of exhausted bookworms for shrewd, handy men in our works and factories, let us consider what may be wisely and safely attempted in the way of improving the education of the handicraftsman.
First, I look to the elementary schools now happily established all over the country. I am not going to criticise or find fault with them; on the contrary, their establishment seems to me to be the most important and the most beneficent result of the corporate action of the people in our day. A great deal is said of British interests just now, but, depend upon it, that no Eastern difficulty needs our intervention as a nation so seriously as the putting down both the Bashi-Bazouks of ignorance and the Cossacks of sectarianism at home. What has already been achieved in these directions is a great thing; you must have lived some time to know how great. An education, better in its processes, better in its substance, than that which was accessible to the great majority of well-to-do Britons a quarter of a century ago, is now obtainable by every child in the land. Let any man of my age go into an ordinary elementary school, and, unless he was unusually fortunate in his youth, he will tell you that the educational method, the intelligence, patience, and good temper, on the teachers' part, which are now at the disposal of the veriest waifs and wastrels of society, are things of which he had no experience in the costly middle-class schools; which were so ingeniously contrived as to combine all the evils and shortcomings of the great public schools with none of their advantages. Many a man, whose so-called education cost a good deal of valuable money and occupied many a year of invaluable time, leaves the inspection of a well-ordered elementary school devoutly wishing that, in his young days, he had had the chance of being as well taught as these boys and girls are.
But while, in view of such an advance in general education, I willingly obey the natural impulse to be thankful, I am not willing altogether to rest. I want to see instruction in elementary science and in art more thoroughly incorporated in the educational system. At present, it is being administered by driblets, as if it were a potent medicine, "a few drops to be taken occasionally in a teaspoon." Every year I notice that that earnest and untiring friend of yours and of mine, Sir John Lubbock, stirs up the government of the day in the House of Commons on this subject; and also that, every year, he, and the few members of the House of Commons, such as Mr. Playfair, who sympathize with him, are met with expressions of warm admiration for science in general, and reasons at large for doing nothing in particular. But now that Mr. Forster, to whom the education of the country owes so much, has announced his conversion to the right faith, I begin to hope that, sooner or later, things will mend.
I have given what I believe a good reason for the assumption that the keeping at school of boys who are to be handicraftsmen beyond the age of thirteen or fourteen is neither practicable nor desirable;