School; Monovian Editorials

Editorials - 1960

 

No. 75 Spring, 1960

 

Editor - H. MARCOVITCH
Assistant Editors: DL Ashton & CJ Martin

NEW YORK cab-drivers have a reputation for do-it-yourself philosophies. A friend of mine told me of a cab driver in New York who did not know the destination she'd asked him for. She told him that in London the taxi driver knew everything. "Lady" he replied. "if I knew everything I wouldn't be cab driver.' Looking back through recent editions of The Monovian, it is fascinating to observe each editor's two-thousand-word cure for civilisation. Generations of Monovian editors, it seems, arc well fitted to be run-of-the-mill cab-drivers. But this particular editor, like the gentleman above, knows his limitations, and can offer no dogmatic solution for the world's problems. In the absence of any ready-made rationale it might he revealing to see how the masterminds of previous years interpreted the knowledge mountained in their hands. In 1954, orthodoxy was the answer.. The next writer sought the panacea in happy planned activity and "enriching'' leisure. In 1955, there was a smug call for "humanity, diligence, self-knowledge, sobriety and an appreciation for the simple things of life." 1957 added "appreciation, advice, and guidance." A plea for education was the next contribution and last year repeated the tone of five years previous in demanding a regulated leisure of "robust gaiety and virility." But a single idea served to unify these differing thoughts: throughout lay a warning against apathy, against aimlessness and against indifferentism. In fact, nowadays it is commonplace to attack these qualities, and any writer who does so is on perfectly safe ground. But there are some still, and I am one, who refuse to accept this hatred of inactivity. It is fair to say, and Lamb said it, that indolence is the true state of man.. And who are we to deny man his original and pure state? He has, unfortunately, fallen from grace, though it must he said that he tries very hard to return : all of us would be idle if we could. And if he were to return, lasting nobility could be attained only through the delightful condition of doing nothing. They are the Devil's advocates who preach the downfall of indo1ence and call idleness a sin. Most of our short lives we spend in doing things which, were man really free, we would not do. And in the perfect world we would not do those things if we did not want to. Intellectual peace can be found in idle dreaming and individuality of thought can be given most rein when not shackled by conventional demands Stevenson seemed to think similarly when he applauded the strong sense of personal identity in the faculty for avoiding extreme busyness. Of course, there are dangers in this, as in other philosophies, if extremism prevails and no obligation to society is recognised. For then there would be a dangerous cramping of mental achievement if not of thought itself. One must strive for more relaxation and for general slowing-down in the pace of everyday affairs so that far more time can be devoted to the pursuit of the blissful visions of the dreaming mind. This is the Opposite of the "planned activity" and "regulated leisure" of the cab-drivers amongst us- this is a plea for unplanned non-activity and liberal, unregu1ated leisure when the time for work is past or not yet reached. If man is to attain the height which it is within him to attain, he must not be forced to think along any one line and indeed he must not even be forced to think. The need is for less discipline of the intellect, not more. This is, as I have said, no five-hundred-word universal solution, but we might come nearer to finding one if we allow our minds to roam freely; and thus perhaps stumble on the Philosophers' Stone to turn the base metal of our existence into a life of golden nobility.

 


H.M.

 

No. 76 Summer, 1960

 

Editor - D. L. ASHTON
Assistant Editor - C. J. MARTIN

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY
"Then we are five, we are made for life". Here is a terrifying truth. For our personalities result primarily from heredity and childhood experience. The essential factors in each human character are formed and fixed by nurture as well as nature. According to thorough studies of diverse primitive tribes, the upbringing of youngsters unavoidably affects the culture patterns of whole societies. An indelible impression is left by the way we are reared from birth to late infancy, in the "formative" years. And a grave responsibility is therefore put upon parents, who often do not realise their tremendous power over posterity. The initial training of a child in self-care, sleeping and feeding is completed at home. During this time, also, his basic unique personality is shaped. Parents provide the living material on which the teachers later have to work. At school the thud is prepared for participation in community life. He is encouraged to accept his teacher as a new authority beyond that of his immediate family. The teacher then uses this position in order to instruct the child in things required of him when he grows up. More specialised knowledge is given than would normally be possible in the home. To make the learning process effective, a firm personal contact between teacher and pupil must be established. A careful reward punishment technique controls the interest and effort of the child. To-day it is considered undesirable to prod children too quickly towards maturity, and greater opportunity is allowed for free development. The very methods used to equip children with useful information and abilities have a by-product by influencing their activities in later life. A child may not only be issued with prejudices; his emotions and aptitudes may easily be upset or distorted by the actions of a bad teacher. For example, the slightest ill considered remark may have a surprisingly harmful effect on a sensitive boy or girl. These considerations certainly suggest that teachers, especially those taking very young children, would be mistaken to regard their profession as a mere career, rather than a vocation with the high payment to which, nevertheless, they are entitled. Government should take educational problems far more seriously, and by deliberately providing a greater number of schools and encouraging, with every incentive, qualified and enthusiastic teachers, improve the condition of the people. The need for smaller classes and extensive teacher-training facilities is constantly pointed out, but these priorities still seem largely neglected. Most people cannot hope for success in modern society without some semblance of literacy and general knowledge. Though they could be taught in most homes, schools give future citizens the chance to acquire them. Beyond this, the precise aims (assuming they exist) of "education", even in secondary schools, are hard to ascertain. The broad purpose may be fairly detailed instruction in subjects and skills to assist pupils in finding "suitable jobs in life" which "raise their living standards". If so, heads appear to be filled with much valueless information which is soon forgotten after the G.C.E. But the harsh winds of reality are unlikely to awaken the authorities from their customary somnolence, at least in the immediate future. Meanwhile, we gaze mystified at the curious mixture of chaos and inertia that troubles the British school. Schools have important side-effects that should become intentional, main features. These come into being from the nursery onwards. During games and recreational art periods, for instance, the child is given some grounding for leisure, enjoyment and adding to the beauty of civilisation when he gets older. Children need healthy bodies and minds for other objects than their destiny as industry fodder. Even in this respect, however, technical education has only recently been organised to give youth adequate preparation for selected means of livelihood, and excessively disregards humanist disciplines. Moreover, the attitudes of pupils to their masters, and friendships with companions, mould their outlook, as adults, towards other men. Unfortunately, too, many parents ignore real moral training, and in the secular atmosphere of contemporary life, the authority of Church teachers is not favoured, so that the casually given scraps of moral training left to teachers often prove worse than useless. An executive member of the N.U.T. conference after Easter stressed the difference between the morality taught in schools and the situation outside. It is remarkable that he actually had to state that the moral standards of the nation are not the sole responsibility of the schools, but that of parents and those who run the means of mass communication. But if moral training is required of the schools, sounder planning is demanded. A fresh examination of the theory and practice of education, then, will harm no-one. What, after all, is it for? It must "see that the individual enters society not only generally cultured and technically equipped for the position which he has to fill, but physically and morally developed, endowed with independence, self-respect, sound judgement, civic courage and the ability to command and to obey". This is not the empty rhetoric of a Party manifesto; it is the deliberate statement by a brilliant social psychologist, Lewis Way. If schools do not carry out these sensible aims, should we not remedy the position? We all need a sense of inner worth, which usually comes from the feeling that our achievements benefit our fellows as well as ourselves. We have long been told, quite rightly, that education should fully develop the potentiality for achievement within every one of us. The schools-the principal mechanism of education- must be designed sufficiently to ensure this. Of course, as T. S. Eliot has explained at length, education cannot by itself create a Milton, Schools cannot produce as factories turn out goods, geniuses such as Leonardo, or even the uomo universale like a Renaissance pope. But they can do considerably more to protect and tend the precious personality of each individual, increase opportunities for cultural self-fulfilment, and stamp each person with the qualities enshrined in our own Monoux motto. Many teachers recognise this, and now they must pass the message on to parents, who form such a powerful section of the voting populace, that something might be done even for education.

 

D.L.A.

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