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Cambridge Essays on Education eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Cambridge Essays on Education.

A much more difficult problem is sure to arise, sooner or later, in connection with the utilisation of efficients.  Some few years ago the present Prime Minister called attention to the waste of power involved in the training of the rich.  They receive, he said, the best that money can buy; their bodies and brains are disciplined; and then “they devote themselves to a life of idleness.”  It is “a stupid waste of first-class material.”  Instead of contributing to the work of the world, they “kill their time by tearing along roads at perilous speed, or do nothing at enormous expense.”  It has needed the bloodiest war in history to reveal the splendid heroism latent in young men of this class.  Who can withhold from them gratitude, honour, nay even reverence?  But the problem still remains how are the priceless qualities, which have been so freely devoted to the national welfare on the battlefield, to be utilised for the greater works of peace which await us?  Are we to recognise the right to be idle as well as the right to work?  Is there to be a kind of second Thellusson Act, directed against accumulations of leisure?  Or are we to attempt the discovery of some great principle of Conservation of Spiritual Energy, by the application of which these men may make a contribution worthy of themselves to the national life and character?  Who can answer?

But though it is freely admitted on all hands that some check upon aggressive individualism is imperatively necessary, and that it is no longer possible to rely entirely upon voluntary organisations however useful, there are not a few of our countrymen who view with grave concern any increase in the power and authority of the State.  They point out that such increase tends inevitably towards the despotism of an oligarchy, and that such a despotism, however benevolent in its inception, ruthlessly sacrifices individual interests and liberty to the real or supposed good of the State; that even where constitutional forms remain the spirit which animated them has departed; that officialism and bureaucracy with their attendant evils become supreme, and that the national character steadily deteriorates.  They warn us that we may pay too high a price even for organisation and efficiency; and, though it is natural that we should admire certain qualities which we do not possess, we ought not to overlook the fact that those methods which have produced the most perfect national organisation in the history of the world are also responsible for orgies of brutality without parallel among civilised peoples.  That such warnings are needful cannot be doubted; but may it not be urged that they indicate dangers incident to a course of action rather than the inevitable consequences thereof?  In adapting ourselves to new conditions we must needs take risks.  No British Government could stamp out voluntaryism even if it wished to do so; and none has yet manifested any such desire.  The nation does not want that kind of national unity of which Germany is so proud, and which seems so admirably adapted to her needs; for the English character and genius rest upon a conception of freedom which renders such a unity foreign and even repulsive to its temper.  Whatever be the changes which lie before us, the worship of the State is the one form of idolatry into which the British people are least likely to fall.

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