Review of Reviews

Public Schools

Their Disappearance in England Predicted; Home Influence Best, Says M. P.

May 15 1940
Review of Reviews

Public Schools

Their Disappearance in England Predicted; Home Influence Best, Says M. P.

May 15 1940

Public Schools

Their Disappearance in England Predicted; Home Influence Best, Says M. P.

WILL THE great public schools of England — which actually are private schools—disappear after the war? The question is being debated in England, and from Public Opinion we quote an argument on both sides.

Mr. Lees-Smith, M.P., who was President of the Board of Education in the Labor Government, thinks that the great public schools are doomed. In the course of the debate on the Education estimates, he said :

“The great difficulty of these public schools is that they are so surprisingly expensive, that in spite of foundations left in the past they require £250 a year to educate one child. That is, of course, extravagant to a monstrous degree. They are extravagant because they are exceptional to the whole of our education system in that they are boarding schools.

“That, again, is a most peculiar feature of the British education system. A large section of our community, the most comfortably-off section, take it as an assumption, take it as beyond denial, that the most natural system of educating their children is to send them away from home for nine months out of every year.

“I do not accept that assumption, and I do not think the country will be willing to accept it if they are to pay large sums of money to keep that particular idea alive. I think it is an unnatural system. To me the natural system seems to be one in which home influence will play a large part in the life of the children and not simply be confined to the period of the holidays.

“After all, what is the life of a boarding school—I am talking of Rugby, Marlborough, and schools like those? It is a crowd life. Boys work in crowds, sleep in crowds, play in crowds, stand round the field and shout in crowds. This kind of crowd life, combined with home life, appears to me to be far more natural and healthy than crowd life unadulterated.

“I think that is unnatural. I do not think it is best calculated to produce family affection, because the affection of children for their parents arises out of little acts of helpfulness, like helping with the homework and taking an interest in what is happening in school.

“So long as public schools can stand on their own feet so long will they be unassailable. but if they propose to put themselves on the taxes they must be prepared to meet the claim that they should revert to their original purpose of

: being schools of the people, for which most \ of their foundation initially provided.”

Sir Annesley Somerville, M.P., who was a master at Eton College for many years,

I in reply to Mr. Lees-Smith, said:

‘‘If you see a man wearing the old school I tie it brings back old memories of school I days and adventures. It is the same thing I in regard to the regimental tie or. indeed, if I you get two men from the same workshop, i it at once recalls their old life together.

‘‘Hut it means a great deal more than that, it means a training which is invaluable to the country.

“We are asked sometimes what is meant by the public school spirit. I have been asked that question many times in the States. The public school spirit is simply the public spirit, and it is not a monopoly of public schools. It is the possession of every right-minded Hriton. It is a regard for law and truth, for justice and decency, and consideration for the weak.

“That is the spirit which is cherished and trained freely by the boys themselves in our great public schools, and it produces in them a sense of responsibility, and a power of leadership which is invaluable. It is a spirit which is trained by the boys themselves in the houses of our public schools where definite duties are given to them. In games it teaches them to keep their heads and tempers . . .

“I could wish that there might be a joint education committee of all parties. Education ought not to be a party question. It is a national question, believing the best of one another and hoping that with understanding we can do the best for the nation. It might be well to set up an authoritative body to consider how to connect more closely the State system and the public school system.

“It might consider a reduction of fees and the provision of substantial State scholarships to enable boys from the elementary schools to pass into the public schools. It might also consider such help as is given by the University Grants Committee, but I would postulate one thing, and that is the preservation of the independence and freedom of our public schools.”