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cramming”: they are the fortresses of belles-lettres. But this they are not content to be. They attempt to patch the old garments of scholarship with the rough new cloth of modern utilitarian requirements, and the result is an anomaly which is neither logical nor sensible.
The metaphor used above is, in one way at least, apt, for scholarship is still the fundamental object of public school education. In theory the education to be obtained at Eton, Winchester, or Harrow is one suitable to the time when the one thing needful for an English gentleman, in addition to a firm seat on a horse and a curious taste in port, was the ability to quote a passage from Virgil, or a neatly-applicable stanza from the Odes of Horace; when a public school career led on by easy stages, by way of a fellowship at New College or at King's, to a fat college living, or else to a few years' dissipation at Christ Church and a snug rotten borough. In practice an attempt is made to convert the schoolboy into a combined Chesterfield and Cocker, with the result that he can neither quote arma virumque cano at the fitting moment nor is he thoroughly convinced that two and two make four. Of course, I speak of the average schoolboy, not of the brilliant exception, who is nursed and trained as carefully as if he were a Derby favourite. There must be something wrong in the system of education at our public schools when, in so many cases, boys leave after four or five years without having acquired sufficient knowledge either to matriculate at the University or pass the Army "prelim.” without invoking the assistance of a “crammer." I can hear the wrathful growl of the Pharaohs who preside over the public schools, “ Ye are idle-ye are idle!” But who is to blame if, in the desire to fulfil a double destiny, the “ tale of bricks" has been doubled, and we are compelled to make them without straw? As a rule boys at school are not idle; they will do their work if it is within their power, if only for fear of the consequences; but, in the desire to combine scholarship with the practical requirements of our nation of shopkeepers, the list of subjects is too long for one young brain to study at the same time. There is no elasticity, no recognition of the principle of natural selection. The same iron curriculum must be traversed by all.
Classics, “stinks,” mathematics, French, German, are all laid before the unfortunate wretch, and he is told that his progress up the school depends on his proficiency in the aggregate of them all ; he is set tasks to do without adequate instruction as to how to do them, and if he fails he is " kept in." He is set to find the value of a2 +2 ab+62 without being told why a or b should have any value at all; he frantically endeavours to construct a right-angled triangle with three right angles, and finally at seventeen he is superannuated as “incorrigibly idle"
And then his mother cries ; his father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs. It may be objected that what I have said above applies only to exceptional cases; but just as the speed of a squadron is said to be the speed of the slowest ship in it, so the skill of a schoolmaster must be appraised according to the success he obtains in developing the powers of his dullest and most backward boys.
It would be grossly unfair to lay all the blame for this state of affairs on the schoolmasters. They are to a great extent driven into it by the spirit of the age—the Moloch of universal competition. The fault is in the cult of the competition-wallah, whose trail is over all. Scholarship may be good, but the one thing needful in the eyes of the powers that be is a sufficient quantum of parrot-knowledge to pull its possessor through a competitive examination and then be consigned to oblivion. Hence arise “modern sides," "army classes, and other specialising abominations, by which our public schools prostitute their great national mission to the satisfying of a generation of universal greed. "Mammon first, the rest nowhere,” will be the verdict of Judge Posterity on the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Even Pharaoh himself is beginning to look with unfavouring eye on the systems which make "marks ” the be-all and end-all of education. The Headmasters' Conference of 1892 distinctly condemned the system by which the emoluments of scholarships go to the highest bidder (the bidding being done in marks, bien entendu). It is a strange comment on our democratic days that the very means by which formerly a child of the people could work his way up into the ranks of the lords of the land have been utterly destroyed, and wealth established as the sole arbiter of destiny. Royal Commissions have met, reported, and overthrown the beneficent purposes of founders by insisting that the race should be to the swift and the battle to the strong. The endowments of William of Wykeham, of Henry VI., and other “pious founders" were intended to be used for the purpose of enabling promising lads in humble circumstances to obtain the best education the land could afford, and to start them on a career which might lead to the woolsack or the throne of St. Augustine. What chance has a lad in a humble position nowadays of rising by means of the education afforded by one of our
public schools ? In the first place, that education will not equip him
M. Labouchere." What is the good of stuffing young brains like Strasburg geese with a vague smattering of arts and sciences, and leaving them utterly ignorant of the common affairs of the world? The Hon. Edward Lyttelton, Headmaster of Hailey bury, told the Headmasters' Conference the other day that, out of twenty-three of the upper boys in the school who were asked when the Church of England had its origin, not one of them answered correctly, the replies ranging from Julius Cæsar to the Reform Bill of 1832! The evil does not cease with the forcing-house system of the private school crammer. Education does not nowadays mean putting knowledge into a boy's head, but attempting to draw it out
in other words, trying to pump water from an empty well. Let us examine for a moment the curriculum of one of our public schools. I take the one I know best, and leave it to my readers to say whether the instance is typical. There are, roughly speaking, forty working hours in the week, including those set apart for preparation. Of these twenty-one are devoted to work in class—that is, to getting knowledge out of boys—to the strain of competition. Add to these at least four hours in the week which have to be given up to the composition of prose or verse tasks—Greek, Latin, or English—and there are left fifteen hours available for preparationthat is, for taking knowledge in. What is the consequence? The tasks which come easily are done, those that are hard are left, or else a "firm” is arranged, in which the classical work is done by the classical boy, and the mathematics or science done by the mathematical or scientific boy. Certain of the ultra-conscientious will work out of school hours, but it is nothing less than a fraud on the boys that the daily work set should be so far in excess of the time allotted for it that those hours which are set apart for, and are supposed to be devoted to, healthy exercise should be taken up by the overweight of their school hours. I freely grant that, as a rule, the boys will not hurt themselves ; they will take their exercise and scamp their work, and I, for one, applaud them for it. The blame rests entirely on their taskmasters. If, however, the boys will not of their own free will give up the time which is supposed to be their own, they are caught and deprived of it in another way. The Wykehamists, in their “school,” have a motto writ large, in which are set forth three courses, worthy of Mr. Gladstone himself :
“Aut disce, aut discede: manet sors tertia, cædi.” To this their pastors and masters have added a “sors quarta," namely, to sit indoors and spoil their handwriting by scribbling a hundred or two hundred lines of Latin. In these utilitarian days even the treadmill and the crank are made to serve a purpose. It is only those who pay £150 a year for the privilege of an unsound education who are set tasks as fruitless as that of Sisyphus or that of the daughters of Danae. This by the way. The pith of the matter is that half the school hours are wasted. Take a class of thirty or forty boys "up to books," as the Wykehamists say, with forty lines of Homer. One is construing, and the two or three next to him are alert for a question to come down to them.
The rest of the form are drawing in their note-books, holding whispered conversations, working out a “tizzy" book on the Derby, doing anything but attending to the lesson as it proceeds. Have they prepared the lesson? Perhaps half of them have; the othersespecially those who have been "put on” during the lesson or two immediately proceeding-trust to luck with a tolerably comfortable mind.
Here Pharaoh will thunder again, “ Ye are idle-ye are idle! and because ye are idle ye lay on us others the burden of your own shortcomings.” A perfectly just retort were we dealing with grown men who have cut their wisdom-teeth, but boys' work is like some people's religion-entirely a matter of rewards and punishments. They live in the present: experience has not taught them yet the bitter lesson of wasted opportunity, and it is not in the nature of many boys to work for the sake of the fruits which work will bring at some far-off future date, still less to love learning for learning's sake.
Boys are set to work up an olla-podrida of subjects, without adequate guidance in the fundamental principles of any of them, the master being merely an examining machine. It is not his fault; he has some thirtyfive boys to attend to, and he can have little or no knowledge of the individual capacity of any of them. The boy who comes before him is, in many instances, no more the real boy than some society virgins of forty are what they appear to the outward eye. His Homer is supplied from a shilling “crib”; his prose and verse from the brain of an accommodating friend ; his mathematics from a similar source. So will he escape the consequences of idleness, and come to be considered a youth of promise. But he is a whited sepulchre, and his success is a source of heart-burning and temptation to those who will not follow his tortuous courses.
Education is the training of the mind. It is a question of methods, not of ends. The object of teaching Latin and Greek is that the learner may obtain a love for, and a knowledge of, the thoughts of antiquitynot that he may obtain a merely technical knowledge of the vehicle by which those thoughts are expressed. Yet among all the accurate knowledge demanded of the exact meaning of ου γάρ, μη ποτε, ut with the subjunctive, and the rest, how many schoolmasters think it worth while to go into the literary or philosophical side of the authors read ? How many, if only the translation be grammatically correct, care whether it is even couched in language which will make the author's meaning clear at all? Grammar is a first necessity, no doubt, but it is a means to education, not the end thereof, and no scholar can live by grammar alone.