Page images

A few words may be added here on the more exclusively moral tendencies of some characteristics of Preparatory Schools. If in later life a shrinking from mental effort may be traced to the intellectual dependence encouraged earlier by the excessive amount of help given to lessons, so there seems to be good reason for attentive scrutiny of the prevailing standard of comfort or luxury to be noticed in the early years of

school life.


One fact seems clear. Many a small boy, on being removed to a public school, finds that he has to be satisfied with surroundings far less apolaustic than those which he has left. There is not nowadays so great a difference in the style of feeding as formerly. The ideas as to a growing boy's requirements in this respect have increased considerably in 40 years, but for some time the expansion affected the preparatory schools only. By degrees the large boarding schools followed suit, and at last even those organised on the hostel system, where the difficulties to be overcome are naturally greater, have come up into line, so that it may be said that as a rule the boys are fed every whit as well at school as at home. But it is pretty certain that in some other forms of equipment the large schools will never adopt so high a standard as the Preparatory Schools. is impossible at least, nearly everywhere-that such perfect arrangements for games can be provided. To take one familiar instance the cricket pitches in the latter are generally far smoother than in the former, except, of course, the ground on. which the school matches are played. The effect is unsatisfactory. New comers at the Public School are discontented with the bumpy grounds, and lose interest in the game. They have been to some extent pampered by the delightful security of the level turf of their younger days, and find it requires some pluck and endurance to face the uncertain rise of the ball on the new cricket grounds. This is a common case where co-operation is needed. The earlier school might aim at being preparatory, not only for the pleasures and studies of the Public School, but also for some of the inevitable deficiencies, if, that is, this particular difference is to be so called. The aim should be in this matter, as in all others, to prevent the younger masters from doing too much. The game should be kept as a game; the boys should be made or encouraged to take part in the care of the ground; and while attention is given to providing a pitch good enough for the learning of the game, the aim should be to teach the little boys never to expect a perfect equipment (except in necessaries of life) unless they have had a share themselves in producing it. And even in food it is disastrous if the school-provision is favourably contrasted by the boys with that which they get at home.

Again, in the matter of character-training, there are questions of the utmost gravity and also complexity in which co-operation between the different orders of schools on the one hand and between schools and parents on the other hand, is urgently needed. Take, for instance, the problems which are concerned

with the mastery over appetite. The whole question of feeding and of the light in which boys are brought up to regard food is grievously in need of attention. Greediness and the resulting evils are common among the Preparatory School product. Is this due to indulgence at the first school or to strictness first, followed by indulgence which greater liberty allows? Schoolmasters ought to have their minds clear on such matters as these; but it is not only conference between them that is required, but careful observation and thought. And in this same department lie the vexed and intricate questions concerning the instruction needful for boys at a time of life when the growth of the body is likely to lead to moral difficulties. Public opinion, at least among those who have given most thought to the subject, is verging decidedly in the direction of more outspokenness than has hitherto ever been the practice in England; but no sooner does the position get so far clearer, than it must be asked on whom does this duty fall? On the parent or on the school? And supposing it is the case that the former frequently abdicate this duty, are the preparatory schoolmasters preparing themselves to fulfil it? Abundant evidence might be produced to show that in these departments of life wise and cautious experiments are being made by some individuals, but that by many others the problems are still ignored.

If the questions that have been named are thought to be difficult, there remains one more difficult still. The product not only of Preparatory, but of Public Schools as well, displays the fashionable feeling of coldness and ignorance towards the claims of religion. There is little doubt that a great wave of indifference towards things of the unseen life is passing over Western Europe; and those to whom the fact is fraught with sinister forebodings-and their number is still large-have to consider the immensely important influence which school life. from ten to fourteen years must inevitably exercise on the growth of the deepest and most permanent ideas in the mind of a young human being. In no other subject are careful comparison and sympathetic insight more urgently needed.



2 G



In 1898 a startling letter appeared in the "Times" from an M.D. who had examined several hundreds of boys of 13 and 14, on their entering public schools. His verdict was that 64 per cent. were in a very unsatisfactory condition.

I was glad to be able to show from physical registers, accurately kept by the same Serjeant-Major for 25 years, that boys coming to us now at the ages of 13 and 14 have better average measurements than boys of the same ages had 20 to 25 years ago. And apart from these registers, my personal impression is that they are better specimens. But whatever improvement there is, it is nothing to what might be.

We talk of science. We call ours a scientific age. And yet to apply scientific knowledge to the production of the finest possible human being is, as Mr. Herbert Spencer showed long ago, still a conception rather for the future than for the present. As in many other cases, it would be hazardous to venture on what will, it is to be hoped, be the commonplaces of a future generation, less under the iron heel of custom and prejudice.

It is impossible, however, all at once to revolutionise institutions and modes of life, or to undo the effect of ages of mismanagement. But to come down from the clouds to the solid earth. There is no doubt that the preparatory school product is not what he might easily be made to be, in physical robustness, habits of life, beliefs and ways of thinking, intelligence or knowledge.

Though I have mentioned these things separately, they are, or ought to be, so interwoven as to be inseparable in the education of a child from his earliest years. What is the most important of all kinds of knowledge? Surely that which has to do with life, which tends to make it fuller, healthier, happier. What beliefs is it most essential to impress on a child? Surely that God's laws, when we can be sure about them, are binding, and that the main laws of health are more and more verifiable every day. In what ways of thinking ought we to train a child? Surely in referring everything he does, not to the standard of what is usual, but of what is sensible and right. What sort of intelligence is most telling in the quest of happine: s? Surely that which enables him to reason most accurately and most readily about what it is best for him to do in his daily conduct.


All other intelligence, beliefs, and ways of thinking and knowledge are secondary to these; and if we have these ingrained in the child by precept and example, we shall also have excellence in physique and robustness, and rationality in habits of life.

I need not waste time in proving that this ideal is not even aimed at. If it were so, such complaints as those of M.D. would be as ludicrously groundless as if he were to assert that sufficient energy is not devoted to scientific games. But what improvement there is, I believe to be greatly due to the desire to excel in these games. They have caused more time to be spent in regular open-air exercise, the good effects of which have been so obvious, that they have opened the eyes of many schoolmasters to the exceeding sinfulness of depriving a boy of oxygen and a quickened circulation by way of punishment. They have also proved to many parents, who, after many qualms, have sent to school boys whom they have succeeded in making " delicate" by their home treatment, what a mistake all this coddling has been. The younger brothers are somewhat more rationally brought up, and the net result has been the improvement which I have no doubt we have witnessed. And the less foolish management of girls' schools, since Mr. Herbert Spencer made people think about these, is already operating in the same direction.

But the connection between cause and effect in such matters s not sufficiently realised by schoolmasters, still less so by parents, and the "preparatory product," in my experience, has rarely heard anything about it. Irregular verbs, or the mountains of South America, have been more prominent in his education, than the laws of his own being. I rarely meet with a boy who has learned why he should eat slowly, why vegetables or their equivalent should form part of his diet, why he should not eat at random between meals, why he should take a run on a wet day and change immediately afterwards, why he should sleep with his window open, why he can strengthen his throat by keeping it bare, why his breathing organs should have absolutely free play, unincumbered by a tight, or even by any waistcoat, why he should take hard exercise in flannel, and not in any cotton fabrics.

I am aware that I shall raise a smile by the mention of such things, and the smile proves my point. When reason shall have superseded custom as the guide of our lives, the smile will be the other way. But no one who has tried to make boys live rationally and think why they should do this, and not do that, can doubt that if all preparatory schools will do the same, handicapped as they are by the previous upbringing of their boys, and by the holidays, and if these will above all things resolutely fight against the hamper and tuck shop nuisance, no future M.D. will be able to say that they turn out 64 per cent. of their boys in bad condition.

This 64 per cent. (and M.D. cannot be far wrong) is really a very serious matter. I am not going to dilate on the enormous importance for the happiness and prosperity of life, of a bodily condition, not merely free from disease, but robust, buoyant, and

« PreviousContinue »