HotFreeBooks.com
The School and the World
by Victor Gollancz and David Somervell
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines



THE SCHOOL AND THE WORLD

by

VICTOR GOLLANCZ and DAVID SOMERVELL

Authors of "Political Education in a Public School"



London Chapman & Hall, Ltd. 1919



TO

THE SCHOOL

WHICH BOTH WE

AND THOSE WHO DIFFERED FROM US

SOUGHT TO SERVE



PREFACE

In December, 1917, the present writers wrote a little book entitled "Political Education in a Public School," in which they put forward their views as to what the aims and methods of a modern liberal education should be. They also described certain experiments which they had been permitted to make in one of our old English Public Schools, experiments which both illustrated the authors' principles and tested their value. In July, 1918, that book was published.

But in the intervening seven months several things had happened. On the one hand, "Political Education" had produced further striking evidence of its power over boys' intellects and characters, evidence altogether more striking than anything that had occurred up to the time of writing the book. On the other hand, the movement in the full tide of its success ran upon rocks and has been, for the time being at any rate, utterly and completely destroyed. The authors have left the school in which their experiments were made.

When the book was published, its reviewers in the press raised one by one a series of problems which we had already encountered in a practical shape in the course of our work, problems hardly touched on, however, in our book, which was devoted to exposition rather than argument. Such problems were: How far is political propaganda inseparable from political education, and in what respects is such propaganda desirable or undesirable? How can political differences among the masters themselves be made to play a helpful rather than an injurious part? Does the introduction of politics into the curriculum open a way, as the very able reviewer in The Westminster Gazette suggested, for Prussianism in its most insidious form, the conscription of educated opinion? Are the old Public Schools the best medium for political education, or should the new wine be poured into new bottles? and lastly—for educational "subjects" are or should be but aspects of a single whole—what of political education in relation to morality, and to religion?

The present volume, therefore, essays a twofold task. The first two chapters briefly recapitulate and continue the history of our work down to its abrupt end. The latter chapters deal with such questions as those mentioned above. One feature of the earlier volume survives in its successor. The Appendix to that volume contained a selection of articles written by boys for our political paper, The School Observer. As an Appendix to this volume we print a few more articles by boys whose work did not then appear. We are under no delusions as to there being anything very extraordinary about these articles and those printed in the previous volume. Abler work has been done by abler boys in various schools at various times. They are interesting as the combined effort of a group rather than as the work of individuals. We reproduce them as the only concrete evidence available of the character of one aspect of our experiment.

In the former volume we suppressed the name of the school out of deference to the wishes of the Head Master, and though our own judgment was against the concealment as a wholly superfluous piece of mystification, we continue to respect his wishes.

One word of apology is needed for the use to which we have put the utterances of our reviewers. The reviews revealed the interesting and important fact that thoughtful people really felt strongly, one way or the other, on the subject of political education. They constitute a symposium of conflicting judgments upon an educational problem of which they one and all recognize the importance, and as such their main features are worth preserving.

Having said this much about the reviews it is necessary to add a word more. The quotations we have chosen are, quite naturally, very largely critical, and as such give no idea of the very warm welcome the general policy of the book received. Not one in five among the reviewers was hostile. One of them, however, the Church Times reviewer, was virulently hostile, and appeared to us not merely to dislike our educational policy, which he had every right to do, but to blaspheme against the very idea of a liberal education. As we have quoted from no other "Church" paper, we should like to remark here that a number of other such papers, representing various schools of religious thought, gave the book a generous welcome.

Our experiments perished in the dark days of last spring. Within only a month or two came the turn of the tide. It is bitter to reflect that, could they but have survived until victory and peace brought a return of political sanity, they might have weathered the storm and conciliated some of their bitterest enemies, and reached safety. Possibly, though gone, they have left their mark.

Meanwhile pneumonia has carried off, in the prime of early manhood, their staunchest friend among our colleagues. He was not one who took any but a very small part in the actual conduct of the experiments. He once lectured to The Politics Class on "Liberalism." But he had a genius for sympathy, and always, when difficulties arose, it was to him that we turned, because he had the gift of making us feel that it was still worth while to persevere. Had we been wiser, he could perhaps have served us still further by bringing us into touch with some of those who differed from us, and helping to a mutual understanding. For everyone was his friend. The dedication of this book had already been chosen before he died, and we are unwilling to alter it, but perhaps we may also venture to offer it as an unworthy tribute to the memory of Alan Gorringe.



CONTENTS

CHAP.

PREFACE I. THE RISE II. THE COLLAPSE III. PROPAGANDA IV. CONTROVERSY V. CAPTURE BY THE STATE VI. THE MAKING OF "POLITICIANS" VII. PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND FREAK SCHOOLS VIII. MORALITY IX. RELIGION X. CURRICULUM XI. THE YOUNG GENERATION AND THE OLD APPENDIX



"That such an experiment should have been permitted in one of the great public (English) schools is a sign of the greatest promise for the future."—Aberdeen Free Press.

"Of all the objectionable and inept proposals for reforming the education of our public schools we must award the palm to the scheme of teaching boys politics."—Saturday Review.

"We do not believe the authors have delivered all their message."—Scottish Educational Journal.



THE SCHOOL AND THE WORLD

CHAPTER I

THE RISE

The school in which political education was tried for a space of something under two years is in no way a very remarkable school. It has its sixteenth-century founder, "of pious memory," and its "second founder," of memory almost more pious, in early Victorian days. That second founder made the school famous as a centre of stalwart evangelicalism. More recently its fame has been won chiefly in the production of first-class cricketers. Until the early years of the present century the school had also, we are told, a kind of inverted fame as one of the "stupidest" of the public schools, as a dumping ground for young hopefuls who could not pass entrance examinations elsewhere. From that reputation, however, it had struggled fairly successfully to free itself.

The present writers started with the common assumption that the "Classical" scheme of a liberal education had long broken down in practice, and survived only as feudalism survived in eighteenth-century France, because sufficient energy had not yet generated to create a new scheme to replace it. In part it had already disappeared and given place to the patchwork innovations of the earnest but painfully cautious and conservative reformers who have ruled the schools since the days of Dr. Arnold.[1] The classical system had become the classical compromise, a clipped and truncated classics, fighting a losing battle for air space amidst a crowd of inadequately provided "new subjects"—history, literature, science, modern languages. In some ways the last state was worse than the first. For the first state had at least been based upon a great tradition and an ordered philosophy of life, but in the last state there was no tradition, no ordered philosophy; only a jumble and a scramble, and a passing of examinations. Such a system or lack of system must fall a prey sooner or later to some educational movement based on a coherent and defensible doctrine.

Now, as it chances, such a movement is already in the field; we may call it the "Cult of Efficiency." It proclaims a great many truths about the necessity of increasing productivity, about the connection between education and the world of business, and generally speaking points to the achievements of Germany for our envious imitation; it proclaims the commercial utility of Spanish and Russian, and ranges in its advocacy from advanced chemistry to shorthand and book-keeping. Much that writers on these lines have to urge against the present system is perfectly sound and reasonable. Many of their claims will have to be recognised in the educational system of the future. But the admission of their claim as a whole, of the claim of "efficiency" to be the true and rightful heir of the old classical education, would be, to speak without exaggeration, the greatest disaster that could possibly befall this country.

What was wanted then was a conception of education at once "liberal" and "modern," and such the writers found in "politics," using that word in its widest Platonic sense. The classical education set out to study the ancient world, and in the case of most of its pupils achieved little more than the dry elements of two dead languages. The study of the modern world has so far usually meant no more than the study of how to make a little money out of it; the trail of commercialism has been drawn over our Modern Sides. Why should not the modern world be studied in the same noble and disinterested spirit as that in which the best of the old teachers studied the world of Greece and Rome? It is surely worthy of such study. Only perhaps by such study in our schools can its wounds be healed. The central subject of a liberal education should be "To-day," the great difficulties amongst which we are all groping, the great problems awaiting solution, the great movements, capitalism and socialism, imperialism and internationalism, freedom and authority, that are battling for mastery or negotiating for a workable compromise. The value of the classics lies wholly in the contribution that classical art, philosophy, and history can make to the enrichment of our minds for the study of our own problems. The value of modern history lies in the inspiration of its great men, and the warning of its tragic experiences. The value of "Divinity" is only found when we face the fundamental question, Are we to apply Christianity in our political and economic relations to-day, or are we not? But over and above this reorientation of subjects already scheduled in the orthodox time-table, there is the new subject within which all these (except Divinity, which is fundamental) must be regarded as merely contributory, and that subject is "politics," the treatment, elementary yet thorough, vigorous yet many sided, of the great questions of the day, with all the diverse lines of thought along which each can be approached. Here the fundamental "text-book" is the newspaper. Growing up in such a world as this of 1918, how can it be anything but sheer monasticism to divert the main part of a boy's intellectual energies away from this subject to anything else? Our educational "America is here or nowhere."

With this principle in view, and after various tentative experiments, we obtained permission to found the Politics Class described in our previous book. Suffice it to say here that the class was a voluntary body of some thirty or forty senior boys, that met once a week on a half-holiday evening to hear informal lectures from one or other of us, and occasionally from one or other of our colleagues, on questions of the day. Sometimes the topic was purely general—"Competition and Co-operation," "The Spirit of the Reformer," or the like. Sometimes a historical topic was traced rapidly from its beginnings down to a crisis of last week's newspaper, the discourse ending on the brink of the future with a note of interrogation; such were brief courses of lectures on "The Irish Question," and "The Russian Revolution." A third type were those that confined themselves to an analysis of a strictly contemporary situation, such as the lectures on the various "peace terms" speeches that led up to the Versailles declaration of February, 1918. No attempt was made to create any artificial popularity for the class. The scene was the ordinary bleak class-room with all its sad suggestiveness. Ordinary notes were taken in ordinary note-books. No one, in fact, can have come from any motive but a genuine desire to know what was deemed worth knowing.

Parallel with the foundation of the Politics Class had come a remodelling of the sixth form time-table. Indeed, not modern politics but Greek philosophy had been the first subject to stir that almost religious passion for a real understanding of things, without which knowledge is in the old man mere pedantry and in the young man mere grist for the examination mill. In the present educational chaos, school sixth forms are quite bewilderingly fissiparous. Every one is a "specialist" of some sort or other; specialism means "private work," and if private work enables the gifted few to escape into self-education from the hampering attentions of the form master, it gives the rest a terrible training in the habits of time-wasting and evasion. Yet so long as sixth form orthodoxy is classical scholarship work, the majority will rightly be found among the heretics, and that is the "specialists." The remodelled sixth form time-table made at least a move towards the recognition of the principle that, over and above specialisms, there were certain subjects that were the common concern of all educated men. A heterogeneous body drawn from all corners of the school time-table met together for Modern History, for Outlines of World History, and for General Principles of Science, and (with some regrettable abstentions) for Political Science and Economics. Some day it will appear ridiculous that these last subjects should not have been deemed a necessity for all the "specialists" alike.

The real test of an educational system is not what the masters do for the boys, but what the boys do for themselves, and in this matter only one large undertaking fell within the scope of our previous book, namely the paper, The School Observer, therein described and largely quoted. The idea of this paper, a political journal on the lines of a high-class weekly, published twice a term, with "Notes on Current Events," political "leaders," literary and philosophic "middles," a poem or so, and correspondence all complete—this laughably magnificant idea came entirely from a little group of boys, and one at any rate of the present writers was at first frankly sceptical. Well,—enthusiasm has a way of beating scepticism, at any rate when youth is thrown into the scale. We were quickly harnessed to our task as members of the editorial committee. Our literary contributions were confined to a part of the "Notes on Current Events," the portion of the paper that naturally attracted least outside notice, and was rarely singled out for praise. It is true that a discerning schoolmaster from another school remarked that these notes displayed "restrained strength even more remarkable in boys than the qualities of the other parts of the paper." I am ashamed to say we smiled and held our peace.

Five of the six issues of the paper appeared, and we had already contracted with our advertisers for a second volume when the crash came. In general, of course, the paper was much less important than the Politics Class. The class was a necessity to political education; the paper was a luxury. But it is a man's luxuries that give the clue to his character, and it was the very fact that the paper was always of the nature of a jeu d'esprit, a glorious game, a kind of Fleet Street doll's-house affair, that gave a sense of gay adventure to the pursuit of politics. When the paper had been suppressed, a boy who had never contributed to it said to me, "What a shame!" and he added very pensively, "It was all so extraordinarily romantic!"

But so far the movement had only touched the sixth form, and in a minor degree such lower forms as the writers happened to meet in the course of their professional duties. That was plainly not enough. If boys are learning from their masters something that they really value, their natures are so essentially communicative and sociable that they will be eager to pass it on to their friends. This may seem a paradox, but it is true enough. If of two boys in constant contact, A is learning algebra and B is not, and if A refrains from talking algebra to B, one of two causes must be the explanation of A's reticence. Either he does not care about B or else he does not care about algebra, and since by hypothesis he cares about B, we can only assume that he does not care about algebra. A simple experiment will verify our conclusion. Drop an indiscretion about a colleague during the algebra lesson, and B, C, D and all the rest of them to a long way beyond Z will know all about it before sunset. A, B, C, and D are interested in masters' opinions of each other.

Now we would not claim for a moment that all educational subjects should be required to pass this test of "interest," and rejected if they do not.[2] That would be grotesque. But it seems to us that the central subject of a liberal education, that subject to which all others cohere and in relation to which all others are justified, ought to make some such appeal to enthusiasm. Unless education produces enthusiasm for something, there is no education, and that is why it has so often been maintained that the real education of Public Schools is in the playing fields, because there alone, for most boys, enthusiasm is generated, if it is generated at all. (For most, one may remark in passing, it is not generated even there. The notion that the average boy is an enthusiast for cricket is as wide of the mark as would be the idea that he was an enthusiast for Greek, Natural Science, or the Church of England.)

Judged by this test of infectious enthusiasm, political education was to produce in the early months of 1918, evidence of its educational worth such as we never dreamt of, and here again the pioneer was not ourselves but a boy, and that boy not one of the group that had started the paper. This boy, who had recently become head of his House, conceived the idea that politics could become the medium of the same spirit of joyous and unforced co-operation as is traditionally (and sometimes actually) associated with athletics. His idea of a school house was of a vigorous and jolly community, living together on terms of friendly equality such as reduced fagging and the oligarchial "prefect system" to a minimum, and uniting in a real effort to keep abreast with the great world outside by means of a co-operative study of politics and the Press. The idea will seem mere foolishness and an impossibility to many of those who did not see it actually at work. At the best it will seem the kind of thing we may have read of in books about "freak schools," where so much loss has obviously to be set against whatever is gained. In this case, not only the idea, but all the practical details came from the boy himself and the little band of enthusiasts that gathered round him. Indeed, one feels a sense of impropriety in describing what was essentially not our work, but his. However, it was the fine flower of political education, and as such may fitly close this chapter. "Houses," after all, and not "forms," are the natural social units that compose a public school, and a scheme of education that becomes in the best sense popular may, indeed must, take its rise in the classroom, but will find its freest development in the life of house reading-room and house study.

The chief among many "stunts," as they were called, was a political society. The twenty-five members of this society, rather over half the house, undertook to read between them nearly all the more important newspapers, including one or two French papers. On Sunday the society sat in conclave, the three or four leading events of the week were taken each in turn, and the individual or group responsible for each newspaper put forward the view of the event in question taken by his own particular organ. These views were compared and debated, and ultimately a brief synopsis was drawn up, consisting of the event itself, with the chief typical utterances of the press on the subject set out underneath, for purposes of comparison and contrast. These were typed and posted on a board as "news of the week." Neither of us ever attended a meeting of this society, and it is obvious, from the fact that more than half the house joined in, that we are not concerned here with the activities of a little set of intellectualists. In the fullest sense in which the word is applicable in a public school, these political activities were "democratic," and the effect on the "English" work of some of the boys in middle forms was most remarkable. The present writer recalls, for instance, a Middle Fifth essay of some three thousand words on the complex, and in some ways repellent, subject of "National Guilds." On how many successive nights the rule against "sitting up" was broken over the composition of this work the recipient of the essay forebore to inquire.

From this beginning other developments rapidly opened. A modest but useful idea was a question paper, on which any one who liked could set down questions that occurred to him in the course of his reading. The House Library naturally felt the impact of the movement, and a political section was started in which books about the Greeks and Mill's "Liberty" stood side by side with the latest essay on "Reconstruction." But it would be giving an altogether unworthy notion of the movement if it were suggested that politics alone, in the narrower sense, marked the limit of these activities. The best modern plays and poetry began to appear on shelves whence rubbishy novels of a past generation were removed to make room for them. Nor were older books neglected. The general drift of interest was inevitably towards the moderns; but the great poets of the past were also finding their way in before the end came.

Then, of course, there was a gramophone, with its "popular" and "classical" repertoires; and before the end came, the "classical" had so far surpassed the "popular" in popularity that House piano recitals had begun as well.

Another development was on lines that would have gladdened the heart of Ruskin and Morris, though I do not know that either of these was consciously recognised as an influence. A movement arose for beautifying the studies, which began with pseudo-Japanese lamp-shades, and moved upward through pretty curtains and tablecloths to framed "Medici" pictures. Before the end there was hardly a study that had not its big framed Medici, and often a selection of Medici postcards as well.

All these things involved, of course, some considerable expenditure; but the cost was met with an eagerness astonishing to the boys themselves when they reflected that, a few months before, So-and-so "had never cared about anything but the tuck shop."

Other houses began to catch the spirit of the thing—a trifle reluctantly and tentatively, it must be admitted, for there is a good deal of improper pride about a school house, and imitations have not quite the glamour of originals. Also the whole movement was by this time falling under a cloud, and it is now time to give some account of the collapse.



[1] A brilliant "depreciation" of Arnold and his school has recently appeared in Mr. Lytton Strachey's "Eminent Victorians."

[2] Something more is said on this subject in Chapter X.



CHAPTER II

THE COLLAPSE

"Teachers though they are, Mr. Gollancz and Mr. Somervell do not seem quite to realise ... what obstacles have to be overcome before the advice given in their little book is generally taken."—The Westminster Gazette.

Our account of the collapse of our experiment has to be written, as the reader will easily understand, with a good deal of reserve. "The rise" was the work of ourselves and our pupils. "The collapse" was the work of others. It is not a question of "Dora"; it is not a question of the common law of libel; there are certain older laws of courtesy and forbearance which we would fain observe, for he who has not learnt to observe these has hardly made a beginning with political education. So let it be said to begin with that no one was to blame. Things followed their predestined course, and every actor in the drama played the part that was natural and proper to him. It was natural that the movement should be destroyed by masters as that its success should be made by boys. If any one is to blame it is ourselves. It was we who chose to pour new wine into old bottles—the preference for old bottles is explained in Chapter VI.—and when the custodians of the bottles awoke to the fact and hastily poured the wine out again, fearing disaster, they certainly thought they were acting for the best. Needless to say, we have often discussed the question whether, had the movement run on other lines, had we been content with rather less to begin with, had we considered principle rather less and prudence rather more, had we added the role of diplomatist to the role of missionary, had we hardened our hearts against some of the best boys in order to soften the hearts of some of the more tractable masters—had we done all these things, could we have postponed or even permanently escaped the collapse? On the whole, we come to the conclusion that, much as we regret many plain mistakes of detail, in the main it is best that the bold course was taken, We rode boldly, and, in the last months, we had to ride for a fall. An experiment has been made by frontal attack, and with the slenderest of resources. Now that all that is over, the time has come to begin the slow and circuitous approach toward political education as a normal institution.

The material of our experiment was boys and boys alone. Now, at first sight, a school might seem to consist of boys, but in point of fact boys are only one element in a complex organisation embracing boys, masters, head master, bursar, governors, and parents. The boys are only there to be educated, and education is a matter about which very few people have any strongly cherished ideas. For very many, public school education is a species of "doing time," whereby a child of fourteen is taken and simply kept out of mischief (or, at any rate, kept away from home, where he would be a nuisance), until at eighteen he is become a man. But the other constituent parts of the school have serious commercial interests at stake. For the masters the school is the means of livelihood, and the livelihood afforded them is in many cases so niggardly that they very rightly consider that the smallest financial mishap to the school might plunge them below the line of bare subsistence. From a slightly different angle, the eyes of the higher officials and the governors are fixed upon the same point. A head master once remarked to me of one of his governors, "Old X.'s only idea is that the school should pay five per cent."

And the parents. It is an article of faith with the present writers that parents are wiser, more tolerant and more open to ideas on educational matters, than schoolmasters generally suppose. But parents live at a distance, and only make themselves felt at moments of crisis, and then the crisis is one which they probably only very imperfectly understand. That is all the fault of the schools, for the schools have never made a serious attempt to take the parents into partnership in the matter of their sons' education. And here we are back against the root of all evil, for the reason why this has not been done is that the schools have not yet seriously faced the fact that a liberal education for the average boy is an unsolved problem, for the solution of which they need all the help they can possibly get. Of course this taking of the parent into partnership would be no easy matter. Readers of that wise and humorous tale, "The Lanchester Tradition," will remember the comical failure of the head master's attempt at a "Parents' Committee." Still, all this being so, the fact emerges that the important factor in the problem of the moment is not the real parent but the traditional parent, and the false image of the traditional parent has been created in the schoolmaster's mind by that fussy and ill-informed individual who is always "writing to complain." Now, he who pays the piper does not necessarily call the tune. That would be too absurd. But he has a veto on any tune he too positively dislikes, and it is well known that the unmusical generally dislike a new tune.

The opposition to political education developed along two lines. One of them makes this story a microcosm of the world history of the years 1917-1918. The other is something peculiar to the English public schools, and might have befallen at any period since Dr. Arnold inaugurated their modern history.

When we began our experiments the "party truce," in the moral as distinct from the formal sense, still held good. Outside the circles of strict pacifism—and with pacifism in any but a merely abusive sense we never had any concern—English people were agreed upon the great questions of the war. Such differences of opinion as there were concerned only questions of method and expediency, not questions of principle. The "gospel" of August, 1914, had not yet become a battle-ground disputed by fiercely earnest rival sects. We were Liberals in a general sense, but we differed on a great many topics, and we were genuinely anxious, in the words of one of our pupils in the school magazine, "not so much to advocate any one particular remedy of any given problem as to lay before the class the problems themselves and the principal reforms which have been or are being suggested, so that thought and criticism may have full scope for exercise." It would be unfair to ourselves to admit that we abandoned that ideal, but the events of 1917 brought a new spirit into the world. On the one hand, the early days of the Russian Revolution and the demand for a peace "without annexations or indemnities," coupled with the entry of America and the war speeches of President Wilson, seemed to revive the flagging idealism of the Allies and lift it to a more universal and exalted level than ever before. On the other hand, the publication of the Secret Treaties and the many incomplete revelations that followed thereon, laid bare the fact that quite another act of motives were also at work among our leaders; that territorial greed and diplomatic hypocrisy were enemies to be fought in our own midst as well as on the battlefield. The issues of the war assumed a grander and a more terrible aspect. More than ever before perhaps in the history of the world—and we do not overlook the period of the so-called religious wars—religion and politics fused. To us, at any rate, the calm aloofness suggested by the quotation above became impossible. A cry seemed to have gone forth, "Who is on the Lord's side? Who?" A great gulf opened up between those who only a year before had believed themselves to be for the time at any rate in one political camp. On one side of that gulf we found ourselves, and on the other most of our colleagues. It was not that we differed from them as to the necessity of winning the war, and of putting forward every possible military effort for that end. But everything depends on the uses to which the victory is put, and the spirit in which it is approached, and there the differences were profound.

And thus the Politics Class became a school of liberalism.[1] It was no intolerant liberalism, for intolerant liberalism is not liberalism at all. From first to last we stood for the examination of all points of view. We were for reading the views of those we disagreed with, not for abusing them unheard or burning their books unread. In so far as some of our pupils carried liberalism to the point of intolerance, they lost the spirit of the movement they professed to support. There were not many against whom this charge could be brought. One of our most ardent democrats, I remember, sent me during the time of his military training a careful and painstaking examination of Mr. Mallock's latest big book. The excuse of those that fell into intolerance must be, I suppose, that they were young, and that they found themselves confronted by an astonishing spectacle of intolerance in some of their "conservative" masters.

When this change was taking place, we sought to redress the balance by taking into partnership in the running of the Politics Class a strongly Conservative master. Such an arrangement would have been admirable had the genuine educational spirit been there. It was not. The overture was a failure and only added to our difficulties. To some men it seemed better to root out the Liberal masters as "traitors" than to co-operate with them as teachers.

On the eve of the final collapse, a similar experiment was tried with The School Observer. The last number bears the names of two "editors," and contains both a Liberal and a Conservative "leader" written on the same topic. The innovation was made at the last minute, and the Conservative "leader" is not a genuine schoolboy production, but the model may be a useful one for future work on the same lines.

But there was another influence making for the collapse. We quoted in our previous book a head master who remarked at a school prize-giving that the only questions worth asking are those that cannot get a definite answer. Political education consists almost entirely of such questions. Its sheet anchor is freedom of thought; its method is controversy; its end is not in complete mastery of a box of intellectual tricks such as will win full marks in an examination, but in the modesty of realised ignorance and the enthusiastic search for fresh lights in the darkness. Socrates was put to death by the Athenians because he would not desist from asking them questions, and it is to be feared that some of our pupils would have incurred the same fate had the customs of the time permitted it. The taste for controversy on the fundamental subjects will grip a youth like the taste for drink, as many who have passed through undergraduate days at Oxford or Cambridge can remember. Suppose a boy enters into political controversy with his form master, over the giving back of an essay, or with his house master at the luncheon table....

Now, there is a Divinity that doth hedge a schoolmaster, and the hedge must be kept in somewhat careful repair. So long as we are concerned with subjects like elementary Latin and Greek or Mathematics, we are dealing with a body of knowledge in which, to take the examinations standard, all the masters get full marks. All knowledge is contained in a set of small school books which the masters, for their sins, know more or less by heart backwards. Even history, if it is sufficiently badly taught, may be grouped among such subjects, for, strange as it may seem, it is quite possible to teach it in such a way that no boy feels impelled to ask questions either insoluble in themselves or beyond the scope of the master's immediate memory. There are schoolmasters who definitely discourage or even forbid the asking of questions by the class. "Little boys should be seen and not heard"—that worst of all educational maxims—makes a larger contribution to the buttressing up of the present system than is usually supposed. A lowering diet of irregular verbs keeps the boy mind "docile," to use a word of ironically perverted meaning, and prevents it from impinging embarrassingly upon the lightly guarded regions of the master's intellectual entrenchments. In fact, political education set up a new intellectual standard. It was a subject in which no one, boy or master, got "full marks,"—scarcely even President Wilson, perhaps, if you took his "work" as a whole! All were learners, all were fellow workers together, and before the vast scope of the task, differences of proficiency between the various workers seemed hardly to matter.

Here, then, rises a difficult question. Ought the schoolmaster to possess, or appear to possess, complete knowledge of the subject he teaches? The present writer has taught a good variety of subjects during nine years, and on the whole he has found his ignorance, not only of politics, but of far more finite matters, a very helpful educational instrument. As an emergency teacher of Latin on the modern side, for instance, he found it a positive advantage that he had forgotten more of the language than his pupils had ever learnt. His occasional quaint errors did not always pass undetected, and their detection had probably an educational stimulus for the form which outweighed the loss incurred when his mistakes passed without notice. Nor did he feel greatly the loss of intellectual stature. It was partly made good by the ingenuity with which he explained how he had come to make the mistake. And if there was loss in intellectual prestige, there was an increased sense of intellectual comradeship. But this is a trifling and not wholly serious digression.

Some masters stand for intellectual infallibility. These political discussions disturbed them. They felt that their credentials as schoolmasters were being examined and found wanting. They accused the boys of priggery. It was a most false charge, for the boys were enthusiasts, and enthusiasm is a form of self-forgetfulness as priggery is a form of self-consciousness. Still priggery was the word. The charge of "priggery" was added to the charge of "pacifism."

On these two lines the opposition developed and ultimately triumphed. It was suggested that "the school would be empty in a couple of years," if political education continued. Here, it would seem, our critics were trading on their false idea of the parent, and believing what they wished to believe. Take the statistics of entries, which is the only tangible evidence on the subject, and the only conclusion you can draw is that political education either had no effect at all, or that it slightly increased the commercial well-being of the school. It was not on such ground as this that political education was doomed. As we said at the beginning of the chapter, the material of our experiments was the boys and them alone. We had made a short cut. We had made no effort to convert our colleague. We trusted to results for their conversion. But, as the preceding narrative will have shown, the greater our success, the greater became their irritation, when success was labelled "pacifism" and "priggery." Without intending it, we had played "Pied Piper" upon some of the best of the house masters' foster children. We had envisaged a school as a single corporate society, boys and masters working together with the maximum of frankness and equality for the common end, education. We had not allowed for the fact that a school cannot become such a corporate society, unless the staff has become such at the same time. Like three-quarters of the reformers of history, we had, in our own despite, become rebels. And so all was over. There is now no Politics Class, no School Observer in the school of their foundation, though two other schools of fame have started papers on similar lines, with handsome acknowledgments to our example. There are no political societies in the Houses. Two or three of our pupils have left before their time, and we, the authors, are no longer schoolmasters, only "educationists,"—it is a change for the worse.



[1] Generally speaking, the liberalism of The Manchester Guardian or of President Wilson's speeches.



CHAPTER III

PROPAGANDA

"A point hardly touched on in the book is the difficulty of teaching politics without the disadvantages of partisanship. It is worth discussion."—Manchester Guardian.

"If 'politics'—even politics as an art culled from the classics, from pro-German[1] economists and historians, from poets such as Shelley, and from German[1] higher critics of the Bible—were taught to fifth form boys with crude impressionable minds, the result would be Bolshevism. We agree that under careful guidance much of ultimate political value can be taught from history and literature. But it must be done with infinite care, and opinions must be excluded from the teaching. That is the difficulty."—Contemporary Review.

"Clever boys will learn their politics for themselves."—Saturday Review.

"The public schools have for years past covered their quiet infiltration of Conservative principles with a camouflage of strict neutrality. Teachers though they are, the authors do not seem quite to realise what a formidable protective device this banning of the modern history which we call politics has been, and what obstacles have to be overcome before the advice given in their little book is generally taken."—Westminster Gazette.

Two great objections have to be met if Politics is to become the central subject in our public school education. The desirability of such a change may be urged from many points of view; and the practical results obtained during the course of our recent experiment seemed to us even more valuable than preliminary theorising had led us to expect. Once make a boy think about the life of his own time and the great principles whose fight for mastery he is witnessing; once make him wonder about the actual machinery by which his world is moved; once set him speculating about the meaning of the universe and of his own existence; and you have created such a spirit of eager enthusiasm and inquiry, that at last that development of the individual personality is achieved which, as every great educationist since Plato has told us, must be the aim of all who desire to be more than mere teachers. Modern History, Politics, Sociology, Economics, Ethics, even Metaphysics—we may class all these under the broad heading of Politics, for one and all they deal with the life and destiny of the individual as a member of human society and a part of the Universe. There is no human being who, at least while he is young, does not feel a keen interest in such things; the deepest waters are stirred and the classroom becomes the meeting-place of minds engaged in an exciting adventure instead of being, as is so often now the case, a prison cell in which all a boy's spontaneity and joy of life are crushed out beyond recall.

Yet the two objections remain, and to one of them we address ourselves in this chapter.[2] When the possibility of political teaching is considered, the first thought that leaps to the mind is: Can the subject be taught without the introduction of propaganda? and is not Politics just the one subject in which propaganda is above everything undesirable? Now it may be pointed out that the present system of public school education is itself a form of political propaganda none the less effective for being concealed. A boy is sent to a public school with a set of political notions imbibed from his parents and the circle in which he moves, and during the whole period of his boyhood, no genuine effort is made to develop his powers of independent thought and so to enable him to revise his inherited opinions. A certain stimulus no doubt is given to his mental activity by setting him mathematical problems to solve and passages in the classical authors to construe; but his thought on political and social questions remains a thing apart, unstirred, atrophied. What else is this but political propaganda? And when it is reinforced by a thousand subtle hints in and out of the classroom, hints suggesting that, of course, there can be no two opinions about so-and-so and his supporters, it becomes one of the most potent instruments of mental darkness that has ever been allowed to function in a rational community.

But the objection to propaganda is not to be met by a "Tu quoque." It is one which raises the most fundamental issues of educational theory. To develop, we are told, and not to mould, is the aim of education; and every genuine educationist will eagerly agree. Yet you cannot develop in a vacuum. You must impart some background for the young mind, give it some material on which to work. How, then, can the compromise be effected? How can we inculcate and yet at the same time aim above every thing at the development of an individuality, which may and indeed must, be so very different from our own? The answer is not really hard to find. What we inculcate, the background we give, must be considered by us as merely a stop-gap, a poor temporary support which the child may fling away when he can support himself. And even while we are giving the support, we must at every moment be developing the power which will as soon as possible dispense with it.

If this caveat is borne in mind and honestly observed, propaganda, whether in political, philosophical, or religious teaching, becomes not only defensible but actually desirable. Nothing can be more fatal than to give the impression that it does not very much matter which of several conflicting principles or policies a boy adopts; that there are after all equally strong arguments on both sides, and that the adhesion of the world to one philosophy of life and code of conduct rather than another will make no very vital difference to anybody. Yet if the teacher presents his subject in a perfectly balanced and passionless manner such a result will inevitably follow. The boy will notice his master's lack of enthusiasm, and consequently remain unenthusiastic himself; and not only will that intellectual eagerness remain undeveloped, which is as a spark to set his whole nature ablaze, but also he will feel none of that moral passion for principles which is the crying need of the world to-day. A master in another school, which had adopted the idea of a Politics Class, heard of the excitement and controversy which ours was occasioning, and remarked adversely on our methods. "We teach Politics too," he said, "but we are careful that the boys should never be able to discover on which side our own sympathies lie. Consequently there is no excitement and no controversy. Politics are thought of in just the same way as any other school subject." We can well believe it. Our whole idea, of course, is that they should not be so thought of; that they should be regarded rather as a matter of most vital interest and importance both for the boy himself and for the world as a whole. We would have a boy feel an attachment to principles as romantic and absorbing as his affections for his dearest friend, not coldly cancel one principle against the other as if he were doing a sum in mathematics.

But it is time that we explained exactly what we mean when we say that a master should not shrink from propaganda in political teaching. We do not by any means intend that he should state only his own point of view, and pass over the arguments that may be urged against it. That would be the merest parody of education. Rather do we mean that he should adopt a threefold method. He should put forward his own view with all the enthusiasm that he feels for it (we have been called "missionaries" by way of abuse, but find nothing but honour in the word); simultaneously, he should impress on his pupils the fact that it after all is only his view, and urge them not merely to accept but to examine and criticise; and finally, he should explain with complete honesty every point that has been, or possibly could be, raised against it. We call this method "propaganda," because a fire is imparted to the statement of one side which cannot, from the nature of the case, be imparted to that of the other; but it is propaganda in which there is no touch of dishonesty or obscurantism.

We have said that, while he is presenting his case, the master should be urging his pupils to examine and criticise it. But he should do more than this; if he is a Liberal, he should spend much of his time in a direct propaganda of the great Liberal principles—freedom of thought and discussion; the sanctity of the individual conscience; the paramount importance of moral and intellectual independence. In this way he will be creating a habit of mind which will naturally criticise; and so by his propaganda of general liberalism he will annihilate the vantage-point he would otherwise occupy in his propaganda of particular principles and policies.

We speak of "liberal education," and surely the epithet is meaningless unless it be taken to imply that conversion to those general principles is the very bed-rock of education. But others think otherwise, and so we would point out the broad distinction which must be drawn between propaganda of the simple liberal and propaganda of the simple reactionary principle—on the one hand freedom of thought, on the other acceptance of ideas not one's own. Our liberal propaganda carries with it the instrument of its own overthrow. If you can inspire a boy with a desire to put all things to the test of his own free conscience, you are empowering him to criticise everything you teach—even that very liberty of opinion, a belief in which you have been so anxious to create. But with reactionary propaganda it is quite otherwise. By it a static habit of mind is produced—a habit of mind which, except by way of a mercifully not uncommon revolt, is a pawn in the hands of its present teacher, and that public opinion which in time to come will take its teacher's place.

A word may be added on the means best calculated to produce the free mind at which we are aiming. Use, of course, can and should be always made of the fundamental arguments (all to be found in Mill) in favour of liberty of opinion. But there is one case in which the employment of a subsidiary method may give even more valuable results. Where a boy holds tenaciously to an opinion which you think to be evil, argue against it unceasingly; show him the errors of it; point out passionately the beauty of its alternative. The stronger his conviction, the better; indeed, deliberately choose his deepest-seated prejudice—attack him in the very heart of what you regard as his error. Then, when at last he sees that the opinion which he had thought of as the only possible one is in reality wrong, and that another which he had loathed is in reality right, a tremendous intellectual conversion will have taken place; his own case will constantly act as a warning to him whenever he is again tempted to prejudice or narrowness of outlook.



[1] The italics are ours. Why were these two words inserted, we wonder.

[2] The other is dealt with in Chapter V.



CHAPTER IV

CONTROVERSY

"While a formidable strife between masters of different creeds might be engendered, it is arguable that the finest political spirit might be fostered by approaching the problems under the conditions of fairness and courtesy on which the public schools pride themselves."[1]—Manchester Guardian.

"Tolerance, to be more than a pale and negative virtue, needs to be based on an understanding of these different points of view, which means, again, bringing an educated mind to bear on them."—Westminster Gazette.

"Boys always will be boys" they say, and the saying can be interpreted in many ways. "Masters always will be masters" is a more sobering reflection. The reputation of schoolmasters for sweet reasonableness has never stood, perhaps, particularly high. Even supposing that, with a staff of angels, such a scheme of teaching as that sketched in the preceding chapter were desirable, will not the actual result be something very different? Will not "a formidable strife between masters of different creeds be engendered," and will not the spectacle of that strife, and a possible participation in it, be the very worst possible training for the new generation?

The difficulty is one that has got to be faced, and the present writers, at any rate, are not at all likely to overlook it. As was shown in Chapter II., our experiments collapsed not because our colleagues differed from us in political opinion, but because, differing from us in political opinion, they also differed from us in educational theory. Had the experiment collapsed simply because they differed from us in political opinion, it would be no use pursuing the subject of political education further; for a staff in which all the masters held the same political views would be unlikely to exist, and in any case altogether undesirable. We may take it for granted that the staff will consist of men of diverse political opinions. Indeed we may go further and take it for granted that in a school in which political education flourishes, those diversities, though certainly less bitter, will be more clearly marked than at present. In such a school the masters, for the most part, will be keenly interested in politics, for the school must be a single society of men and boys in real intellectual co-operation. What is good for the boys will be good for the masters. Perverse metaphors comparing masters and boys to hounds and hares will be seen as the symptom of a radically false educational philosophy.

If political education becomes not merely an experiment but an integral part of the timetable, the staff as a whole, not necessarily all the masters, but all those concerned with what are at present ironically called "the humanities," will be taking a part in it. But how can this be worked? We are here faced with a problem such as none of the ordinary school subjects has ever raised, at any rate in this acute form. Everything depends upon the educational philosophy of the staff. Everything depends upon the extent of their belief in freedom of opinion.

The case for freedom of opinion, like the case for self-government, has suffered from the fact that we take the theory so completely for granted that we do not notice how far we are removed from the practice of it. Freedom is supposed to be an Englishman's speciality. "Britons never shall be slaves," we say, and suppose that settles the matter. Very likely Thomson, when he wrote his feeble verses (they have been redeemed by an excellent tune), never paused to reflect that the sailors he was glorifying were mostly victims of the press-gang. It is but a step from a press-gang to a Press Bureau. Most Englishmen are not very anxious to tolerate any opinions but their own, if the subject be one that they deem of vital importance. Very few have the faith of the great apostles of freedom, the conviction that right opinion can only triumph through fair and open conflict with the wrong.

The cause of freedom, then, fares badly enough in the world outside, when we are only concerned with its application to those who have reached "years of discretion." Inside the school the difficulties are admittedly greater, and freedom has hitherto had a poor chance. Yet without freedom, though there may be instruction, there can hardly be education.

In so far then as the staff fall short in this vital matter of toleration, they must themselves go to school and learn; and he is probably a poor teacher who is not himself ever learning something more. Here perhaps the head master might find one of his finest opportunities. The conscientious modern head master often finds it hard to rise above the mass of administrative work attached to his office. He resembles Philip II. of Spain, of whom it was said that he was always trying to be his own private secretary. Meanwhile his assistants go their own ways, each narrowing into his own little intellectual groove. The result, at any rate in the more remote and less distinguished schools—that is to say, the vast majority—is a society far from idyllic. Even if politics were to engender "a formidable strife," the discords would not be breaking in upon any very beautiful harmonies. Two novels have recently been written by schoolmasters about their profession, and even if "Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill" may be discounted as the ill-natured revenge of a clever man who had mistaken his profession, "The Lanchester Tradition" has, we believe, been generally hailed as a truthful record. Masters at many schools have exclaimed, "How on earth does this Rugby man come to know all about us?" Teaching is spiritual work or it is nothing, and the head master ought to be, as the greatest head masters have been, a true leader of his staff in spiritual things.

Our profession is the most insanely individualistic in the world. Probably the teaching of every subject would be improved by the establishment of a really organised co-operation between the various masters teaching it, and "politics," with its strong human appeal would, with a leader worthy of his position, be the best place to begin. Masters would meet for a genuine educational purpose—and the last thing ever discussed at the masters' meetings we have attended has been educational principles—they would learn to see into each others' minds and methods, enlarge their intellectual sympathies and understand their differences. Thus a real corporate intellectual life of the staff might begin. Often at present this does not exist, and its absence is fatal to the school as a seriously intellectual institution.

And surely the need for the tolerant staff can hardly be exaggerated. And here we are thinking not so much of the war and its controversies as of the days that will follow. After the war a baser motive than even the crudest jingo patriotism will claim a monopoly over the political thought of public schoolboys for the defence not of "country," but of property. The unorthodox will be denounced not as "pacifists," but as "socialists," and the enemy will be not the Kaiser, but perhaps the Prime Minister of a Labour Government. But just as the only hope for the world after the war seems to lie in a League of Nations, so the only hope for England lies in the co-operation of all classes in a common search for industrial justice. The public schools are "class preserves" of the rich, and their opportunity for good, as for harm, will be almost boundless. "To turn out the young of the capitalist class with all their capitalist prejudices intact will be sheer dereliction of duty on the part of public schoolmasters." So wrote a great teacher of the older generation. The obvious way of destroying those prejudices as prejudices is by an enthusiastic and capable exposition of various forms of socialism. This can best be done by socialist masters. But, supposing the socialist teaching is false, why should those who are not Socialists fear for the result? It is a necessary part of the scheme that they on their side should make a reasoned defence of a reformed capitalism. If this is done "the young of the capitalist class" may be turned out Socialists or anti-Socialists, but at least they will go out into the world men of some economic understanding, with views based on reasoning, and by further reasoning or experience liable to be changed, not men with inherited prejudice intact.

If we assume in our staff a general inclination towards freedom of opinion, everything becomes possible. A hundred questions of organisation arise, essentially practical questions, and more easily solved by concrete experiment than by literary methods. It may, however, be worthy while to glance at a few of these.

Masters will always be human; and political education must be so organised as to suggest in every way that the masters of divergent views are co-operating in a general scheme of political education such as no one of them alone could impart, not competing for the political allegiance of the boys. A school is not a bye-election in permanent session. Thus, though a controversial element is bound to come into political education, we would mitigate this element by not allowing any one form to go to more than one master for political work. The boy will pass from form to form, and thus the conservatism of a summer term will be tempered by the radicalism of the following winter. But these political compartments will not be particularly air-tight in any case. The house master will be a permanent influence, and when a keen-witted boy has just got out of the form of a sympathetic master, it is unlikely that they will altogether lose touch with one another.

At the top of the school, however, the controversial element should be more frankly accepted. We believe in the permanent institution of a voluntary Politics Class in which the best boys will hear again the best of the masters who have taught them on their way up the school. Between such a Politics Class and a really efficient school Debating Society it might be hard to draw a precise line. One would play into the hands of the other.

The "judicial" teacher, the man who from an Olympian elevation surveys the political strivings of past and present alike, and analyses, catalogues, and defines, creating all the while an impression of luminous impartiality, may, of course, do much good work. The present writer would be the last man to deny it when he remembers his own debt to a teacher of that kind. None the less, we believe that it is the other kind of teaching that is really needed in the schools of the well-to-do to-day.[2] The political problems of our time are of intense and terrible importance: on their solution this way or that depends the happiness or the misery of uncounted millions; and it is so largely on the way that the young of the privileged classes learn to look at them that their solution depends. "Judicial" teaching creates the impression that so long as you "know the case" for or against a policy, it does not matter whether you believe it, and as for acting upon it, or making sacrifices for it, there is no question of doing anything so "extreme." Education must create enthusiasm.

It must also make for many-sidedness, and so we arrive at the function of the staff, the many-sided staff of enthusiasts. Let each one believe himself, if he is young enough to do so, the monopolist of political truth. Let each one differ from all his colleagues on every subject under the sun, except two, the infinite possibilities of the boys he teaches, and the infinite importance of freedom of opinion.



[1] Is there a little irony here?

[2] Whether any particular single school can afford to experiment in such teaching is, of course, another matter altogether. Gallio is a less troublesome colleague than Paul, and Paul will waste his breath if he complains of the obvious fact that such things are so. But he has a better ground of complaint when he sees himself silenced, while Sosthenes is allowed to carry on as vigorously as he pleases.



CHAPTER V

CAPTURE BY THE STATE

"It is a great and perilous discovery that the State can [as in Germany] impress the minds of masses of men by a carefully organised system of political education, and we hope the authors will bear it in mind."—Westminster Gazette.

"Germany has shown the world to what evil ends the dishonest use of schools and schoolmasters must lead."—Contemporary Review.

We have discussed the pros and cons of propaganda—the propaganda, that is to say, by each master of his particular point of view—and have concluded that, if certain safeguards are adopted and honestly adhered to, such propaganda is desirable. But there is one particular form of propaganda which no one, if he has any reverence at all for the individuality of his pupils and the freedom of the world, can regard as anything but an abomination. And here we meet with the most serious criticism which can be, and has been, levelled against the project of political education. Suppose, it has been urged, that your scheme is adopted by a number of the public schools; suppose that by a steady process of attack, this new and very powerful piece of machinery is captured by the State, as a means of imposing orthodoxy on the nation and nipping in the bud a great part of our potential vigour and independence; have you not then defeated most disastrously your own object, and desiring above everything more liberty in thought and more self-reliance in action, merely succeeded in setting up a system similar to that which created the national character of modern Germany?

It is at first sight a most damaging criticism; and a criticism which seems to gather weight as we look about us and observe the terrible results which have occurred when the State has been allowed to manipulate opinion for its own ends. No Englishman will need to have the lesson of Germany brought home to him; he knows too well how inculcation through the schools of the worst type of narrow patriotism, rendered seemingly noble by a deliberate falsification of history, has warped the generosity which all children, German or other, possess, into a pitiful acquiescence in every form of intellectual and moral vileness. But in England, too, the danger signals are not wanting. We have observed the people falling more and more under the sway of one man's ideas, carried by his Press into every town and village of the countryside: we have noticed that complete independence does not appear always to exist as between the Press and the men who are responsible for the gravest acts of public policy; and some of us do not much like what we have seen. Are we then to help forward the forces making for our own Prussianisation? We desire to see Politics taught by masters of every shade of political opinion, so that the boys may have all the materials from which to form an independent judgment; but will not the State see to it, as it grows more and more powerful, that only those men are allowed to become, or to remain, schoolmasters, who will teach a doctrine not abhorrent to the powers that be? Those who know the public schools will not be at a loss to understand how such a consummation could be achieved. Even now there is the pressure of parents, members of the financial or political wing of the ruling class—a pressure few head masters are big enough to resist. And in the future—to take only one instance—may not Conscription remain, and the Government exercise a direct control through the medium of the O.T.C.?

And as one writes these words; as one sees the ghastly prospect of more and more State control, more and more authoritarianism and docility, less and less of the free co-operation which is the very life-blood of society, one sees also that the only way in which we can prevent the remedy we have proposed from becoming another instrument in the hands of our enemies, is simply by adopting that remedy itself. We must break in on the vicious circle while and how we can. For why is there a danger of our instrument of education being turned into an instrument of obscurantism? Only because there is a danger of our whole society becoming rotten to the core; only because there is a danger of the present cleavage between the two English nations becoming wider and wider, until we have, on the one hand, a class ruling in the interests of money and privilege, and, on the other, a slaving and possibly pampered proletariate. And unless a start is made here and now with the political education of Europe—unless boys and girls are made to think politically while their generosity and idealism is still untainted by motives of personal profit, and their powers of vital thought not yet decayed by disuse—these and worse things will happen; love, tolerance, and the independence which is the birthright of men, will all be engulfed in a mad welter of personal, class, and national selfishness. In such a society it really would not matter very much if political education were captured by the State; and the only way, as it seems to us, of preventing its advent is by getting up a system of political education. For by political education we are creating the only possible safeguard against a misuse of it—we are creating a society which will not desire to misuse it.

And so we would make, if we may, an appeal to all who are considering what their future work shall be, and to those also who may be finding their present work unprofitable—we would urge them to become schoolmasters. We like sometimes to think of a little Greek army of devoted warriors—a band of five hundred young men, who will go into the public schools and there gradually help to set up a system of political education. The word "Greek" is not out of place. For there is something about the sunlit freshness of a cricket field—something too, about the boys, belonging for the most part to a class which, with all its faults, has a great tradition of public service behind it—that brings before the mind a gathering of Greek humanity in the smiling peace of a Greek country place. It is idle to pretend that a man of ability who goes into the schoolmastering profession does not have to make many sacrifices. His salary is usually miserable; his chances of a head mastership must be at present in inverse ratio to the vigour with which he acts on the principles he believes in, for these posts are mostly reserved for the "safe," as the debates of the Head Masters' Conference used to show, until, a few years ago, that body very wisely decided to exclude reporters. But the compensations are enormous. He will live all his life close to boys whom, when he once gets to know them, he will find to have a freshness and high-heartedness which will be a constant source of hope and inspiration; he will have the joy of watching their minds develop, and of feeling that it is due in some measure to him that they are growing into makers of happiness for themselves and the world. And when in his work he is met by the opposition of those who misinterpret or misunderstand, he will have an almost fierce satisfaction in the faith that the future may be all on his side, and that many years hence a little of him will live in men who have realised not his, but their, individuality, and that potentiality for goodness which, as well as he was able, he fostered and brought to the light.

We have both been schoolmasters; at the moment we are neither of us anything so useful; and we feel that we can say quite dogmatically that there is no happiness equal to that of the profession that was ours. And both of us fell into it accidently, as so many others have done. Yet the appeal for schoolmasters should surely not be based entirely or even mainly on the idyllic picture of the happy schoolmaster. John Stuart Mill reduced hedonism to its fundamental paradox when he declared that the way to find happiness was to turn your back on it. If there is one lesson which political education rightly conducted cannot fail to impress upon its best boys, it is the crying need of the schools for their services. From Plato and Aristotle down to the latest treatises on Reconstruction, be it the "Principles of Reconstruction," as laid down by Mr. Bertrand Russell, or the "Elements of Reconstruction," as reprinted from The Times with an introduction by Lord Milner, all alike come round to education as the keystone of the arch of politics. The final appeal is always to the schoolmaster, and it is perhaps less hopeful to appeal to the actual schoolmaster of to-day than to the possible schoolmaster of to-morrow. As are our schools, so will be our Parliaments and our Civil Service, and some at any rate who have mapped out for themselves a career of political usefulness and honour in Westminster, Whitehall, or abroad, might bethink themselves first of Banquo.

"Lesser than Macbeth and greater: Not so happy yet much happier; Thou shalt get kings though thou be none."



CHAPTER VI

THE MAKING OF "POLITICIANS"

"The way the authors wish to realise their ideal would, I fear, merely increase the output of politicians and political journalists, of whom an adequate supply already exists."—Mr. E. B. Osborn, in The Morning Post.

Sharp-wittedness playing on ignorance to the end of personal advancement—so dominant a feature has this become of our political life, that any protest against the misuse of a noble word, when men speak contemptuously of politics, is no doubt quite untimely. Untimely, because it is too early, not because it is too late. We retain the word ourselves, and call the kind of education we advocate political education; appropriately it seems to us, for we believe that its wide adoption would remove the root cause which has made such a stigma possible, and free the very name of politics from the indignities it now justly suffers.

Nothing, indeed, could be wider of the mark than the notion that a system of political education would increase the number of self-seeking, power-hunting "politicians." Such men are the product, not of political education, but of the lack of it. What is the present situation? To the ordinary boy, politics, when it first obtrudes itself on his attention, appears under one or other of two aspects. If he is clever, or is imagined to be so by ambitious parents, or again, if, though stupid, he happens to belong to a political family, the air begins to be thick with talk of his "going into" politics. He is to "go into" politics in the same way as men "go into" the Stock Exchange or the law; by virtue either of birth or brains he is to enter one of those little strongholds of his class, and earn his living there by playing the appropriate game.

This is the guise under which politics appears to one type of boy. The other type, hears in some quarter or other a babble about income-tax and little navies and big loans; and either dismisses the whole thing as "absolute rot," which can have no possible meaning for him, or imbibes the ideas and prejudices of the people whose talk he is listening to, without in the least understanding their implications.

From these two types is developed the great bulk of the population, considered under its political aspect. On the one side, politicians, whether clever or stupid; on the other, the electorate, ignorant and apathetic, or prejudiced and inflammable, as the case may be. There are, of course, other classes too. There is the man who has made money in business, and late in the day conceives the idea of entering Parliament—which he sometimes succeeds in doing even when he has been unable to avoid making an election speech or two. There is the idealist who takes up political work with the sole object of doing useful service. There is the well-informed and open-minded student of public affairs. There is the intellectualist. But the great majority are as we have described them.

The introduction of a far-reaching system of political education would have three results, each of which would reinforce the others in putting an end to the present state of affairs. Make every one a politician, and "politicians" will become rare. Politics will cease to be an essentially specialised profession; men will no longer "go into" it as into a thing apart. Some will administer, guide, and direct; others will know and criticise. But every one will be politically active; and instead of the stronghold of politics in a desert of ignorance, there will be that interplay of political functions, distributed among the whole body of the people, which is the real meaning of democracy.

And not only will politics cease to be a preserve, kept ready for spoliation by the clever, the pushing, the rich, and the well-born, but also the very desire in these men so to misuse their citizenship will cease altogether to come to birth. For political education, properly so called, awakens political idealism; it teaches principles, arouses aspirations after public service. The "politician" is a man who finds in political intrigue the fruitful source of his own advancement; one who catches at every breeze to further his personal ends. But if politics had formed the basis of his education; if, while his idealism was still untainted, he had been led to consider fundamental principles, and to examine public affairs in the light of them: then the potential goodness of his political nature would have been so fully realised, that no vain or mean thing would disfigure his maturity. "Ah, but 'potential goodness' and 'while his idealism was still untainted'; there's the rub," we hear the cynic saying. Such criticism moves us not at all. We had to do during the course of our experiment with a great number of boys of many different types; one can recall hardly a case in which, when vital thought had really been awakened, often after much sweat and agony, virtue was not found to be the fundamental characteristic of the boy's intellectual nature. But the teacher must not, of course, rest satisfied until he is certain that the goal in very truth has been reached; until he is sure that his pupil has thrown off the weight of carelessness, thoughtlessness, and prejudice, and that his mind is really awake and is in actual contact with ideas.

Finally, just as the leader and administrator will not desire to misuse his powers, so the education of the rest of the nation will deprive him of his opportunity. For it is only among a people politically uneducated that corruption and intrigue on a grand scale can exist. The unscrupulous creation and manipulation of public opinion; the concealment of low and mean designs under an appearance of nobility and disinterestedness; the putting forward of one argument in support of a policy, while a thousand are kept back which weaken or invalidate it; the appeal to prejudice and blind passion; the cunning use of suggestion; worst of all that pitiable game which consists of turning the people's noblest instincts—instincts of fellowship, solidarity, romance—to the basest ends; marks of degradation such as these would vanish gradually but surely as knowledge and power of criticism spread to every section of the community. Such evil motives as still existed would be seen through and exposed; events would be regarded, not as isolated occurrences, but as a part of history, to be viewed in their relation to the whole and to be judged in accordance with a definite philosophy of life. So that if, here and there, a "politician" survived or made his reappearance in the clearer atmosphere, he would find his playthings gone; waiting instead for him would be men, citizens, politicians—ready to sweep him aside and gaily choose a better man.



CHAPTER VII

PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND FREAK SCHOOLS

The Radical—and by the Radical we mean any one who sees that life for the majority at the present time is not as fine and happy as it should be, and who is determined to leave no stone unturned to make it so—commonly looks askance at the public schools. He thinks of them, rightly, as the stronghold of those in possession, the class which, as a whole, not only opposes such fundamental reforms as would result in a fairer distribution of wealth, but also itself has failed to do what might conceivably justify its favoured position, to keep alive, by virtue of special opportunities such as would disappear in a society based on equality, the finest ideas of which the race is capable. Individual and national power, privilege, commercialism—it is on these things that it has set its eyes in its leadership of the nation. And so our fellow-radicals have more than once said to us, "If you are really keen on education, why don't you start a school of your own?"

Now it is, no doubt, difficult for any one who has fallen under the sway of a public school, and who has been so caught up by its fascination as to feel for it a love more compelling than anything in his life, to be certain that personal predilections do not dictate a reply unjustified by intellectual considerations. Yet for all that we give our answer without hesitation. For the multiplication of what may be conveniently, if somewhat unkindly, classed together as "freak" schools, breaks no fresh ground at all. Boys who have been brought up in an "intellectualist" atmosphere, and those alone, are sent there; and even if there were no schools to which they could be sent, home influence would turn them out intellectualists still. The ranks of the intellectualists, in fact, are recruited from three main sources. First, there are the sons of intellectualists, sent either to a freak school or to no school at all; secondly, sons of intellectualists of a slightly different type, sent to a public school yet nevertheless retaining in the new environment their own peculiar stamp; and, thirdly, the clever sons of "ordinary" parents, sent to a public school and becoming intellectualists by revolt against the philistinism of it and of their homes. The community thus composed leads a life as distinct and separate from that of the rest of the nation as was ever lived by the "Intelligentzia" in Russia's darkest hour. It has hardly a point of contact with the average Englishman; it does not understand his revues and musical comedies, his novels and cinemas, his hunting and race meetings; it speaks a different language, thinks altogether different thoughts. And being itself not in the least understood, it has acquired a certain hardness of mind, a certain contempt for ordinary people and ordinary things, which has widened the gulf, and led to mutual suspicion and sometimes even hatred. Inevitably its mental health has been affected by such a situation. Feeling itself different, it has consciously made itself as different as possible; intellectual extravagances indulged in from mere bravado, these and similar stigmata of balance lost and sanity impaired have made their appearance in varying degrees at one time or another. Under a different set of circumstances—those of the war, for instance, so far as concerns a section of the group of which we are speaking—there has been a pitiful relapse into mere boredom, cynicism, and inactivity; remote from the passions of the crowd, and unable to give service to a cause in which they disbelieve, some of our cleverest men have provided an English parallel with the vodka-drinking, bridge-playing, and unutterably tired community of highly-developed intellects which Tchekoff describes so brilliantly.

Now, in saying all this we would not have it thought that we are bringing a sweeping accusation against one section of the nation. For the fault lies, not mainly with them, but with the lack of culture, idealism, and genuine education which characterises England (and most other countries) to-day. In a country in which regard for things of the mind and spirit was the rule and not the exception, these men would form the backbone of the nation; they would develop along healthy lines, be marked by love and sympathy instead of contempt, use their great powers to the full in the public service. What they are to be blamed for is their failure to see their real duty; their failure to understand that it is among the philistines, and not in their own exclusive set, that their most important work lies. Some of them, of course, do understand this, and spend their lives in an unselfish attempt to spread light in the darkness. But even so they commonly speak a language which is not understood; and inevitably they fail to achieve any widespread result.

It is not, then, in the multiplication of schools designed to cater for intellectualists that we see the best hope for the progress of the nation. We see it rather in the creation of an army of missionaries from among the ordinary men themselves; missionaries of thought about the great problems of life and society, fashioned out of those who are of the people and understand and sympathise with their emotions. When once the average, revue-loving, thoughtless, "sporting" public school boy has been taught to think vigorously about politics and sociology; when once he has been so fired with enthusiasm for these things that he will teach and talk to others of his kind: then, at last, slowly and painfully no doubt, but none the less inevitably, will war, poverty, and materialism vanish altogether from a world not meant for them. That is why we have ventured to urge all those who both are idealists and love the public schools—but those alone—to break in on them and help to awaken the great sleeping instrument of salvation.

And they will find good material awaiting them. The English public school boy shares with all the youth of all the nations an immense store of latent idealism, which can be brought to a splendid fruition if atrophy and decay are not allowed to overtake it. But he possesses other things also, over and above this common heritage. The intellectualist has often got beyond the big ideas, if such a paradox may be allowed; they have been for so long the platitudes of his caste, and he has grown so hopeless of their general acceptance, that he has turned to a search after subtle refinements and intellectual novelties, in the course of which much generous breadth of vision has been lost. Again, many working-class reformers—can it be wondered?—not only bring to their task a bitterness against the world which has so misused them and their fellows, but also have inevitably been cut off from those gentle manners of life which have been gradually evolved by the more fortunate to express, however imperfectly, the feeling for grace and beauty which it should be our aim, not to crush, but to extend to all. But with the public school boy all is different. Once he has begun to think in any real sense of the word, his intellectual life develops as joyfully and naturally as does the physical life of the beasts of the field. Freshly and spontaneously, and with no trace of self-consciousness or affectation, he leaps to greet ideas and principles, between which and his own true nature there is a glorious bond of kinship. We have seen boy after boy, as he realises, for instance, the meaning of Liberty, and gets his first glimpse of the wide country which such a realisation opens up, experiencing an emotion of happiness which we can only compare to the catch of breath with which men see great scenes of beauty, or hear of lovely deeds of generosity and heroism. Given their chance, public school boys (not one or two, but great masses of average humanity) will rediscover for themselves the simple things which Christ and Plato taught; and once that is achieved a general advance all along the line toward the goal of a worthy human society may begin.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse