The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
On Military Training as a Factor in Education.*

by A. W. Gundry, Esq., M.A.
Volume 10, 1899, pg. 137

* Lecture delivered to the P.N.E.U., Reading.

The whole question of Military Training is, broadly speaking, so conspicuously absent from the educational system of our country, that any discussion of the subject must of necessity begin by showing cause why the subject should be discussed at all. And this remoteness of our starting point will considerably increase the extent of ground being traversed. We have, as it were, to accomplish a long journey before we can arrive at the foot of the mountain that we wish to ascend. So it follows, that any comprehensive description of the field of our enquiry, confined to the brief span of an evening's debate, can be but a mere sketch alike in argument and in style. In endeavouring to carry out the plan, I can only give outlines and general principles, leaving details and deductions to be supplied by the rapid intelligence of my hearers, while we pass on; and for the lack of all elaboration of writing, I must crave your indulgence under cover of the same excuse.

I begin, therefore, as I said, by laying before you some of the various considerations that tend to show that the claims of military training to a place in systematic education should not be scouted and dismissed offhand, but at least heard, examined and fairly estimated, and, if they be found valid, admitted to full recognition.

In thus proceeding, it is my duty, at once, to relieve your minds of the fear that I shall pass into the region of politics in the common and narrow sense of that word--that is, party strife. I have no intention of so trespassing. But if the word politics be taken in its fuller and more genuine, though rarer use--that is, the interests of the state at large, I find here ground, not merely lawful to traverse, but even demanding our careful survey; for the condition of the state largely depends on the education of its citizens, and the constant care of education is to promote the welfare of the state. And from this point of vantage, we find that an open path lies by an easy syllogism into the very heart of our subject. For be it granted, that the desire of education is to produce good citizens; and again be it granted, that one function of a good citizen is to defend his country against violence in the time of need; it follows that the question must at least be asked on behalf of the state, whether education cannot supply its citizens with the requisite training that would qualify them to fulfil this duty as well as others. And not only can the state make this demand, but on the other side, the good and conscientious citizen also has a right to ask, "Can I not be taught in the course of my education, to defend my fatherland, as well as to obey its laws, take part in its counsels, adorn or aid it by my abilities and meet the rest of its claims?" If to these just demands education can give no sufficient answer, is not education still inadequate to the needs of the generation? It must either undertake the required task, or else show good cause why it should not provide for military training.

Another argument, rather more abstruse perhaps, yet not quite devoid of reason, may be based on the analogy that does, to some extent, exist between the development of the state and that of its individual members. He who said that war has been the educator of states in their progress from barbarism to civilisation effected an epigram at the expense of a gross exaggeration. But it is nevertheless true that many qualities that we should be sorry to lose have been called forth or fostered in our nation by the emergencies of warfare. Strenuousness of will, physical prowess, devotion to a cause, the power of units to act in a mass, and of masses to act in still larger aggregations, honour, manners, are among these. And if these have been taught to the state by the bitter experiences of war, will they not also be suggested to the state's latest offspring by their undergoing the training that war demands?

A plainer question is--Are we, as a people, entirely justified in taking up an abnormal attitude and altogether ignoring the choice and verdict of all other great nations? Our country alone among the Powers ignores the problem, how to work into serviceable shape the vast amount of available raw material that would be the only resource in the case of extreme emergency, with the rather ridiculous result that among the million of excellent athletes who are said to play football every Saturday during the season, at least nine-tenths are unfitted for want of special instruction to bear a man's part, if any serious danger befalls their country. The minority who would be found of service are those who have been trained in our Volunteer Forces. These number some 200,000 men, and judging by the recent exploits of similarly trained American citizens in Cuba, they would be no contemptible factor in a great war. These men deserver all honour for the personal sacrifices they make; but they are not half a tithe of the number that might be made serviceable by a thorough system, and their own system is by its nature unlikely to attract any considerably larger number to its ranks. It seems unfair, too, to place on the few willing shoulders the burden that should be equally shared by all able-bodied men.

Are we really justified in leaving our excellent material useless in the face of the judgment of all the world? The republics of the ancient world that command our constant admiration--Athens, Carthage, Rome--developed genius, wealth, or majesty, while their free-born citizens were all educated to the profession of arms, just as they declined towards their fall when their citizens refused any longer to bear this burden. The opinions of the great thinkers of antiquity on this point are too well known to need more than an allusion. The deliberate decision of the great nations of modern times is fixed in the same direction. In Germany, for example--I speak of the foreign country that I happen to know best--where the national institutions have not the same spontaneous life as our own, but under a paternal control are carefully considered, laid out, and co-ordinated for the general good, it is held necessary that the male citizen should give up two whole years of his life, between the ages of 20 and 22, to military training; though so much is conceded to intellectual advantage, that the pupils of schools of a certain grade are showing proof of efficiency are allowed to pass with one year's service, paying however their own expenses. This system is a heavy burden to the country, but it has had the desired result of securing Germany from the sacrifices and horrors of war now for 27 years, ever since, in fact, its power was first shown, for the reason that the risk of an attack is too great for her enemies to venture on.

There are many arguments against the introduction of a similar plan into England. Those arguments are both lengthy and familiar, and, moreover, have but little connection with education; so I may consider them as stated, and ourselves as agreeing that the Continental method of enforced service is impracticable here. We cannot give up the early years of English manhood to military training; all the more cogently, therefore, are we compelled to ask whether the necessary instruction cannot be supplied in the season of boyhood, simultaneously with intellectual education.

The foregoing considerations, among many others, serve to show that the problem of military training deserves at least to be examined, if not to be seriously taken in hand, by the educational powers of our country. It is necessary next to ask how far such an amazing undertaking is practically feasible. Immediately the grave objection will arise that education cannot concede even the time that the general military training of the youth would demand. The courts of education are already crowded with petitioners whose claims can scarcely be satisfied, the multitude of departments already strains the system of organisation and exhausts all the time that is available. A true story is told of a Head Master who boasted that if he was summoned to London during term time and happened to meet a parent of one of his pupils in the street, he could at once pull out his watch and tell the parent what his son was doing at that particular hour and minute, what subject he was studying in school, or what game he was playing outside. To such an extent was every scruple of time employed under his command, and yet this extra-ordinary organiser had never bestowed a thought on training up boys to the defence of their country. If such is the throng and pressure of subjects in a typical school, how can a new and alien claimant hope to find standing room? To this imposing question there is nevertheless an answer. With the great variety of schools in this country, it is difficult to lay down broad statements that will cover them all. But it may, as a general proposition, be safely affirmed that apart from all out-door athletics, that is, football and cricket and similar games, a certain amount of time and attention is deliberately given up to bodily training--in the more fortunate schools by means of the gymnasium, in the rest by various drill and physical exercises. And it is almost equally safe to affirm that the time so employed is largely wasted; not through the actual instructors, who, as a rule, are competent to carry out orders given them, but to faults in the design on which they work. In many schools, the gymnasium is there, but gymnastics are evaded. Where they are taken seriously, one of two results follows, neither desirable. Either the community is sacrificed to the excellence of a few, or, if equal care is bestowed on all, the squads formed are too large for their members to gain much benefit. Eight seems to be accepted as the suitable number for a gymnasium squad; but, if a whole school is divided into eights, too many units are made for convenience, and, of necessity, other organised units, such as school classes and cricket teams are broken up; so that all is thrown into confusion. If, on the other hand, two or three good squads were formed for thorough instruction, the remainder must go to the gymnasium in forties and fifties, in which case each individual in one hour does about one minute of useful work. No plan has yet been devised to obviate both these difficulties. In primary schools and others that have no gymnastic apparatus, children are generally put through a course of manual exercises. These are said to be arranged scientifically to suit the human anatomy; but the want of a further object, and the lack of faith in both instructor and pupils, render them dreary and lifeless.

Now, it would not be reasonable that because of these failings, all the gymnastics of our schools should be ruthlessly swept away. Rather, all the existing good should be maintained, but order and direction should be given by forming it into a definite and practical system. The actual change needed to introduce such a system would be very small. And the system itself is at hand ready-made. Let every school adopt for its gymnastic course the official Infantry Drill Book, and all would be done. On the lines there laid down, more attention would be given to practical marching than is now thought necessary, but gymnastic exercises are amply included, and the body receives a high development of a very practical sort. By this, also, uniformity of method would be established throughout the land, so that the stimulus of comparison and competition would be present everywhere. Nor would this plan anywhere confuse existing arrangements, for any existing units could be adopted into it. Finally, with this training, even those who leave school at the age of 14 would have learnt enough to enable them in later years to take their places in the ranks of a battalion at very short notice, while those who remain till they are 19 would be nearly qualified to act as the officers of the former class.

This, then, is the theoretic suggestion that I venture to lay before your consideration--that the official Infantry Drill Book should be made the basis of all gymnastic instruction in all our schools. And time is found for military training by the adaptation of existing gymnastics.

So far, of course, the suggestion is still open to the reproach that it is merely a theory and nothing more; one more theory in the sphere of education, where theories are too numerous already, and the practical test alone can distinguish the good from the useless. As suburban streets are laid on a structure of out-worn boots and defunct kettles, so are the highways of education built on the remains of unworkable and shattered theories. The fragments may remain usefully embedded, but the theories have passed out of shape. It must be admitted that an educational theory unsupported by a practical recommendation has scarcely a claim to be investigated. And if that was actually the case with the suggestion I now offer, I could not venture to pursue it further; indeed, I could not have pursued it so far.

But, as a matter of fact, the support of experience is not lacking here. Two institutions already established are even now living and working, that bear testimony to the practical value of our suggestion. Compared with the bulk of the whole nation, these two societies, even summed together, are but as a drop in a bucket; but they serve for a crucial experiment; their success is a sure token of the practical possibility of a universal organisation of the same character. One of these is called The Church Lads' Brigade, the other is made up of the Volunteer Cadet Corps of our leading public schools. The one has its work among the poorest classes, the other among the richest.

The Church Lads' Brigade is in the hands of the clergy of the Church of England. It aims generally at continuing the education of those who leave school for work at an early age, and specially teaching the great lesson of order, obedience and voluntary discipline, so as to turn out into the world strong, true, upright Christian men. The method by which it endeavours to attain this end is by inducing the boys between the ages of 12 and 19 to join a society conducted on a military system. It is claimed that no other kind of organization is so attractive as this to boys, who, if left to themselves, would spend their evenings in the streets. A company is formed for a parish, and the first subject of instruction is military drill, according to the official regulations; afterwards on this basis and within the company other societies are formed--football clubs, swimming classes, ambulance classes, temperance unions, and others in very great variety, with, of course, a preference to those that will help religious life. But regularly, once a week, the company meets for a drill, in which the government regulations are strictly observed; a simple uniform is worn, and for the more advanced, dummy rifles are supplied, that the rudiments of the firing exercise may be taught. Sometimes in the summer, field-days are held, that the various companies may meet for battalion drill, and occasionally, a whole battalion is moved and encamped at the sea-side. An encampment of this kind would be well-nigh impossible without a military organization. The expense of such an expedition falls on charitable subscriptions; for the rest of the finances, the initial expense, about 7s. 6d. per head, is provided in the same way, subsequent expenses are met by the subscriptions of the members. There is a central organization, and the system extends over the whole of England, excepting the diocese of London; but its executive work varies largely in different places. It is strong in many large towns, but everywhere it depends on the efficiency and energy of its local officers. In some places the members are few and little practised; in others they are very numerous, excellently disciplined and capable of very advanced work in drill. I have not been able to get any precise statistics of the numbers. The brigade was first formed as an Incorporated Society in the year 1871. Its general success is decided. While its leading idea is well carried out, much sound military instruction is instilled in the process.

The Cadet Corps of the public schools make military proficiency their direct object. A corps is formed separately in each school by voluntary enlistment among the boys; it is officered by two or three of the masters, who voluntarily give a large section of their leisure to this work. No recruits are received from outside the school, but the corps as a whole is attached as a Cadet Corps to the Volunteer Battalion of its country. Under this arrangement, it is instructed by the Adjutant, and inspected by the Commanding Officer of the Volunteers of the district. Those members who are old enough, that is, about 17, take the oath and are enrolled as Volunteers, serve under the same conditions as other Volunteers, have the same standard of proficiency and earn the same grant from government. The rest train with them as Cadets. Arms are supplied by the government, the regulation rifle for the enrolled volunteers, for the others, carbines. Uniforms are bought at the expense of each individual: the cost when new is about £9. In the older corps, that date from 20 years back or more, a uniform of grey or dark green is worn, such as was common among volunteers at that date,--for example, at Eton, Harrow and Marlborough amongst other schools; in the more recently established, the uniform is that of the district in which each several school is situated; as in our own country the two schools that possess Cadet Corps clothe them with the scarlet and blue facings of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, as Rugby bears the uniform of the Warwickshire, and Sherborne that of the Dorsetshire Regiment. Three schools have organized their corps as Engineers--Cheltenham, Tonbridge and Weymouth; one, Malvern, as Artillery. It is hard to see how the extra work required by the scientific branches of the service is met. The rest are instructed in infantry drill, always in strict accordance with the regulations, each corps retaining in its employ a retired non-commissioned officer of the regulars as instructor. A day for field-work is found once in each term, in the summer locally by the combination of two or more neighbouring schools; in the autumn and spring there are general gatherings at or near Aldershot, and in one of these the Cadets work in combination with some of the regular forces of all arms. Shooting is constantly practised at the several ranges throughout the year, and a challenge prize, known as the Ashburton Shield, is offered each summer, at Bisley, to teams from the public schools. In this particular competition, the corps from Charterhouse has been most successful; after Charterhouse, perhaps Bradfield, Harrow, and Cheltenham. Besides all this, a camp is held every year, at Aldershot, attended by the majority of the members of most of the corps in ever increasing numbers. As many as 2,000 Cadets from the public schools may be found assembled there during the first week in August, and their work and bearing have won repeated approval from the various officers who have inspected them. There is not one corps there that is not marked by good discipline, and many can boast of smartness and efficiency. The tents for this encampment are provided by the government, and for the roughest of the necessary labour, a small detachment of regular soldiers is told off; cooks also are supplied; the rest is done by the boys themselves, who keep their arms and accoutrements clean, roll and unroll their bedding, fetch food and water to their tents, and wash up their dishes. An average day is spent as follows:--At 5.30 a.m. an adjutant's parade for battalion drill, lasting an hour; afterwards breakfast and cleaning up at 10 a.m. a parade followed by field exercises which extend perhaps over five or six hours of constant movement before the return to camp. Then a well-earned dinner and a still more thorough cleaning. Later on, there are various competitions and amusements for those who like it, and the day usually concludes with a social meeting for music or a lecture. Add to this the various duties of guards and fatigue parties, and a respectable day's work is the result, so that "Lights out" at 10 p.m. is a welcome sound to the battalion. At the end of a week, the Cadets go home sunburnt and healthy, improved in physique and with some permanent effect on their characters, too. Not only have they learnt something of the military art, but schoolmasters have remarked that the members of the Corps show more appreciation than others of discipline and instruction of all kinds. More especially, those of them who attain to the position of section-commanders in their companies have received a lesson in responsibility which is not lost.

As another and somewhat similar contribution by education to the cause of national defence, the Volunteer Corps of the two great Universities demand a passing glance. Except in their being confined to members of the Universities, their administration does not differ from that of ordinary Volunteers. At Cambridge the Corps numbers about 500, that is, roughly one in five of the resident members. At Oxford it is far weaker.

Such are, in brief, the experiments that have been actually made in the association of military training with education.

(To be continued.)

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