In the subject thus proposed for our attention, we shall regard "problems" as meaning what aims and methods should be pursued, and "education" as meaning the public or private bringing-up and instruction of the young - say persons between the ages of conception and the early twenties - as individuals, or in groups or in masses. In an attempt not to stray from reality, we shall think of conditions we know in our own country, but we shall not forget that everywhere else - in Persia and Peru, in Iceland and Indonesia - in spite of outward disparities humanity is faced by the same challenges and dangers.
While I must leave it to those better qualified than I to construe this article in the light of the ideas of Systematics, I believe that its tendency is in harmony with the purposes of the Institute and that the article may be regarded as a brief essay in the field of integration.
From spoken and printed references all round us, we might gather that the problems of education today were such as the following: to decide through what functions the universities of Oxford and Cambridge may best serve the country; how to concentrate children and students in very large, expensively equipped schools, colleges and universities, themselves suitably dispersed; how to absorb the independent and public schools into the state system; how to replace most, if not all, of the traditional personal teaching by an apparatus of broadcast lessons, films, tape-recorders, television and teaching-machines; how to train the population to meet the boredom expected from enforced leisure; how to train technical workers for industry, partly so that they may have employment and partly so that our country may compete better with foreign countries; how to use schools to sweep away traditional social standards and distinctions; and how to teach the three R's in less time than has been usual.
From its crudest beginnings the English state system of schools has had many sponsors and teachers who have dedicated themselves to the causes of literacy and intellectual and moral training; but it is a melancholy reflection that every big advance in its history (for example, every Education Act) has been brought about less in order to satisfy the aspirations of these zealots, than in order to satisfy the demands of industry and the civil service, and of the military forces and the political parties.
Every day the eight problems that have been enumerated, and others like them, are publicly and privately discussal. Thousands, perhaps millions of people believe that in the projects with which these discussions are concerned the the brightest hopes for the fujure of the nation as a whole and of the individuals who will compose the next generation. Yet, from certain points of view, all these projects appear, at best, hasty and irrelevant. Most of them may be expected to have unhappy, or even disastrous, results. Not one of them can permanently and profoundly benefit the nation. The true problems of education today are different. To conceive what they are, we have to train ourselves, or be led by our experience, to see with different eyes and to judge in a different frame of mind.
Indeed, the first problem to-day is to perceive what the problems to-day are.
The schools of art of the various periods and countries have shown what contrasting and sometimes disconcerting views of the human being can result from putting the emphasis on different alternative aspects, In the past hundred years, human beings have been painted for us by Renoir as tender and amiable fairies, almost too good to be true; by Otto Dix as stark, brave victims of hardship; by the Futurists as jangling bundles of metal; and by Picasso very often as puppets looking remarkably like gloves. The mere mention of Cretan, Etruscan, Mexican, Indian, Japanese and negro art brings before our mind's eye quite other metamorphoses. It is not only the outward appearance that is varied, but the estimate or impression of the human being's inner nature and meaning.
All the eight educational projects that have been mentioned result from a particular way of estimating this nature and meaning.
They all agree in regarding human beings as tools to be manipulated, as means, not ends.
If the ends for which they were to be manipulated were super-human or divine this might, perhaps, be legitimate. But they are not. They are sub-human. Administrative convenience and aggrandisement; the provision of employment for officials and of opportunities for manufacturers; the expansion of industry; and the social aims of political parties; - these, all or some of which may be justified in their place, are set up as objectives in which human beings have little meaning but hat of diminutive mechanical parts. Champions of these projects may sincerely deny this: yet, whether they recognise the fact or not, they are ignoring the spiritual and moral purposes and needs of the human being.
The individual child; his whole generation, and indeed the entire human race need certain nourishment and exercise, - physical, mental and moral, - without which they fall sick and cease to be fully and worthily human. That there arc physical needs everybody knows; that there arc mental and moral is apparent from the findings of psychiatrists and from the inner dissatisfaction shown by many inhabitants of 'welfare states' such as Sweden and Denmark. If we allow ourselves to be diverted from the task of providing the right nourishment and exercise, and we substitute what is unnatural, trivial, paralysing, or poisonous, we shall inevitably find ourselves surrounded by more and more young people who are unco-operative and unreliable, or at least uncreative and unadaptable as workers, and soured, unhappy, selfish, neurotic and destructive as members of society. The institutions which will have tried to bend the human being to their purpose will find that they have broken him in their hands and made him useless even to themselves.
We should be making the same mistake as the champions of our eight causes, - treating our pupils as tools for our own purposes, - if we assumed that education at home or in a state institution, alone determined a pupil's earthly career and (if we were to believe in one) his pilgrimage after death. In the growth of the young; education, ever in the widest sense, is only one element, though an immensely important one. The other and primary element is the young person himself. The pupils inherited charcteristics, - physical, mental and moral - have long been recognised as the given material upon which training and teaching bear. The comparative effectiveness of heredity and environment, of nature and nurture, is a classical theme in educational discussion. But this nineteenth-century and materialistic notion is not comprehensive enough. Besides the qualities physically inherited, we may discover spiritual qualities or forces which he brings with him as an individual at conception, and a destiny or role he has come into the world with the intention of carrying out. Bringing-up and education are means by which the pupil should be helped - but can be hindered - in his unique task of gradually awakening and directing his peculiar powers.
A reader who rejects the idea of a spiritual individuality can perhaps agree that there are fellow-creatures whom we love and for whom we delight to make sacrifices; and that there are kinds of behaviour to which we are ashamed to descend not because they transgress public laws or social conventions, but because we inwardly and independently scorn them as unworthy of us. There is something, that is to say, in ourselves and in certain other human beings, which compels our respect by its intrinsic worth. It is immature, but the chief problems of education are to recognise it in pupils, and to serve it in such a way that it will grow. A student of education has to try to discover in what such a way may consist.
Sensitive and earnest teachers (the salt of the earth) here and there work tirelessly trying to cultivate the ideals and moral imagination of their pupils, but it can hardly be claimed that any of our educational systems themselves is organized primarily, if at all, with this object. Yet we are by no means justified in taking wisdom, justice, truthfulness, and love for granted, as being original, fixed, assured conditions of our lives. It is salutary to conceive of a past world in which these virtues, in the form we know them, did not exist; and of a future world in which, if we fail in our duty, they may exist no longer. There is danger, or folly, for example, in planning a civilisation to be based on the development of science, without any spiritual or moral sanction, if we cannot be sure that the ideal of scientific truthfulness itself, on which a scientific civilization depends, will persist. Forecasters of scientific and technological civilizations, instead of taking it for granted that scientists will continue to speak the truth and that society will continue to value justice among its members and will wish to radiate universal benevolence, might well ask themselves whence these ideals come.
Already, in these few pages, we have caught glimpses of several dimensions of the human being. He has come before us in the form of an individual person and in the form of an entire race. We have envisaged a past and a future of both these manifestations. We have seen the individual as possessing a spiritual nucleus or essential value and also as being set in an environment which, when man-made, can re-act upon him by turning him into its tool. We have observed him as belonging to both a physical world and a moral world. We remember the ancient conception that man consists of body, soul and spirit.
I hope it is not perverse, - I think it is merely candid, - to say that in homes, schools and streets to-day the spirit is generally forgotten and the soul generally misunderstood and degraded. The body, if also misunderstood and sometimes degraded, is universally admitted to exist and generally honoured. Everybody acknowledges the daily need of what is commonly regarded as physical food. Everybody seeks some measure of bodily comfort. To an enormous extent in the life of all classes of society, the most primitive part of the soul is indulged by the continual exercise, or titillation, of bodily, nervous or sensory appetites. There are, however, some kinds of sensation or excitement that nourish parts of the soul nobler than the most primitive; there are for instance, very different levels of music, and there are sights that inspire compassionate action. But of many of the most neglected young people it seems true that shallow responses to trivialities fill most of their lives, and that they give too little time to intellectual efforts, heroic and creative ideals and responsible ambitions. Of more fortunate young people this is of course not absolutely, but still too, nearly true.
Most children in England are not only allowed but taught to consider as being almost as necessary as food a continual supply of sweets, comics, locomotion, sub-classical ('pop') music, the restless and changing picture of professional sport, television, and hideous clothes, and at some age or other smoking, drinking, and dancing that is not dancing. A number doubtless by less direct permission and teaching, are led, while still juveniles, to experiences of copulation. Certainly most children meet better influences too, but the significant fact is that few homes and few (if any) schools make any frank and resolute attempt to combat the mean and harmful influences. Nearly all homes and schools surrender and then become accomplices. This is partly because so many parents and teachers themselves want these very things; partly because many young parents in all classes now think it wrong to deny a child anything he asks for; and partly because many of the more civilised and enlightened parents and teachers feel themselves at a loss, shrug their shoulders and exclaim, 'There's nothing we can do about it', 'We have to accept it', or 'We have to move with the times'. Thus, instead of a school being conceived as a place where a strict way of life is lived and learnt, - as a place of intellectual, moral and spiritual initiation, - it has become, whether it is a 'modern school', a 'technical college' or a 'Public School', a place where television, transistors and 'pop' records are going on as much of the day as possible, and where the 'twist' or current so-called dance is allowed or even organized by the authorities. In universities, contraceptives are on sale, and it is said that clinics for birth control are being planned. The so-called authorities have lost moral and spiritual authority because they have ceased to assert it. The children and the students are like untrained and driverless runaway horses.
One aspect of the bodily life is the economic; and all parents desire schooling for their children if they believe that without it the children will be at a disadvantage in seeking employment. Whether only a low literacy is required, or a school or professional or university examination, the universal ground of parental support of schools, in the state system and in the preparatory-and-public-school system, is the desire that children should eventually become eligible for an employment thought suitable. Perhaps, in the last resort, preparation for employment is the only part of education that the two systems of schools treat perfectly seriously. Millions of children and young people try to study academic and technical subjects for no other real reason than the economic one. Comparatively few (even in grammar schools) are competent to love their studies for the studies' own sake. The delightful arts and sciences pass over most children's heads, their delights unrecognised,
Since man is not essentially a physical or economic creature, but physical and economic existence is only a discipline through which he has to work his way, the physical sphere, - the field of bodily experience and economic preparation, - can be separated only artificially from, the psychical and spiritual spheres, within which all education, true or false, intentionally or unintentionally operates.
Educational problems in the physical sphere cannot be well recognised till we pass, in our reflections, wholly to the psychical sphere, on which we have inevitably already touched - the field of character and imagination, of moral and aesthetic discipline and ideals.
We here reach the heart of our subject. True, beyond this sphere of the soul lies the sphere of the spirit (eternal or extra-telluric); but with only a little trespassing into the latter it is possible to discover keys to the present shortcomings of education and society. The problems of recognising and serving the human being who is in each youngster are formidable when we do not yet think of him as a soul at all and when for this reason we remain blind to the way he evolves from infancy onwards. As long as we think of him as a higher animal, as a machine or as a 'citizen', or as a unit in an economic or industrial organization, or as an electrical system, we shall as parents, teachers, administrators and social workers, be helpless, doing harm rather than good, and continually surprised and frustrated by the turn things take.
The paramount fact about a human life is the way it develops in time. "The days of our years are three score years and ten," says the Psalmist; and it is amazing how, in spite of the endless researches of psychologists and physicians, the basic fact that every person has his unwritten biography, a variation on a uniform pattern, is almost totally ignored in education. For it is in this inexorable biography that we may discover with what education ought to concern itself.
In the course of a lifetime a succession of turning-points diverts the life into new phases. The human being may turn these corners with ease or with difficulty - mildly or violently. If he meets one of these crises adequately, it gives him a new equipment, he even, to some extent, becomes a new person, and he is fitted to prepare for the next crisis. But if a crisis makes demands which are too heavy and he can meet it only incompletely, he will confront the new phase in his life without being properly equipped for it - indeed, as a cripple. Whether we wish our pupil to serve some political or economic plan, or what we may consider to be a divine plan, or merely his own chosen and personal plan, his efficiency will depend on his success in surmounting the chain of climaxes. To the extent that he surmounts them successfully he will be psychically healthy and effective; to the extent that he does not, he will be sick and ineffective.
None of us, probably, is always successful. We carry with us, into later stages of life, characteristics which should have been left behind and which become faults that encumber and impede us for many years. But the majority of people in our country are more unfortunate than this; they are cripples from the very earliest stages; powers they should continually have been acquiring they have never properly acquired.
Here is a clue to the nervous and mental breakdowns nowadays so common, to the much-advertised juvenile and youthful delinquency; and to the widespread illiteracy, vulgarity and barbarism that make half the schools of England a travesty of education, and some of them (as may be said quite soberly and objectively) hells for many of the teachers in them.
Were we to look into the sphere of spirit, we might indeed find yet other clues to these distresses, in the condition of individuals before they came to earth, or in spiritual forces inimical to man where the spiritual and physical spheres interpenetrate, we might find a clue in a lack of necessary qualities in present-day food. But confining ourselves to the experiences of the soul, within the span of a lifetime, - that is, to the field in which education can hope to operate - we may resolve that the task of education (in serving the human being within the pupil) is to guide the pupil through the various stages of life, in such a way that he will triumph over each crisis as it arrives. Compared with this imperative task, all other educational aims, however well justified in their place, are frivolous.
The chief crises meant are as follows: learning to stand and walk, learning to speak, forming the second teeth, puberty (the entrance into adolescence), facing life independently about the age of 21, taking stock of achievements and aims about the age of 27 or 28, and the tremendous turning-point of the whole lifetime, namely the seven-year period from the age of 35 to that of 42. Failure at any of these will harm all the remaining years of life.
In order to think well, we must learn to speak well. In order to speak well, we must learn to walk well. At the present time very many English children cannot walk well. On a staircase, they throw themselves about; they have no poise, no bearing. In the street, thousands of adolescent girls lumber along without grace or dignity. Speech is a function of the human muscular and movement system (though it has other aspects as well), and if walking is slovenly, the deficient command of balance and movement is likely to make speech slovenly too. In some districts it is possible that thousands of young English people never speak at all - that is, never articulate clearly and beautifully - a single word even in the course of a year. Popular speech in general is slatternly, debased and ugly.
Is it surprising that slackness in speech and unfamiliarity with the sounds of words is followed - after the change of teeth (which shows that the soul should be ready for thinking) - by inability to spell, lack of vocabulary, and helplessness in thought and expression? Divine speech, we read in Genesis, created the world; if we fall short in its human counterpart how can we hope to be creative, or anything but unenterprising and clumsy, in our lowly earthly travail?
The primary need of vast numbers of English schoolchildren is not instruction in reading and writing, or in geography or mathematics or woodwork, but exercise in proper walking and speaking - without which reading and writing cannot get far, but with which reading and writing may come very much of themselves.
Confronted by a backward or abnormal pupil from any class of society. we shall be well advised to pay less attention to reading and writing themselves than to their necessary preliminaries; for we shall always find that such a pupil has defects of balance, movement and speech.
By the time a child is four years old we can easily see what quality he will possess as a person at fourteen and forty. From the sweetness or sourness of the people around him (shown both towards him and towards one another) he has unconsciously formed a happy and trustful, or a disappointed and shrinking disposition. On the warmth and foodness of his parents depends all his future. If they have looked up to what is beautiful and holy, he may look up to the same in later life. It is likely that these influences of example act not merely from birth but from the moment of conception.
From 7 to 14 he absorbs the lessons of wonder and reverence more consciously; he expects his elders to command and discipline him, and submits to their training in regular and rhythmical habits. He loves life to become an ever-repeated ritual. Nature, poetry, music and piety are necessary and welcome lessons. If the naive belief in what is holy and lovely, and the power of imagination, are not awakened in these first thirteen or fourteen years, they are unlikely to be awakened later. But nowadays many parents have no piety or imagination for the children to catch; and they exert little proper authority and provide no proper ritual. The most conscientious and ingenious teachers, if they share the common matter-of-fact outlook, and offer a history, a geography and a science devoid of spiritual imagination and interpretation, are denying the children their needed exercise in wonder and reverence. But wonder and reverence are the beginnings of wisdom. Up to the age of 14 or 15 what matters most is not the grasping or remembering of text-book facts, but the animating of the child's breathing through kindling his generous feelings and illuminating his mind's images.
The child at last plunges into adolescence and may become wild and unrecognisable. But in the depths he resorts again and again to the moral and imaginative lessons that he absorbed in his earlier years. These lessons prove themselves as the rock on which he proceeds, clumsily and preposterously it may be, to build his own new life. Completely new things cannot be taught during adolescence: it is too late. If an impression is to be made, a link must be formed with some lesson which was absorbed in earlier childhood. Adolescent delinquents and vandals arc those who never absorbed such lessons and therefore can find no rock. They have never loved flowers, or revered objects of art and antiquity. They have never looked up to wise, kindly elders; or to the stars.
Childish charm often deceives. The Ministry of Education at one time laboured hard to translate its ideals of junior (primary) schools into reality. When an inspector visited one of the best schools thus achieved (in south Yorkshire), he wept for joy. Since then, many visitors have come under the spell of such schools, and have asked, 'How is it that those delightful juniors become in a very few years the destestable seniors, the louts and barbarians of modern and even grammar schools?' A primary-school headmaster gave me a wise answer. 'The juniors,' said he, 'are not as good as they seem; under the surface lurk the very same horrid qualities that will appear at the surface in a few years' time.'
All the youth movements, juvenile organisations, 'approved schools', foster-homes and so on do their often very worthy work largely with children who are already human wrecks. Generation after generation of these children continue to appear; the devoted but not very helpful efforts at human salvage are endlessly repeated; nobody sems to think of stopping the supply of wrecks, by treating the nation's children so that they never become wrecks at all.
A reader may object that we are describing only the lower ranks of society and of intelligence. By no means! In those ranks the forces at work are seen at their most rampant; but they are busy in all ranks without exception. The more civilised or more intelligent children fortunately still learn much that counteracts the unhealthy and imbecile temptations. Yet many of the characteristic activities and attitudes of 'teddy-boys' are to be seen also in the university and the Public School. A friend has described to me certain boy princes (not in England) habitually far more insolent than any miner's child I have known. In all classes, to various degrees, children and young people are being denied the discipline and the ideals for which they have a right to look.
A reader may be exasperated because we are not discussing technical problems of academic and industrial instruction. But we are discussing the foundations that make such instruction practicable. The instructor of a trade class at a technical college told me she could never enter her pupils for even the lowest recognised trade examination; they were too clumsy and incompetent. At another technical college thirty pupils were recently entered for a public examination in English language: only two passed. Elementary ignorance and insensitiveness in the pupils defeat the efforts of teachers. Above the rank of the most vulgar, there are thousands of well-meaning youngsters, even crudely studious, who are simply dull, neglected, unawakened - sick where they should be sparkling. Need they be so?
If we look honestly into our fine selves, we shall discover some corner, if not whole tracts, as much asleep as the souls of these youngsters. Do we enjoy equally Milton and Mozart, mathematics and metaphysics? Are we equally at home when delivering a speech, tending a rose garden, climbing a crag-face, and repairing a door's hinges and locks? All of us are in some way undeveloped or unbalanced, one-sided or distorted. The cleverest and most many-sided has his Achilles' heel. Everyone needs an education that is curative, far more than anyone needs an education that is informative.
Very much is this true of the extremely clever children who are now being sorted out into exceedingly special, superior schools. Their condition has too, aspects, easily confused: they are (or are supposed to be) superlatively intelligent, and many of them are precocious. The intelligence counted is that which shows itself in mental quickness and the power to grasp the sort of systems of ideas that has prevailed h the period, say, from Leibnitz to Einstein. So fixed are psychologists, teachers and parents in their ingenious assumption that intelligence of this kind exceeds and throws into the shade all other human excellences that they never for a moment doubt that a high rating in it is a blessing and glory. But it is no more certain that a child with an I.Q. beyond established tests is a superior human being than it is that a child who breaks the speed records in running or swimming is a superior human being. Nobody thinks gigantism (growing eight feet high, say) makes a child a superior human; it is thought a calamity or disease.
The fatal error in the educational world is to regard the child as machine or a tool, and not as a spiritual being in his own right. Even if it is too much to expect a welcome (at present) for the idea that a human being is a spirit, we can all recognise that thinking, or the exercise of intelligence in the usual sense, is only one of the three activities of the soul; there are also feeling and will. The three need not be precisely equal, but they should form a balanced whole. And it is with this whole that education should be concerned. While not, of course, checking the child whose own adventerousness leads him to acaademic heights, we shall not, unasked, push him there. Rather shall we offer such a child opportunities of imaginative, aesthetic, religious, moral, practical and social experiences - not necessarily in a classroom or a school at all. A senior boy of Shrewsbury School, in a striking article which a liberal editor has printed in the school i-i .'.':i/.ine, complains that his boarding-school life has given him nothing which has challenged his soul (to quote his word) or stretched his whole being to the full.
Parents are just as apt to rejoice if their children are precocious, not only if they can speak four languages at the age of five, or pass the G.C.E. well at thirteen, but if boys of thirteen are nearly six feet tall and their voices already broken. But these are calamities, to be paid for by foregoing rich gifts of childhood. It is better, in fact, (at any rate failing normality), if childhood is prolonged, if voices break and the examination is taken two or three years late - if the angel does not drive the young Adam and Eve out of the garden of childhood till it must be.
Some very clever children are radiant and human, but others look strained and unhappy, or even become distraught. 'Brains' no more guarantee healthy feeling or strength of character than stupidity does.
Education has hitherto confined itself chiefly to imparting academic information and academic and technical skills; its curative power has hardly been suspected. It should now be allowed to perform its far more necessary and momentous function of healing the human race.
Whether the teacher intends it or not, every moment of every lesson has an encouraging or discouraging, an inspiring or numbing effect on the pupil, an effect which may have lasting results, not only in his scholastic interest but in his character and even physique. Though perfection is not to be hoped for, it is possible to plan curricula and lessons which offer the nourishment (or medicine) that we judge a class of a certain age or an individual of a certain temperament and balance of soul needs. This is quite different from the present practice of gathering a thousand or two thousand children into one school, dividing them in complex ways into classes or sets, and devising courses believed to suit the grade of intelligence and attainment of each group or individual. Benevolent and painstaking though such a practice may be, it is directed only towards scholastic or academic attainment, and. by the standard we are taking, is blind to the soul and spirit.
If a child is a machine, and he comes to school to absorb a scheme of facts, let the facts be fed into a machine and the child connect himself with it by turning switches or making tapes unwind. But if a child is a soul and spirit, he comes in order to be awakened and helped by another human being, a creature of the same order as himself, who loves him and modulates the child's experiences according to a sensitive vigilance and wise judgment. What machine can speak through its eye to the eye of the pupil? Smile, and win an answering smile? Follow up an unexpected train of thought? Or ease a situation by cracking a joke?
The child needs to be saved as much as possible from the attempts made on all sides to make him believe that existence is mechanical, chemical or electrical and that life is dead. His mother's kitchen is all-electric; the family travels in its motor-car; his toys are model aeroplanes, electric trains and tape-recorders; drugs or inventions are expected to cure all ills; his entertainments are records and television; water is given a repulsive taste with chemicals; he takes for granted the mechanical rearing and slaughtering of animals for food (fish to be the next we are now told). Planets are dead targets to be hit with missiles, if meaningless bits of desert scenery to be reached by space-ships. Very little indeed is done to counteract or restrain the effects of these and similar experiences and ideas. Even school examinations suggest that to every question there is (as if mechanically) a definite answer. Historical events are supposed to have certain causes and consequences which can be learnt in lists. All matter - mineral or organic - can be explained as movements, groupings and separations of atoms or ilectrons; anything we do not yet know is sure to be explained some day in the same sort of way.
Sir Arthur Eddington said a machine might conceivably be designed to speak the truth, but asked whether a machine could be designed which would care whether it spoke the truth. The child needs a teacher who cares what happens. I have often thought, indeed, that a teacher should not set a class work to do, and then, himself, start marking a pile of exercises; rather, even if he never speaks a word or moves from his place, should he give his mind to the children's activity, and invisibly and silently stimulate them.
Because a school is thought of as a machine, teachers are interchangeable like machine parts: they are sent to a number of classes for two lessons a week each and know nothing of the children's education as a whole, and next year they are removed from these children altogether; other teachers will do instead. Thousands of teachers are thus shifted hither and thither, or of their own accord irresponsibly change schools after a few terms; some (as for instance East End headmasters complain) frequently absent themselves from duty. It is the devoted and stable few who carry the schools, creating traditions and attracting the trust of the children who grow up under their eye.
The principle of curative education must be to revise the pupil's inner biography - to remedy imperfect movement and speech, to awaken if possible some faint sense of wonder and reverence, and to exercise his thinking, feeling and will where they have not been exercised enough. Whether the patient is a child, an adolescent, or an adult the principle is the same: to help him to have confidence that in a world he has perhaps hitherto found unfriendly and bewildering he can yet be the human being - the natural, generous soul - that, before his disappointment, he took it for granted he was to be. Apathy, distraught behaviour, nervous break-downs, and thoughts of suicide will be overcome if the patient can find confirmed in nature and art and above all in human companions the beautiful and benign, harmonious and heavenly impulses, of which he dreained - or rather which he knew - in his heart.
Woods and gardens and the sea, music and legends and painting, rhythmical movement (mime and dance), athletic exercises and games, the conversation and manners of gentle and mature men and women, and - if they can be accepted - regular periods of meditative quiet or prayer, or seasonal festivals: such experiences should fill his life. Schools should become disciplined colleges, communities, retreats, where life is lived as it should be. The pupils would not be escaping from reality into lotus-land; they would be escaping from bedlam into reality, from slavery into freedom.
Machines and electrical apparatus are justified as long as they remain our tools and we are their masters. They are not justified when they dictate our lives, governing our time and thoughts. They are not justified when they masquerade as human beings. They are not justified when they become a new environment for us, making us forget the natural forms of earth, water, air and fire, making us lose direct touch with plants and animals and our fellow men, and hypnotising us into worshipping sub-human forces (such as electricity) and into becoming more and more heedless of whatever superhuman beings there may be who guide our existence.
Although there can be no complete reform of society till a majority of people perceives the true nature of all these Frankenstein's monsters at present worshipped, a first step is to accustom people to an idea which astonishes them yet which many of them are not unwilling to consider. It is the idea that what may be innocuous to adults, or at any rate can be left to the individual's choice, may be harmful to children and should be withheld from them. Familiar when applied to smoking and alcohol, this idea comes as a shock when applied to television, typewriters, electrical machines, and intellectual and scientific ways of defining and classifying 'facts' in any academic study - or to chess.
Criticism of films and television generally attacks their subject-matter - the vulgar and imbecile behaviour shown, the constant killing, lying and deception that make up their stories. 'Educational' films and television are assumed to be irreproachable. It is not suspected that the media themselves may be mischievous, especially to children.
First, children are in general more sensitive to many kinds of impressions, and are more ill-at-ease when they feel that sub-human entities are trespassing into the human sphere. I myself, when a child, felt there was something mysteriously unhealthy in the cinema and even in domestic electric light. Secondly, speech on the talking film and on television never sounds perfectly human; it sounds counterfeit (perhaps demoniacal). Audiences' acceptance of loud-speakers, and of reproduced sound-effects and music in stage-plays, is surely a symptom of a modern insensitivity to reality. Thirdly, the continual flicker and change of films and television offer no restful picture to which the child can give his absorbed attention; by substituting several new pictures every second, they cruelly prevent the enjoyment and digestion of any. Fourthly, popular television, by hurrying on through a confused and meaningless programme of tragedies and jokes, human problems and vulgarity, and denying any opportunity for reflection and generous emotional response where these would be apt, teaches by implication that nothing seriously matters or deserves responsible consideration and participation. It thus tends to make people callous and insensitive - subconsciously baffled and in despair because their heart's longing to participate in a world full of spiritual meaning has been denied. Fifthly, the daily repetition of hours of harsh, ready-made, restless pictures atrophies the child's imagination. It is especially up to the age of 14 that imagination requires freedom and nourishment: and both in childhood and in later life imagination is one of the most powerful means of connection with unseen and superhuman reality.
Two other things that batter us everywhere in our barbarous civilisation would be dismissed from the pupil's experience in a true normal education and also in a curative education. One is commercial advertisement. It is ruled out, not only by its lies, exaggerations and trivial values, but by the insidious influence of its example, partly in its greed for money and partly in its insolent assumption that egoistic assaults on the attention of human being are justified. Instead, the pupil should be left in peace, unpestered by strangers. He can be taught the virtue of modesty in place of boastfulness, and the virtue of respect for his fellow creatures, whether as part of the ideal of a gentleman or as part of the ideal of a Christian. The other thing is so-called popular disc-music. The mere experience of continued quiet may start a process of healing.
At last, between the ages of 35 and 42, a human being is challenged by some problem that puts the whole of his previous education and self-education on trial. If he meets the challenge, the rest of his life will be serene and effective. If he does not, he will become disappointed, soured and cynical, and the rest of his life will be dreary and pointless. The first half of life, spent largely in getting, yields place to the second half, to be spent largely in giving. The crisis within these seven years, for many people dramatic and stormy, at length resolves itself in a triumphant decision and a creative act - or else in failure and surrender. It is the crisis of adolescence over again. In both, a higher part of the self is making a bid to take control. And as at 14 and 18, so at 35 and 40, the outcome depends on the nourishment received by the soul in earlier life. On what stored-up treasures, what past yet unfaded experiences, can the man call in order to save himself? Boredom in old age is as morbid and absurd as boredom in youth: both are the result of starvation and neglect in childhood.
The problem of education is not to carry the pupil to the highest attainments in languages, science and technology of which his intellectual intelligence makes him capable. That object, if justified at all, is only secondary. The problem of education is to help him in his own efforts to fit himself to meet the supreme test awaiting him in the middle of his lifetime.
This is the history of the building of character, the education of man's soul. It prepares for the second half of the earthly life. On this foundation the second half prepares for an existence after the earthly life. That activity, however, belongs more to the spiritual sphere, and anyhow is beyond what is ordinarily meant by education.
Not only the individual but the community, even the whole human race, has its education. Like the individual, the community has to provide for its practical needs: it has to ensure food, and instruct its trades and professions. Nations like individuals have had ambitions, and have had to learn to prepare for crises and to face hardships. The human race if gropingly, is preparing for the next Epoch of civilisation, and for future conditions of the earth. The present generation has its place in this task. A teacher who has a vision of human destiny will be illuminiated and guided by it in the midst of the most commonplace lesson. Perhaps at some moments during schooldays a few pupils may dimly surmise that he is pointing to a future beyond the limits of his and their own short lives.
The problems of education are not primarily those of organisation or of quantitatively measurable efficiency. They are those of understanding, nourishing, healing and guiding the inner life of individual human beings - for it is on this inner life that the happiness and future of human beings, and the development and apotheosis of civilisation, ultimately depend.
An essay already too long cannot explore the questions how people are to be helped to become interested in the new point of view, and how those who are interested can follow these aims in the existing systems of schools or, if it seems desirable, in other schools which will have to be started. Perhaps two or three ideas may be briefly mentioned.
The present tendency for teaching to be subjected to external authority - that of a remote headmaster, a board of governors, a public office and committee, the universities or a ministry - is not sacrosanct or irreversible, and it may have outlived its usefulness. An opposite movement could start for the loosening of remote control and the transformation of most schools into independent ones. I do not think this is as fantastic as if may seem.
Another prospect, at first sight also fantastic, but on scrutiny feasible is to abandon, at any rate to some extent, the assumption that for their education or recreation, young people must resort to large assemblies of their own age. It has become an axiom that youth should be segregated, or separate itself from the rest of the population. Schools, colleges and clubs represent this ideal. A different plan is to incorporate children and young people with many older people in groups representing rather the variety and range of the old patriarchal family, or the household of the master craftesman whose apprentices lived with his wife and daughters and worked with himself and his journeymen. The Dolmetsch family of musicians, all playing together; a small firm of builders in which the few young workmen adopt the courteous attitude and the standard of workmanship of the older men they work alongside; a villa which trains in gardening a group of orphans, who live ina cottage near the house, share the family's swimming-pool, visit the drawing-room, and regularly meet for instruction as a brass-band: these are actual examples of civilised cells in which different generations influence each other through friendly association.
Sir Osbert Sitwell, describing the barbarousness of a swarm of his enforced companions at a preparatory school, points out that singly, or at home, each was probably a decent person enough. William Golding, in his recent novel, The Lords of the Flies, describes a number of young boys wrecked on an island; they become wild and cruel. Children or youths of any age need the discipline and inspiration which are to be found in association with adults of all ages and both sexes. Locke and Rousseau, in their treatises on education, had in mind a single pupil living at home. There are advantages and disadvantages in a school of one pupil, in a school of a small group, and in a school of a few hundreds. It is probably good that a child or adolescent should spend some of his time alone, some with his family (if, unlike many present-day children, he is fortunate enough, not being an only child to have one), some with a bosom friend or two, and some with various small groups and larger societies. But if society is to be made healthier, every town and village must be filled with such voluntary cells, even in the midst of a civilisation of ubiquitous government, large-scale industry and large schools. Young people must not be allowed to form irresponsible large groups confined to their own age.
But gangs and mobs cannot be prevented if adults are so uncertain of their own beliefs or of purpose in life, that they are unwilling to exert authority.
To serve the young, the first step is to train ourselves to understand better in what physical, mental and moral health consists, and to develop something of it in ourselves. This cannot be done adequately within the framework of the ideas which at present constitute the common awareness of any population in West and East, or which appear to govern most of the leaders, national or local, who are directly or indirectly busy with 'education' anywhere. The problems of education will be better met when enough people are brave enough to reconsider the very basis of ther beliefs and actions, and to transform themselves and their own lives by finding a right relationship with spiritual realities at present ignored.
Many modern studies (especally American) of special topics, such as the psychology and treatment of backward, delinquent and adolescent children, are humane and academically thorough, in England there have been several informal and personal accounts of pioneer or experimental work; of these a splendid old example is A. Caldwell Cook's book, The Play Way, and a more recent one Margareta Berger-Hamerschlag's account of a London youth club, Journey Into a Fog.
But the classics of education are indispensable and perpetually delightful: Castlglione: The Courtier; Lock: Some Thoughts Concerning Education; Rousseau: Emile; and Froebel: The Education of Man. To these may be added Rabindranath Tagore's short description of his own school, Aylmer Maude's short description of Tolstoy's school, the description of the 'educational province' in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, and Lessing's short work, The Education of the Human Race.
My debt to Rudolf Steiner will be apparent to readers who are familiar with his work. Of his innumerable publications, the little book called The Education of the Child and the courses of lectures he gave at Oxford and Ilkley are perhaps the most apposite.
On the crises of life, many biographies are useful; Schumann's and Tchaikowsky's are examples.
Since the article was written, an extraordinarily good survey of the 'youth problems', by Bryan Wilson, has appeared in the Daily Telegraph for August 24 and 25, 1964.