HC Deb 19 March 1941 vol 370 cc148-9
28. Mr. Wedgwood

asked the President of the Board of Education whether he will consider, at this appropriate time, commencing the teaching in all State schools of the virtues of freedom; whether local education authorities have been, or will be, circularised accordingly; and what steps he proposes to take?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)

I hope that the terms of my right hon. Friend's Question are not intended to suggest that the virtues of freedom are not at present inculcated in the schools. This is far from being the case. These virtues are the very basis of the conception of education embodied in the Board's handbook of suggestions for teachers. They underline the whole training and outlook in ways intelligible to children through the discipline and life of the school as well as through the ordinary classroom teaching. While the importance of liberty and the recognition of the responsibilities and privileges which it entails are in these ways brought constantly before the minds and into the lives of schoolchildren, there are other opportunities, such as discussions on current affairs and the celebration of appropriate anniversaries, of making a more formal and direct approach to the subject. I share to the full my right hon. Friend's sense of the importance of this matter, but I do not think that it lends itself to treatment by circular. It is essentially a teachers' problem, and teachers can be in no doubt as to the importance which the Board attach to it.

Mr. Wedgwood

Has my hon. Friend's attention been drawn to the valuable anthology on freedom which is on the bookstalls, and will it be possible to recommend it for this purpose?

Mr. Ede

I have received two free copies of the book in question, one direct from one of the joint authors. It is not the practice of the Board to recommend particular textbooks—that is part of the freedom that we are allowing local education authorities—but anything that can be done to bring children of appropriate ages into touch with the English literature on the subject of freedom would, of course, be regarded by the Board as a very appropriate step to be taken.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

Is that textbook looked upon as literature?

Mr. Ede

I do not wish to give the book any further advertisement in the presence of the Minister of Information, but I would say that, from my perusal of it, it appears to include all the classical utterances of the English-speaking races on this particular subject.