Page 4, 24th December 1943

24th December 1943
Page 4
Page 4, 24th December 1943 — EDUCATION WITHOUT A PURPOSE
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People: Churchill, Eden, V ERY, Butler
Locations: Cairo, Teheran

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EDUCATION WITHOUT A PURPOSE

PARLY in the new year Parliament -" will debate Mr. Butler's Education Bill. It will he asked to enact a complex measure of educational reform that will cost not far short of a hundred million pounds. Under the plan every boy and girl will be assured of a full education up to sixteen years of age and of a continued part-time education up to eighteen. And every facility for the special needs of those able to profit from them wilr be available. "

It is an ambitious programme, and it is the State's answer to the well-founded derand which was typically expressed, forexample, in one of the five points of the leaders of the Christian Communions in their joint statement in 1940. If the Bill becomes law—and there is little doubt of that—and if it is fully carried into effect—which" is rather more doubtful. for everything in the future is uncertain these days—the country will be satisfied that equality of educational opportunity for rich and poor will have been furnished.

Despite all this, it is very legitimate to ask oneself whether future generations of British men and women will be better educated than they are to-day. We doubt it. The immense educational efforts that have marked the liberal age have yielded astonishingly little fruit by whatever reasonable standard we

care to judge. Actual illiteracy is doubtless rare as compared with the past. but there has been no sign of, any of the improvements which distinguish those of a "liberal education" from those of none. On the contrary we have gone back. People are less able to judge for themselves; the standard of literature and journalism has rapidly fallen; the things of the spirit have steadily yielded to those of matter and of flesh; leisure has become a burden rather than a refreshment; the quality of active and responsible citizenship has grown rarer. Is there any serious reason to suppose that the new reforms, which only provide a 'further dose of the old prescription, are adequate to reverse this disastrous trend?

Meaning of Cathol i c Opposition

ATHOLIC opposition to

clauses of the Bill which affect denominational schools is being widely regarded as a mere minority grievance and as a fractions attempt to spike the grand reform. It is, of course, a minority grievance, but there is no desire to wreck the plan. The Catholic policy has in fact always been one of conformity with the State to the very limits of what conscience will allow. Such a policy is very far from ideal. but the immense power Of the modern State has left us no practical alternative. We have to live on the crumbs from the rich man's table or starve. Yet Catholics in standing firm for minimum rights are in fact. putting their finger on the radical weakness of the

present educational reform. For they are insisting on the truth that quality and purpose of education alone make sense. When we say that education for us is impossible except in terms of a definite philosophy of life we are stating something which applies universally and the defect of which in modern liberal education fully accounts for its appalling failure.

This truth has lately become so

obvious that the State itself is being forced to resort to a pathetic attempt to meet the need in insisting that all schools shall provide some religious instruction. This instruction, however, bears no relation to the life and traiqing of the child. It cannot since there is no existent faith and discipline that corresponds to the "pooled" religion which is to he taught. Yet apart from this tiny matter, itself unrelated to the rest of modern education, there is nothing in the Bill which specifies the quality and purpose of education. It is a complex skeleton without flesh and, still more, without spirit, a gigantic scaffolding without thought for the building.

Mr. Butler's Lack of Cou rage

pVIDENTLY Catholics cannot L-4 possibly t xpect an educational reform which would, in fact, run counter to all the other features of a formless contemporary civilisation. Mr. Butler is not a St. Francis nor a Lbynia, and, if he were, he could not abuse his position of public servant IA the pagan State by putting forward ideas that not one man in ten would even understand. None the less his position does give him a cer tain amount of real initiative. The innovation of an agreed syllabus is his decision, and it is a witness to his scruples. There is no doubt that he was at a position to preserve the one feature of our past education in this country that was philosophically SOUTKI, namely, education within terms of a positive outlook in life by men who were convinced of the soundness of that outlook for children whose parents desired such edu

cation. Apart from a very small minority of people who could pay heavily for such education, this nas only to he found in Anglican and Catholic schools. Tragically, the Church of England as a whole failed to insist on a position vital to itself and precious to the country at large. (When history comes to be written, this may yet be viewed as the most evil of compromises made by the leaders of that Church.) Deceived by this retreat, Mr. Butler, instead of protecting the one remaining island of true education, wants heavily to penalise it

Mr. Butler to-day makes his bow as a great reformer of education. When in a decade or two it will have become clear that he has not arrested the decline in the general standard of popular education, he may be able to wash his hands and declare his general innocence since for the most part he had no choice; hut he will find it hard to forgive himself for his lack of courage in not having at least helped those who pioneered education for all classes and who still stand alone in defence of the truth that training without a dear purpose is a waste of time and money.

THE PRIME MINISTER VERY great anxiety was caused by 1' the first intimations of the Prime Minister's illness since the lay mind. at any rate, could scarcely help thinking of it as a kind of relapse which would not be so easily mastered. Happily the latest news is good. and it seems that modern science and Mr. Churchill's own remarkable vitality will pull him through with ease.

General Smuts, the other day,

rightly emphasised that the principle of leadership is as necessary as the principle of-democracy. In fact in a well-established State they answer and balance one another. It was the Poverty of citizenship as an ideal in Germany and Italy which enabled the ' Fuhrerprinzip to develop into absolute dictatorship. And it is commonly accepted that the reason for the failure of Russian Socialism to establish itself along free and constitutional lines was due to the lack of civic tradition among the Russian people. In this country and in the United States there has as yet beep no abdication by the people sied the lesser societies within the State of responsibilities through which alone there can be healthy leadership: And though the danger of this is threatening (and will develop if the war continues for much longer), we may well take this occasion of recalling the truth that if we consider the loss or weakening of Mr. Churchill's leadership as a major disaster. it is because we as a people still feel ourselves able to preveet him from falling into the temptation which besets all supremely powerful Men, namely, to be corrupted by power. The Prime Minister's genuine respect for Parliament and the liberties ot the people is healthy, and history will see in this one of his chief claims to immortality. Let us not strain his character by making things too difficult for him through too recklessly worshipping him.

COMMISSION FOR PEACE

THE debate on Mr. Eden's report to the House of Commons of the international conferences resolved itself into a discussion of political principles in post-war

Europe. Evidently members were very conscious of General Smuts' speech, a proof of how far more valuable is such an honest attempt to assess the real factors than the long-winded generalities which was all that Eden was in a position to offer. It is now fairly evident that Cairo and Teheran were almost wholly concerned with military questions, the Powers realising that they were at the moment in no position to outline a common programme about peace.

We need not be surprised at the fact that three or four great leaders of war, meeting for a few hours, were unable to see an" way ahead through the mists. Yet the question must be tackled if the results of the war are not to be worse than the war itself.° General Smuts suggested that there might never be any real peace conference. Might one not balance this by suggesting that now is the time to get down to the preliminaries of peace by the appointment of an international commission whose job would be to study certain matters in the light of which any peace must be constructed. Two questions above all need tackling. The first is the proper detinition of independence in an economically interdependent world, and the second is the practicable ways and means of establishing effective internal order which will nevertheless be constitutional and representative of the mind and needs of the people. A third point might be an enquiry into the practicability of reforming the League to Meet the new conditions.

While the members of such a commission would necessarily take into account what the different great Powers would stand for, the inquiry itself would be technical rather than political. An honest report available before the defeat of the enemy might make all the difference between the return of order and a long period of anarch y.

HANGINGS IN RUSSIA

gOMETHING of the indignation caused among the people of' America by the Japanese condemnation of captured airmen will be felt in Germany by the trial and hanging of German prisoners for committing atrocities.

In principle it is possible to argue the legality of such trials and condemnations since it is lafel down that prisoners of war shall be subiect to the laws, regulations and orders in force in the army of the State into whose hands they have fallen. Presumably don if a State is prepared to condemn its own subiects for committing haebarities and atrocities. that State has a right to condemn prisoners falling into its hands who can be proved guilty of the same offences. But is it?

The fundamental reason why the trials of war criminals, whether now Or at the end of the war, fail to appeal to the sincere conscience as truly legal acts is because the law is not universally applied. Any form of one-sided justice, however just within its own terms, will be regarded as a form of reprisal so long as there is no guarantee of equal treatment for all, whether victor or vanquished. • That is why all trial and punishment. so widely and often so sincerely advocated, will not help the cause of civilisation and .peace until the business is once and or all put into the hands of an international court of criminal justice before which any person can he ind icted.

We must honestly face the fact that if this is impracticable, it will be better in the long run for the world if a general amnesty is declared rather than that one set of belligerents should be brought to justice while the other never comes within the reach of justice. The present action will almost inevitably prompt the Germans to retaliate in kind and the end of it all will be further cruelty and barbarity.




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