Cambridge Essays on Education eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 194 pages of information about Cambridge Essays on Education.
appreciate Virgil, and writing juvenile epics that led me up to Milton.  But it is an order of progress which we schoolmasters are apt to overlook, expecting our pupils to appreciate what we know to be good work before they have that elementary, but most fruitful, experience which can only come from handling the tools of the craft.  The creative and imitative impulse will die down in the great majority; and we shall not make the mistake of continuing to exact formal “composition” from maturer pupils, who no longer find it anything but a drag upon their progress along the unfolding vistas of knowledge and appreciation.  Our object is not to increase the number of writers, already far too large, but to increase the number of readers, which can never be too large, to raise the standard of literary taste, and so to spread pure enjoyment and all the benefits to society which joy, and joy alone, confers.  Inspired with such an aim, common sense and sympathy will enable us to overcome the difficulties and avoid the pitfalls which undoubtedly beset the teaching of that most necessary, most delightful, but most elusive and imponderable subject, the appreciation of literature.

VII

THE PLACE OF SCIENCE IN EDUCATION

By W. BATESON

Director of the John Innes Horticultural Institution

That secondary education in England fails to do what it might is scarcely in dispute.  The magnitude of the failure will be appreciated by those who know what other countries accomplish at a fraction of the cost.  Beyond the admission that something is seriously wrong there is little agreement.  We are told that the curriculum is too exclusively classical, that the classes are too large, the teaching too dull, the boys too much away from home, the examination-system too oppressive, athletics overdone.  All these things are probably true.  Each cause contributes in its degree to the lamentable result.  Yet, as it seems to me, we may remove them all without making any great improvement.  All the circumstances may be varied, but that intellectual apathy which has become so marked a characteristic of English life, especially of English public and social life, may not improbably continue.  Why nations pass into these morbid phases no one can tell.  The spirit of the age, that “polarisation of society” as Tarde[1] used to call it, in a definite direction, is brought about by no cause that can be named as yet.  It will remain beyond volitional control at least until we get some real insight into social physiology.  That the attitude or pose of the average Englishman towards education, knowledge, and learning is largely a phenomenon of infectious imitation we know.  But even if we could name the original, perhaps real, perhaps fictional, person—­for in all likelihood there was such an one—­whom English society in its folly unconsciously selected as a model, the knowledge would advance us little. 

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