The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Training in the Service of Man.

by J. L. Paton
High Master of Manchester Grammar School.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 339-348

When Benjamin Franklin was asked, on one occasion, to pay for the University education of a promising boy, he said, "No"; he could not give the money, but he was willing to lend it. The offer was accepted and a deed was drawn up. The conditions of the loan were strictly laid down and chief among them was this,--the recipient was to repay the money, not to Benjamin Franklin personally, but by passing it on in after life to some other deserving scholar who without it would be unable to afford the higher education of the University. And I believe that it is going on still. I believe there is today at some one or other of the American Universities a Franklin scholar who owes his chance in life to Benjamin Franklin, and is bound, legally bound to hand on the torch and make possible for another what was made possible for himself.

"How far that little candle throws its beam." What a splendid thing for this country it would be, if every Public School boy, every University undergraduate, felt himself, in the same way, I will not say legally but morally bound to pass on to others the benefits he has reaped from the generosity of his pious founder, William of Wykeham, Lawrence Sheriff, John Lyon, Thomas Sutton, whoever it may be. I do not mean merely the foundation scholars of these rich foundations--though of course in their case the claim is greater--but every member of every endowed school, every undergraduate of every University is receiving an assisted education, he is, to put it plainly, receiving more than he pays for. He labours therefore under a debt. That debt he can never repay in person to William of Wykeham or Lawrence Sheriff; his benefactor is dead; but the obligation does not on that account cease, it is transferred. And what William of Wykeham would say is what Benjamin Franklin said, "You may best discharge your debt to me by discharging it to your poorer brother." The saddest thing in English society, at the present time, is that the great mass of our young men, many times more numerous now than they ever were before, passing through our Public Schools and Universities, reaping the advantage of these splendid foundations, the best advantages that their country can offer to the flower of her sons,--the great mass of them, I say, are going out into life without any sense of obligation to society at large, disunited from the fellowship of their kind, filled rather with a sense of their own superiority, holding at a distance, ignoring as far as they can, and despising as far as they dare, the great majority of their own species, under no sense of indebtedness to them, but regarding them rather as created for the satisfaction of the needs and comforts and luxuries of the favoured few in the upper class. This is the position we have to face--a position fraught with the most serious menace to our nation at a time when her future is trembling in the balance, and we hesitate to say whether that future is to be progress or decadence, growth or decay.

It is a difficulty which emphatically requires precisely that co-operation which this Union exists to promote, the co-operation between school and home, teacher and parent. The lesson our children have to learn is not one that can be taught in three months at a crammer's, it is one which needs the continuous training of the child's life from the cradle till maturity. It is distinctively a matter of training and not instruction, still less of preachment. No course of lessons, no code regulations, no series of sermons can teach you to love. The spoken word has its place, but it is infinitesimally small compared with the other elements of environment, of attitude and what, for want of a better term, I must call practical experimental work in the laboratory of life. The lesson of love is a lesson we learn by doing. When we learn the verb "amo" in our Latin grammars, we learn the imperative "ama, love thou; amate, love ye." But there is not really any imperative mood to the verb "to love"! It cannot be done to order. The imperative mood is, as we say in grammars, defective and is supplied from another verb altogether. "Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep." *

* [ Cf., Seeley, Ecce Homo, ch, xiv. Harnack, Das Wesen des Christenthums, "Love always serves, and only in this function does it exist and live."]

All the more does this course of experimental training need careful thinking out. In the first case it is clear that the child must be considered herein not as a thing apart, but as a member of a society. The object in view is to make him feel his position as a cell in the great body politic, the health of the whole organism depending upon the right functioning of his individual cell, the cell in turn depending for its health on the right functioning of the organism as a whole. The life of this society is, as it were, a second life wherein his first individual life becomes doubly and trebly alive and heightened, because therein the infinite part of his nature bodies itself forth, becomes visible and operative. And the highest object of education will be precisely this--to draw out this infinite part of our nature; no individual perfection or approximate perfection is possible, or indeed desirable, save as it ministers--not as it is ministered unto--and as it gives its life a ransom for many.

How is this to be done? The first society into which a child is born is the home. The society of the home is a type in miniature of the larger society of the nation of the world. From the first possible moment, let the child serve. It is a joy to a child to help its elders. Let it do as much as is possible to help itself, and as much as possible to help others. There are boots to be blacked, there are beds to be made, there are errands innumerable to be run, potatoes to be peeled, oranges to be sliced for the marmalade, gooseberries to be topped and tailed for the jam, bills to be paid, there are garden beds to be weeded, there is wood to be chopped. Whatever it is the child can do, let it do as much as is practicable. The fault of your rich and comfortable homes is that the child learns only how to be ministered unto, not how to minister. And when it comes to workshop lessons in manual training, I find no such feckless little fellows, none with their fingers so thumby, as these from your luxurious and pampered homes. I remember seeing at Bilton Grange a motto, which I shall never forget. It is a new Beatitude and a new Commination:--

      "Blessed is he that hath learned to do things for himself,
      And cursed is he that hath learned only to ring the bell."

It is from this curse the comfortable classes of England, whom you represent, need to be delivered. May I tell a homely story to illustrate how much a mother may do? A little boy sat by the winter fireside with his mother and the other children. He was a highly imaginative little fellow and his imagination was full of dreams of military glory and achievement. "Very well," said his mother, "the first thing a soldier on campaign has to learn is how to darn his socks. Here is a pair of your socks straight from the wash and I will teach you how to set about darning them." That is the right sort of mother. She knows where to aim at, and she knows that it is best attained by a flanking movement rather than a frontal attack. But she was not an English mother, I am sorry to say.

The next society into which the child passes is, we will hope, a homelike school, the whole system of which is based on the idea of a society and mutual social helpfulness. I pass on therefore to the school proper. And here comes the great crux of the problem, because after all the great duty which a boy has to fulfil at school is a duty to himself. There may be, there should be, the altruistic motive--a boy should work at his lessons not to please himself but to please his father and mother, to do his duty to his teacher. But still the object is self-culture, self-improvement. And even from this point of view of service, it is necessary it should be so. The first condition of useful service is that the man make himself fit to render useful service. Self-development must, for the time being, be the chief object of activity. A boy must learn to stand on his own legs; collision and competition are necessary for the development of this sturdy strength and the natural instinct of helpfulness is blunted. All the more need therefore, if the prominent thing now is self, that the background should be right and that there should be in all these self-activities a constant reference to this background of real life. "An ant," says Bacon, "is a wise creature for itself, but it is a shrewd thing in an orchard or garden" (Essay xxiii). The danger is that our schools become anthills; that self-activity should generate self-love.

How can it be counteracted? I was going through the Girls' High School at Manchester recently, and I found a number of girls sitting at the end of a corridor and working away busily at some Dorcas kind of operations. It did not seem to be a class for "making and mending," such as I have heard of, or indeed a class of any kind. I enquired what it was and found it was "The Golden Rule Society" at work. Practically all the girls in the school belong to it, and the object is in simple practical ways to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them. So they undertake certain wards in the hospital and the workhouse, and they make them bright and cheerful. They help certain orphanages and cripple homes and make the clothes and provide the amusements and toys and entertainments for them. Each girl contributes what she can. Some contribute materials, others work, others flowers, others again music and song. If a girl has nothing else to contribute, she gives her services to carry things to the hospital or the workhouse or the orphanage. All give their time and all give their heart.

Now girls have not only the aptitude for this work, they have the instinct for it. It is the same instinct that makes them love dolls and babies--the instinct of motherhood. Boys have no instinct which exactly corresponds and can be so readily exploited for altruistic purposes. Every girl has the instincts of a mother, but every boy has not the instincts of a father, except possibly the instinct of castigation. But every boy has the instinct of comradship and that shows the line along which we have to work. Boys go in gangs, and as a member of a gang any boy is willing to work for the gang to which he belongs. Exploit this instinct. He will exhaust his last ounce of energy and endure all manner of hardness, if he is playing for his house, or working for his cadet corps. He will take an amount of pains, of which you hitherto believed him incapable, over his debating society, his field club, his glee club or orchestra: he will scorn delights and live laborious days to help you in recataloguing the school library, to edit the school magazine, to reorganise the school museum. Find out what each boy is fit for and see that he makes that serviceable for the common welfare as well as for himself; let his promotion to the offices of responsibility depend on his zeal and public spirit. This will be his first lesson in civic feeling. Give that spirit, whatever the manifestation, its due meed of honour in the school. It all helps to train the conception of social solidarity and the social duties which that solidarity involves. We could do a good deal more than we do in actual class-teaching to utilise this instinct. For instance, one of the things that struck me most in German schools was the way any member of the class at any time was called upon to write on the blackboard, to question the class or in some way contribute to the life of the lesson. If the teacher was detained for a minute outside, the class did not wait for him. One of the boys mounted the platform and began hearing the prepared work. English masters should do more of this. Always have a "junior demonstrator" wherever the subject admits of it. Nature study is admirable in this respect, one junior demonstrator hands round specimens; another is responsible for watering the seedlings and recording the rainfall, the sunshine line, or barometric indications; another draws on the blackboard, and if all other functions are exhausted, one can be told off at any rate to keep the blackboard clean day by day.

Still more in games should there be the rendering of active service. In modern athletics boys have far too much done for them. They have their grounds perfectly levelled and turfed, they have palatial pavilions built for them, they have professionals to keep the grass in good order and to lay out the wickets, even their nets are put up ready for them when they enter the field, and the wickets are pitched. All this is ruinous to the character. We must not be surprised if boys, seeing all these monies expended on their games and all this elaborate fuss made over them, draw the inevitable inference that games are really far more important than anything else in life. I don't undervalue games for a minute, but I hold that all pleasure is hurtful until it is earned, and what I object to is that boys do not earn their pleasures by making their own ground, building (if possible) their own pavilions, at any rate by laying out and rolling their own wickets. If a boy will not work, neither let him play; let all enjoyment depend on the service rendered. I object to spoon-feeding on the playing field as much as I object to it in the classroom. Let a boy learn that it is as honourable a thing to work as well as to play.

But to my mind the best of all agencies for this purpose, especially in a school consisting of wealthier boys, is the school camp. I don't see why there should not be civilian camps as well as military camps. A camp is a return to primitive conditions. In our comfortable civilisation there are so many steps between the boy and his primary needs. When he gets up in the morning, a boy has no consciousness of how many people have had to be up and doing in the dark and eerie hours to make the world comfortable for his lordship; and he begins to take these things for granted, unless the hard fact is brought home to him in a concrete way. When he comes home, he finds his bed made and his room straightened and dusted, his dishes washed up and his dinner cooked, so invariably that he begins to take them for granted and gets the idea that these things do themselves. At camp he learns that they do not. There are no servants in camp for the simple reason that everyone must be a servant there both to himself and to others. We call it self-help, it is really each-other help that he learns. It is the best lesson you can give in the fundamental elements of social science; it brings boys near to the simplicities of life. He learns there the division of labour. He learns how in Paul's phrase, "those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary, and those parts of the body which we think to be less honourable, on these we bestow more abundant honour," that is, how the working man may get on without the philosopher and the ornament of society, but the philosopher or the ornament of society cannot get on without the working man. Above all he learns to hate the drone and see what an incubus he is to society.

Ah, but you say, "It is not his duty to his own class and his own comrades we wish to teach him, it is his duty to the poor." To which I reply, "Teach him first his social duty, don't attempt to make it too wide at first, let it widen of itself." Don't attempt too much all at once. Mutual interdependence is what you want to bring home to the consciousness at first, and this can best be done in the concrete and in the intenser life of the small society. Teach this and the rest teaches itself. "It is as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how."

There are two specific dangers into which well-meaning enthusiasts are apt to fall. First, the usual thing at the Public School is to have a school mission in London or some great centre of population. There is a periodical sermon and a periodical collection and perhaps an annual meeting and an annual visit of some of the London boys to the school. The actual work of this club is done by a paid missioner, with the assistance of old boys who reside at the club or go down there in the evening. All this is good as far as it goes, but it does not go very far in creating that sense of social obligation which we desire, and it is liable to a certain serious and subtle danger. The club is supported by the monies collected in the school. The average boy in the school comes to connect the club in his mind chiefly with the "shelling out" of half-a-crown or five shillings once a year for the annual collection. This is a most pernicious association of ideas. The curse of our modern philanthropy is the writing of cheques for charities. Rich men nowadays sit down and discharge their social obligation by writing cheques, very much as in the days of Tetzel they used to absolve their sins by buying indulgences. What the world wants is to have the great yawning gulf spanned betwixt man and man. This no cheque writing nor any other form of delegation will ever accomplish. When I first went to live in a Manchester suburb, I could not talk to an errand boy or newspaper boy without his asking me for a subscription to the something-or-other football club, or begging in some form. This is the result of that same shuffling off of social obligation on the part of the rich by money doles. The poor grow up to think of the rich as givers of doles, the rich grow up to think of the poor mainly as people who have to be fed from time to time. Money giving there must be, I know, but the giving of money should be the result of giving of love, not a substitute for it. A man should feel in his heart before he feels in his pocket, and, when he gives, it should be done incognito; as few as possible should know and above all not the poor. *

* [Cf., the inscription on the font at the Church of the Nativity: "The names of the donors are known to God."]

There is another danger. Some good people were praising once the goodness of a certain gushy lady; they turned to Sidney Smith who was one of the company and apparently not chiming in as they thought he should. "Don't you admire her piety?" they said. "Her magpiety, you mean," he replied. Beware above all things with school boys of the piety of the magpie. We live in an age of meetings and "magpiety," and there is grave danger that with much talking we are cheapening the most sacred terms of religion, familiarizing the mind with high spiritual doctrines to which the heart is a stranger. The words self-sacrifice and self-denial come easily from the lips and, when we have them by rote, we think we are in a highly spiritual state. But they are not easy words to live out in life and we must be careful with boys to safeguard the most sacred of duties from every sort of hypocrisy. As F.W. Robertson suggests, we must give the milk before the strong meat. We must not ask a child to sacrifice all enjoyment for the sake of others; let him learn first not to enjoy at the expense or the disadvantage or suffering of another.

And yet wherever possible we may lead up to the wider self-sacrifice. If mothers are not too squeamish in their fear of infectious illness, we may take the boys down to the club with us now and again. The two classes of boy can co-operate in concerts, foregather at camps, learn to know each other by friendly matches at football, cricket, harriers, and chess. Getting to know each other is the first thing; once secure this and the rest will follow. The street boy is in himself every bit as good a fellow as the Etonian or the Harrovian; all he lacks is opportunity. Once the Etonian sees this and recognises their fundamental affinity of nature, the fundamental brotherhood of boys, he will do his part some day to see that the street boy gets better opportunity. He will help the slum boys to do the things which he would want to do himself if he were in their position, and reap a rich joy in doing it. No missioner has ever been so successful in bringing his mission into close and personal touch with the school as Father [Robert] Dolling, and the way he did it was this. He provided at the mission house a room to which he invited each week-end two of the head boys from the different houses in succession. By this means and by the influence of his personality the mission became a reality to the boys of the school. They saw redemption at work. They saw the struggle between good and evil at close quarters and had some share in it. And this was of more value than many sermons.

To make this review of education complete, I should now speak of the Universities. Here the problem is more difficult. Here you have "the home of lost causes," "the last refuge of discredited philosophies," and the philosophy which rules at our Universities is, in the main, the individualistic philosophy of the last century, light without warmth, mind without heart, liberty without charity. That is one difficulty. Then again the undergraduate is free to choose for himself and he is very chary of sacrificing any portion of that freedom; he is not amenable to external discipline. But on the other hand he has the instincts of opening manhood, instincts which are universally generous and chivalrous, and if he is not amenable to discipline, he is in a remarkable degree amenable to the influence of a strong personality. And indeed there is no training to service apart from the influence of such strong personalities, who are themselves possessed with the passion for human service and the redemption of fellow-men, who have themselves seen the vision of the new social order "wherein dwelleth righteousness," and who themselves do not think of their culture and wealth as "things to be clutched at," but have made and are daily making the sacrifice without which there is no salvation for man or for society. These are the personalities which really move men to goodness, because they touch their imagination and kindle their spirit. They are like the poet of Sir Philip Sidney, who "doth not only show the way, but giveth so sweet a prospect into the way, as will entice any man to enter into it; nay, he doth, as if your journey should like through a fair vineyard, at the very first give you a cluster of grapes, that full of that taste you may long to pass farther." [from A Defense of Poesy, by Sir Philip Sidney]

There is, however, a discipline by which we learn the lesson of service. It is a discipline not only for undergraduates, but for all of us. It is not outward of authority, but inward of the soul. The best Universities cannot teach us "the divine art of sympathy." It is the Divine Master who must teach that Divine art. He teaches us by the strain and burden of lfe and by its sorrows. It is not those who live easily like the gods of Epicurus that do most for their fellows; it is those who have learned in the school of suffering the deeper lessons of the Master, and learning His lessons have, by the contagion of His great example, learned something of His love, who seek the healing of their own grief and supplying of their own need in healing the grief and helping the need of their neighbour.

"Music, art, reading, all failed as resources to alleviate or interstate;" says Mrs. Josephine Butler after her great bereavement, "I became possessed with an irresistible desire to go forth and find some pain keener than my own--to meet with people more unhappy than myself (for I knew there were thousands of such). I did not exaggerate my own trial: I only knew that my heart ached night and day, and that the only solace possible would seem to be to find other hearts which ached night and day, and with more reason than mine."

Such is the inner history of many a life which is dedicated to the service of mankind,--we are led through suffering to sympathy:--

      "The best fruit loads the broken bough,
      And in the wounds our sufferings plough
      Love sows its own immortal seed."
      [from The Ballad of Babe Christabel by Gerald Massey]

One touches here, I fear, on deeper matters than lie within the prescribed area of our Union. But it is these deeper matters that determine all. There can be no fruit above ground unless there are roots below ground. And in speaking of the roots of conduct, one cannot help touching the religious motive. The mistake that we make is to restrict the term religious as we do just to one separate kind of activity. All forms of social activity for the betterment of man are religious. Not the man who groans over the badness of politics or sneers cynically at the futilities of party, but the man who will give up his ease and leisure, and to a certain extent his culture also, to make politics better and parties purer; the man who will take some personal trouble to get some of the evils of our public life abolished and some of the wrongs redressed; the man who gives up his morning to his work as Town Councillor, although he has to spend a long evening working off his business letters; the member of the Kyrle Society who gets up an open-air concert in the slums or makes beautiful the bare walls of a school building in a poor area; the ladies who work for the proper organisation whether of charity or of education; those who give their time to teaching and training ambulance classes, to drilling volunteers or a volunteer fire brigade; those who plan and carry through the country holidays for poor children, or supervise the details of the boarding out of pauper children--all these according to their several gifts and opportunities, if their motive is right, are doing work that is in the highest sense of the term religious. The proverb says that Heaven helps those who help themselves. It may be so, but I am certain that Heaven has a far higher and happier quality of blessing for those that help others. For these are those who are fellow-workers with Heaven in its unceasing work of redemption and renewal. "Well, God mend all," said Lord Rea. "Nay, by God, Donald," was the reply, "but we must help Him to mend it." [from Sir David Ramsay and Lord Rea by John Rushworth] And the Heavenly Father will hold him to be the best son, who has shown himself to be the best brother. The best work our homes and our schools can do is bring for so plentiful a supply of such, that the spirit of willing service shall pervade and permeate all classes of our society:--

      "Like spring,
      Which leaves no corner of the land untouched."
      [from Cambridge and the Alps by William Wordsworth]

Typed by angiestearns, May 2024; Proofread by LNL, June 2024