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No. 80 Summer, 1962

 

 


Editors: A. T. GABLE and C. J. MARTIN
Assistant editors: G. C.Casey, A. J. Moore. B. Hayhow,
and H. Morgan

SPEAKING EDITORIALLY

EDITORIAL time again - dead-line, two weeks. Whom shall we indict this time? Scientists. culture-vultures, don't-cares? Whom shall we pour scorn on in these pages which few deign to glance at? Remember, only two weeks to think of all the butts, fourteen days to piece together the random notes stored in expectation of a glorious all-time moan at the wrongs of civilisation. Alternatively, how about a break with tradition? A cosy chat with our readers (probably only proof-readers) about magazine affairs, about the exhilarating existence of Monovian editors? Yes, let's cut the plaintive squeals, the vapid grievances - - skip them everyone else does! Instead, let's . . tell sad stories of the deaths of editors' reputations. Which is the better course: to plague the reader with ineffectual criticism, or to be content with comfortable trivialities? To recognise, or to ignore, priorities? The choice is not difficult: hinc illae lacrimae. How will future generations regard the technical advances of the fifties and sixties? Will they, as we do, deplore the vacuity of Western European ideas? Will they see beneath the veneer of purely scientific advancement and be appalled by the complacency of an age where a government which expends countless millions on aimless and unprofitable scientific ventures, continues to thrive? Will they (which we dare not) get to the root of the trouble and supply an answer? There is, after all, at least one to hand. Extract from A History of English Literature (pub. 1997): "By no means oblivious of this unreasonable, almost incredible bias in educational measures (they) were unable to restore the balance. Hence we find the foundation of a Cambridge college requiring seventy per cent science students. Of course, the happy medium was sought by such physicists as C. P. Snow (also spare-time author of a largely forgotten series 11 novels) who1 with his dogmatic ideas on the Two Cultures, neatly obscured the fallacy of the whole matter. What Snow and his brethren really claimed was that, far from there being a happy medium where extremes could meet, the non- scientific minds were really enjoying a parasitic existence living upon the leaders of social and world affairs." Of course, Snow is very happily situated - the ideal cultured scientist. But he is no more justified in speaking for his brothers in the case (not themselves famous literary men) than in berating a classics master for his ignorance of thermo- nuclear physics.  Where are today's great novelists? We haven't even got any distinguished poets; novelists are successful only if they can get their books dramatised: poets are still blinded by the eclipse of the Eliots and Audens; sculptors and painters rely largely on gimmicks. There is no scope for the talent of an L. P. Hartley or an Iris Murdoch, of a Ted Hughes or a Robert Graves. Their gifts are out of tune with present developments. The intellectual climate doesn't suit them. We are content to be dictated to by machines which masquerade as minds, are content to wallow in our prefabricated mental prophylaxis - - to avoid anything which makes demands on the intellect on original thought in non-scientific spheres. Indeed, we are starved of greatness, and 'fed' on the roughage of 'considerable talent'. We are paying the price of confusing our priorities. But we shall learn - by our mistakes. Thank heaven Tennyson wasn't beating his wings in a void when he said: 'Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change!'

 

A.T. GABLE

 

No. 81 December, 1962

 

Editors G. C. CASEY, A. T. GABLE, C. J. MARTIN, and A. 1. MOORE
Assistant Editors: B. HAYHOW and H. MORGAN.

Some of our readers may recall my predecessor's rcference to "The Two Cultures" in the Summer 1962 edition. I think it may not be impertinent, therefore, to take Sir C. P. Snow's theory one step further and apply it to the intellectual products of our grammar schools - the scientists and literary men of tomorrow. Basically, Snows contention is that there is an increasing separation of interests, which he believes to be dividing intellectual life in western society, and above all, in Britain - or, in a more concrete form, that the arts man and the scientist have no common interest or meeting point. Is Snow justified in this assumption? I believe he is, because it comes about as the natural result, of overspecialisation at an early age; and, furthermore, this overspecialisation is necessary if we are to keep abreast of the major developments in the fields of science and technology. It is a sad, but true, fact that education for education's sake is becoming secondary to the need for more and better scientists and more high-powered business executives. So complex has our world become, that we no longer find a good old-fashioned scientist. We find, instead, specialists in various fields, physicists. geo-physicists. bio-chemists, metallurgists and so on, all of whom rely on the findings of colleagues in other branches of scientia. Thus it is inevitable that the specialisation must begin in our schools if their products are to be of direct use to the universities or industries and it is precisely here that we find a complete paradox. The universities lament the fact that the undergraduates whom they receive arc far too narrow in outlook and that they come up fresh from school, knowing nothing but the three or four academic subjects which they have studied in their curriculum. Yet it is these same universities who determine and regulate the syllabuses which our schools are obliged to follow if matriculation and entrance requirements are to be satisfied. The result, therefore, particularly on the science side, is that sixth-formers are forced to rush through a massive syllabus, pre-determined by the universities, which they arc then often retaught during their first year of varsity life. In consequence, therefore, teaching staff find it simply impossible to provide our scientists with any form of general education, whatsoever. Efforts have been madc at this school to try to overcome this desperately serious problem of overspecialisation by the institution of general and circuit periods. I have made little reference as yet to the arts sixth, but their educational fare is just as limited. For the great majority of sixth form arts men '0' level maths, physics and chemistry were quite sufficient to satisfy their intellectual appetite as far as science was concerned. The question arises, therefore, whether we, as reasonably responsible students, should be allowed to adopt preferences in basic subjects at the tender age of sixteen. Ideally the Whole Man cannot be moulded satisfactorily by a basic education which incorporates some eight subjects and which is covered in a mere five years. Qualification is obviously necessary here. - the operative word and the most intransigent is 'idealy'. Idealism (and I maintain this without a hint of cynicism) is unfortunately almost defunct! In its place we have materialism and the struggle for superiority in science and technology. If we are to participate in this struggle, school curricula must be geared to the needs of the country, rather than the individual. For this reason, therefore. it can he seen that the products of our grammar and public schools will be forced to specialise at an early age to meet the tremendous demands which society is imposing on them. Until the quest for international supremacy ceases, specialisation will be the order of the day. A dispassionate study of the world situation brings me no immediate hope of reversal of the present order of affairs.

 

 

A.J.Moore