The children of to-day are the citizens of to-morrow. Half-educated and over-worked children cannot grow to manhood and woman-hood capable of meeting the added burden that the result of this war will cast upon them. Any relaxation of the safe-guards which protect the educational life of the child, and prevent his too early employment is short-sighted policy as unwise as it is unjust. (p. 214)….
And this leads on to the lessons in education that this war is bringing home to us. What is the secret of German power as exhibited in this war, and as exhibited before the war in its ability to capture the markets of the world? It is this—the Germans have determined to apply science to every branch of manufacture. Government and merchants alike have felt that they could not spend money better than in obtaining the help of the scientific brain, and training each workman to a scientific view of his workmanship. We in Britain as a manufacturing class have hardly realised that the old day of rule-of-thumb has passed away for ever. When our manufacturers use one scientific expert in their works, the Germans use from twenty to thirty. When the commercial and manufacturing world in Britain, who are the real wealth-producers of the nation, are ready to employ, and to pay adequately, the university science graduates, and when the scientific expert can command remuneration, and such openings as he certainly would command before the war in Germany, you may depend on it that the teaching of science will come to its own in the scholastic world. But as Mr. Watson well put it in “The Times” Literary Supplement of Tuesday, April 4th, “It is the commercial world rather than the scholastic that is to be converted to the value of science. And here we are up against the old problem of British indifference to science. It is no use to ask where the blame for this lies. Schoolmasters must take their share as well as others. But meanwhile the fact remains that we must all combine—scientist and humanist, educationist and manufacturer to alter it.” (p. 215)
And surely another lesson of the war for educationists is that German education spells thoroughness. The Government and the manufacturer for the last thirty years have been working hand in hand in their efforts to apply science to manufactures, and to capture and if possible, improve upon the best methods in manufacture and in commerce that they could find in any quarter of the world. When the last Arts and Crafts Exhibition was held the German Government sent over experts not only to make drawings of the best things they could see there, but to visit the craftsmen and workshops that produced these articles with the result that the craft-schools of Germany had at once both patterns and information laid before them, and furniture and the like was produced within a year whose design had come from Britain. (p. 215)….
I realise to the full that as far as the German mind goes, we in Britain can easily compete with Germany if we give our minds a chance. I doubt if the German mind is half as inventive, or capable off thinking for itself, as is the British. Where the Germans seem to have the advantage is in the actual love of work. The ordinary British schoolboy can understand a love of play, but he cannot understand a love of work; and I am persuaded that this lack of the sense of love of work is at the bottom of a good deal of our labour trouble to-day. I had talks with Ruskin years ago at Oxford, and he insisted that for the future happiness of Great Britain man must learn the joy that comes of working at the very hardest. In Germany for the past thirty years this appreciation of hard work has been encouraged by the idea that they were not working for themselves individually, but for their fatherland. And I believe that here in Britain this war in calling forth the dormant sense that we are not only to think of ourselves, but of our country, will possibly bring back something of the power to exert ourselves more unselfishly and at the self-sacrifice for the good of the common-weal. If every boy at school, and every man when he leaves school, could feel that the harder he worked at his particular job he was adding to the strength of the country that gave him birth, and of the empire to which he belongs, I believe we should have less slackness in our workshops and a nobler ideal of handwork and brain-work throughout the land. (pp. 215-216)
But whilst I say all this, I want to protest against what I call panic legislation. A lot of scientific professors and others have been demanding that the whole of our system of education should be thrown into the melting pot, that instead of wasting time on Latin and Greek, we should begin to believe that the only education worth the name is the education of the scientific laboratory. The memorial that they sent out confined the term science in the most short-sighted way to physical science, whereas it is quite plain that science is just as much necessary in the teaching of classics, economics, or archaeology as in chemistry and biology; and all the Continental academies of science include the knowledge of man and history as well as that of nature…. Surely one of the lessons of the war that Germany is teaching us is one that we educationists must lay very seriously to heart. It is that a nation that gives itself over to pure materialism and leaves out the “humanities” becomes a plague to the civilised world. We shall be wise in time if whilst we encourage the scientific mind in all our schools we stick to the “humanities” and do all in our power to widen the outlook and sympathies of our growing youth rather than contract them to a single line of scientific specialisation or laboratory work. Pres forward, if you will, the technical side of education, but do not forget history, classics, poetry and cultivation of the religious sense. (p. 216)
At the same time let us refuse to be hidebound to the idea that all boys and girls must go through the same mill. Each year we lose from technical science promising brains and promising aptitudes because our educational curriculum is too narrow. A master will soon find out whether a scholar is better fitted for classical or scientific training, and he should be encouraged to make this discovery and act upon it. I cannot help hoping that the manufacturer and man of commerce of the future will take a much greater interest than he does now in the schools from which he draws his workers. When he does he will probably see the suicidal folly of taking boys from a secondary school to begin their apprenticeship at fourteen instead of allowing them to remain for the two most precious years of a boy’s life perhaps, at the secondary school, and offering him an apprenticeship at the age of sixteen. (p. 216)
As things are, because of this early age of apprenticeship, the fathers of bright lads, who pass from the elementary school to the secondary school, insist upon taking their boys away at the age of fourteen because they find that the employers will not give them any opening as apprentices at the age of sixteen. And when our manufacturers really become interested in our secondary and technical schools I think we shall find that legislation in its turn will be made easy. (p. 216)
There is no doubt that this war has opened our eyes to the national need of some great central technical school or university for the iron and steel industry and engineering work of the land. Of course there are technical schools run in connexion with industries in some of our great manufacturing centres, but if we are to hold our places in the engineering world there seems to be a real need for some great central school at which all the chemistry of metals, and the higher uses of iron and steel can be taught. This is not a matter for private industrial enterprise. It is a matter for the Government to undertake for the sake of the industry of the whole country, and they could not do a wiser thing at the end of this war, than to call the iron and steel experts, engineers, and manufacturers together and in consultation decide upon some great central iron and steel laboratory for the teaching of the whole nation. (p. 216)
(Education, 1916, 12 May, pp. 214-216)