First State Intervention: The Royal Commissions
( Originally Published 1921 )
NOTHING perhaps accounts for the suggestion of dullness which the mention of Education conveys to the ordinary reader of the newspaper so much as the vision which it calls up of reports, blue books, and debates in Hansard. He instinctively feels that, if Education be a living thing, its true history must be found elsewhere - and he is right. The living force of education has always sprung from movements of the human mind and aspirations of the human heart; legislation and administration are mere tools which these movements and aspirations use. We may therefore view the Royal Commissions as marking the time when the educational zeal which had been developing for half a century became conscious of its power and able to carry public opinion with it.
The educational function of the State is now accepted by everyone except Mr Harold Cox. New State-controlled types of schools and colleges outnumber the old institutions. The old institutions themselves have been radically changed by the State. It is hard to put ourselves into the mental attitude either of Whigs or of Conservatives in 1850. The Whig attitude to education of those days was more conservative than the attitude of Conservatives today. Yet the way of regarding the educational duty of the State which is well-nigh universal today would have been impossible but for the triumph of the Whig views in the middle of last century.
At that time Whigs, Conservatives, and even advanced Radicals restricted State activity within narrow limits. To the Whigs State action seemed to have had its day under the absolutist system of the Tudors, of Cromwell, and of the Stuarts: and in two directions especially had they been occupied in limiting its activity—control of trade and control of conscience. Nor were extreme Radicals more friendly. Their ideals had grown up in France, the country where Louis XIV had truly said L'état c'est moi, and democratic prejudice against State action had not died out with the old régime. State control was associated, not with democracy, but with the "benevolent despots" of the eighteenth century, with the absolutist monarchies of Austria and Prussia. "Liberty" was the battle-cry both of Whigs and Radicals: State socialism had not arisen. As for the Conservatives, though they supported the retention of State control in departments of life where it already existed, yet they were equally opposed to its extension to new fields.
No party, however, was prepared to apply its principles with unfailing consistency: facts were often too strong for theories. Thus, though the absolutist governments sought to control education because they suspected it, yet Prussia in the sphere of higher education used its control to develop it. The failure at Jena was too powerful a fact to be over-looked: Humboldt and Stein felt that the autocracy must make an ally of the middle classes and were wise enough to trust their new ally. Hence the efficient scheme of higher education which they produced ! Democratic opinion too was driven in one direction by theories and in another by facts. Theoretically, to let the State control the schools seemed to the French Revolutionaries like handing soul as well as body to the rule of a master. Practically, how-ever, the wiser among them saw that an uneducated democracy would be unable to last and that without State control, State supply, and State compulsion the democracy would not become educated. A similar divergence of theoretical and practical views prevailed among English admirers of the Revolution and reappeared when by the establishment of the Committee of Council on Education in 1839 the State took the first serious step in the direction of educational control. Alongside of the two parties which on practical grounds supported the establishment of un-denominational State schools or the State support of denominational schools stood a third party-the " Voluntaryists "—who on theoretical grounds rejected educational action by the State as outside its sphere. But, whereas the last party was small in numbers and, in the sphere of elementary education, facts were proving too stubborn for it to survive, yet in the sphere of secondary and university education everyone was a voluntaryist. The reason is obvious. Whereas the State was driven by an imperious necessity to intervene in regard to elementary education because without such intervention great masses of people would remain uneducated, some sort of a system existed already in regard to higher education and theory was not con-fronted with an irresistible obstacle of fact.
In setting up the Royal Commissions there was therefore no intention of introducing permanent State control over higher education. On this matter the "common-sense" man did not differ substantially from the doctrinaires of the Manchester school. A " nation of shopkeepers " applied to education the principles of the market-place. No one valued what cost him nothing; competition was the best security and the parent the best judge of efficiency. If governors were to carry out their functions well, they must be interested either as buyers or as sellers of education, that is to say either as parents (or friends of parents) or through a feeling that they were competing with other institutions. The headmaster was the manager; as long as the business succeeded he must have a free hand with complete power over his subordinates. The application of these principles during the second half of the century produced a high degree of efficiency along certain lines, and those presumably such as parents desired. It involved, however, two great defects. First, it worked as it was intended only in regard to non-local institutions where competition was really free; it left unsolved the problem of local day-schools, since competition between several schools in a small town could only be wasteful. Secondly, it failed to see that the form of education which each parent would desire for his own child would normally be -that which enabled him most successfully to compete with the children of other people and that this would not necessarily be the form of education which the interests of the community rendered desirable for children as a whole. These problems will face us later: for the present it is enough to notice that the period of competition created two standards possibly higher than could otherwise have been obtained, the standard of attainment which could be expected of the picked pupil and the standard of discipline on which an experienced teacher could insist. It did not create equally high standards in other directions as, for instance, the level of attainment which could be expected from the duller pupils or the level of teaching which could be expected to reach them.
The ideal of the authors of the Royal Commissions was therefore individualistic and the best way to regard these Commissions is as temporary socialistic means for securing a permanent individualistic policy. The Whig individualists found in existence a number of institutions which had come down from days when schools and colleges were regarded neither as competing businesses nor as State agencies, but as quasi-ecclesiastical foundations. They were governed by archaic regulations of which the purpose had passed away; and their considerable endowments were in consequence being largely wasted. The Whigs took the common-sense view that, since by no possibility could these institutions now carry out the exact intention of their founders, it was best to accept their modern aim, but to compel them to fulfil it more adequately by adopting the competitive principle, and to scrap all founders' conditions which ran contrary to that principle. Harrow School, for instance, was intended by its founder to teach elementary classics to any boy in the parish whose parents wished for such an education; but its present income was many times more than would suffice if every Harrow parent had desired his son to learn classics. In point of fact it had for a hundred and fifty years been an aristocratic school and most of its present income represented capitalised profits from the fees of its aristocratic pupils. Hence the Whig policy, after providing an education—classical or otherwise as they desired—for the inhabitants of Harrow, was to spend the rest of the income on the aristocratic school, to conduct that school on competitive business lines, and to sweep away all existing regulations which prevented this being done. Nowadays this policy would have to face a powerful rival; it would be proposed to apply the endowments neither to the founders' nor to existing purposes, but to those which seemed best to the State as represented by the majority in Parliament. But this view commanded little effective support in the middle of last century; and the only opposition to the Whig view came from that body of Conservative opinion which was alarmed by every sup-posed assault on vested interests or on tradition.
The policy of the Royal Commissions may not have been the best possible; but, when the coach is stuck fast in the mud, it is something to have got it out and set it moving. Subsequently to change its course is a much easier process than originally to make it move at all. It is hard nowadays to realise how deeply embedded universities, colleges, and schools were in the mass of founders' regulations, mediaeval and Reformation statutes, and other unalterable decrees. Pious founders had no conception of future changes; even at the time of the Renaissance, when they were deliberately improving on "the barbarous grossness of the Middle Ages," they never envisaged the possibility of a time when their own arrangements would appear equally out of date. The more pious the founder, the more carefully did he prescribe for his foundation the details of its administration. He fixed salaries regardless of future changes in the value of money; and by the nineteenth century they were generally inadequate to secure the services of any man fitted to be a headmaster. He generally prohibited the taking of fees, or fixed them so low that there was no means of legitimately increasing these inadequate salaries. He imposed curricula which were subsequently enforced by the law-courts in so literal a manner that, in the Leeds case, a classical school was prohibited from giving a " modern" education even when there was no demand for classics. He often imposed oaths to do things which were no longer possible, to the scandal of onlookers who regarded oaths seriously and to the con-fusion of recipients who found it hard to distinguish those which had become mere forms from others with which compliance might still be expected. Naturally there was much straining at gnats and much swallowing of camels. The same general principles of sweeping away obsolete statutes, providing new constitutions, and then leaving administration—and legislation, subject to the consent of the Queen in Council—to the institutions themselves, were applied to the universities, to the public schools, and to the smaller endowed schools, by the Acts which followed the various commissions1. Each class of institution will now be considered separately.
(1) The Universities. The Oxford Commission was a result of the wave of academic liberalism which swept over the University after 1845. As Mark Pattison2 claimed, " All her recent reforms have been the work of a minority, it is true, but still a minority of her own family. The movement commenced from within. Is it too bold to say that more enlightened views as to her proper destiny and worth are entertained by those whom she has trained than are to be found elsewhere in that public opinion by which she is most seriously arraigned." At Cambridge too the movement for a commission originated with a progressive minority. The majority of the old academic governing bodies was, however, opposed to change, and the reformers appealed to the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell. Feeling ran high, as any reader may see who cares to peruse a skit called The University Commission or Lord John Russell's Postbag of April 27, 1850, by William Sewell, fellow of Exeter and founder of Radley. Its general style is often to be found today in undergraduate journals, but these would usually refrain from describing the Cabinet as thieves and from attacking the Royal Family as Sewell attacks the Prince Consort. Commissions were appointed for both universities (1850), and, on their report, Acts of Parliament were passed to carry out parts of their recommendations (Oxford, 1854, Cambridge 1856). Another period of controversy followed, both sides producing a shower of pamphlets, amongst which those by Mark Pattison and Goldwin Smith state the reformers' position most clearly, till a fresh commission was appointed to enquire into the property and income of the universities and their colleges, and, on its report of 1873, a fresh Universities Act was passed in 1877. It will be convenient to treat the reforms of the whole forty years under a few main headings.
(a) Constitution. The need of change is shown by the fact that Cambridge was still governed by the enactments of Queen Elizabeth and Oxford by those of Archbishop Laud. These archaic constitutions they could not change in any important feature even if they wished. Real power was vested in the heads of colleges, who alone could initiate legislation; a final veto, but without the power of amendment, was given to the whole body of masters who had "kept their names on the books," i.e. continued to pay a yearly fee. Heads of colleges were usually elderly men who, in an age of rapid change, had probably fallen behind the times; and the bulk of masters of arts who kept their names on the books were country clergy, for the most part ultra-conservative. The college tutors as such had no voice in the government of the university. The Acts of 1854 and 1855 swept away the old enactments, substituted a change-able for a rigid constitution, reduced the heads of colleges to one-third of the initiating committee, added a new body composed of resident masters of arts (who would be mainly college tutors) who could amend as well as reject the proposals of this committee, but left the final right of veto to the whole body of masters resident and non-resident. On the whole the new constitution has worked well. The tutors have proved to be alive to the need of progress and have in the last fifty years transformed the universities almost out of recognition; and the non-residents have in most cases been deterred by the trouble of a journey to Oxford or Cambridge from opposing their reforms. But on certain issues, notably the admission of women to degrees, the abolition of compulsory Greek, and the admission of Nonconformists to theological degrees and examinerships, the wishes of residents were time after time over-ridden by the veto of the non-residents. Since the war Oxford has, however, adopted all three changes, though Cambridge still refuses degrees to women. The Act of 1877, through the schemes made by a body of commissioners appointed under it, has similarly swept away the old college statutes and given the colleges new constitutions.
(b) Fellowships and Scholarships. The revenues of the universities and their colleges taken together were very substantial; but by far the greater part belonged to the colleges. On the fellows of colleges fell the bulk of the teaching in the university; and college scholarships constituted almost the sole provision for helping needy students. But both fellowships and scholarships were so tied up by founders' restrictions that they could not be used to the best advantage. Life fellowships without duties, the well-nigh universal requirement of celibacy, the general insistence on holy orders, restriction of fellowships to persons born in particular counties or educated at particular schools, automatic progress from scholarships to fellowships, were all subjects of attack. The earlier commission gave the death-blow to geographical restrictions, and the later completed the work of reform on all points. Life fellowships are now confined to those who have long held tutorial or administrative posts in their colleges, the requirement of orders has been removed, and the present generation is perfectly familiar with the married fellow who resides outside the walls of his college. The Oriel plan of electing fellows by competitive examination has not, however, been generally followed. When once the tradition of favouritism had been broken down, the main reason for such a method of selection ceased; and, in choosing a man who will become a college tutor, colleges prefer selecting the person whose record shows him most fitted for the post, just as electors to any other office would. Scholarships were almost universally thrown open to free competition.
It is still not unusual to hear regret expressed for the loss of certain features in the old system; but there can be little doubt that a big balance of advantage has accrued from the changes.
The alteration in the tenure of fellowships has abolished the drone, who was rewarded for early scholastic successes by being freed from the necessity of using his abilities for the benefit of the community; nor has the institution of married fellows resulted, as was feared, in their losing interest in college life or influence over the undergraduates. Great as was the importance attached to this influence by supporters of the old order, it cannot be inferred from independent sources that it was ever so strong as at the present day, and in many colleges it was almost negligible. Indeed modern times have created a number of tutors whose relations to the undergraduates, like those of the modern assistant master to his boys, would have been inconceivable to the stiff old days. Leslie Stephen, as fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge (1854-1864), was probably the first tutor who coached his college boat, appeared in "shorts," and shared every intellectual and social activity of his men.
As regards scholarships, it is sometimes suggested that the old system did more to provide for the needs of poor students. It is true that in the middle of the last century, a period of almost unreasoning belief in competitive examinations, many people expected them to secure an equality of opportunity which it is not in their nature to produce. Success in a competitive examination was bound to depend in a large measure on previous educational advantages, which in those days were not open to all classes. But the obvious remedy was to open up the avenue of secondary education, not to choose scholars on grounds other than their proved abilities. Now and again no doubt a poor boy who happened to be born, say, in the Channel Islands may have won a close scholarship which, had it been open, might have gone to a wealthier competitor; but there is nothing in the nature of the case which would tend to produce such a result. One advantage at least has accrued from the change, that no eleemosynary suspicion attaches to scholarships; they are regarded as rewards of merit, and, with a nation like the English which loves a contest, the respect felt for victory in a competition has come to attach a value to industry. It was a sound instinct which prompted the reformers to consider it their first task to stimulate a working spirit in the universities; only after that had been accomplished would admission to them become a real advantage to the poorer student.
(c) Religious tests. Up to the time of the first commissions admission had been refused to Nonconformists at Oxford, and at Cambridge they could study but not graduate. The earlier Acts secured them admission and initial degrees; and a special act passed by Gladstone's government in 1871 swept away tests altogether save for degrees in divinity. Even this restriction has been recently removed.
(d) Diminution of expense. A much debated question in contemporary pamphlets was the increase in accommodation and particularly provision for a poorer class of student. The importance attached to this question is a sign that the universities were beginning to prove attractive on real educational grounds. The mere provision of additional room was easily secured at Oxford by allowing members of a college to live for part of their time outside the college walls, as they already did at Cambridge, and at both universities by extensive additions to college buildings. The steps taken to provide a less expensive mode of life, however, did not fulfil the expectations of their authors. The permission of "private halls" by the earlier Acts was a vain attempt to restore an institution which had passed away in Tudor times; and the institution of non-collegiate students in 1868 has been a doubtful success. Sumptuary legislation is always difficult. Neither rules nor college tutors were responsible for the cost of living in Oxford and Cambridge; hence neither changes in rules nor the efforts of tutors could do much to diminish it.
Even so stout a reformer as Goldwin Smith gave up the problem as insoluble. The right atmosphere in a university is only possible where there is no feeling of social inequality, and in this respect there was a great change for the better in the second half of the century. Social equality, however, tends to produce at each end of the scale an approximation to equality of expenditure. While extravagance has decreased among the wealthier, the poorer, finding that a smaller increase in expenditure is needed to keep them in the full swing of college life, spend more than they would if they were able to set the prevailing scale for themselves. However, the opening up of the universities has been facilitated in a number of ways. The boy of real ability, whatever his means, is better able to get a good secondary education; and scholarships are won from an extended range of schools. Sport has helped to end the supremacy of the wealthy "set." The river, as a dominating factor in college life, is said to date from 1843; "before that year the college races were a mere pleasing incident in a summer term1" ; and cricket, played in black coats and beaver hats, soon followed. Football, the least expensive and most democratic of all games, came in over thirty years later. Partnership in such sports tends to bind all members of a college together; whereas the old expensive recreations of hunting, shooting, and riding inevitably kept the wealthier men apart: and, in an athletic society, the best athlete, not the man who can afford to entertain most, will take the lead. It is true to say that nowadays brains, athletic prowess, the gift of public speaking, or any other clear capacity, counts for more than wealth.
(e) New professorships. Perhaps the most hotly debated point in the war of pamphlets was the real or supposed antagonism between the "professorial" and "tutorial" systems. In all countries save England, not even excluding Scotland, university instruction has been given by professors, that is to say, experts specifically responsible for lecturing on some one subject or branch of a subject. In Oxford and Cambridge alone the university had been subordinated to its colleges, which had been originally designed purely as places of residence, and university lectures had become only a small excrescence on a system of college tuition. Long ago a different system had prevailed. Unable to provide paid instructors, the mediaeval university had compelled every master of arts to undertake lecturing for a certain period as a condition of receiving his degree. Henry VIII, to encourage humanism, had endowed a few professorial chairs at each university, and other professor-ships, mostly miserably paid, had come into existence. Most of these represented subjects which lay outside the somewhat narrow scope of the existing degree courses; hence the bulk of the teaching was in the hands of the college tutors. The theory that the decadence of the university had been due almost entirely to this cause was first propounded by Sir William Hamilton in 1831. Both his Scottish birth and his German training helped to make him favourable to professorial instruction; and he was able to prove by researches in existing statutes that it was still legally obligatory in Oxford, and that all degrees given for the last century and a half were probably void ! The existing system certainly involved a needless reduplication of lectures, and, by requiring college tutors to teach every branch of a subject, prevented them from becoming expert in anything. In fact Hamilton summed it up by saying that it replaced one great university by twenty small ones ! The two purposes for which specialist lecturers were most needed were to give the highest instruction to candidates for honours in the older subjects and to provide altogether for the teaching of the new subjects. Candidates for these new subjects were still too few for each college to provide a tutor in them; and the introduction of further honours schools would increase the difficulty. The reformers also recognised the width of the older subjects and foresaw that many of the best candidates would be attracted towards different aspects of them. They did not wish to mould everyone in one pattern. Though the linguistic, literary, historical, and philosophical sides of classical antiquity covered a wonderfully wide range of interests, there might be among the more original minds some to whom classical art, archaeology, comparative philology, or some yet unexplored aspect of classics, might appeal more. Moreover, the tutorial system had been devised for the ordinary pass-man; and, at the very time when the majority of tutors were uniting to urge that only by its means could real teaching be secured, practically every candidate for high honours was paying for private "coaching" because he could not get what he wanted from his college tutors.
But the defence of the tutorial system, which even Mark Pattison wished to see surviving along with the other, was by no means entirely the outcome of stolid conservatism. Its defenders understood the meaning of education better than some of its opponents. They knew that the majority of undergraduates needed not mere lecturing but real teaching, not very different from what they had received in the higher forms at school. Question and answer were required to make them think, exercises were required to develop skill and mastery of their subject, regular preparation for classes was required to secure steady work. For the brilliant student lectures by specialist enthusiasts would do all that was needed; they would inspire, would suggest new lines of thought, and would point out where he could find information for himself. But on the man who was not susceptible to inspiration and did not wish to seek information for himself, they were wasted. Modern experience confirms the belief that instruction which confines itself to lecturing leads to mere receptivity, uncritical acceptance of others' ideas, and "cram." But, on the other hand, a university in which the teachers do nothing but drill pass students is little more than an adult school. It will hardly furnish the atmosphere in which new scientific discoveries, new interpretations of history, new ideas on social and political questions, or a fuller appreciation of art and literature are likely to develop.
Both parties had their extreme wings. To the one extreme it appeared that knowledge and wisdom had quitted Olympus to dwell only with the Greeks, and that, after their rescue from a long captivity by the knight-errants of the Renaissance, they had consented to dwell with the moderns only on condition that they would speak no other language than Greek or Latin. At the other pole were men who appeared to think nothing to be true but what is new, nothing admirable but what is paradoxical, nothing native so good as what is foreign. Solid insular narrowness was set against unsteady eclectic brilliance. To the one side subjects existed to train men, to the other men existed to develop subjects. Training of character was set in opposition to the enlargement of knowledge. The older school claimed to give men of action to the nation, the newer to give inspiring ideas to the world.
The result, as finally reached by 1881, was a compromise. The professoriate has a considerable voice in determining policy through the faculties, it organises and conducts research, and takes a large part in teaching subjects for which there is not a sufficient demand for the colleges to provide. In natural science, where the laboratory is the centre of work, its influence is more felt than in the humanities. New chairs have been established and old chairs adequately endowed. College fellowships have been attached to university professorships. But now that college lectures have been practically opened to the whole university—a change which has grown up gradually since 1870—college tutors in fact fulfil the duties of additional university professors; and the conduct of a college lecture on the lines of sixth form work in a school is now a rarity.
(f) Higher degrees. The new examinations had only affected the qualification for the initial degree of B.A. Mere seniority and payment of fees qualified the bachelor to become a master and the master a doctor of law or divinity. A half-hearted attempt was made to impose conditions for the mastership of arts but was soon dropped. In more recent times research degrees of B.Litt. and B.Sc. have been set up to take the place which the M.A. and M.Sc. occupy in modern universities, and degrees of D.Litt. and D.Sc. to recognise original work of a high order. The doctorate of divinity has likewise in recent times been made a reality.
(g) Research. The desire to encourage research had much to do both with the demand for a professorial system and with the desire to make the higher degrees a genuine mark of distinction. Research is a modern idea. In the Middle Ages a university had two functions, to establish truth by argument and to hand it down by lectures. The establishment of truth was believed to depend on syllogistic reasoning from indisputable premises; observation and experiment in the sciences, the investigation of records in the humanities, were unknown. The Renaissance al-most wholly extinguished the work of the universities in finding out truth. The idea that all knowledge worth having had been possessed by the ancients confined discovery within the narrow limits of finding and studying classical manuscripts. The authors were then treated as authoritative, and for several centuries the functions of a university were almost limited to handing down what was already known. Scientific discoveries might be made more copiously than ever before; but the universities had little share in the work. Even the scholarship of Bentley and Porson, and the discoveries of the great mathematicians, were regarded as something exceptional, not as illustrations of what might generally be expected of university teachers. The abandonment of all attempt to add to the sum of knowledge has a deadening effect on the teaching of existing knowledge. Research revived in Germany, in the middle of the eighteenth century. By the middle of the nineteenth century the idea had made such progress in that country that an addition to knowledge was expected not only from every professor but from every candidate for a degree. Power of research became almost the sole test of academic merit and the sole passport to academic promotion. The transmission of existing culture and the training of men of action were altogether subordinated to the research aim. These two views of the function of a university were now to cross swords in this country.
Mark Pattison may be taken as representative of the adherents of research. He wished to set up a professoriate of the German type and to give up some of the colleges wholly to researchers. As teaching institutions, he held, the German universities were no better than our own; but as centres of research they were unique. The falsity of some of the German hypotheses had been urged in condemnation of the system ; but Pattison contends that "a fertility of ingenious hypotheses is a well-known condition of any period of scientific activity," and he urges the stimulating effect of Wolf's influence on philology, Niebuhr's on history, and Baur's on theology, irrespective of the truth or falsity of their particular conclusions. "The highest education cannot be given through a literature or a science which has no higher than an educational value." "The university is largely distinguished from the school, that the pupil here takes leave of disciplinal studies and enters on real knowledge. The student comes to the university to grapple with those thoughts which are occupying the men of the time." The teacher who is also a student can inspire us as the mere teacher cannot. But, though "the university is an association of men of science, it is not for the sake of science that they are associated. A professoriate has for its duty to maintain, cultivate, and diffuse extant knowledge."
A generation was to elapse before these arguments were to bear fruit. The professoriate of the Scottish universities and of University College, London, were far ahead of the older universities in research in the domain of natural science. The last thirty years have seen a great change in Oxford and Cambridge as regards both scientific and historical investigation. The university now sets out to train researchers and to guide research in both spheres. So assured is the position of the older universities that another thirty years will probably see them pre-eminent in this as in other spheres. The newer universities certainly secured a start upon them ; but it is very probable that they attempted to imitate Germany too closely by assuming that research is within the reach of every young graduate who has taken an honours degree. Arts and science here differ widely; and the distinction has been too often forgotten. Industrial processes give an inexhaustible field for scientific discoveries, great or small; but the third-rate historian, the mediocre critic, and the semi scientific economic researcher are rather a danger than an aid to the cause of truth. There is no inherent virtue in contact with original authorities which trains a man to estimate a policy, to judge of character, to acquire a sense of values, or even to know when a thing is proved and when it is not. The older universities may have hit the happy mean in confining research in the humanities to their first-rate men.
The lapse of another fifty years since 187o has seen another commission appointed to investigate the work of the older universities, the result of which belongs to the future.
(2) The Public Schools. The Commission reported in 1864, and such of its recommendations as required legislation were embodied in the Public Schools Act of 1868. These, however, concerned only the administrative side, and followed the lines which have been indicated at the beginning of the chapter. Adopting the principles of the University Commission, the Commissioners formulate them in the words of the Edinburgh Review: "The statutes of founders are to be upheld and enforced whenever they conduce to the general objects of the foundation, but they are to be modified whenever they require a closer adaptation to the wants of modern society." Reformed governing bodies were set up, and on them was imposed the duty of so revising the statutes as to remove local restrictions on masterships and scholarships and to reorganise the expenditure on prizes and scholarships. The revised statutes were to be approved by the Queen in Council. It may be noted that, while the Commission dealt with the two large day schools, St Paul's and Merchant Taylors', these two schools were omitted from the Act and left to be included in the subsequent Endowed Schools Act.
More interesting is the part of the report which dealt with the internal affairs of the schools. For purposes of comparison, information was secured from the newer foundations of Cheltenham, Marlborough, and Wellington; but the Commission was in no sense an enquiry into these schools. However guarded was the language in which the commissioners couched their conclusions, it is clear that their general verdict, while not too condemnatory (because they recognised that there had been a considerable improvement in recent years), emphasised the need of far more amendment before the schools could be regarded as doing their duty. Rugby and Shrewsbury seem to escape the general condemnation. Idleness is the chief count in the indictment. There is little suggestion of sins of commission on the part of the public schoolboy; but his sins of omission are so great that we are left at the end with a picture of a good-natured, easy-going youth, without intellectual interests or any conception of a purpose in life, who is almost certain to succumb, the moment he leaves school, to the temptations of self-indulgence, frivolity and carelessness. As they pass from the consideration of curriculum to this section of their report, they observe : " We have found no difficulty in ascertaining what is taught at these schools; to discover what and how much is learned in them is difficult and is only roughly practicable." Then they trace how one-third of the candidates fail in the Christ Church matriculation, how it would be useless to try the bulk of the candidates with an unseen, and how only one piece of Latin Prose in four is free from bad blunders; and thus they work up to their conclusion that, though the best scholars usually come from the public schools, they "send also (and in this Eton has a certain pre-eminence) the idlest and most ignorant men." Holding, as they do, that the classical languages are the best of all educational instruments, their condemnation of the narrowness of the course is all the more remarkable. "A young man is not well educated—and indeed is not educated at all—who cannot reason or observe or express himself easily and correctly.—He is not well educated if all his information is shut up within one narrow circle."
There can be little doubt that, as regards curriculum, they took the German Gymnasien as their model. They pronounce against the attempt to divide the school into a classical and a "modern" side, possibly foreseeing what happened within a few years, when, in spite of their advice, the system spread from Cheltenham, Marlborough, and Wellington to the older schools. Nor do they appear to contemplate the possibility of a first-grade "modern" school; the Ober-realschule, with a leaving age of nineteen and admitting to certain faculties in the university, was still to come. Specialisation at the top of the school is to be limited to such minor variations as substituting additional non-classical work for Latin and Greek verse. Here again the progress of events in England has been in a diametrically opposite direction, though German schools still keep the pupil engaged in all his subjects of study to the sixth form inclusive. For the commissioners, classics is still, as in the Gymnasien, to be the chief study, but not, as heretofore, the only subject taken seriously. "The writing of brilliant Latin verses is not, however, the ultimate end of school education." "The one main object for which boys learn the dead languages is to teach them to use their own." They are even a little distrustful of the Arnoldian tendency to emphasise subject-matter: "the mind of a boy must indeed of necessity be principally directed to the style and language of his books, since it is chiefly with a view to language that he is employed upon them." They sound the death-knell of the old original theme : in this respect current practice follows them to greater lengths than they were perhaps prepared to go, for it has been entirely replaced by translation of English into Greek or Latin. Indeed it has been left to the direct method to revive free composition even in the case of modern languages. Mathematics—again as in the Gymnasien—holds second place, and such absurdities as the treatment of mathematical masters as a subordinate caste receive their coup de grâce. The remarks on modern languages seem to belong to a different era from our own—so great is the improvement which the direct method, not then dreamed of, has effected. It is strange reading that the teaching of modern languages was, in spite of current opinion, as bad abroad as in England ! Arnold's plan of making form masters teach French is declared to be passing away, but the report laments the deficiency of Englishmen competent to become specialist teachers of the subject. The section on history does not suggest the "barbarous grossness" of the Middle Ages quite so much as that on French ; but it is only the first streak of dawn which is visible. Indeed one headmaster, questioned on the subject, frankly told the Commission:-"I wish we could teach more history, but as to teaching it in set lessons, I should not know how to do it." Their conclusion may be de-scribed as feeling after the truth "if haply they might find it." It runs thus: "To gain an elementary knowledge of history, little more is required than some sustained but not very laborious efforts of memory; it may therefore be acquired easily and without any mental exercise of much value-which, however, is not a sufficient reason for not acquiring it....But a good teacher who is likewise a good historian will always, we believe, be able to make the acquisition of even the elements of historical knowledge something more than a mere exertion of memory—to make it, with the more advanced boys, a real introduction to the method of historical study, and a vehicle for imparting some true insight into history and interest in it." Apparently the device most in favour with progressive teachers was to experiment with Guizot and other French or German writers, with the object of seeing if they could produce a modern equivalent for Arnold's lessons on Thucydides and Tacitus. It is interesting to note that Rugby, Marl-borough and Wellington were the scenes of this experiment —another trace of Arnold's direct influence. Geography is not recognised like history as something which may grow out of being a mere memory subject. It is, as in Germany, a kind of handmaid to history. But in nothing is the influence of the Gymnasien so noticeable as in the section on natural science. The influence of those who were in a few years to make it a bedrock subject shows no trace in the report. Class-teaching for one or two hours a week is contemplated, just as in the case of German Naturkunde. So little did the Commissioners appreciate the subject with which they were dealing that they evidently believed that in this time two kinds of science—the physico-chemical and the biological-could be profitably handled ! Such is the danger of substituting attempts to imitate for first hand acquaintance with the matter with which you are dealing. How much of the handling of education by " educationalists "—as 'distinguished from educators—has in England during the last fifty years been of this kind ! Finally the "many-sided" aim which the (Gymnasien had not very successfully attempted to transform from Herbartian theory into classroom practice is completed by the demand that either music or drawing should be introduced to meet aesthetic requirements.
(3) Schools Inquiry Commission. The Report of this Commission in 1868, which was followed by the passing of the Endowed Schools Act in 1869, marks the middle of our period in point of time, and may in addition be regarded as a turning point in the direction of our interests which will henceforth be directed to the great mass of secondary schools which had hitherto been quite unable to assert themselves. The newer type of university had not come into being, and the majority of the schools had little connection with Oxford and Cambridge. The Commission found that 550 so-called grammar schools sent no boys to the universities and of the eighty or ninety schools which did, only forty sent three every year. The "seven" accounted for 529 undergraduates, St Paul's and Merchant Taylors' for 48 and seven of the newly founded schools for 235, and two of the old grammar schools which had forced their way recently into public school rank—Repton and Uppingham—were responsible for 71. This would account for almost half the total number of undergraduates in residence and a far higher proportion of scholarship-holders. Moreover the Commission discovered that few endowed schools prepared boys for the examinations of London University or even sent them in for the newly-instituted Local Examinations. Nor did these schools make up for their weakness on the more strictly academic side by superiority in the new fields of intellectual activity. The newer foundations like Cheltenham were the pioneers in this direction.
It is not implied that the progress of the last fifty years is entirely, or even mainly, due to the Endowed Schools Commission. Walker was already showing at Manchester what could be done with a large city day school. Day schools of new foundation were already proving themselves efficient: King's College School had been founded in 1829, University College School in 1832, Liverpool College in 1840. Proprietary schools, founded by the inhabitants of various towns for the benefit of the town rather than for profit, were already fairly numerous. Cheltenham (1841), Marlborough (1842), Rossall (1844), Epsom (1855), Wellington (1859), Clifton (1860), Malvern (1862), Radley (1863), and Haileybury (1864) were trying to imitate the good features of the old boarding schools and to avoid their defects. Woodard had founded his three Church schools—Lancing, Hurstpierpoint, and Ardingly—to meet three different levels of income. Thring was at work at Uppingham; and Sherborne, Repton, and Tonbridge had emerged into prominence from being local grammar schools.
On the whole these schools catered for the more prosperous part of the middle class, with whom there was a genuine interest in the education of their sons. Not exclusively; Manchester, Birmingham, and Bradford at any rate were already means of enabling the children of the lower middle class as well to reach the university; Woodard aimed at seeing how far the boarding school system could be made suitable to the needs of a poorer class than that which would supply his first grade school at Lancing; and the Commission notices the recent attempt to found " County Schools," i.e. boarding schools of a fairly cheap character to meet the needs of rural districts, of which the Surrey County School at Cranleigh (founded by subscription in 1865, with 153 boys) and the Suffolk school at Framlingham (310 boys) were examples. "As far as they have been tried," the Commissioners remark, "there have not, perhaps, been anywhere more successful or more promising undertakings than those great modern schools." But the success of a few large day schools and of private efforts in the case of a few middle class boarding schools only brought into bolder relief the needs of the bulk of towns and counties alike, where it made clear that pro-vision, were it only made, would be eagerly accepted.
The Commissioners interpreted their reference in no narrow spirit. They regarded enquiry into the existing supply of schools as merely a preliminary task. Their first duty was to suggest how existing endowments could be utilised to extend that supply. They found that very much could be done simply by the best use of such funds as were already available; and this part of their recommendations was carried into effect by the Endowed Schools Act which followed their report. But they did not regard this as the end of their work : the creation of a complete system of secondary education could not, in their opinion, be effected out of existing endowments; to establish a system at all comparable to that of Prussia, State aid was necessary, and their report boldly aims at securing some measure of State control and some measure of public supply such as was secured in the domain of elementary education in the following year (1870). In this hope they proved to be in advance of public opinion; their wishes were only partially included in the Bill, and even those proposals had to be dropped to facilitate its passage through Parliament, on the understanding that they would be brought forward again in a subsequent session—an intention which was not carried out till after a second commission had reported in 1895. The country had thus to wait over thirty years for the Act of 1902.
In one respect the Commissioners almost exceeded their instructions, or at any rate acted upon them in a way which was hardly in the minds of those who drew up the reference. They took the bold step of construing that reference as covering the secondary education of girls as well as boys, thereby opening a new era in girls' education.
This part of their work will be treated in the chapter on the education of girls and women.
We will take first the proposals which were finally passed into law by the Endowed Schools Act. The procedure was similar to that adopted by the Universities and the Public Schools Acts. A special Commission--called the Endowed Schools Commission—was set up to approve new schemes for all the foundations not covered by the Public Schools Act and with powers so wide that it was said that it could convert a boys' school in Northumberland into a girls' school in Cornwall, though of course it never did anything so revolutionary. Its powers were renewed several times and, after its immediate work was accomplished, they were transferred to an augmented Charity Commission, and later still in 1899 to the Board of Education, when that body was established. There was nothing absolutely novel to English law in the exercise of such a power : foundation deeds could already be altered, if they were clearly obsolete, by the Court of Chancery; but readers of Dickens know what the Court of Chancery was in those days, and fortunate would the institution be, having once applied to that Court to modify the conditions on which its funds were to be expended, if, when it emerged from the Court, there were still any funds to apply. Not only was the new procedure quick and cheap; but the new Commission felt at liberty to make changes more freely. The Act, for instance, ordered them, wherever possible, to make provision for girls' as well as boys' schools; and, where the funds of any foundation permitted, they did so. It is hardly likely that such an intention was ever in the minds of founders, though the contrary has been sometimes maintained. The Inquiry Commission had dealt with 782 grammar schools and 2175 endowed elementary schools, but the latter were excluded from the Act and the subsequent scheme-making commission. 235 schemes were made by the Commissioners before the transfer of their powers to the Charity Commissioners, though, as we shall see when we come to the life of Thring, a considerable opposition to their activities developed.
This was a substantial work; for it meant that the scandals described in Chapter iv were henceforth impossible and that a large body of schools began to do solid work, to send pupils to the universities, and to inherit the spirit which the scholastic generation that followed Arnold's death had called into being. Between thirty and forty of these schools are now first-grade schools represented on the Headmasters' Conference.
The Commission was the first official body to recognise the policy of the "ladder." It may come as a surprise to many readers to learn that this ideal had entered into practical politics so early: for it is often regarded as a vision in the mind of Huxley which has only materialised since 1902. It is true that the provisions of the Act did little directly to help in its realisation ; secondary school exhibitions were hardly made obtainable in practice by elementary school pupils, except where this was already the case; and in some instances, as at Bedford, where the number of free places was found to cause a neglect of elementary education, it was reduced. But, by improving the education in schools which were already available to elementary school pupils, it indirectly helped forward the policy of the ladder; for the Commission of 1895 was able to point to the actual successes of ex-elementary pupils at the universities and so to overcome the reluctance of English people to believe in the possibility of anything of which they have no practical experience.
The results, as the Commission of 1895 discovered, were, however, a patchwork. In the first place, as regards the kind of school, the Commission reported that three grades were needed, first-grade with a leaving age of eighteen or nineteen and closely connected with the universities, second-grade with a leaving age of sixteen or seventeen, and third-grade with a leaving age of fourteen or fifteen. It must be remembered that Robert Lowe's reactionary code of 1860 had practically fixed the leaving age for elementary schools at twelve, and that the last of these three grades, which later was partially supplied from the grants assigned to elementary education, was treated by the Commissioners as unmistakably secondary. It was in regard to this third grade of school, which would be frequented by the children of small farmers, small shop-keepers and well-to-do artisans that the report discovered the greatest deficiency of supply and the most unsatisfactory character of the supply which was available. The classical curriculum of the local grammar school, consisting of elementary Latin and possibly "less Greek" (as in Shakespeare's day), led to nothing and was in no demand; the gap was filled, so far as it was filled at all, by private schools, mostly inefficient. The numbers of pupils who might be expected to attend this grade of school were the largest of the three; and it was here that the Commission rightly judged that government aid was most imperative. It was here, however, that least was effected as the result of their report. The meagreness of the result cannot be put down altogether to public apathy or to ministerial lack of imagination. Two changes were necessary before this type of education could be stimulated and directed to a clear-cut aim. The first was the creation of provincial universities with a technical bent. Such universities offer a goal to which the pupils can aspire; they provide a supply of capable teachers; and finally they extend the influence of science over industry. The public was only beginning to realise in a very vague way the use of physical and chemical science to artisans; and the possibility that persons engaged in agriculture could profit by a scientific education was to the generality of agriculturists inconceivable. The second change therefore needed was the development of science teaching on sound lines.
But the patchwork character of the result did not merely concern the unequal stimulus given to different types of schools : it was also marked as regards their geographical distribution. Educational endowments were in a large measure distributed in accordance with the distribution of wealth and population in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and were deficient in areas which had then been either thinly inhabited, like the modern industrial areas of the North, or poor, like Wales. This inequality was only partly remedied by the work of the Commission. The deputy commissioner appointed by the Commission of 1895 to report on the schools of Lancashire handed in a map in which a dot was assigned to the abode of every boy attending Manchester Grammar School and showed that the number of dots appearing in any district was in inverse ratio to the adequacy of local provision. At St Helens, for instance, money which had been diverted to elementary education was found, when applied by the Commissioners to secondary purposes, sufficient to establish a really good school; and Bury Grammar School was praised for the fact that there boys of all social ranks mixed to a degree elsewhere unknown : but at Rochdale there was still in 1895 only a school of nineteen boys and at Oldham the school had developed at a period much later than the Commission out of South Kensington grants.
We now pass to the side of the report which was not carried into effect. Briefly it would have set up a system of State and local control. As originally drafted, the bill included the proposals for State but not for local control. An examining council was to be set up consisting of twelve persons, half nominated by the Crown and half by the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London. This council would examine schools and also intending school masters. In short it was to establish the Teachers' Register which subsequently proved so thorny a question, and to introduce the thin edge of the wedge in the direction of securing the training of secondary teachers. These ideas were so novel to the ordinary member of parliament that they stood little chance of success. Beresford Hope voiced the general opinion of schoolmasters and the public when, in the discussion on the bill, he declared that surely a degree should be enough for a teacher ! Even the 1895 Commission found a prevalence of this opinion. More reasonable was the view that an examination of schools would introduce and stereotype a system of " cramming." To persons living in the heyday of Robert Lowe's "payment by results" no other opinion was possible, and the nearest approximations to a central examination system in the case of secondary schools—the Central Welsh Board and its Irish counterpart—show that even thirty years later the importance of examining as opposed to inspecting might be over-emphasised. It is by no means certain therefore that the postponement of State control till inspection had received its proper recognition was not the lesser of two evils. As this section was omitted from the bill, a mild substitute was provided in most of the schemes approved by the subsequent Commissioners requiring that the schools should submit themselves to examination by some external authority, such for instance as the Universities by means of their Local Examinations or later by the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board.
The local authority was a feature on which the Commissioners laid great stress, but it was not even mentioned in the bill. They had enquired into continental and colonial systems of secondary education and had before them Matthew Arnold's valuable report. "Before all things the wishes of the parents and of the people at large must be met. The management should in some reasonable manner be in their hands. The people perhaps cannot give guidance, but they can give life, which is even more valuable than guidance." In the last sentence the true basis of democratic control is laid down. In one sense democratic control is impossible. Not one man in a hundred has thought out an educational policy. Elected bodies, Parliament itself as much as any other, are not composed of educational experts, and the means which they propose to secure desirable results are often fantastic. They are too prone to think that enthusiasm and personal influence can be secured by ordering them to come into existence. If they delegate their powers to officials, we too often get a class of persons who regard themselves as experts by reason of a contact with education no closer than the other end of a telephone. But popular control, exercised on the spot and not entirely delegated to officials, has advantages entirely independent of the regulations which it ordains. It gives an opportunity for the few who have ideas to ventilate them ; it provides a medium for the interchange of opinions between the teachers and the outside world; it educates administrators and parents ; it creates an educational atmosphere. Where it exists, parents who would otherwise be indifferent become keen. The Commissioners suggested quite a number of alternative plans on which such a local authority might be constituted, in all cases independent of any authority which might be created for elementary education; but the dread of possible harm felt by existing efficient schools was too strong for those who thereby hoped to create efficient schools where they did not already exist. It was at this moment too that we have the nearest approach to an incursion into the domain of secondary education of the "religious difficulty," which did so much to hamper all attempts to improve elementary education. Beresford Hope in the debate expressed alarm for the maintenance of the Church character of existing foundations, though a "conscience clause" and an exemption from any obligation upon holders of scholastic posts to take Holy Orders were all which the bill offered in regard to the religious question.
It is certain that the Commissioners proposed a State system of secondary education and that the State refused to undertake the burden. At first sight it would appear that a great chance was missed. Undoubtedly a modern House of Commons would adopt a very different policy. To some extent a supply will create a demand, but to do so the supply must be good. It is not certain that a State system imposed in 1869 by a progressive minority but administered by indifferent representatives of the average citizen would have been good. It is hardly a case for blame. You do not blame a savage or a man of the Middle Ages for being a savage or a man of the Middle Ages; you merely record what he was and what he thought and felt. Why do otherwise with a Mid-Victorian? He was a snob, but in many ways a very kindly person. He was an ultra-individualist, but he had a shrewd political sense. He had no idea of the application of school learning to industry, but he built up the industries to which it was subsequently applied, He had little aesthetic taste, but he produced a race of writers for whom we have no substitutes. He did not realise the close connection of intellectual and moral development, but he had his own philistine morality. He did not appreciate the virtues of organisation, but he was not the slave of red tape. He did not try to evolve schemes for educating his neighbours' children, but he discovered empirically what a good school is and left it as a legacy to the next generation to create more of them.