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

II

The recent adaptation of factories and workshops to the production of war material is only typical of what goes on year by year in peace time, though, of course, to a less degree and in less dramatic fashion.  Not only are men constantly adapting themselves and their machinery to changed conditions of production, but they are applying the experience and skill gained in the pursuit of one occupation to the problems of another for which it has been exchanged.  The comparative ease with which this is done is evidence of the widespread existence of that gift which our enemies call the power of “muddling through,” but which has been termed—­without wholly sacrificing truth to politeness—­the “concurrent adaptability to environment.”  The British sailor as “handy man” has few equals and no superiors, and he is, in some sort, typical of the nation.  The testimony of Thucydides to Themistocles ([Greek:  kratistos de oytos aytoschediazein ta deonta egeneto]) might with equal or even greater truth be applied to many Englishmen to-day.  As this power [Greek:  aytoschediazein ta deonta] in the present war saved the Allies from defeat at the outset, so we hope and believe it will carry them on to victory at the last.  Yet it becomes a snare if it leads its possessor to neglect preparation or despise organisation, for neither of which can it ever be an entirely satisfactory substitute, albeit a very costly one.  At the same time we should recognise that any system of training which seriously impairs this power tends to deprive us of one of the most valuable of our national assets.  It follows that, for the majority at least, exclusive or excessive specialisation in training—­vocational or otherwise—­so far from being an advantage, is a positive drawback; for, as we have seen, a large proportion of our youth manifest no marked bent in any particular direction, and of those who do but a small proportion are capable of that hypertrophy which the highest specialisation demands.

It is important to remember that, though school life is a preparation for practical life, vocational education ought not to begin until a comparatively late stage in a boy’s career, if indeed it begins at all while he remains at school.  On this it would seem that all professional bodies are agreed; for the entrance examinations, which they have accepted or established are all framed to test a boy’s general education and not his knowledge of the special subjects to which he will afterwards devote himself.  The evils of premature specialisation are too well known to require even enumeration, and they are increased rather than diminished if that premature specialisation is vocational.  The importance of technical training as the means whereby a man is enabled rightly to use the hours of work can hardly be exaggerated; but the value of his work, his worth to his fellows, and his rank in the scale of manhood depend, to at least an equal degree,

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