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A UNIVERSITY FOR THE PEOPLE
The recent influential meeting at Cambridge in support of the Board of Education Bill and Mr. Balfour's address at the Battersea Polytechnic are happy indications that we are at last awakening to the importance of what is in truth one of the most urgent problems of our time. When Mr. Balfour observed that the instruction given in the London Polytechnics does not cover the whole field of education, and that unless something of the culture which is so notable a part of our public school and university system enters into our system of education in these places, I think it will after all be a partial and maimed system,' he indicated exactly the direction which it will soon become imperative for educational activity to take. New conditions have defined new needs.
The friends of popular education have indeed reason to congratulate themselves and have reason to be sanguine, when they look back on what the last twenty years have witnessed in London. The rapid and extraordinary development of the Polytechnic system and of the University Extension scheme alone shows on what a promising time we seem to be entering. When in 1882 Mr. Quintin Hogg's Endell Street and Long Acre institutes matured into the present Polytechnic it was the only institution of its kind in London, while the total number of evening students attending the various educational establishments within the metropolitan area did not exceed 8,000. There are now eleven of these institutions, many of them superb palaces, within the postal radius, with a total of some 45,000 students The University Extension Scheme commenced its work in 1876 with seven courses of lectures and with 139 students attending them; in 1894 the courses of lectures delivered were 152, the students attending them 12,951. During the last session recorded the number of students attending the Society's lectures was 13,155. Large as these numbers are, there is every reason to think from their steady annual increase in the past that the future will add largely to their numbers. What distinguishes these students from those who are included in our regular educational system-I am now speaking generally of those who are attached to the Polytechnics and of those who attend the Extension lectures is that they are adults or at least above fifteen years of age, that their attendance at lectures and classes is purely voluntary, and that they are pursuing their studies collaterally with the work and occupations of life, and that their motive for doing so, whatever may be their ultimate object, is self-improvement. But if the students at the Polytechnics and the students of the Extension Scheme have these important points in common their studies at present are directed to very different objects and have very different ends in view. Mr. Goschen, for many years president of the Extension Society, in a saying which has passed into a proverb, observed that ‘a man needs knowledge not only as a means of livelihood but as a means of life.' In that remark, which is now the motto of the Society, the object with which it was founded and the ends at which it aims are exactly indicated. It was and is designed to awaken and stimulate intelligent curiosity, to encourage a disinterested love of knowledge for its own sake, to initiate and direct the liberal study of what is best in ancient and modern philosophy, literature, and art, and to provide instruction in history and economics as well as in the various branches of natural science. To the vexed question of the solid educational value of the Society's work I shall return presently, but about two things there can be no question-firstly, that the lectures are on serious subjects, that they are in some cases delivered by distinguished specialists on those subjects, and that they are regularly and voluntarily attended by many thousands of people, of whom, to take the statistics of the last session recorded, 1,906 obtained certificates on the result of their term's work; secondly, that in the Society's courses of study if fully carried out and properly co-ordinated we have all that is needed for the foundation of a perfectly satisfactory scheme of higher popular instruction.
In the Polytechnics a very different conception of the aims of education at present prevails. In their system, which is practically prescribed by the Technical Education Board and the Department of Science and Art, what are ordinarily denominated liberal studies are scarcely recognised. No encouragement is given to the study of such subjects as literature, history, and economics. The instruction given in them is confined almost exclusively to scientific and technical subjects, and if it is extended further, it extends as part of their system no further than such subjects as can be interpreted as having an industrial application. In a word, it is the aim of these institutions as educational centres to enable young men and young women to earn their bread and to become efficient in the various industrial callings and duties for which scientificand technical instruction is a preparation. But beyond this, except by accident, they do not go. A youth may leave their workshops and laboratories a skilled craftsman and an accomplished scientist in a small way, but little better than a Caliban in all that pertains to taste, to feeling, to general intelligence, wholly ignorant of the history of his country, of its institutions, of its literature, and in all probability wholly indifferent to them.
But if the movements which I have been describing have taken different directions they have the same significance. They point to the fact that a great revolution has passed over the middle and lowermiddle sections of society, that the Education Act has done its work, and that the time has come for that work to be supplemented. They have defined an important problem in education. That problem, simply stated, is this: Is a popular University possible ? a University which shall stand in the same relation to the average adult citizen pursuing self-improvement collaterally with the work of life as the old Universities stand to the leisured classes and to the higher functions of educational activity, which shall direct, consolidate, systematise, what is now sporadic and fragmentary? Can we make the Polytechnics and similar institutions, not simply what they are now, technical and scientific seminaries and popular lecture halls, but centres of an organised system of advanced liberal instruction-colleges, so to speak, of a people's University? Not at present; that may frankly be conceded. But of this we may be quite sure—that before many years have passed, if in the meantime we do all in our power to further it, such a scheme will be well within the sphere of the practicable. And how can we further it?
And how can we further it? We need first, what assuredly we have not got now,' a clear conception, both of the ends at which advanced education in its application to adult citizens should aim, and of the means by which those ends may be best attained. And can there be any doubt about them, that the ends are æsthetic, moral, and political instruction and culture, the means literature, philosophy, and history rationally and intelligently defined and interpreted ? That by literature should be understood the best poetry, the best rhetoric, the best criticism, the best of what is comprised generally in belles-lettres, to be found in the world ; by philosophy, not those departments of it which are polemical or esoteric and abstrusely technical, but where it bears directly on conduct and life; by history, neither mere antiquities nor mere chronicles, but philosophy as a Greek writer has so admirably defined it, teaching by example. Experience has shown, as the testimonies of distinguished scholars have corroborated, that such poems as the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Attic dramas, the Æneid, such criticism as Aristotle's Poetics, such philosophy as Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Ethics can be rendered as intelligible and instructive to the class of students we are considering as in the lecture rooms of Oxford and Cambridge. It is the more important that the ends to be aimed at in this scheme of instruction should be kept steadily in view, for perversion is easy, and perversion would be fatal. The people know what they want. A teacher who degraded literature into pabulum for philology, resolved history into antiquities, and reduced philosophy to a caput mortuum, processes with which academic youth are only too familiar, would soon be lecturing to
empty benches. What is needed is a return to the Greek conception of civil culture and a reaction against its hideous substitute in modern systems. With the Ancients its aim was to teach the citizen to learn how to live, both with respect to himself individually and with respect also to his fellow citizens and to the State, by the prescription of such studies as should best afford æsthetic, moral, and political discipline. With us the chief aim even in so-called liberal curricula is to impart knowledge, to cram the mind with facts without reference either to the practical value of the information acquired, or the educational value of the system and methods employed in imparting it. With them the criterion of the educational value of any given subject was the importance and usefulness of the knowledge attained, the intellectual discipline afforded by the process of attainment, the moral and æsthetic effect. By us it is estimated purely with reference to the convenience afforded by it for submission to positive examinational tests and for the facility with which as a subject of study it can become stereotyped for purposes of mechanical teaching and mechanical acquisition.
Next should come the encouragement and further expansion of that scheme which has long had for its objects all that I have been inculcating and which has already accomplished so much. As the University Extension Scheme is the pivot on which all that we are considering turns, as out of it has developed the whole question of higher popular education on the liberal side, its requirements, its possibilities, its prospects, and as out of it will develop whatever, either in the way of organisation or of direction, is likely to take form in the future, it is well that that system should not be misunderstood. For it is easily misunderstood, it is still more easily misrepresented. A scheme which provides for leisured ladies of society short courses of lectures on Tennyson or Ruskin, which supplies for mixed evening audiences, but in a far more attractive manner, what the old
readings used to supply, and which passes easily, in the same centre, from Astronomy to the Laws of Health, and from the Laws of Health to the Expansion of England, may well be regarded with suspicion if not with contempt by serious people. On this I have two remarks to make. First, that the accidental abuses, the defects and deficiencies of a scheme, as yet in an early stage of its development, are no criterion of the scheme itself; and, secondly, that what applied to it in its earlier stages does not apply to it now. Lectures of the character to which I have referred, and of which the opponents of the scheme have made 80 much capital, have never been recognised as a part of the real machinery of the Extension. They were imported into it on the plea of it being desirable that the movement should spread over as wide an area as possible. Speaking generally, they have always been opposed, or, if admitted, admitted only in relation to what may be called missionary and pioneering work. The minimum number of lectures on which in London an examination can be held-and it is with London only that we are here concerned—is ten; and the ten-lecture course may be regarded as the unit of the system. This implies that a student has attended, for ten consecutive weeks, a lecture of an hour's duration, has in addition received an hour's class teaching and has written to the satisfaction of the lecturer seven weekly papers. It must be admitted that if in any subject instruction and study ceased at this point, no very great progress could have been made. The Society have therefore urged the importance of providing for the continuation of the given study in a second course of ten lectures and classes to be supplemented in the following summer (for the session commences in autumn) by a short course of five or six lectures and classes, and on the result of the work in these combined courses sessional certificates are awarded. The conditions on which such certificates are granted are that the student should have passed in the examinations held on the two full courses, and should have attended and written papers to the satisfaction of the lecturer in the summer course. No reasonable person can doubt that such regulations as these
" The coarseness and vulgarity of fecling and taste, if not actually induced, yet left uncorrected, by such a system as the London B.A. Examinations often exceed belief. The study, or rather the 'getting up,' of poetical masterpieces, disassociated from instruction in ästhetics, foisted into a curriculum two-thirds of which are purely philological, and regarded, as these two-thirds are regarded, simply as matter for mark-making, as positive knowledge to be gauged by positive tests, is worse, and very much worse, than useless. The sort of thing which a system like this produces, in its elementary application, may be illustrated by the following typical questions and
Question. Divide In Memoriam into the cycles into which it falls, and give a detailed account of the substance of the first. Answer. Prol. Poet invokes Love and prays to be wise in wisdom of God. I. Love is to clasp Grief lest both be drowned. II. Address to an old yew-tree. III. Phantom Nature has no music. IV.VIII. Miscellaneous thoughts. IX.-XVI. Corpse is coming. XVII. Corpse bas come. XVIII. Reflections on ditto. XIX.-XXVIII. Various reflections, and Hope is coming. XXVIII.-XXX. Christmas rejoicings, and Hope has come. And if such a student does not get high marks he or she will bave good cause to complain.
à sufficient guarantee against superficiality, and that very considerable progress could be made in any subject of study pursued under these conditions. A young man or young woman who had, under such a teacher as Dr. Bernard Bosanquet, written twenty papers, attended twenty-five lectures and passed two examinations on Aristotle's Ethics and Plato's Republic might make no contemptible figure in the class-rooms of Oxford and Cambridge. And of such students the Extension can boast. But the Society has gone further than this. If the sessional certificates are designed to secure thoroughness in the study of a particular subject, what are called Certificates of Continuous Study are designed to connect and correlate the various subjects treated in the lectures and classes, and to formulate a three or four years' course of instruction. Four sessional certificates obtained in consecutive years entitle a student to the certificate referred to, but he must satisfy the following conditions. VOL. XLV-No. 265