Billeder på siden

licensing of teachers, for the conduct of inspection and the apportioning of money grants, is, in itself, not a mechanical fabric of codes and subsidies. On the contrary, national education, in the true sense, is a spirit of living influence, a spiritual and intellectual atmosphere. It may, or it may not, partly exert its influence through some mechanism, new or old, either expressly set up for the purpose or by traditional convenience employed for it. When Monsieur Cousin in his report on German education in 1831 incidentally referred to England as "all bristling with prejudices, Gothic institutions and semibarbarous customs, over which there is awkwardly thrown the mantle of a wholly material civilization," he showed, as one might expect, a real insight into the queer jumble of things through which partly, though only partly, English education in those days made itself felt. But when thirteen years later Mr Horace Mann remarked in the Report of his Educational Tour in Europe that "England is the only one among the nations of Europe, conspicuous for its civilization and resources, which has not and never has had any system for the education of its people," he showed, not only that he was unfamiliar with the history of our social institutions, but that the habit of identifying national education with an organised system of publicly inspected and publicly managed primary schools, mainly for the working classes, and with that alone, had led him to ignore the lineaments of the very important educational fabric which did exist and which-as England was admittedly conspicuous for its civilization and resources-must, if higher education has any bearing on such matters, have been not altogether destitute of influence and success.


But, though I have laid stress on the fact that some of the most penetrating and subtle influences in education are spiritual

and atmospheric, and therefore for the most part unorganisable, and in their operation very little subject to our control, I am very far from meaning that one and the same spirit and atmosphere are to be found in all parts of our English education as it exists to-day. Due allowance, of course, would in any case have to be made for differences in the grade, in the subject-matter of the studies, and in the intensive power, of the different types of schools and colleges. But this being granted, there might nevertheless be (as doubtless in some countries there is) a predominant and recognisable tone in all the educational institutions of a given grade, and to some extent a certain community of ideal and sentiment throughout the whole range of the national education. But it is this which seems to me to be lacking in English education, and indeed always to have been lacking, whether we go back one hundred years, or two. And this discord in our ideals of life does not seem to be the outcome of isolated individualism nor yet of any slackness or of want of supervision on the part of the State. On the contrary, the absence of minute State control and of all-embracing State subsidy and inspection appears itself to be the direct result of this pre-existing and ineradicable conflict of ideals, a conflict which takes, naturally enough, different shapes in different generations, which periodically dies down and to a casual observer might sometimes seem extinct, but which blazes out, often very suddenly, at all great crises in national life, and then divides a large proportion of the people into two parts, so that you might almost think of them as two nations rather than one.

It is told of the great Bishop Butler that Dean Tucker, as he walked by his side one day in his garden, observed him to be unusually abstracted. At length the Dean ventured to ask the Bishop's thoughts. "I have been thinking," he replied, "what would be the effect if, instead of madness being confined to individual cases, it should be permitted, for the execution of some design of Providence, that a whole nation should go mad

at once'." Our severest critics would, I think, agree that it is at any rate true that the whole English people has never gone mad at once. Ours is a country of stubborn minorities, now on one side and now on another. And hardly any services that have been rendered to England are so precious as those which have been the result of tenacity to principle-bristling though it may have been with prejudices-displayed on more than one occasion, and against almost overwhelming odds, by each of the two great sections into which the English nation is apt to be divided. To avoid misconception, I would explain that the two sections which I have in my mind are by no means identical with existing political parties, and indeed that they have rarely been (except temporarily and partially) so conveniently divided. Nor again do the sections in any way strictly follow lines of class distinction. Nor is the division territorial, though parts of the North and of the East of England have more of one type than have most of the South and of the West. But it is a difference, often unconscious till laid bare by some explosion of feeling,—a difference in ideals of life, in attitude of mind, in ways of looking at things, in instinctive sympathy with different types of institutions, in the degree of emphasis laid on particular groups of virtues. And, like some inherited and almost ineradicable tendency, the difference persists from generation to generation of our national life.

Now it is not unnatural that this has been looked upon as insecure ground on which to build up an ambitious fabric of education under State control. On the other hand it seems from another point of view to have promoted what Coleridge2 called the "balance of the two great correspondent interests of the State, at once supporting and counterpoising, permanence and progression."

A further, and serious, difficulty is that the individuals which compose these two sections of the people are so much 1 Churton, Life of Joshua Watson, Vol. I., p. 235.

2 Church and State, p. 31.

intermixed in point of residence and local concern that it would be impracticable to substitute for the highly organised State system, found .convenient in some other countries, a purely decentralised system homogeneous within the limits of each of a carefully chosen number of provincial areas.

And great as is the difficulty when England alone is taken into account, how much is it increased if one regards Great Britain, or Great Britain and Ireland, as the unit, and tries to think of Irish, Welsh, Scotch and English individualities comfortably assimilating themselves to one national system of education. Then, if we cast our eyes still further afield, and try to reach the conception of an Imperial system of education, how greatly is the problem complicated by the needs and preferences of the chief self-governing colonies-Canada, Australasia, New Zealand, the Cape; and how incongruous again are the further elements in the problem-India, the West Indies, and the needs of the natives in different parts of Africa.

The fact is that experience and the accurate observations of men of science have all gone towards showing the immense difficulties in the way of satisfactorily organising national life on the basis of the assumptions which were in many people's minds two or three generations ago. The idea of the advocates of education at the beginning of the century, on the utilitarian side, was that children in the raw were uniform, and if uniformly treated (that is to say, at a day school) would come out at a similar point of view, and similar in attainment, aptitude and character. "Wakefield,” wrote Francis Place' to James Mill in 1816, "is a believer in innate propensities...and expects to see your John's innate propensities break out presently and form his character.... The position I take against him is that the generality of children are organised so nearly alike that they may by proper management be made pretty nearly equally wise and virtuous." Just as the English economists of the

1 Graham Wallas' Life of Place, p. 71.

same period had their idea of the economic man-a notion which implied a certain uniformity among men irrespective of race, background and endowment—; and just as political writers of the school of Tom Paine had in their mind what one may call a political man, who was similarly interchangeable with every other political man and conveniently uniform in responsiveness to appeals to his enlightened self-interest; so there haunts the educational speculations of the same school a phantom which we may style the educational man, from which individual differences seem almost to have been peeled away, leaving a sort of quivering core of faculties behind.

Now the economists, by putting out of account disturbing factors in the problem, led many different kinds of people to attach relatively undue importance to the purely economic factors in problems of industry and commerce. Few things are more striking in the earlier years of the century than the degree of insensibility, or rather the want of vigorous, heart-searching attention, towards the horrors and squalid mischief of the unregulated Factory system, on the part of men and women who, if they had only realised what was going on, would have felt every impulse of their nature going out in search of some moral remedy and State control. There were exceptions of course; but, speaking broadly, the awful significance of the problem was not realised for years by the very men whose sympathies were all against unrestrained industrial development. To some extent, but only to some extent, this is explained by their mostly living far away from the newly developed districts: in large measure those who were capable of effort were preoccupied by other cares; but a deeper reason may have been that Adam Smith had fixed upon them a sort of semi-fatalistic idea that the division of labour is an inevitable accompaniment of all industrial progress, and that as an inevitable accompaniment of the division of labour the man concerned has 'no occasion to exert his understanding,' and so 'generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as

« ForrigeFortsæt »