What Is and What Might Be - A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular
148 Pages

What Is and What Might Be - A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular


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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: What Is and What Might Be A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular Author: Edmond Holmes Release Date: February 10, 2007 [EBook #20555] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WHAT IS AND WHAT MIGHT BE *** Produced by R. Cedron, Andrew Sly and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net WHAT IS AND WHAT MIGHT BE A STUDY OF EDUCATION IN GENERAL AND ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN PARTICULAR BY EDMOND HOLMES AUTHOR OF "THE CREED OF CHRIST," "THE CREED OF BUDDHA," "THE SILENCE OF LOVE," "THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE," ETC. LONDON CONSTABLE & COMPANY 1912 First published, May 1911. Second impression, July 1911. Third impression, September 1911. Fourth impression, November 1911. Fifth impression, January 1912. Sixth impression, October 1912. [v] Transcriber's Note: Obvious printer errors have been corrected. All other inconsistencies are as in the original. PREFACE My aim, in writing this book, is to show that the externalism of the West, the prevalent tendency to pay undue regard to outward and visible "results" and to neglect what is inward and vital, is the source of most of the defects that vitiate Education in this country, and therefore that the only remedy for those defects is the drastic one of changing our standard of reality and our conception of the meaning and value of life. My reason for making a special study of that branch of education which is known as "Elementary," is that I happen to have a more intimate knowledge of it than of any other branch, the inside of an elementary school being so familiar to me that I can in some degree bring the eye of experience to bear upon the problems that confront its teachers. I do not for a moment imagine that the elementary school teacher is more deeply tainted than his fellows with the virus of "Occidentalism." Nor do I think that the defects of his schools are graver than those of other educational institutions. In my judgment they are less grave because, though perhaps more glaring, they have not had time to become so deeply rooted, and are therefore, one may surmise, [vi] less difficult to eradicate. Also there is at least a breath of healthy discontent stirring in the field of elementary education, a breath which sometimes blows the mist away and gives us sudden gleams of sunshine, whereas over the higher levels of the educational world there hangs the heavy stupor of profound self-satisfaction.[1] I am not exaggerating when I say that at this moment there are elementary schools in England in which the life of the children is emancipative and educative to an extent which is unsurpassed, and perhaps unequalled, in any other type or grade of school. I am careful to say all this because I foresee that, without a "foreword" of explanation, my adverse criticism of what I have called "a familiar type of school" may be construed into an attack on the elementary teachers as a body. I should be very sorry if such a construction were put upon it. No one knows better than I do that the elementary teachers of this country are the victims of a vicious conception of education which has behind it twenty centuries of tradition and prescription, and the malign influence of which was intensified in their case by thirty years or more[2] of Code despotism and "payment by results." Handicapped as they have been by this and other adverse conditions, they have yet produced a noble band of pioneers, to whom I, for one, owe what [vii] little I know about the inner meaning of education; and if I take an unduly high standard in judging of their work, the reason is that they themselves, by the brilliance of their isolated achievements, have compelled me to take it. I will therefore ask them to bear with me, while I expose with almost brutal candour the shortcomings of many of their schools. They will understand that all the time I am thinking of education in general even more than of elementary education, and using my knowledge of the latter to illustrate statements and arguments which are really intended to tell against the former. They will also understand that at the back of my mind I am laying the blame of their failures, not on them but on the hostile forces which have been too strong for many of them,—on the false assumptions of Western philosophy, on the false standards and false ideals of Western civilisation, on various "old, unhappy, far-off things," the effects of which are still with us, foremost among these being that deadly system of "payment by results" which seems to have been devised for the express purpose of arresting growth and strangling life, which bound us all, myself included, with links of iron, and which had many zealous agents, of whom I, alas! was one. PART I WHAT IS OR THE PATH OF MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE [1] CHAPTER I SALVATION THROUGH MECHANICAL OBEDIENCE The function of education is to foster growth. By some of my readers this statement will be regarded as a truism; by others as a challenge; by others, again, when they have realised its inner meaning, as a "wicked heresy." I will begin by assuming that it is a truism, and will then try to prove that it is true. The function of education is to foster growth. The end which the teacher should [3] set before himself is the development of the latent powers of his pupils, the unfolding of their latent life. If growth is to be fostered, two things must be liberally provided,—nourishment and exercise. On the need for nourishment I need not insist. The need for exercise is perhaps less obvious, but is certainly not less urgent. We make our limbs, our organs, our senses, our faculties grow by exercising them. When they have reached their maximum of development we maintain them at that level by exercising them. When their capacity for growth is unlimited, as in the case of our mental and spiritual faculties, the need for exercise is still more urgent. To neglect to exercise a given limb, or organ, or sense, or faculty, would result in its becoming weak, flabby, and in the last [4] resort useless. In childhood, when the stress of Nature's expansive forces is