France, which has lived so much farther and deeper and more bitterly than Britain, knows....
[Footnote 2: In “An Englishman Looks at the World,” a companion volume to the present one, which was first published by Messrs. Cassell early in 1914, and is now obtainable in a shilling edition, the reader will find a full discussion of the probable benefit of proportional representation in eliminating the party hack from political life. Proportional representation would probably break up party organisations altogether, and it would considerably enhance the importance and responsibility of the Press. It would do much to accelerate the development of the state of affairs here foreshadowed, in which the role of government and opposition under the party system will be played by elected representatives and Press respectively.]
Some few months ago Mr. Harold Spender, in the Daily News, was calling attention to a very significant fact indeed. The higher education in England, and more particularly the educational process of Oxford and Cambridge, which has been going on continuously since the Middle Ages, is practically in a state of suspense. Oxford and Cambridge have stopped. They have stopped so completely that Mr. Spender can speculate whether they can ever pick up again and resume upon the old lines.
For my own part, as the father of two sons who are at present in mid-school, I hope with all my heart that they will not. I hope that the Oxford and Cambridge of unphilosophical classics and Little-go Greek for everybody, don’s mathematics, bad French, ignorance of all Europe except Switzerland, forensic exercises in the Union Debating Society, and cant about the Gothic, the Oxford and Cambridge that turned boys full of life and hope and infinite possibility into barristers, politicians, mono-lingual diplomatists, bishops, schoolmasters, company directors, and remittance men, are even now dead.
Quite recently I passed through Cambridge, and, with the suggestions of Mr. Spender in my mind, I paused to savour the atmosphere of the place. He had very greatly understated the facts of the case. He laid stress upon the fact that instead of the normal four thousand undergraduates or so, there are now scarcely four hundred. But before I was fairly in Cambridge I realised that that gives no idea of the real cessation of English education. Of the first seven undergraduates I saw upon the Trumpington road, one was black, three were coloured, and one of the remaining three was certainly not British, but, I should guess, Spanish-American. And it isn’t only the undergraduates who have gone. All the dons of military age and quality have gone too, or are staying up not in caps and gowns, but in khaki; all the vigorous teachers are soldiering; there are no dons left except those who are unfit for service—and the clergy. Buildings, libraries, empty laboratories, empty lecture theatres, vestiges, refugees, neutrals, khaki; that is Cambridge to-day.