten minutes later my host suddenly exclaimed:
"I've got it!"
"What?" I asked.
"That Begonia business. When I began business as a chartered accountant over twenty years ago, the first books I had to audit were the books of a company calling itself The Begonia Furnishing Company. I glanced through the books and soon concluded that they were swindlers. I worried over that case for a week; you see it was my first case, and I felt a little superstitious about it. However, at the end of a week I sent the books back saying that I couldn't see my way to undertake the auditing. I've never given them a thought since."
I explained the mechanisms to him. The whole idea of this Begonia Company was so painful to him that he repressed it, that is, drove it down into the unconscious. Twenty years later he was unconsciously afraid to recall the name of the flower, because the name might have brought back the painful memories of the questionable books.
On Friday night during question time one man got up.
"Why is it, then," he asked, "that I cannot forget the painful time when my wife died?"
I explained that a big thing like that cannot be forgotten, but pointed out that in a case like that the tendency is to forget little things in connection with the big pain. I told him of a case I had myself known. A lady of my acquaintance lived for a few years in Glasgow; then she moved to Edinburgh, where she lived for almost thirty years. Now she lives in London. When she talks of her old home in Edinburgh she always says: "When we were in Glasgow." Invariably she makes this mistake. The reason is almost certainly this: just before she left Edinburgh she lost the one she loved most in life. She says: "When we were in Glasgow" because the word Edinburgh would at once bring back the painful memories connected with her loved one's death.
When I was teaching in Hampstead one of my pupils, a boy of sixteen, came to me one day.
"That's all rot, what you say about wanting to forget things," he said. "I went and left my walking-stick in a bus yesterday."
"Were you tired of it?" I asked.
"Tired of it?" he said indignantly. "Why, it was a beauty, a silver-topped cane, got it from mother on my birthday. That proves your theory is all wrong."
"Tell me about yesterday," I said.
"Well, I was going to a match at lord's, and it looked rather dull, so mother told me I'd better take a gamp. I said it wasn't going to rain, and took my cane, but I had just got on the top of a bus when down came the rain in bucketfuls and I tell you I was wet to the skin."
"So you did mean to leave your cane behind?" I asked, with a smile.
"But I tell you I didn't!"
"You did, all the same. You kicked yourself because you hadn't taken your mother's advice and brought a gamp. You deliberately left your cane behind you because it had proved useless."
I must add that I failed to convince him.
Connected with forgetting are what Freud calls symptomatic acts. I leave my stick or gloves behind when I am calling at a house: I conclude that I want to go back there. I go to dinner at the Thomsons', and at their front door I absent-mindedly take out my latch-key. This may mean that I feel at home there; on the other hand, it may mean that I wish I were at home. It is dangerous to dogmatise about the unconscious.
I was sitting one night with Wilson, an old college friend of mine. We talked of old times, and I remarked that he had been very lucky in his lodgings during his college course.
"Yes," he said, "I was in the same digs all the five years. She was a ripping landlady was Mrs.—Mrs.—Good Lord! I've forgotten her name!"
He tried to recall the name, but had to give it up. Two hours later, as he rose to go, he exclaimed: "I remember the name now! Mrs. Watson!"
"What are your associations to the name Watson?" I asked.
"Associations? What do you mean?"
"What's the first thing that comes into your head in connection with the name?" I asked.
He made an effort to concentrate his mind, then suddenly he laughed shortly.
"Good Lord!" he cried, "that's my wife's name!"
I felt that I could not very well ask him anything further, but I suspected that Wilson and his wife were not getting on well together.
* * * * *
Macdonald's self-government scheme has fizzled out. Yesterday his scholars besought him to return to the old way of authority.
"They were fed up with looking after themselves," explained Mac to me. "They were always trying each other for misdemeanours, and they got sick of it."
I tried to explain to Mac why his attempt had failed. Self-government always fails unless it is complete self-government. Mac was the director and guide; it was he who decided the time-table; it was he who rang the bell and decided the length of the intervals. The children had nothing to do but to keep themselves in order, hence they came to spy on each other. All their energies were directed to penal measures. Their meeting degenerated into a police court. That was inevitable; Mac, by laying down all the laws, prevented their using their creative energy on things and ideas. Naturally they put all the energy they had into the only thing open to them—the trial of offenders. In short, they were employing energy in destruction when they ought to have been employing it in construction. Mac seems indifferent now. "The thing is unworkable," he says.
* * * * *
Duncan came over to-night. I decided to let him do most of the talking, and he did it well. He has been doing a lot of Regional Geography, and I learned much from his conversation. As the evening wore on he became very affable, and he treated me with the greatest kindness. When Mac was seeing him out Duncan remarked to him: "That chap Neill isn't such a bad fellow after all." Now that I have shown Duncan that I am his inferior in Geography he will listen to me with less irritation.
After supper I went over to see Dauvit. His shop was crowded. Conversation was going slowly, and Dauvit seemed to welcome my entrance.
"Man, Dominie," he said, "I am very glad to see ye, cos the smith here has been tellin' his usual lees aboot the ten pund troot that he nearly landed in the Kernet."
"I doot ye dreamt it, smith," said the foreman from Hillend. "I ken for mysell that the biggest troot I ever catched were in my dreams."
"Dreams is just a curran blethers," said the smith in scorn.
Dauvit looked at him thoughtfully.
"That's a very ignorant remark, smith," he said gravely. "There's naebody kens what a dream is. Some o' thae spiritualist lads say that when ye are asleep yer spirit goes to the next plane, and that maks yer dreams."
The smith laughed loudly.
"Oh, Dauvit! Why, man, I dreamed last nicht that I was sittin' we a great muckle pint o' beer in my hand. Do ye mean to tell me that there is beer in heaven?"
There was a laugh at Dauvit's expense, but the laugh turned against the smith when Dauvit remarked dryly: "I didna mention heaven; I said the next plane, and onybody that kens you, smith, kens that the plane you're gaein' to is the doon plane."
"Naturally, a muckle pint o' beer will be the exact thing ye need doon there," he added.
"It's my opeenion," said old John Peters, "that dreams is just like a motor car withoot the driver. Or like a schule withoot the mester; the bairns just run aboot whaur they like, nae control as ye micht say. Weel, that's jest what happens in dreams; the mester is sleepin' and the bairns do all sorts o' mad things."
"Aye, man, John," said Dauvit, who seemed to be struck with the idea, "there's maybe something in that. Just as bairns when they get free do a' the things they're no meant to do, we do the same things in oor dreams. Goad, but I've done some awfu' things in my dreams!"
Here Jake Tosh the roadman began to cough, and Jake's cough always means that he is about to say something.
"You're just a lot o' haverin' craturs," he said with conviction. "If ye had ony sense ye wud ken that the dream is just cheese and tripe for supper."
Dauvit's eyes twinkled.
"And does the cheese wander frae yer stammick up to yer heid, Jake?"
"I wudna go so far as that," said Jake seriously, "but what I say is that a' the different parts o' the body work thegether. If the stammick has to work a' nicht to digest the cheese, the heid has to keep workin' at the same rate, and that's why ye dream."
"Aye, man, Jake," said Dauvit, "it's a bonny theory, but wud ye jest tell me exactly what work yer toes and fingers and hair are doin' a' nicht to keep upsides wi' yer stammick?"
Jake dismissed the question with an airy wave of his hand.
"Onybody kens that," he said; "they grow. Yer hair and yer nails grow at nichts, and that's why ye need a shave in the mornin'!"
"What if you don't dream at all, Jake?" I asked.
"Ye're needin' some grub," said Jake shortly.
On thinking it over I feel that Jake's theory throws some light on Jung's theory of the libido.
This morning I had a letter from a friend in London asking when I am going to set up my "Crank School" in London. I began to think about the word Crank. What is a Crank? Usually the name is applied to people who wear long hair, eat vegetarian diet, wear sandals . . . or something in that line. A Crank therefore is someone who differs from the crowd, and I am led to conclude that the Crank not only differs from the crowd but is usually ahead of the crowd.
According to Sir Martin Conway the crowd has no head; it can only feel. Hence it comes that the main feature of a crowd is its emotion. When we study the street crowd, the mob, this fact is evident; but can we say the same of other crowds . . . the Public School crowd, the Church, the Miners, the Doctors? I think so. The anger that Alec Waugh's book, The Loom of Youth, aroused in the public schools was not a thought-out anger; it came from the public school emotion. So with vivisection; the doctors' rage at the anti-vivisectionists is not an intellectual rage; it is simply a professional emotion. Just before I left London I happened one night to be in a company of men who were arguing about Re-incarnation. I had no special views on the subject, but I soon found myself supporting the crowd that was sceptical about Re-incarnation. The reason was that the leader of the anti-reincarnation crowd happened to be a man called Neill. It is highly probable that if two rag-and-bone men got into a scrap in a public house they would support each other simply out of a professional crowd emotion.
That the crowd has no head is evident when we read the popular papers or see the popular films. The most successful papers are those that touch the passions of the mob. I proved this one week last spring. Judges were beginning to introduce the "cat" for criminals, as a means to stem the crime wave. I sat down and wrote an article on the subject, pointing out that this was a going back to the days of barbarism when lunatics were whipped behind the cart's tail. I made a strong plea for the psychological treatment of the criminal, basing my plea on the fact that crime is the result of unconscious workings of the mind, and stating that instead of sending a poor man to penal servitude we ought to analyse his mind and cure him of his anti-social tendencies.
I thought it a jolly good article, and when a prominent Sunday paper returned the manuscript to me I was surprised. My surprise left me on the following Sunday when the same paper blared forth an article by Horatio Bottomley. His title was: "Wanted—the Cat!"
My article was more thoughtful, more humane, more scientific. Why, then, was it suppressed? The answer is simple: it did not fit in with the passions of the crowd. It becomes clear why our best public men—editors, cabinet ministers, publicists are not great thinkers. They must keep in touch with the crowd; they must express the emotions of the crowd.
The attitude of the crowd to the anti-crowd person, the Crank, is never one of contemptuous indifference. It is always distinctly hostile. If I travel by tube from Hampstead to Piccadilly without a hat the other travellers stare at me with mild hostility. Why? Conway, in The Crowd in Peace and War, an excellent book, says that this hostility comes from fear. A crowd is always afraid of another crowd, because the only force that can destroy a crowd is a rival crowd. Every individual who differs from the herd is suspect because he is perhaps the nucleus of a rival crowd. That is why the world always crucifies its Christs.
The Crank School, then, is a school where anti-crowd people send their children. It is the school par excellence of the Intelligentsia. The tendency of every Crank School is to exaggerate the difference between the crank and the crowd; hence its adoption of an ideal and its concomitant crazes. I cannot for the life of me see why ideals are associated with vegetarianism, long hair, Grecian dress, and sandals, just as I cannot see why art should attach itself to huge bow-ties, long hair, and foot-long cigarette holders.
The Crank School holds up an ideal. It plasters its walls with busts of Walt Whitman and Blake; it hangs bad reproductions of Botticelli round the walls; it sings songs to Freedom; it rhapsodises about Beethoven and Bach. The children of the Crank Schools are, I rejoice to say, not cranks. They leave the boredom of Bach and seek the jazz record on the gramophone; they ignore the pictures of Whitman and Blake and study The Picture Show or Funny Bits. Many of them think more highly of Charlie Chaplin than of William Shakespeare.
I say again that I rejoice in this; it serves the Crank School people jolly well right. I cannot see by what right educators force what they consider good taste down the children's throats. That is a return to the old way of authority, of treating the child's mind as a blank slate. If the Crank Schools are to improve, they must drop their high moral purpose tone and come down to earth. They must realise that Charlie Chaplin and John Bull have their place in education just as Shakespeare and Beethoven have their place. We do not want to turn out cranks who will form a new superior crowd; we want to turn out men and women who will readily join the conventional crowd and help it to reach better ideals.
This question of good taste is a sore one with me. I think it fatal to impose good taste on any child; the child must form his own taste. I know that it is possible to cultivate good taste and to become a very superior cultivated person, but I know that the human, erring, vulgar, music-hall, Charlie Chaplin part of such a person's make-up is not annihilated; it is merely repressed into the unconscious.
I have a theory that each of us has a definite amount of human nature, some of it high, some of it low, or, to phrase it differently, some of it animal, some of it spiritual. We can repress one part, and then we become either a saint or a sinner; the better way is to be both saint and sinner, to look life straight in the face, condemning no one, judging no one.
* * * * *
Macdonald was re-reading A Dominie Dismissed to-night, and he looked up and said: "Look here, you've got an awful lot of swear-words in this book!"
"That," I said, "has a cause, Mac. They aren't really swear-words; the world has grown out of being shocked at a 'damn,' but I am willing to admit that there are more damns and hells than is usual. They are symptomatic; they date back to my early days when swearing was a crime punishable with the strap. They are simply symbols of my freedom. Most bad language is from a like cause. When you foozle on the first tee there is no earthy reason why you should say 'Hell' rather than 'Onions'! But if onions had been taboo when you were a child you would find yourself using the word as a swear. The curse word is the link that joins your foozle with the nursery; whenever you curse you regress, that is, you go back to the infantile."
"But," said Mac, "you don't mean to say that if swearing were permitted to children that they wouldn't curse when they were grown up?"
"I don't think they would," I said. "Nor would there be any unprintable stories if we had a frank sex education. It's a sad fact, Mac, but nine-tenths of humour is due to early suppression and repression."
"Seems to me," said Mac with a laugh, "that if everybody were psycho-analysed, the world would be a pretty dull place."
* * * * *
A few days ago I found a pot of light paint in Mac's workshop, and, impelled by heaven only knows what unconscious process, I painted my bicycle blue. This morning, the paint being dry, I rode forth into an unsympathetic world. Women came to their doors to stare at my machine, and as they stared they broke into laughter. When I reached the village of Cordyke the school was coming out, and I was greeted with a howl of derision. I thought it a good instance of crowd psychology; I was different from the crowd, and I evoked laughter and derision.
After cycling a few miles, I came to an old man breaking stones at the bottom of a hill. On my approaching he threw down his hammer and turned to stare at my cycle. I dismounted.
"Almichty me!" he said with surprise. "That's a michty colour!"
"It's unusual," I said, as I lit a cigarette.
He fumbled for his clay pipe.
"I've seen black anes, and I wance saw a silver-plated ane, but I never heard tell o' a blue bike afore," he said. "Did you pent it?"
I acknowledged that it was my very own handiwork.
"But," he said in puzzled tones, "what was yer idea?" and he stared at it again. "A michty colour that!"
I threw my bike down on the grass and sat down on the cairn.
"Between you and me," I said mysteriously, "I had to paint it blue."
He raised his eyebrows.
"Government orders," I said carelessly, and began to throw stones at a tree trunk at the other side of the road.
"Government orders?" He looked very much surprised.
"Yes," I said airily. "You see, it's like this. The Coalition Government isn't very firmly placed these days, and, well, I'm an agent for it. Of course, you know that it is really a Tory government, and my bike, as it were, invites the electorate to vote True Blue."
"Yea, man! I thocht that you was maybe ane o' thae temperance lads frae Americky."
"Ah!" I said solemnly, "that reminds me; Pussyfoot tried to induce me to make my tour a sort of joint thing. He suggested that I might carry on my Tory work, and at the same time take part in the blue ribbon campaign. Of course I refused."
"Of coorse," he nodded.
"Officially I am doing Coalition work," I continued conversationally, "but I have motives of my own."
"You don't say!"
"Oh, yes. I am a great admirer of Lord Fisher and the Blue Water school, sometimes spoken of as the Blue Funk school. Again, I find that the Great War has left many people in the blues, and by means of homeopathy I cure 'em; I mean to say that they come to their doors and laugh at my blue bike. My blue dispels their blues."
The old man did not seem to follow this.
"Of course," I went on, "the Bluebells of Scotland have something to do with my selection of the colour."
"A verra nice sang," he commented.
"An excellent song! Then there is the well-known phrase 'Once in a Blue Moon,' and innumerable songs about the pale moonlight. Also I once knew a man who had the blue devils."
I tried to think of other phases of blueness, but my stock was almost exhausted.
"Of course," I added, "I am not forgetting the other blues, the Oxford blues, Reckitt's Blue, Blue Coupons, and—and—I'm afraid I can't think of any other blues just at the moment."
The old man drew the back of his hand over his mouth.
"There's the 'Blue Bonnets' up at the tap o' the brae," he suggested thirstily.
"Good idea!" I cried, "come on!" and together we climbed the brae.
* * * * *
A friend of mine in London has written me asking if I will write an article on Co-education for an educational journal, in which she is interested. I replied: "I can't see where the problem comes in; to a Scot co-education is not a thing that has to be supported by argument; he accepts it as he accepts the law of gravitation."
I wonder why English people are so afraid of co-education. To this day schools like Bedales, King Alfred's, Harpenden, and Arundale are reckoned as crank schools. The great middle-class of England believes in segregation. Even Dr. Ernest Jones, the most prominent Freudian psycho-analyst in England, appears to be afraid of it.
I can only conjecture that Jones agrees with the middle and upper classes in associating sex with sin. I have never tried to think out my reasons for believing in co-education; possibly the true reason is that having grown up in a co-education atmosphere, co-education has become a part of me just as my Scots accent has. In other words, I may have a co-education complex. If that is so, my arguments will be mere rationalisations, but I give them for what they are worth.
We are all born with a strong sex instinct, and this instinct must find expression in some way. We know that the sex energy can be sublimated, that is, raised to a higher power. For instance, the creative sex urge may be directed to the making of a bookcase, or the making of a century at cricket. But I know of no evidence to prove that all the instinct can be sublimated. An adolescent may spend his days at craftwork and games, but he will have erotic dreams at nights. All the drawing and painting in the world will not prevent his having emotion when he looks at the face of a pretty girl.
In our segregation schools boys and girls see nothing of each other. The unsublimated sex instinct finds expression in homosexuality, that is the emotion that should go to the opposite sex is fixed on a person of the same sex. I admit that we are all more or less homosexual; otherwise there could be no friendship between man and man, or woman and woman. In our boarding schools the sex instinct often takes the road of auto-eroticism.
In a co-education school the sex impulse is directed to one of the opposite sex. This attachment is nearly always a romantic ideal attachment. I have never known a case that went the length of kissing; among little children at a rural school, yes; at the age of seven I kissed my first sweetheart; but among adolescents I find that neither the boy nor the girl has the courage to kiss. Theirs is a sublimated courtship; they never use the word Love; they talk about "liking So-and-so."
That at many co-education schools this romantic attachment is more or less an underground affair is due to the moral attitude of teachers. They pride themselves on the beautiful sexless attachments of their pupils; they give moral lectures on the subject of kissing, and naturally every pupil in school at once becomes painfully self-conscious on the subject. The truth is that many co-educationists do not in their hearts believe in the system; they still see sin in sex.
To be a thorough success the co-education school must include sex education in its curriculum. The children of the most advanced parents seldom get it at home, and they come to school with the old attitude to sex. Sex education does not mean telling children where babies come from; it should dwell mostly on the psychological side of the question. The child ought to learn the truth about its sex instinct. Most important of all, the child who has indulged in auto-eroticism ought to be helped to get rid of his or her sense of guilt. This sense of guilt is the primary evil of self-abuse; abolish it, and the child is on the way to a self-cure.
How many children can go to their teacher and make confession of sex troubles? Very few. It is the teachers' fault; they set themselves up as moralists, and a moralist is a positive danger to any child.
Not long ago I was addressing a meeting of teachers in south London. At question time a woman challenged me.
"You have condemned moralists," she said; "do you mean to say that you would never teach a child the difference between right and wrong?"
"Never," I answered, "for I do not know what is right and what is wrong."
"Then I think you ought not to be a teacher," she said.
"I know what is right for me, and wrong for me," I went on to explain, "but I do not know what is right and wrong for you. Nor do I presume to know what is right or wrong for a child."
I was pleasingly surprised to find that the meeting roared approval of my reply.
* * * * *
Macdonald had to attend a funeral to-day, and he asked me if I would take his classes for an hour. I gladly agreed.
"Give them a lesson on psychology," he said; "it will maybe improve their behaviour."
I went over to the school at two o'clock, and Mac introduced me, although I had already made friends with most of the children in the playground and the fields. Mac then went away and I sat down at his desk.
"We'll have a talk," I said, "just a little friendly talk between you and me. I want to hear your opinions on some things."
They looked at me with interest.
"Why," I said, "why do you sit quiet in school?"
Andrew Smith put up his hand.
"Please, sir, 'cause if we don't the mester gies us the strap."
"A very sound reason, too," I commented. "And now I want to ask you why you sometimes want to throw papers or slate-pencils about the room."
"Please, sir, we never do that," said little Jeannie Simpson.
"The mester wud punish us," said another girl.
"But," I cried, "surely one of you has thrown things about the room?"
Tom Murray, the bad boy of the school (according to Mac), put up his hand.
"Please, sir, I did it once, but the mester licked me."
"Why did you do it, Tom?"
Tom thought hard.
"I didna like the lesson," he said simply.
I then went on further.
"Now I want you all to think this out: was Tom being selfish when he threw paper, or was he unselfish?"
Everyone, Tom included, judged that the paper-throwing was a selfish act.
"I don't agree," I said. "Tom was trying to do a service to the others; you were all bored by a lesson, and Tom stepped in and took your attention. Unfortunately he also attracted the attention of Mr. Macdonald, but that has nothing to do with Tom's reason for doing it. Tom was the most unselfish of the lot of you; he showed more good than any of you."
"The mester didna think that!" said Tom, with a grin.
Peter Wallace carefully rolled a paper pellet and threw it at Tom.
"Now," I said with a smile, "let's think this out; why did Peter throw that pellet just now?"
"Because the class is bored," said a little girl, and there was a good laugh at my expense.
"Righto!" I laughed, "shall we do something else?" but the class shouted "No!" and I proceeded.
"Peter, do tell us why you threw that pellet."
"For fun," said Peter, blushing and smiling.
"He did it so's the class wud look at him," said Tom Murray, and Peter hid his diminished head.
"A wise answer, Tom," I said; "but we are all like that; we all like to be looked at. Who is the best at arithmetic?"
"Willie Broon," said the class, and Willie Broon cocked his head proudly.
"And who is the best fighter?"
"Tom Murray," answered the boys, and one little chap added: "Tom cud fecht Willie Broon wi' one hand."
Tom tried to look modest.
I went round the class and with one exception every child had at least one branch of life in which he or she found a sense of superiority. The exception was Geordie Wylie, a small lad of thirteen with a white face and a starved appearance. The class were unanimous in declaring that Geordie had no talent.
"He canna even spit far enough," said one boy.
Geordie's embarrassment made me change the subject quickly, but I made up my mind to have a talk with him later.
Some of the reasons for individual pride were strange. Jake Tosh's feeling of superiority lay in the circumstance that his father had laid out a gamekeeper while poaching. Jock Wilson had once found a shilling; another boy had seen "fower swine stickit a' in wan day;" another could smoke a pipe of Bogie Roll without sickening (but I had to promise not to tell the Mester). The girls seemed to find their superiority mostly in lessons, although a few were proud of their needle-work.
I then went on to ask them what their highest ambition in life was. The boys showed less imagination than the girls. Six of them wanted to be ploughmen like their fathers. To a townsman this might appear to be a very modest ambition, but to a boy it means power and position; to drive a pair of horses tandem fashion as they do on the East Coast, with the tracer prancing on the braes; that is what being a ploughman means to a village lad. One boy wanted to be an engineer, another a clerk ("'cos he doesna need to tak' aff his jaicket to work!"), another a soldier.
"Not a single teacher!" I said.
"We're no clever enough," said Tom Murray.
I turned to the girls.
"Now, let's see what ambition you have," I said hopefully. The result was good; three teachers, two nurses, one typist, one lady doctor, one . . . lady. This was Maggie Clark. She just wanted to be like one of thae ladies in the picters with a motor car.
"And husband?" I asked.
"No, I dinna want a man, but I wud like a lot of bairns," she said, and there was a snigger from the boys who had got their sex education from the ploughmen at the Brig of evenings.
Another girl remarked that Maggie's ambition was a selfish one.
"But are you not all selfish?" I asked.
The class indignantly denied it.
"Right," I said, "what do you say to a composition exercise?"
They obediently got out their composition books, but I told them that my exercise was an easy one. I tore up a few pages into slips and distributed them.
"Now," I said, "suppose I give you five pounds to do what you like with. Write down what you would do with it, fold the paper, and hand it in to me."
They eagerly agreed, and at the end of five minutes I had a hatful of slips. I then drew a line down the centre of the blackboard. On one side I wrote the word Selfish; on the other Unselfish. The class groaned and laughed.
"Now," I said cheerfully, "this will prove whether the class is unselfish or not," and I unfolded the first slip.
"But you'll say we are selfish!" said a boy.
"I have nothing to do with it," I said; "you are to decide by vote. First person . . . 'I would buy a bicycle': selfish or unselfish?"
"Selfish!" roared the class, and I put a mark in the first column.
"Next paper . . . 'Scooter, knife, and the rest on ice-cream.'"
"Selfish!" and I put down another mark.
"Next: . . . 'Buy a pair of boots' . . . selfish or unselfish?"
The class had to stop and think here.
"Selfish!" said a few.
"Unselfish," said others, "'cos he wud be helpin' his mother."
"Then we'll vote on it," I said, and by a majority of two the act was declared to be unselfish.
We then had a run of knives, tops, candy, cycles, and no vote was necessary. Then came a puzzler.
"I would send every penny to the starving babies of Germany."
"Unselfish!" cried the class in one voice. I was just about to put the mark in the unselfish column when a boy said: "That's selfish, cos she'd feel proud of being so—so unselfish."
"How do you know it is a she?" I asked.
"'Cause I ken it's Jean Wilson," he answered promptly; "she has took a reid face."
There followed a breezy debate on Jean's act.
"It is selfish," said Mary, "because when you do a kind action you feel pleased with yourself, and it was selfish because if it hadna pleased her she wud never ha' done it."
I asked for a vote and to my astonishment the act was declared selfish by a majority of three. I suspect that conventional Hun Hatred had something to do with the voting.
The voting over I totted up the marks.
"You have judged yourselves," I said, "and according to your own showing you as a class are 87 per cent. selfish and 13 per cent. unselfish."
This essay in composition was not original; I got the idea from Homer Lane, who claimed that it was the best introduction to school psychology. "It is the best way to make children think of their own behaviour," he said, and my experiment has shown this.
When Mac came back I said to him; "You've got a fine lot of bairns, Mac."
"Had you any difficulty?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, I half thought they would try to pull your leg, especially a boy like Tom Murray. He is a most difficult chap, you know."
"Tom's a saint," I said; "every child is a saint if you treat him as an equal. No, I had no difficulty, but I want you to send over Geordie Wylie to me this afternoon. There is something wrong with that boy; he has no ambition and he has one of the worst inferiority complexes I have ever struck. I want to have a quiet talk with him."
Mac promised, and at three o'clock Geordie came over to the schoolhouse. I took him into the parlour, and he sat nervously on the edge of a chair.
"Tell me about yourself, Geordie," I said, but he did not answer.
"Do you keep rabbits?"
"Twa Himalayas and a half Patty."
It was like drawing blood from a milestone.
"What do you do when you go home at nights?"
It was a long difficult task to get anything out of him. The only fact of value I got was that he was a great reader of Wild West stories. I asked him to come to me again, and he said he would.
To-night I asked Mac about him.
"He's a dreamer," said Mac, "and he's lazy. I am always strapping him for inattention. He's not a manly boy, never plays games, always stands in a corner of the playground."
"Does he ever fight?" I asked.
"He's a great coward, but there's one queer thing about him; when any boy challenges him to fight he goes white about the gills but he always fights . . . and gets licked."
"Mac," I said, "will you do me a favour? Don't whack him again; it is the worst treatment you can give him. He is a poor wee chap, and he is badly in need of real help."
"All right," said the kindly Mac, "I'll try not to touch him, but he irritates me many a time."
* * * * *
I had Geordie for an hour this morning. He was taciturn at first, but later he talked freely. He is very much afraid of his father, and he weeps when his father scolds him. This makes the father angrier and he calls Geordie a lassie, a greetin' lassie. This jeer wounds the boy deeply. He is afraid in the dark. He told me that he was puzzled about one thing; when he goes for his milk at night he is never afraid on the outward journey, but when he leaves the dairy to come home he is always in terror. I asked him what he was afraid of and he told me that he always imagined that there was a man in a cheese-cutter cap waiting to murder him.
"What is a cheese-cutter?" I asked.
"It is a bonnet with a big snout, something like a railway porter's. My father's a porter and he has ane."
Evidently the man he is afraid of is his father. This may account for his lack of fear when he is walking from his home to the dairy. Then he is leaving his father; when he starts to return he is going back to his father and is afraid.
I asked him about his fights with other boys. He always feared a fight but he went through with it so that the other boys should not call him a coward. Naturally he always lost the battle; he fought with a divided mind; while his less imaginative opponent thought only of hitting and winning, Geordie was picturing the end of the fight.
I asked him if he had a sweetheart, and he blushed deeply. He told me that he often took fancies for girls, but they would not have him. Frank Murray always cut him out; Frank was a big hefty lad and the girls like the beefy manly boy.
He does much day-dreaming, phantasying it is called in analysis. His dreams always take the form of conquests; in his day-dream he is the best fighter in the school, the best scholar, the most loved of the girls. His night dreams are often terrifying, and he has more than once dreamt that his father and Macdonald were dead. He finds compensation for his weaknesses in his day-dreams and his reading. He likes tales of heroes who always kill the villians and carry off the heroines.
It is difficult to know what to do in a case like this. The best way would be to change the boy's environment, but that is out of the question. Even then the early fears would go with him; he would transfer his father-complex to another man.
I tried to explain to Mac the condition of Geordie. The boy is all bottled up; his energy should be going into play and work, but instead it is regressing, going back to early ways of adaptation to environment.
"But what can I do with him?" asked Mac.
"Give him your love," I said. "He fears you now, and your attitude to him makes him worse. You must never punish him again, Mac."
"That's all very well," said Mac ruefully, "but what am I to do? Suppose Tom Murray and he talk during a lesson, am I to whack Tom and allow Geordie to get off?"