It is one of the fundamental principles of the Workers’ Educational Association that every person, when not under the power of some hostile over-mastering influence, is ready to respond to an educational appeal. Not indeed that all are ready or able to become scholars, but that all are anxious to look with understanding eyes at the things which are pure and beautiful. Tired men and women are made better citizens if they are taken, as they often are, to picture galleries and museums, to places of historic interest and of scenic beauty, and are helped to understand them by the power of a sympathetic guide. It is by the extension of work of this sort, which can be carried out almost to a limitless extent that the true purpose of social reform will be best served. It is by such means that the press may be elevated, the level of the cinema raised, the efforts of the demagogue neutralised.
The Workers’ Educational Association is based upon the work of the elementary school and of the associations of working people, notably the co-operative societies and trade unions. The democratic methods obtaining in those associations have themselves proved a valuable contribution to citizenship, and have determined the democratic nature of all adult education. The right and freedom of the student to study what he wishes finds its counterpart in the reasonable demand that man shall live out his life as he wills, provided it moves in a true direction and is in harmony with the needs and aspirations of his fellows.
It has seemed in this review of the relation of schools and places of education to the development of citizenship that the fact of the operation of social influences has been implicit at every point. In any case there is, and can be, no doubt that the school, whilst instant in its effect upon the mind of the time, is always being either hindered or helped by the conditions obtaining in the society in which it is set. The relations existing between society and school are revealed in a process of action and reaction. Wilhelm von Humboldt said that “whatever we wish to see introduced into the life of a nation must first be introduced into its schools.” Among other things, it is necessary to develop in the schools an appreciation of all work that is necessary for human welfare. This is the crux of all effort towards citizenship through education. In the long run there can be no full citizenship unless there is fulness of intention to discover capacity and to develop it not for the individual but for the common good. This is primarily the task of an educational system. If a man is set to work for which he is not fitted, whether it be the work of a student or a miner, he is thwarted in his innate desire to attain to the full expression of his being in and through association with his fellow-men, whereas, when a man is doing the right work, that for which he has capacity, he rejoices in his labour and strives continually to perfect it by development of all his powers. The exercise of good citizenship follows naturally as the inevitable result of a rightly developed life. It may not be the citizenship which is exercised by taking active and direct part in methods of government. The son of Sirach, meditating on the place of the craftsman, said: