Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 66.djvu/277

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By the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of HEREFORD, D.D., LL. D.,


WE hear much more than formerly about the public schools being the best training-place for good citizenship. Therefore, say the critics, it is reasonable to inquire how far their educational system, their ideals, their traditions, their fashions and the pervading spirit of their life fit the mass of their pupils intellectually and otherwise for the duties of citizenship and for grappling in the right spirit with the problems that will confront them. 'Any careful observer,' says one of these writers, himself a loyal public-school man, and intimately acquainted with school life, "any careful observer, who has studied the political moods and opinions of the middle classes in this country during the past few years, can hardly have failed to notice two obviously decisive influences: an ignorance of modern history and a want of imagination. For both of these defects the public schools must bear their full share of blame. It may be doubted whether any other nation teaches even its own history so little and so badly."

The result is that 'to the average public school and university man the foreign intelligence in his daily paper is of less interest than the county cricket; and though events of far-reaching importance may be happening almost under his eyes he is in the dark as to their significance.' "As regards the duties and aims of citizenship in all the various affairs of his own country, political, social, economic, he goes out from his school almost wholly uninstructed by the lessons of history, or by any study of the life and the needs of our own times. Again, as it is urged, the lack of imagination is hardly less dangerous to us than lack of instruction in the lessons of history and the social conditions and needs amongst which we have to live and work. No doubt the gift of imagination is a natural gift,—it can not be created. But, given the thing in the germ, it can be stimulated and developed, or starved, stunted, or even crushed out. No system of education that neglects it is even safe. For, without it, principle becomes bigotry and zeal persecution. It is conscientiousness divorced from imagination that produces Robespierres. Now, it is precisely here that we should expect the public schools to be most helpful, for it is through literature that the faculty is most obviously cultivated, and they all profess to give something of a literary training. But though the intention is excellent the performance is often terribly meager." What-