This fact in itself is sufficient to account for the ineffectiveness, the despondencies, the insincerities and ceaseless unrest of Western civilisation in the nineteenth century. The tree of human life cannot flower and bear fruit for the healing of the nations when its great life-forces spend themselves in making war on each other.
If the experience of the century which lies before us is to be different, it must be made so by means of education. Education is the science which deals with the world as it is capable of becoming. Other sciences deal with things as they are, and formulate the laws which they find to prevail in things as they are. The eyes of education are fixed always upon the future, and philosophy of whatever kind, directly adumbrates a Utopia, thinks on educational lines.
The aim of education must therefore be as wide as it is high, it must be co-extensive with life. The advance must be along the whole front, not on a small sector only. William Morris, when he tried his hand at painting, used to say, that what bothered him always was the frame: he could not conceive of art as something “framed off” and isolated from life. Just as William Morris wanted to turn all life into art, so with education. It cannot be “framed off” and detached from the larger aspects of political and social well-being; it takes all life for its province. It is not an end in itself, any more than the individuals with whom it deals; it acts upon the individual, but through the individual it acts upon the mass, and its aim is nothing less than the right ordering of human society.
To cope with a task which can be stated in these terms, education must be free. A new age postulates a new education. The traditions which have dominated hitherto must one by one be challenged to render account of themselves, that which is good in them must be conserved and assimilated, that which is effete must be scrapped and rejected. Neither can the administrative machinery, as it exists, be taken for granted; unless it shows those powers of adaptation and growth which show it to be alive and not dead, it too must be scrapped and rejected; new wine is fatal to old skins. Education must regain once more what she possessed at the time of the Renascence—the power of direction; she must be mistress of her fate.
Further, if education is to be a force which makes for co-operation in place of conflict, she must not be divided against herself. She must leave behind forever the separations and snobberies, the misunderstandings, the wordy battles beloved of pedants and politicians. The smoke and dust of controversy obscures her vision, and she needs all her energies to tackle the great task which confronts her. In this regard nothing is so full of promise for the future as the new sense of unity which is beginning both to animate and actuate the whole teaching profession, from the University to the Kindergarten, and has already eventuated in the formation of a Teachers Registration Council, on which all sorts and conditions of education are represented.