These two movements towards a fuller liberty of self-fulfilment, and towards a fuller and stronger social life, are convergent, and supplement, or rather complement, each other. Personality, after all, is best defined as “capacity for fellowship,” and only in the social milieu can the individual find his real self-fulfilling. Unless he functions socially, the individual develops into eccentricity, negative criticism, and the cynical aloofness of the “superior person.” On the other hand without freedom of individual development, the organisation of life becomes the death of the soul. Prussia has shown how the psychology of the crowd can be skilfully manipulated for the most sinister ends. It is a happy omen for our democracy that both these complementary movements are combined in the new life of the schools. To both appeals, the appeal of personal freedom, and the appeal of the corporate life, the British child is peculiarly responsive. Round these two health-centres the form of the new system will take shape and grow.
And growth it must be, not building. The body is not built up on the skeleton, the skeleton is secreted by the growing body. The hope of education is in the living principle of hope and enthusiasm, which stretches out towards perfection. One distrusts instinctively at the present time anything schematic. There are men, able enough as organisers, who will be ready to sit down and produce at two days’ notice a full cut-and-dried scheme of educational reconstruction. They will take our present resources, and make the best of them, no doubt, re-arranging and re-manipulating them, and making them go as far as they can. They will shape the whole thing out in wood, and the result will be wooden. It will be static and stratified, with no upward lift. But that is not the way. Education is a thing of the spirit, it is instinct with life, [Greek: thermon ti pragma] as Aristotle would say, drawing upon resources that are not its own, “unseen yet crescive in its faculty” and in its growth taking to itself such outward form as it needs for the purpose of its inward life. Six years at least it will take for the new spirit to work itself out into the definite larger forms.
That does not mean that it will come without hard purposeful thinking and much patient effort. Education does not “happen” any more than “art happens,”—and just as with the arts of the middle ages, so the well-being of education depends not on the chance appearance of a few men of genius but on the right training and love of the ordinary workman for his work. Education is a spiritual endeavour, and it will come, as the things of the spirit come, through patience in well-doing, through concentration of purpose on the highest, through drawing continually on the inexhaustible resources of the spiritual world. The supreme “maker” is the poet, the man of vision. For the administrator, the task is different from what it has been. It is for him to watch and help experiments, to prevent the abuse of freedom, not to preserve uniformities but to select variations. But he is handling a power which, as George Meredith says, “is a heaven-sent steeplechaser, and takes a flying leap of the ordinary barriers.”