HC Deb 09 May 1944 vol 399 cc1817-23
Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

I beg to move, in page 32, line t, at the end, to insert: (d) part time education for all male persons in the duties and obligations of citizenship and in the elementary functions of the Armed Forces of the Crown. (e) part time education for all female persons in home-craft, motherhood, and the responsibilities of citizenship. I must apologise to you, Sir, and particularly my right hon. Friend, for introducing at this late stage a manuscript Amendment, of which I have not had the opportunity of giving a copy to my right hon. Friend. May I point out that he dealt with this Amendment on the Committee stage when it was raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish). I did not hand my right hon. Friend a copy of the Amendment because I was in some doubt whether it would be called, and I did not wish to disturb the trend of his thoughts with an Amendment which would not be called. The purpose of the Amendment is to ensure that local authorities shall provide part-time education to male persons in the duties of citizenship and in the elementary functions of the Armed Forces, and to female persons in the duties of homecraft, motherhood and citizenship. This Clause provides that part-time education shall be given in technical, commercial, and art subjects; certain duties have been laid down in regard to worship and denominational teaching; but, so far, we have left out any specific reference to the teaching of citizenship and the ordinary elementary duties of defending our country, in the earlier and plastic ages, of youth.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes was to have been here to support me, but I do not at the moment see him, and I thought that this was a matter which my right hon. Friend might have included in the Bill originally. The future of the country depends upon whether our youth accepts its full responsibility towards its neighbour, its family, and the State. The Armed Forces—or the Defence Forces, as, looking further, I would call them—are a means, as I think my right hon. Friend will agree, of teaching adolescents self-discipline, reliability, and honesty. That is inherent in the teaching of the cadet movement in schools. As regards our girls, I think that every father and mother will admit that they and their children would have been very much better if they had been taught home-craft and motherhood. [Laughter.] This is not a thing to laugh at.

Mr. Butler

Does my hon. and gallant Friend mean mothercraft?

Sir T. Moore

I mean mothercraft and motherhood. There are many things attached to motherhood which many young girls do not understand; and I think education should be given to girls on the subject. I am certain that the future of our race, mixed though it be, would be far sounder if there could be general instruction given to local authorities, to insure that part-time education on these subjects shall be carried on. I realise that my right hon. Friend will be quite unable to give any assurance on this subject, which I have put to him as a bolt from the blue, but there are two courses which he could adopt. He could deal with the matter when the Bill is in another place, or he could himself issue instructions or guidance to local authorities on the subject. My remarks have possibly been somewhat disjointed, but I would like to assure my right hon. Friend again that there was no discourtesy intended or implied by me in not giving him warning of this matter. I know that he has the subject so much in mind that he will be able to reply without having the words before him in black and white.

Mr. Tinker

I beg to second the Amendment.

I do so in order that we may have a discussion upon it.

Mr. Logan

It seems a very funny thing to suggest that our educational system should include the teaching of mothercraft and motherhood by all and sundry, outside the home. I may be old-fashioned, but I think that the better way would be to have fewer girls on the streets late at night, and to let them be taught these subjects at home, instead of by an amateur at school. For an amateur to deal with so dangerous a subject would be deplorable. Some people may think that there is a great deal of ignorance on this subject, but there is not really much ignorance: what is wanted is more discipline. It is a subject which ought to be left severely alone by the schools. The mother and the father, or even the cleric or some friend of the household, might be able to deal with the matter; but if all and sundry are to be educated in this subject, a school of anatomy would be more suitable, so that they might be able to view the wonders of nature. Once, when I was a member of a hoard in the City of Liverpool, we had an appli- cation for the showing of a German film on the subject of procreation, in order to bring people into the cinemas to see the beauties of nature. I have seen so many people who want to see the beauties of nature running about wild, that I do not think that they have an intellectual objective. It would be better to keep girls off the streets at night, to have a curfew for them and for their mothers and fathers as well, so that they would all be in their homes at a proper time each night.

Mr. Cove

One could pursue this subject very extensively because the hon. Member opened up the whole meaning and purpose of education. In his tone and attitude, and in some of the expressions he used, I thought he was very near Hitler. I thought he expressed views which were rather totalitarian and repressive in their outlook and effects. I rose mainly to say how often I have observed, during the Debates on this Bill, that many Members know little of the actual work which is being done in the ordinary schools of this country. Mothercraft is taught; the girls have a fine training in domestic science; the boys and the girls have implanted in them a high sense of citizenship. The sense of citizenship is not destroyed in the schools. If there is any destruction of the sense of citizenship and its responsibilities, that destruction takes place outside the school walls. There are no finer institutions, there are no more purposeful institutions, in this country for the training of citizenship and patriotism, in the highest and best sense of the word, than the ordinary schools. If the sense of citizenship is destroyed, it is destroyed in the streets, it is destroyed in slumdom, it is destroyed in bad housing, it is destroyed, I believe, in the cinemas.

The schools are fighting against the extraneous forces that modem industry, based on profit-making, presents. Our cinemas are run not for the highest purposes of art, but to make profit. The children go there, and often what happens is that what has been built up in the schools is destroyed outside. My hon. and gallant Friend's Amendment cannot deal with that. I hope that one of the added purposes of our educational processes in future will not be the nursing and cultivation of a narrow nationalistic patriotism, but to make our children feel that they are citizens of the world and that the spirit of internationalism will percolate throughout our schools. The hon. Member emphasised, I think, what I would call the nationalistic aspect. I hope that Britain's contribution in the future will be increasingly on the international plane, in the unification of all men, and not the intensifying, as it were, of any narrow kind of nationalist feeling. The schools have done a great work, which is not fully appreciated by many hon. Members of this House. The schools have not put their goods in the window, and it would be a good thing if hon. Members like my hon. and gallant Friend, who are keen about the training of girls and boys in school, would go down to the common elementary schools, and to those magnificent senior schools, and see the work which they have done. I am quite sure that if my hon. and gallant Friend did so, he would come back with an intense appreciation of the contribution they have made to our national well-being in the past.

Mr. Butler

In the first place, I am in some difficulty about an Amendment which I have not seen, especially as we have already amended this Clause at an earlier stage. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member was here at the time, but it appears to me that his Amendment does not fit in with the Clause as amended by the Committee, and I must remind the Committee of what it is considering, because we must try to keep our minds on the facts. This Clause has now been amended to read: (a) full-tune or part-time education for persons over compulsory school age. Paragraph (b) will include the present paragraph (c), and, therefore, on those grounds, I do not think the Amendment would fall into place in this Bill. If it is the desire to disregard the Amendments made, and to attempt to insert those words in the as it was before it was recommitted, I would be in a position to discuss it, but I do find myself in some difficulty in that the Bill has been completely altered by recommittal to-day. On the understanding that I take the hon. and gallant Member's views as high-flown sentiment, I could give him an answer.

His point was raised previously on the Committee stage, and the matter was then fully discussed and an answer given on more than one occasion. What we attempted to say during the Committee Debates was that it was very difficult to try to lay down, for the hon. and gallant Member and his friends; the precise necessities to which he drew our attention. For example, in the case of military service for boys, I am quite convinced that military service for boys ought to be left to continue on the present basis. That is to say, it can be well organised by cadet organisations and other bodies outside school hours and outside the hours of the young people's colleges. If that happens, I think it is perfectly healthy, but I maintain that it is not healthy for it to be brought right into the middle of the school curriculum, or of the young people's colleges. Provided the hon. and gallant Member will accept my view that it is desirable for our boys and young men to train themselves in the military art for the defence of their country, and that it should properly be done outside school hours, I think we shall all be in agreement. But I do not think it necessary to insert words in the Clause.

On the question of citizenship, I find myself in this difficulty. There are varying ideas in a democracy on what citizenship ought to be. If we tried to impose the ideas of the Minister of Education, we should never get agreement on the Floor of the House. Therefore, we think it much better to approach adult education, with which this Clause deals, on the basis of the desires and aptitudes of those who wish to be instructed. The more I study adult education, the more difficult I find that subject to be, and the more certain I am that directions cannot be imposed from above, and that desires must be met for instruction in particular subjects. The educative process is to bring out the best in a boy or girl, and full provision is made for that in paragraph (b) of the Clause as redrafted in Committee earlier. If that be so, it would be our desire to meet the wishes of the hon. and gallant Member and to bring out from the child or adolescent, or, in this case, the adult, the best that is in him or her, and, if the hon. and gallant Member will accept that as a definition of what we have in mind, he will see that it goes a long way to bring out the best in the way of citizenship.

To deal with the last point of the hon. and gallant Member, I think the hon. Member who speaks with such conviction of his experience in Liverpool, was modest in not referring to the circular issued by the Hierarchy of his own faith which deals with the problem. The Board of Education has given its own lead in this matter. I, personally, think there are many agencies involved—not only the agencies of education. There is the agency of the home, to which I cannot make reference under this Clause, though I feel that it is most desirable that parents should exercise a right influence over girls when they are growing up, and that, I think, supports what we are trying to do in the schools. I must make it clear that, in the classes for adolescents, we are developing, to a very important extent, training in domestic science and mother-craft, and other matters which influence the lives of growing girls, and it is a subject which is becoming of more and more interest and greater status in the lives of these young people. It is now regarded as a subject which they all want to take, but it must not be forced upon them. I think the hon. and gallant Member may take it that the tendencies in our educational system are moving in the right way, and that the ideas he puts before us, and which I accept, are fully met by the scope of our educational system.

Sir T. Moore

I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for his sympathetic reply, and, in the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.