The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
On Military Training as a Factor in Education.*
by A. W. Gundry, Esq., M.A.
Now, if there appear to be reasons why this association is desirable, and if certain experiments have proved that it is not only possible but eminently practicable, the succeeding step in our investigation is to draw up in outline a broad general scheme, by which the adoption of military training into the course of education may be made to apply not only to one or two isolated and peculiar cases, but to the entire body of national instruction. Such a vast design must, of course, be approached with extreme diffidence by anyone who is neither a statesman nor a headmaster; yet rather than leave out a link in the chain of our present discussion, let us venture in a rough and tentative manner to sketch here a hypothetical plan of this nature. In the first place, by way of clearing the ground, it may be remarked that no mere extension of the Church Lads' Brigade or of the Public Schools' Cadet Corps could be made to include all the varieties of educational institutions that exist over the whole country. Though it is not to be desired that military institutions should ever be dissociated from the observance of religion, still their subordination to religious objects on a national scale would result in cumbrous unwieldiness or hopeless confusion for their special purpose, besides straining the powers of religious bodies and perhaps provoking contention among them. Nor again could the methods of the public schools be expected to flourish beyond their own pale. The public schools are eminent in the education of the country, but they are not representative of the main body of it. The additions made to fit into the structure of their system could not be adapted to schools of another design; moreover, public schools or their members have money to spare, which cannot be found everywhere. The experiments already described show most convincingly that a national scheme for the same object is distinctly feasible, but they cannot be made to urge their own special methods on the general acceptance. From what has actually been accomplished those who plan for the whole nation may take encouragement and many suggestions, but they must start afresh and work in a similar spirit on new and proper lines.
I have already stated the conviction that the required change in existing arrangements is not materially great nor very difficult to effect. It is merely the addition of a new subject to the school course, and that not a particularly heavy one. Its extent and content may be seen in the Official Infantry Drill Book. Like other subjects, it needs sufficient time and adequate instruction. For time, if a pupil were subjected to its discipline during the whole length of his school-life, one hour a week would give good results; if an hour a day could be given, the effect should leave nothing to be desired; between these limits, local convenience might be consulted. I have already suggested that time could easily be found by an adaptation of existing gymnastics. Good instruction is also at hand in the large body of retired non-commissioned officers of the regular army. Such men are numerous everywhere and generally glad of employment. They almost invariably bear a good character, and usually have the benefit of some experience of the world, besides a training which raises them considerably above the class from which they have sprung. In their own line, that of teaching drill, the work of many of them is excellent, and to look on at some of them in the performance of their task is a model lesson in instruction even for those who are practised in the teaching of far more ambitious subjects. Altogether they constitute a vast body of potential instructors of great capacity.
Schools of different classes would avail themselves of the aid of non-commissioned officers in different degrees, while some part of the work would in every case fall on the regular masters. The combination would vary according to the money-spending power of the schools. The corps of the public schools already fulfil the necessary conditions. All they need is to be made co-extensive with the schools themselves. In primary schools, to avoid large expenditure, much would be required of the masters themselves. They are keen and versatile men, readily able to learn, if called upon, what is required of them in a new subject; and full confidence might be placed in them for undertaking nearly the whole of the instruction in drill. A fortnightly inspection by a sergeant would secure correctness in the work, without involving great expense. Secondary and private schools should be able to afford to employ a military instructor regularly, and could reasonably require energy and efficiency of their masters at no cost whatever. The masters could obtain the necessary instruction by joining the volunteers or by beginning with the classes at their school.
Within every school, each class, as it stands for school-work could be passed on to serve as a unit for drill instruction, so that no difficulty in organization would be incurred, and advance in drill would be parallel to advance in age and general development. The lowest class would learn the first elements of drill, the next rather higher work and so on up the scale; the members of the highest class would be trained to act as non-commissioned officers on occasions when the whole school assembled.
To make the whole scheme fully effective, the Government would be required to lend rifles to the upper classes on proof of efficiency, and to appoint inspectors out of the large number of retired officers who have time on their hands. All else would be done by the management of each school separately. It will be seen that while the subject of instruction is precisely uniform under this scheme, its method is elastic enough to be made to fit any special case.
Something like this would be the outline of our imaginary scheme; and as it is but imaginary it is not worth while to fill in its details further.
With such a scheme in full work, the drilling of the nation would be in a rough way accomplished; and if any national emergency occurred, every man in the nation would need but a little time to refresh his memory of duties that he had once known well. For this mere awakening of the memory, time could be found in the worst crisis; but time could not be found to make a raw recruit into a soldier, if once our command of the seas were lost.
The institution and establishment of some such plan as this would not present many difficulties; compared with its comprehensiveness, very few indeed. The public schools may be left to advance on their own lines. At the present rate of development, there will soon be very few public schools without corps of their own, and it will soon be an exception for a member of a public school not to be a member of its corps also. In the primary schools the alteration would be easy because of their excellent organization and central control. If the central department were convinced that it was necessary to teach drill, the order would be issued, and its accomplishment would follow at once with very little friction. There is an opportunity here for the application of educated public opinion, or for the action of a far-seeing statesman. In contrast with primary schools, the secondary schools are collectively a chaos because of their individual independence. In them the course of instruction is determined by unreasoning custom or by a vague public opinion. The pressure of public opinion is the only force by which they could be moved to take up a novel subject. And, so far, public opinion has not even existed on this question, for the question has never been fairly raised. If it could be put prominently before the public, and after due discussion it appeared advisable to adopt military training universally, very soon under the influence of competition no self-respecting school of this class would be without it; and the same public opinion would move the Government to meet the schools half-way. At the present moment, however, it happens that the Board of Education Bill is under consideration, which purposes to give secondary schools a complete and centralized organization. Here is an opportunity, that may not recur again, for introducing military training to no inconsiderable part of the nation. If only some public man would take up the cause!
Suppose now that some such system were established and brought into thorough working order, what would be its attendant advantages or disadvantages? The benefit of every good cause of education is twofold, the advantage of the state and the advantage of the individual. To investigate the former is not beyond our scope, but the latter is our own especial province. The latter we must consider first and fully, the former later on and as time serves.
The individual who submits to drill gains this palpable accomplishment, that he is able to aid his country in case of need, as every right-feeling man would wish to do; but in the process he is further differentiated, physically, intellectually and morally. Physically, he receives the training which makes the soldier superior to the average citizen in strength, bearing, and aptitude for work; a training that the experience of ages has developed into the best for practical purposes. An upright form, a straight walk, the management of every muscle, a keen eye, a steady nerve, are his distinctions, and they are no slight ones. It is true that in this country the practice of athletic sports has a vast influence in the same direction; but a general system of drill, without interfering with the good part of athletics, and without any taint of professionalism, would extend the advantage further and less partially, would cover the whole ground, as athletics can never do.
Nor is the learning of drill to be despised even as an intellectual training-course. Those who have studied it as well as many other subjects will bear witness that it is not the simplest thing that they have endeavoured to learn. The movement of men in masses is not a childish or uninteresting art, and a knowledge of the whole of the drill-book needs long and thorough work, to say nothing of its continuation in tactics, fortification and other branches of the military art. More than this; in the practical work, perfect alertness is required and strict precision is inculcated, as the consequences of an omission or mistake are evident at once. Nothing better can be devised to teach the excellent mental habit of avoiding casual blunders. There is also one other particular faculty which drill develops in the intellect, which is of use in many other matters besides drill, and seems indeed to be the one thing lacking in the education, more especially the primary education, of our time and country. It is not possible of course to find out a defect in education by consulting educational statistics, but an excellent test of the public intelligence may be found in the literature which is most popular. If popular literature be examined in a dry light it will promptly show where the general intelligence is strong, where it is weak, and consequently where education is adequate and where it is deficient. I have taken the trouble to read through certain papers of no very high class, which are reputed to have a very large circulation. The range of subjects over which these papers glance is immense and argues an omnivorous intellectual curiosity in their readers. Fiction, biographic anecdotes, scientific results, detached statistics, are to be found there side by side. If there is nothing that is first-rate, there is much that is interesting or improving or entertaining, and very little that deserves condemnation in itself. But the whole is a jumble, a mere accumulation of scraps without cohesion and without order. As is the literature, so are the minds of the readers whose demand it meets. The intelligence of our masses, in some ways well-developed, lacks one factor which is neglected in their education from the beginning, the power of co-ordination, without which all is confusion. This deficiency in their education is exactly what drill would supply. For drill is an object lesson in order, showing the dependence of the units on the whole and of the whole on the units in the clearest way in which it can be demonstrated. The minds that have absorbed the principles of drill are able to give order and arrangement to such knowledge and ideas as they possess. I have spoken of the masses, but do not we also sometimes read magazines when we should read books, and thereby betray a lack of appreciation of the higher harmony and something of a chaotic state in our own intellects?
But besides the amount and value of acquired knowledge, besides the purely intellectual betterment, there is always one other resultant to be estimated in the selection of materials for education, and that is the effect of any particular course of training on that half-intellectual, half-moral region, where the will finds its directing control; that which we sometimes speak of collectively as "principles," sometimes sum up roughly under the term "character." Various courses of education affect the character or principles variously, and their special influence in this respect must be an element in their valuation. In this way, for instance, Latin as a study is superior to French, and pure mathematics to practical science. Military drill cannot for this purpose be ranked with great subjects like these; it is far more humble, and would have its chief influence on classes of men where these were unknown. It cannot call up the greater qualities of the mind, but it works in its own sphere to promote some of the most useful. It teaches, in the first place, discipline: not only does it train to habits of discipline--for that may be done, though not so easily, by other courses, but it also presents discipline in a proper light to the untrained minds that are apt to question why it exists. The British schoolboy by tradition resents discipline and opposes it to the point where his personal convenience is threatened. But when drilled, he begins to understand; give him the slightest authority, even that of a lance-corporal in his corps, and he is enlisted on the other side to become a supporter of discipline. And from discipline is derived later on in life the power of self-discipline, that is of faithfully carrying out principles and preventing lapses through weakness, no small factor in practical morality. The idea of duty also is exemplified in military training. In military work, everything that is given to each member to do is presented to him as a command of duty only, not of personal proclivity or of calculated advantage. This idea also, when it takes a wider scope, is of great practical value. Military service also teaches good manners and reverent bearing; the lower is taught to show all deference to the higher within the limits of the service, the higher is taught scrupulously to respect the feelings and rights of the lower. This reverent bearing of man to man is perhaps what is most conspicuously absent in the manners of large classes in England. The character of 'Arry, so painfully familiar here, is not obtrusive on the continent. He exists because he has never had the benefits of drill; were he drilled, he would be no more 'Arry, but a respectable and perhaps an aspirated Henry.
Again, the corps is to the individual a symbol of the society to which he belongs. By less highly-trained minds, a symbol is more easily understood than an explanation, and by recognizing his place in his corps, the humbler citizen learns to appreciate, perhaps without being able to give an account of it, his place in the nation.
There is still time left to return to the starting-point and say a few words on the interests of the state at large. By a universal system of military training, the state would find a weapon placed in its hand, not nearly so perfect in degree as its regular army, yet valuable because of its magnitude. It would be a buckler, not a sword, an arm for defence only. There would be nothing in this organisation that would lend itself to an aggressive spirit against foreigners or to the evil designs of an ambitious individual. But with it, an invasion of our island realm would be a hopeless enterprise, while now it is merely a hazardous one. For if every man were trained, all men in the invaded district would spring to arms at once and crush the enemy's advanced guard by sheer weight of numbers. The Englishmen trained as I have described would really be useful soldiers I judge from the recent exploits in Cuba of the so-called National Guards of the United States, who are trained like our own Volunteers, but hardly so thoroughly. And it is well to remember that an invasion of this country is not a mere dream, for any nation that will can always force a quarrel upon us at their own time, and our own peace-loving disposition is not shared by other European powers, but on the contrary is quite abnormal, while our prosperity is a source of constant jealousy to the greedy. We remain unmolested practically only because we are feared.
But safety, though the greatest, is not the only boon that the state would receive from military education. As I have shown in the case of the individual, so in the national morality a certain change would supervene. The ideas of duty, discipline, and reverence would be extended. The effect would no doubt be slow, but in the end, some of the most prominent evils of our time would be withered from the root. Unjustifiable strikes, scamping of work, "milking" of machinery, rioting and Hooliganism would decline and die--or, if that is too much to hope, might become as little troublesome as they are in Germany. Perhaps I seem to make a very large claim for the cause I am supporting. It is large; but I believe there is no one here who supposes educational influences to be small in their ultimate effect.
I will allude shortly to one more benefit that would arise from a diffused knowledge of military work, though it is, in comparison, a minor consideration. At present there is no just appreciation of military affairs in the country, compared with their importance. To some, a glitter of glory hovers about our bayonets; to a greater number, nothing is visible in war except its horrors. But if there were general instruction in the elements of military science, the public mind would know better what is to be expected of an army and what is not, and would be better able to appreciate its efficiency and services correctly.
Finally, as a strong man is a blessing to the community, so is a strong nation a blessing to the whole world. It is the weak and decadent empires that cause strife, because the strong are drawn into the sphere of their imbecility as into a vortex. Where the carcass is, there are the eagles gathered together. Let us therefore in the education of our citizens not forget the duty of making our country strong for the sake of the peace of the world. I have tried to show that it is reasonable to expect some help towards this end from education; I have tried to show that the task is, to some extent, feasible for education; and I have pointed out certain advantages that I believe would arise from the adoption of some such plan. I have not disguised my own personal conviction that the work ought to be taken in hand, yet I have endeavoured to speak without the partial feeling of an advocate and carefully to avoid any overstatement of the case. This, I think, completes our investigation on the scale which is possible this evening, as far as I am concerned.
Proofread by LNL, June 2020
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