restricted access The Problem of Education
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126 ] The Problem of Education Harvard Advocate, 121 (Freshman Number 1934) 11-121 At the present time I am not very much interested in the only subject which I am supposed to be qualified to write about: that is, one kind of literary criticism. I am not very much interested in literature, except dramatic literature; and I am largely interested in subjects which I do not yet know very much about: theology, politics, economics, and education. I am moved at the moment to say something on the last of these subjects; so, if my comments appear very scrappy, I can only say that it is hard to start one’s own education over again when one is in the forties. I have had some practical experience of education; first, having been educated myself, and in my opinion very badly. Second, I have taught boys of all ages in English schools; I was once an assistant in the Philosophy Department at Harvard; IhaveconductedAdultEducationclasses,andIhavelecturedatCambridge in England and Cambridge in Massachusetts.2 I mention these facts because they are what might be considered credentials. But I do not feel that I have learned very much except to appreciate the magnitude of the educational problem. A great many men have taught for many more years than I, and yet are no more qualified to make any general statements about education. Indeed, most of the people engaged in educating seem to have very little conception of the general problem of education for a race and a nation, or of what purpose in a general scheme their own work is serving. They are merely Ford operatives. As for the big executives of education, I suspect that many of them have their minds filled with unexamined assumptions. Yet after feeding and clothing and housing people, the problem of how they should be educated is the most important you have, and perhaps the most difficult. Wherever you begin, you are led on to everything else. The problem of education leads you out to every other, and every other problem leads you back to education. If what I am concerned about was merely the local problem, the question of what kind of education we ought to have in England, or in America, I should feel certainly that I am too ignorant to have the right to say anything. But I do not consider that there is one problem of education in America and another in England. However different the present systems [ 127 The Problem of Education may appear, I am sure that fundamentally we have one problem, at least in all English speaking countries, and that the things which alarm or depress me in America are equally present and alarming or depressing in England. English education is changing just as American education is changing: with only the trifling difference that the former seems to be going to the devil rather more slowly. The provincial universities, in any case, have much the same problem as the state universities of America: what sort of an education to give when the population to be educated includes almost everybody. ThechiefpersistingadvantagesofOxfordandCambridgeoverAmerican universities are (1) theological (2) economic. I cannot attempt to demonstrate here that education, as the finest training of the finest minds, in contrast to the general education of everybody or the special technical training of persons to fill definite social needs, cannot afford to be separated from religion. But I am certain that the theological background – however far back it may be – is the only one that can provide the idea of order and unity needed for education. And I believe that if education is not rearranged by people with some definite social philosophy and some notion of the true vocation of man, the only education to be had will be in seminaries and colleges run by Jesuits. There is a good one in St. Louis, Mo.3 Incidentally, the only two men I know who have had what seemed to me hopeful theories of education and put them into practice, are Father Herbert Kelly of the Society of the Sacred Mission in Nottinghamshire, and Canon Iddings Bell of Providence, Rhode Island. I have no first-hand acquaintance with Canon Bell’s frustrated attempts at St. Stephen’s College, Annandale; and Father Kelly’s system was designed for theological students; but I know of no other ventures in higher education of equal interest to these.4 The leading American universities were, of course, originally directed by clergy of definite denominations. They...


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