§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Collindridge.]
§ 12.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I want to ask the House to turn its attention for a few minutes from the matters of national defence which we have just been considering to a question which, I venture to hope, may in the long run have a no less important bearing upon our national wellbeing and the peace of the world, namely, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, commonly known as U.N.E.S.C.O., which is now holding its first general conference in Paris. This Conference will be meeting for some three weeks. Its objects were aptly described by M. Bidault, the President of the French Government, who as quoted in "The Times" of Wednesday of this week said:The organisation was concerned to raise moral force to its rightful place as the foremost element in the lives of men, to give uplift to 1195 the ordinary people of the world, and to seek out and encourage progress in every form.May I shortly remind hon. Members of the way in which U.N.E.S.C.O. came into being? Its constitution was worked out at an inter-governmental conference held in London in November of last year, which was attended by representatives of some 44 nations, of different nationality, different colour, different education and different religion. The conference was presided over by the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education. That conference hammered out in agreement their conception of the work to be undertaken by this Organisation, and in its principles are enshrined in the notable words of the preamble, where the Governments of the States attending the conference declare that:Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. Ignorance of each other's ways and lives has been a common cause throughout the history of mankind of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all to often broken into war. The great and terrible war which has now ended was a war made possible by the denial of the democratic principles of the dignity, equality and mutual respect of men. The wide diffusion of culture and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man. Peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of Governments would not be a peace which would secure the union, lasting and sincere, of the peoples of the world, and the peace of the world must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.These are vital sentiments to which we' should all subscribe. U.N.E.S.C.O. therefore aims at making a contribution to peace and security by promoting cooperation among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law, and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed to the peoples of the world without distinction of race, sex, language or religion by the charter of the United Nations. My object in raising this subject on the Adjournment today is in order to draw attention to the conference which is being held in Paris, to ask certain questions with regard to our own policy, and to make certain specific suggestions.
May I, in the first place, pay a tribute to my right hon. Friend for the circular, No. 127, which she has sent to local 1196 education authorities throughout the country drawing the attention of the schools to the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. and to the conference in Paris, and suggesting that this is an appropriate occasion for the schools to pay some special attention to the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. and to arrange talks, displays and some special study of international arrangements. I should like also to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the admirable publication which has been supplied for the use of schools in connection with this matter. I hope we shall be able to hear in due course that schools of all kinds throughout the country are cooperating with my right hon. Friend, and that her circular is meeting with a satisfactory response in the schools. I cannot help thinking that if we are to take the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. seriously, as it is obviously important that we should, it is a subject which requires a great deal of public attention. Unfortunately, the conference of November last, and indeed the conference now being held and the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. generally, have so far received scant attention in the public Press, but if this effort at international cooperation is to succeed it is essential that its efforts should be backed by a fully conscious and widespread public opinion.
I think we all deplore the absence from the U.N.E.S.C.O. conference of any representative of the Soviet Union. We hope that that absence will be but temporary. In my view the abstention of the Soviet Government must not, however, divert us in the slightest from the task of making our attempt at international cultural cooperation widespread and all embracing. We should not neglect any opportunity to increase our own knowledge of Russia, her history, her people, her institutions, her language, her art and culture, and the conditions of her people. Whatever reasons Russia may have for temporarily boycotting U.N.E.S.C.O., I would remind the House that the Russian people pay a great deal of attention to the culture of this country; they read our books, see our films, play our plays, and lake a great and continuous interest in the cultural activities of this country, which I cannot help feeling must, in the long run, be an important contribution towards understanding between our two countries. I would hope that is might be possible for my right hon. Friend to encourage an exchange of 1197 students between this country and Russia, in the same way as exchanges have been arranged between this country and other continental countries.
Broadly, the keynote of U.N.E.S.C.O. is to develop intellectual cooperation in three fields—education, science and culture, all of which are subjects which transcend national bounds, and are admirably fitted for international cooperation in the widest sense There are a number of ways in which the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. can be furthered. The Preparatory Commission has been at work, and I very much hope that its Report will be published in due course as a Parliamentary Paper, in order to enlighten the people of this country on the valuable work that has been done by that Commission. It would take too long for me to do more than indicate just a few of the ways in which we can make our own most specific and valuable contribution. First of all, we must seek to advance mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples through all means of mass communication; we should see that the radio and the films are consciously and deliberately harnessed to the task of spreading knowledge and friendship among the nations. I hope that as a result of U.N.E.S.C.O. every impulse will be given to popular education and the spreading of culture.
We are all delighted that the Parliamentary Secretary was able at Paris to lead the British delegation, with its large team of imposing and distinguished delegates and advisers. My hon. Friend at the opening session emphasised the long tradition of British cultural cooperation with other countries. We can do much by our own example, but I sometimes doubt whether, in our domestic social arrangements, and with all our economic and political preoccupations, we are stressing sufficiently the needs of education in this country. We cannot, in my view, stress too often that all our plans for improving the material and social conditions of this country will make little sense, unless we have it constantly in mind that our ultimate aim is to develop the personality of the individual, and provide children with a cultural background which gives them a better and richer opportunity to use their leisure and with definite standards and ideals to guide and discipline their lives.
In this context, I would refer to what was said by the Prime Minister when mak- 1198 ing his recent announcement about the continuation of national service. The Prime Minister stressed the fact that the period of compulsory training with the Forces would be used not only to turn out good soldiers, but also to turn out good citizens. We all know the difficulty of implementing some of the objectives of the Education Act—I refer in particular to county colleges. We hope that one day it will be possible to do a great deal in that respect, but at the moment what can be done is limited by the lack of material, the difficulty of putting up buildings and the shortage of teachers, apart from the difficulty of getting children to go to the county colleges even if they were available. Under the system of national service, which is now to become a feature of our institutions, we shall have the human material available so far as men are concerned, and it ought to be relatively easy to provide them with real education during that period of 12 or 18 months, because the buildings will be there, the teachers can be provided and classes can be formed. I may be in a minority, but I do not think that it matters much educationally if there is a gap between the time when a child leaves school and the time when he enters some other form of educational organisation. I hope that there will be considerable attention paid to this matter, because rightly used, I believe, with a good deal of forethought and cooperation between the Minister of Education and the Service Ministers, the educational possibilities of this period of national service are immense and can do much to soften, assuage and humanise the compulsory submission to military training.
I have no doubt that the most urgent task awaiting the attention of the U.N.E.S.C.O. and its constituent members is an attack on illiteracy. We who accept reading and writing, schools and wireless as commonplace, should remember that more than one half of the population of the world, 2,000,000,000 people, can neither read nor write. Do we appreciate to what extent ignorance has contributed to the wars of the past? One doubts whether wars would have occurred if ignorance had not been so widespread, and in some places so total. Even among the literate, how much international ill-will, jealousy and suspicion has been due to bad, biased history?
1199 U.N.E.S.C.O. can do a great deal to ensure the revision of textbooks. It would be tedious to give illustrations of the falsifications of history that has occurred, not only in their own text books but in those of other countries, and have resulted in generations of people growing up with assumptions about national rivalries which have either been false, or only very partially true. I understand that a suggestion was once put forward that it might be a good thing to require that, at any rate, in all European countries history should be studied only in textbooks written by Swiss scholars, or at any rate approved by Swiss scholars. Then there is the desirability of increasing the number of translations that are available of the classics, for the benefit of various countries of the world. Much will be done, I hope, in that direction as soon as the restrictions on printing and the preparation of books have been eased, with the blessing and indulgence of my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
Incidentally, I would hope that the fullest use will be made of our museums, art galleries, and collections, which contain, without regard to national frontiers, the masterpieces of many other nations. I would support the plea which has been expressed in recent days that all museums and art galleries should, wherever possible, be open not only on weekdays and evenings, but on Saturday afternoons and Sundays, when most people are best able to enjoy and appreciate them. In the scientific field, one could give numerous instances of the valuable work that lies ahead for U.N.E.S.C.O. to perform. There are many branches of scientific work—including medical and agricultural research—that ought to be carried out by an international body of some kind, because the problems involved are common to all countries, and the best results can only be obtained in that way. A great deal of preliminary work has already been done, I understand, and there is a publication called, "The Tasks and Functions of the Secretariats' Division of Natural Science", which will repay attention by those who are interested in this subject. I can quite understand that one of the dangers to U.N.E.S.C.O. may be in trying to attempt too much. It may well be wise to concentrate on limited 1200 objectives, and I hope the Minister will be able to tell us something of British policy with regard to the immediate objectives.
In conclusion, I would say that I have raised this matter in order to draw public attention to the Conference now in Session in Paris, and to enable my right hon. Friend to tell us something of her policy towards it. During the war, this country, not for the first time, held the moral leadership of the world. From the early days of 1940 onwards we were the admiration and envy of other nations, not because of our wealth, power, or material possessions, but because of the dauntless character which enabled us, against great odds, to champion the cause of human freedom. It may be that we are no longer first, or even second, among the great Empires of the world in point of size and military power, but I believe that this country does, and will, retain the moral leadership of the world, and that in this sphere of cultural activities will be able to set an example. I believe we shall be able to steer a middle course between the dark authoritarianism of Russia and the material obsessions that seem—perhaps only intermittently—to beset the course of American destiny. It is a commonplace to say that man's material progress has outstripped his moral and spiritual progress. If civilisation is to survive the balance must be redressed. Man's mechanical and scientific progress reminds us, with increasing urgency, of the essential unity of the human race. In the activities of U.N.E.S.C.O. I believe that this country can, and should, play a leading part, and make a contribution worthy of our past and commensurate with the vital problems of the future.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
The House is indebted to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) for daring to speak today about a subject connected with education. It is common knowledge to any of us who have been trying to do this for some time that education is not what is called a popular subject. On Friday, one hardly expects Members of the House to be here in large numbers, but the main and important point is that this question has been raised at the time when the U.N.E.S.C.O. Conference is sitting in Paris. What is even more important —but, in my opinion, regrettable—is that 1201 the Minister of Education is sitting on the Front Bench; in other words, that there is an opportunity for her to reply, if not in Paris, then in London.
I am rather worried about the speech we have just heard. I have expressed my gratitude to the hon. Member for raising this subject, but I must confess that I do not think he has quite come to grips with the problem. The fact is that nobody in the country, outside a few people in the teaching profession, and elsewhere, even know that there is a conference on in Paris.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The fact is that this subject has not caught on at all. More nonsense is talked about U.N.E.S.C.O. and cultural cooperation than on any other subject, and sooner or later we must face the realities of the question. I want to tell the Minister that I would be dishonest if I disguised my uneasiness at the recent developments in U.N.E.S.C.O., and I propose to say why. Earlier today, we were discussing imperial defence; now we are supposed to be discussing the defences of peace. The phrase which was used by the Prime Minister, about war beginning in men's minds, was a grand phrase, with far reaching implications. I believe that from the day that the words "culture" and" science" were added to "education" this body tended to dissipate its resources over too wide a field. My evidence for this is to be seen in the vast output of paper agenda, the complexity of the delegates and advisers and the mounting criticism which comes to my ears and evidence of which is to be found in "The Times" today. I quote:Today's discussions on the programme drawn up by the preparatory commission have been enlivened by a welcome note of realism introduced by three British Commonwealth delegates. Both Professor R. C. Mills (Australia) and Mr. Roberts (South Africa), while being appreciative of the care and imagination exercised in the preparation of the programme, signified their intention of pressing for a readjustment of its balance in favour of educational projects of a more realistic scale.There you have the voice of the delegates from the Commonwealth and if I know anything of the representatives from South Africa, New Zealand and Canada they will be pretty vocal in the next two days.
1202 Another great friend of mine has gone to Paris. He is the head of the teachers' organisation in America, and he has done more than any man in America to make U.N.E.S.C.O. possible. He has raised over 100,000 dollars from the teachers' own organisation. I wish I could quote from the lecture which he gave in the Sorbonne. It was a devastating attack on the agenda of the present Conference. I might say that not only in my own opinion but in the opinion of some of the American delegates—I know Dr. George Stoddard and Dr. Carr—and in the opinion of some of the South African, Canadian, and New Zealand delegates, U.N.E.S.C.O. has gone far too wide and is beginning to lose its original impetus.
I come to my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington, because he mentioned in his opening remarks the possibility of Russia coming in. He talked about an exchange of students. I wish to be very frank about this. There are a great many things which can be done in regard to cultural cooperation and exchange of students, but they can be done equally well by the Minister and by Sir Ronald Adams working together in close cooperation as they are. I was present this summer when we had 30 teachers from different countries at Dulwich College. That was all done by the British Council and the Ministry of Education. That was admirable work and I believe that that cooperation will grow and grow.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I have asked many times for Russian students to be invited. They refused to do it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
My hon. Friend has got me wrong. I have put forward for some years this idea of getting students from different countries and exchanging professors and all the rest of it, and I think it can best be done and it 'can only be done bilaterally. When we get into the wide field of U.N.E.S.C.O., I doubt very much whether it ought to take on such operative or executive work. What has happened in Russia? I see in today's paper that the Yugoslav delegate came in. What did he say? He, according to today's "Manchester Guardian," objected to the preparatory report of the secretariat on which the conference is basing its work on two grounds: first of all, the report, by declaring that U.N.E.S.C.O.'s programme was 1203the first comprehensive attempt to harness all the highest activities of man to a single unified purpose,wasdirecting U.N.E.S.C.O.'s activity towards the unification of the different national cultures according to a standard type, thereby destroying the specific character of these cultures.He went on:This tendency to direct from one centre the cultures of the nations, to proclaim a philosophy which is to be, so to speak, an official international philosophy, would result in imprisoning thought and the creative mind and in arbitrarily interfering with the development of culture.I do not agree with him, but I see the danger of trying to produce specific proposals for a new world philosophy. Actually the Yugoslav delegate objected to this attempt to produce a philosophy, because he says it is not one he agrees with. If U.N.E.S.C.O. is going to try in Europe, which has Roman Catholics and Communists and other distinctive creeds, to produce another creed, I foretell in this House here today that it will be doomed. It is quite hopeless, and it is not a job for U.N.E.S.C.O. to try to produce a new philosophy. There may be emerging, by the coming together of people of democratic mind, something in the nature of a new philosophy, but that is another question. To give the Director-General his due, in his original statement, also quoted in the "Manchester Guardian," he said:To promote peace and security U.N.E.S.C.O. must seek to prevent the separateness of nations as was the case with Fascists and Nazis and is always a danger under a semi-totalitarian or totalitarian regime.In other words, by trying to do too much already U.N.E.S.C.O. is getting itself, in my opinion, in to dangerous waters.
My criticism first of all is that the Preparatory Commission ignore too much the growing points which were already in evidence. What were those growing points? It ignored the original purpose of an International Education Office. It ignored too much the original pioneer work of the Allied Ministers of Education who sat under the chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). I do not agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman did when Minister of Educa- 1204 tion but I agree with the practical way he steered the Allied Ministers of Education. They were beginning to trust each other and to develop a common outlook. The "Manchester Guardian" again points out in a leading article this week that if this Conference finishes without dealing with the appalling problems with which it is faced in Europe it will have failed, even though it develops a new philosophy, even though it sponsors a great many experiments on the periphery.
I think, too, that the Preparatory Commission ignored too much the existing international bodies which were working in this field. In other words, criticism of the Preparatory Commission is that it started too much de novowithout taking into account what was already in existence. I was not in the country at the time. I was at that moment looking in the schools in Trieste, in Northern Italy, and Austria, seeing the appalling conditions with which those countries were faced and seeing the youth organisations still attached to political parties under our organisation and control. I have been seeing these problems in Europe on the ground, and when I came back it was to see the Preparatory Commission produce a massive agenda which had a far too ambitious programme for the practical world in which we are living. I endorse the criticism of my New Zealand, Canadian and American friends, who say we have got to get back to the original education issue.
Having registered in public the protest I have made in private and in print, let me come to the immediate Conference. What do we expect and what does my right hon. Friend expect to emerge from this Conference? Can she tell us what were the main points which the delegates from this country took with them to impress upon the Paris Conference? When I say "impress" I know that they have got to work in a team and to give and take, but what was the main burden of their specific recommendations? We have to remember that U.N.E.S.C.O. is part of a larger organisation, which is U.N.O. It is one of the specialised agencies to promote peace and security.
The question which we are all asking and which my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington is really asking, is, What part can national education systems play in this field? The hon. Member 1205 mentioned a very interesting point, in which I cordially agree with him, about national service, but it would not have required a U.N.E.S.C.O. in order to stimulate that conception. Each country can do it in its own way. Let me make one point which is an entirely negative one—and I think most people agree who have had anything to do with it—namely, that any outside interference in a country's educational system is most likely to produce exactly the opposite effect from the one which was intended.
May I give a positive example? I went to Paris last week to inaugurate an international organisation with some of my friends from Sweden and Czechoslovakia. We went to start an organisation in the field of the nursery school. It. was a most exciting experience. There were nine different countries, all talking a common language, although the differences between the countries were the ordinary, fascinating differences which exist. We drew up a questionnaire, with 150 questions, and it is going out to every country in the world, Russia included. We spoke to the U.N.E.S.C.O. officials, and we could not have had a kinder or better response. They said, "We will help you with space. We will possibly help you with a secretary. We will try to help you with a little finance." It seemed to me that there was one of the best things that U.N.E.S.C.O. can do—provide home, secretarial assistance and offices for existing and new international organisations of a serious character.
I hope that the teachers will come together without ideological differences. I was sorry to hear from my friend, Dr. Carr, that there is already a difference growing up between those who are attached to various world conferences and those who are not. It would have been wonderful to have the teachers all united in a common body. "Teachers of the world, unite," might well be one of the slogans of U.N.E.S.C.O. I do not see very much chance of it, because already the thing is bedevilled by ideological differences. I do not see much hope of agreement.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that in every sphere of education, not only in the nursery schools but in the field of youth, there is an enormous amount to be done; I hope that U.N.E.S.C.O. will call such a conference. I know they 1206 have various practical plans in their programme. I should like them to call a conference very early to deal with this important question. I do not think there is any country in which la jeunesse, la lutte scolaire, is not a burning problem, even if it is called by different names. The Austrians, the French, the Dutch, do not know what to do with it. They say, "What do you do with it in England?" I say, "We don't do very much in the way of regimentation," and they seem to like that. They say that in the resistance movement the scouts played a very important part—that history is going to be written shortly—therefore, they hope that we can give a lead ourselves on this matter.
When it comes to the universities, I am not quite so sure. I think there is the nucleus of an organisation formed by Allied professors during the war. They formed a regular association in this country. They have a secretariat. Why cannot we use what existed during the war as a basis on which to build up an international body for all those people who are teaching in universities? Everybody here, including Government supporters—whom I was so glad to see supporting the hon. Member for East Islington—will, I think, agree that unless we can get a group of people in this House who care about these matters nothing will happen at all.
Peace, to some of us,. does not merely mean the absence of war. I do not want to use any more of such platitudes, but the question I am asking my right hon. Friend today is: How can we give content to that phrase that peace is not merely the absence of war? The only suggestion I can make is a poor, lame one. It is that if we get people discussing internationally questions about which they know, and if we get lots of them doing it, we never hear much about ideological differences. At the conference at Paris last week, I did not hear from my Czech friends one sentence about ideological differences. All we heard about was the interesting problem with which he or she was concerned. The more that U.N.E.S.C.O. can be used as a clearing house, with a secretariat and a first-class personnel, the better. They have the information. Who can better help international organisations than they?
I have taken due note of the warning —the hon. Member for East Islington did not quite touch upon this problem—about 1207 the textbooks, This is a very easy question on the lip. There have been valiant attempts in the past to rewrite textbooks, but it is not very easy work. The only really important work has been done between the three Scandinavian countries. I was present at an inaugural meeting between the Americans and Canadians, the two people in the world who should have an understanding with each other. the stuff which appears in Canadian textbooks about the United States has to be seen to be believed. One would think that everybody in the United States was in Hollywood and everybody in Canada was an Eskimo, to judge from some of the children's textbooks. When it comes to textbooks about this country in America, there is some dreadful material.
I have been warned. I was reading last week the words of a very old friend of mine in America who, after the last war conducted the most searching examination into this matter of textbooks. He found it almost impossible to decide the right things to cut out, although just a little suggestion in an English text book can make a great difference "King Henry V" is now on the films. Is that a good emblem of international peace? It is good solid patriotism, whatever else it is. It is very difficult to start cutting Shakespeare in textbooks. We cannot teach citizenship so much as we can practise it in the schools. If we can get in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, France and other countries, schools where tolerance and understanding are part and parcel of the daily work in the class, if we can get a sort of little community where democracy is practised. I believe that is probably the best method, in the long run, of teaching citizenship and good international understanding.
I am very doubtful about young people being preached at on the subject of the League of Nations when they are still in their teens, as some people did before the war. I know there are practising teachers in this Chamber. I doubt whether you can do a great deal, even through the Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education did, for the first time In history, say that the League of Nations was a good thing. That was regarded as a bold step. Now the Minister has rightly commended U.N.E.S.C.O. to the schools and asked them to take an interest in it. She will be the first to admit that they must work it out in their own way, and 1208 that each teacher will find probably the best method.
If that is so, what is this all about? What is this conference going to achieve? Why is that Sir Philip Morris, Sir Ronald Adam and the permanent Secretary of the Board and distinguished people from all countries are meeting in Paris? I suggest that it goes back to the original phrase of giving some content to peace. During the war there was a very big reason why youth joined the A.T.C, and other organisations. One in five of the boys between 16 and 18 in this country were in the A.T.C. They were doing arithmetic in the evenings at the age of 16 and 17, which is unnatural for an English boy. They did it because they wanted "wings." The problem of the post-war world is to find an equivalent for "wings." We can make U.N.E.S.C.O. exciting. The Minister has done her best to put some inspiration into this, but it will require something more from hon. Members, the teaching profession and ordinary citizens. Why I wanted this country to be in the chair at Paris, is because I know—the phrase is pious but I use it for what it is worth—that the moral leadership is with this country, if it cares to assume it. The reason is that people say that in 1940–45 this little island achieved something and that there must be something behind it. They even say it is something to do with the education system. It may be due to some relics of religion. It may be something to do with our history of the past thousand years. Whatever it is, that is how people regard us.
I was proud to be in Paris because I knew that behind my visit were thousands of teachers who had helped to pay my fare there. In other words, it was a democratic movement from the bottom and not a few people sent out by Governments which might be totalitarian or anything else. These people believe in something much more than war. They believe in a creative way of living. What do I mean by that? I mean that if in an ordinary small school we have children being brought up to appreciate kindliness and tolerance, we are not going to have Fascist and Nazi Governments later on. An hon. Member said that an attack must be made on illiteracy. Thousands of people in the world cannot read or write, but that is not the only trouble. The Germans could read and write. It is not education, 1209 but the kind of education which is responsible.
We must get down to certain basic principles in education. It sounds almost nationalistic but the more I see and hear of it, the more I think we have got something here. There are weaknesses, but, by and large, we have got it. The rest of the world is looking on somewhat enviously. I would therefore like to say —not in any proud spirit but because we have something to give at the present moment — that U.N.E.S.C.O. — should stick to this basic educational idea from the nursery school to the university, and the basic principles of tolerance, freedom and fair play, which seem to be part and parcel of our system, and even make them spread to the Western democracies of Europe. Switzerland has, in some ways, the most regimented system in Western Europe. The children have not the spontaneity of the children of Poplar. In Sweden one can say that at twenty-five minutes to two every child is doing arithmetic. We cannot say that here, and I hope we never shall be able to say it. We have therefore got something which is of value. For that reason I believe that we can give U.N.E.S.C.O. something of value, and I am glad that we have had the chance to raise this question today.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Georǵe Thomas (Cardiff, Central)
I am very grateful to the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. Fletcher) for raising this all-important question of U.N.E.S.C.O. in the House this afternoon. I am deeply grateful that the senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Lindsay), who is honoured throughout the educational world for his sincerity and his idealism, has played his part in this Debate. U.N.E.S.C.O. is one of the noblest conceptions of the postwar world. It is unfortunate that not one in ten thousand of our people in this country can say what U.N.E.S.C.O. really means. I sometimes fear that there are hon. Members in this House who, if asked what "U.N.E.S.C.O." stood for, would indeed be sorely pressed to find the answer. My experience is that people say it has something to do with education, and their knowledge ends there. In my opinion the great speech which the Foreign Secretary made in this House recently on moving towards world government can be 1210 linked up with the establishment of U.N.E.S.C.O. We need to create in the minds of ordinary people everywhere a loyalty to some ideals which are above national boundaries.
I am glad to know that at Paris the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education has already been recognised by the other nations, and given an office of responsibility, showing that these other countries appreciate the importance of the contribution which Britain has to make. On the Continent of Europe today are devastated countries, where the education service has been destroyed during the war. There is the problem of young people who for six years, have been taught that to disobey the government of the day, and to commit crime, was honourable because they were doing it against the occupying Power. Those young people have now to be moulded into citizens who will work in a democratic community. That is not impossible. I believe that the British delegation at U.N.E.S.C.O. ought to be able to help our colleagues from other countries.
Many differences divide the nations at this time, but perhaps none more than the way in which history has been taught in the schools of the different countries. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities has pointed out the false picture which is given in regard to Canada and America. I hope that there will be no attempt either by the Ministry of Education in this country or by U.N.E.S.C.O. to interfere with the textbooks in the schools. If there is one subject upon which the teaching profession is acutely sensitive, it is that of governmental interference with the actual textbooks from which the children are taught. Here we must have confidence in the teaching profession, and I rejoice to know that the teaching profession of this country is internationally minded. The teachers of Great Britain, particularly those of the National Union of Teachers, are to be found, each summer in the normal days of peace, taking part, with their colleagues from, the teaching profession of other countries, in these international conferences.
If we are to assail illiteracy on the Continent of Europe and in other parts of the world, I suggest that the teacher must be recognised as a key person. Unhappily, I believe that there are countries in 1211 Europe today where the teacher's appointment is a political appointment pure and simple, based on whether or not he accepts the ideology of the Government of the day. Therefore, it will not be easy for U.N.E.S.C.O. to be as effective as it ought to be, in the rehabilitation of education in these devastated countries. I ask therefore, that our Minister shall bring pressure to bear on U.N.E.S.C.O. that some consideration shall be given among the assembled nations, to the question of a free and easy interchange of practising teachers. We have it with America; we have it with various parts of the British Empire, but I would like to see our teachers going to Poland and Rumania, Bulgaria and Russia. I believe it would be in the interests of world peace and of the schools, to have teachers with this broad background of travel. Nothing can be more damaging for a school than to have a teacher whose horizon is limited and who knows little or nothing of the conditions of life of people in other countries. Through U.N.E.S.C.O. the Ministry of Education can now try to arrange with the Governments of Europe for our teachers to have this free and easy system of transfer.
One word, before I sit down, on the question of Russia. It is unfortunate that that great country is not entering in a cooperative spirit into this idealistic section of U.N.O. For, unless U.N.E.S.C.O. succeeds in creating a new spirit amongst the peoples of Europe, then all that Russia stands for, and all that we stand for, will be once again in jeopardy. I wish it could be found possible for us to proclaim what we believe to be the ideal aim of U.N.E.S.C.O. and thus, perhaps, get Russia to come in. I believe that the supreme aim of U.N.E.S.C.O. must be to give to the world a community of people who believe in brotherhood, who believe in service, who believe that loyalty to humanity is more important than loyalty to their nation. If U.N.E.S.C.O. can work to this end, then verily this age will be regarded in days to come, as a turning-point in history.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. John Edwards (Blackburn)
I was very glad when I heard that my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) had chosen the subject of U.N.E.S.C.O. for this discussion. While 1212 I am very grateful to him for raising the subject, I thought that he had a somewhat over ambitious view as to the possibilities of this organisation. Nevertheless, to have a discussion today is something, and I cannot help comparing the discussion which we are having, with the kind of discussion we should be having in this House were we discussing, for example, the International Trade Organisation, or some other organ of the United Nations. I hope that the Minister will use every possible occasion to bring before the House the work of U.N.E.S.C.O. in the hope that we shall, in due course, build up a much greater interest in U.N.E.S.C.O. than we have at present.
I find myself in substantial agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) but of course that is as it should be, since the hon. Gentleman has the honour to represent me in this House. I think that without over emphasising the possibilities before U.N.E.S.C.O. we nevertheless cannot underestimate its importance. The museum of political curiosities is full of international organisations that were perfect but perished because they tried to do too much. That is not to say that an organisation like U.N.E.S.C.O. cannot be a very powerful influence in the world, but it must keep its feet very firmly on the ground, and do the practical jobs that are really within its compass.
U.N.E.S.C.O. is important, first, because it provides an official organisation by which leaders in education, science and culture can be brought together regularly. Before I became a trade union official, I was in the field of adult education and I know what a great benefit can come to the adult educational movement if, under official auspices, we have regular consultation between leaders of the movement throughout the world. Secondly, it provides a means for tackling some of the urgent and immediate tasks. I will not begin to detail them and will only make one point about them, namely, that if we have reached agreement through U.N.E.S.C.O. on various jobs, such as the restoration of educational systems, the making of a free flow of information easy, or the diffusion of means of mass communication, then whatever agreements are reached can only be made effective to the degree to which the Governments 1213 of the participating countries really put their weight behind them. As my hon. Friend has already said, it is not a matter merely for the Ministry of Education. May I take one example? I am particularly interested in Austria, and I am desperately anxious that at the earliest moment possible there shall be a greater interchange between Austria and Britain in every way. This depends, however, not only on the Ministry of Education but on whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will allow the credits, whether the President of the Board of Trade will make it possible for books to be bought, and so on. If U.N.E.S.C.O. is to be successful, this is a task which calls for the undivided support of the Government, and it is not one where they can leave any one Minister to carry the whole burden.
Thirdly, U.N.E.S.C.O. provides the opportunity for varying views of life to be expounded, and the possibility that in some limited way agreement may in the end be reached on the principles to guide its long-term work. I want to devote a few minutes to this point, for, while I am not very hopeful of agreement being reached, I am certain that any attempt 1o formulate a systematic philosophy for U.N.E.S.C.O. will fail, and the most we can hope to do is to reach some agreement about general principles, perhaps some idea of elementary human rights, which may help U.N.E.S.C.O. in its long term work.
May I take just two examples to show what I think to be perhaps the greatest difficulty confronting the organisation? The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities has already quoted from the speech made yesterday at the U.N.E.S.C.O. Conference by the Yugoslav delegate, as reported in the "Manchester Guardian." In that speech, the Yugoslav delegate said—this is not the part which the hon. Member quoted:No one can deny that in the history of humanity all progress is linked with materialist thought and that only dialectical materialism has been able to confirm by living experience scientific principles. Is it possible to proclaim as official for the United Nations organisation a speculative philosophy which announces itself as a philosophical Esperanto and in consequence rejects a philosophy which has become for millions of men in all countries the way to look at the world.I find myself in agreement with the Yugo- 1214 slav delegate, if he is at all right in supposing that U.N.E.S.C.O. has rejected this particular view. I should find myself in the greatest possible opposition to him, however, if I thought that he was implying that the philosophy of dialectical materialism should be the one which U.N.E.S.C.O. should adopt. The truth is that here we must have a free field and no favour. If we do not have that we shall fail.
The second example I would quote is drawn from an article written in the "News Chronicle" last Monday by Mr. Ritchie Calder, in which, having said that U.N.E.S.C.O. cannot be based on any of the religions of the world or on any of the politico-economic doctrines, he went on to say:It has to be what Dr. Huxley has defined as scientific humanism, global in extent and evolutionary in background.Remembering that Dr. Julian Huxley once wrote a book called "Religion without Revelation," and considering that scientific humanism in the hands of certain people is as much ideological as any of the politico-economic doctrines, I think there will be the greatest possible obstacle placed in the way of cooperation by everybody if the secretariat of U.N.E.S.C.O. ever take a tendentious or propagandist line. Certainly, Christian opinion throughout the world while asking for no special favours, would not look with any kind thoughts on an organisation which from the word "Go" ruled out the testimony which the whole Christian Church preaches. Dr. Huxley himself seems to have recognised the difficulty, for in the same issue of the "Manchester Guardian" today, he is reported to have said:although the reconciliation of the main conflicting ideologies in such a common world philosophy must obviously occupy an important place among the long range aims of U.N.E.S.C.O.—which I may say is far too ambitious—I personally believe it will be difficult to make much immediate progress in this direction by a frontal attack and that more will be achieved by securing the cooperation of peoples, nations and individuals representing different ideologies on specific common tasks.The real burden of what I want to say then is that I think we must take for granted all this great difference of view we find among the people who make up U.N.E.S.C.O., an even greater differ- 1215 ence later, if, as I hope, one day Russia comes in. We must take for granted a great diversity on final aims. I think the way forward is to tackle the immediate jobs, because I believe that if people work together on quite concrete problems, they learn, in due course, how to discuss, in charity and amity, their varying viewpoints about life at large. There must be freedom for the rival views of fife to be expressed; that is essential in U.N.E.S.C.O., and then we shall see what comes from it. Granted this, I believe that U.N.E.S.C.O. can become a great organisation for intel-lectural cooperation, and if it attracts, as I hope it will, the best men of our age, it can be a powerful influence for good in this perplexed world. If it is to be that, it must be our responsibility, as Members of this House, to put forward the discussion of U.N.E.S.C.O. on every possible occasion, and to press upon our Government at all times, the need for them to do everything they can to ensure that this important organisation is a success.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I followed with great interest what my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. J. Edwards) had to say. I agree with him wholeheartedly. It is perhaps unusual to be able to follow my hon. Friend immediately, if one sits on this side of the House, but for the last hour, with the exception of the hon. Gentleman opposite who has been acting as "duty boy," it has been our privilege to conduct this Debate on our own. The ideological considerations which inspire most of the members of U.N.E.S.C.O. cannot be reconciled in that organisation; indeed, probably they can never be reconciled in any organisation. I agree that it would be extraordinarily stupid of us to seek to impose some collective philosophy upon the nations who make up this organisation. There is hardly need for me in this House to go into the many ways in which we have derived our philosophy, but when one goes through Russia—and I want to refer in some detail to that country this afternoon —one sees clearly how philosophy there dates from the middle of the 19th century. There is no philosophy in Russia before Karl Marxs Their philosophers are Marx, Lenin, Engels, and now Stalin, and the 1216 philosophy of dialectical materialism which forms the basis of their textbooks, the basis of their education, and which inevitably, therefore, colours the whole approach to the problems of the present time of every man and woman who grows up in Russia, can never be reconciled with the philosophy of one in this country who learns from the textbooks we have here or the student in America who learns from American text books.
That is not to say that 1 believe, as apparently the Leader of the Opposition does, that we are, therefore, bound to head for a clash. Indeed, I believe nothing of the sort. I am one of those who have always believed in the possibility and desirability of an accommodation with the U.S.S.R. I think that if U.N.E.S.C.O. carries out its job, it can be one of the means of providing a bridge. Those who remember, as we all do, the history of the League of Nations, must be aware that one of the successful organisms of that organisation was the I.L.O.I see no reason why U.N.E.S.C.O., if it confines its job to things it can do, and leaves undone the things it cannot really touch, should not be just as successful in its way.
I agree very much with what the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) said about the need for exchanging students bilaterally. My trouble is that we do not seem to be able to get them exchanged. After I had been to the U.S.S.R., in company with some dozen young people I raised with the Minister of Education the question of bringing a similar number from Russia to this country for a return visit and letting them see institutions over here, as we saw them in their country. Two months went by and I had no answer. I am a very patient and long-suffering man, but I think that two months was a little unreasonable. When I wrote and asked what was happening, I was told that there was no trace of the papers. There are only two reasons why there should be no trace of the papers. Either there is an inefficient filing system or the papers had gone to another Department. I suspect that it was for the latter reason that my right hon Friend could not reply to me.
When I raised the matter again, after some more considerable delay, I was informed that, because a delegation of the Supreme Soviet was expected to come to 1217 this country in the near future, it was not considered that we ought to invite another delegation at the present moment. Why cannot we have two delegations from the Soviet Union at the same time? Is there something wrong about it? Must we only have a dozen people at one time from that country? I do not believe that my right hon. Friend accepts that view at all. I suspect that the reason lies in another Department, and that, if I made three guesses, I do not think I would be far wrong in indicating where responsibility lies. If that is the case, why this nonsense of saying "Oh dear, we must be careful with the Russians. We must not accept more than one delegation at one time. Let us get one of them sent back, before we talk of inviting someone else here"? That is no basis on which to start international friendship, and I am sure the right hon. Lady will have the support of all hon. Members on these benches if she goes to the other Department concerned, and tells them that this House thinks that that kind of talk is nonsense.
I leave that subject and pass on to another job which U.N.E.S.C.O. could very well do in a limited field. Anybody who has travelled through devastated Europe must have been aware of the extreme shortage of textbooks and materials of any sort for the use of students. I had the good fortune to see Kiev University, which suffered from the Germans, and also Stalino Technical Institute, where some 3,000 Russian young people are working and learning together in incomparably bad conditions. I think our students in this country have no idea of the conditions in which these students have to work. It is a great credit to them that they are going to it with such enthusiasm and zest. The point to which I want to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend is the terrible shortage of textbooks in these places. I found that seven or eight students were sharing one textbook, and that, by combining the resources of the universities in the U.S.S.R. which were not touched by the war, they have been able to provide a few thousands with which they are struggling and working in extremely difficult conditions. Is it not possible for U.N.E.S.C.O. to take over the mobilisation of textbooks and the mobilisation of learning of this sort, and reproduce it, in some form, for the benefit of students throughout the world? I Vol. 430 1218 am sure this is a limited field, in which they might very well work, and which would yield great results in the future.
Another thing to which I would like to refer is the possibility of U.N.E.S.C.O. handling something in the film field. That great medium has not been thoroughly explored yet as regards sending films other than those of an amusement character from one country to another. We have, of course, our imports from Hollywood, but they are not the sort of thing I have in mind. What I have in mind is that U.N.E.S.C.O, might well turn its attention to the prospect of turning out, in a limited way, films of this sort which would acquaint the young people of all nations with the work of young people in other nations. This is a job that needs doing. There is practically no exchange of films between Russia and ourselves at the present time. Mr. Rank has been very forward-looking in this matter, and has, I believe, got half-a-dozen of his films into the Soviet Union, though there are trading difficulties and difficulties of getting roubles out of that country, which make it a very difficult matter, on a commercial basis, to accept our films. Is there any reason why U.N.E.S.C.O. should not take a hand in a limited job of this sort and make films which would be internationally acceptable and internationally exchanged?
I have found, in the few countries in which I have travelled since the war, that, as the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities has said, England is looked to as a country which has a culture and tradition, which means that she has something to offer to the other nations, particularly the nations of Europe. I do not know whether that is true of the nations east of Suez. I think that we have to be a little careful when we talk about them. My travels during the war, at His Majesty's expense, led me to the conclusion that there is another nation which is assuming the moral leadership East of Suez, and that is the Soviet Union. There are many people throughout Asia who are looking to Russia today, and I believe the number is increasing. What I think we have to be careful about is being placed in the position where, in a conflict between East and West, we are technically on the side of right, whereas the moral right is on the side of the Russians, and that is likely to happen.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will give an example, as my hon. Friend asks me. The Azerbaijanians on the Persian side of the border envy those on the Russian side. They are not concerned with problems of intellectual freedom—these simple tribesmen. They are concerned with having a certain amount of land which they can cultivate, with taxes which are not arbitrary, but which are fixed, regularly collected and not exceeded. They are concerned with having their children decently educated, and intellectual abstractions do not concern them What troubles me is that throughout Asia, increasingly we are finding that the ordinary simple man is more and more concerned with the advantages which the Soviet can offer him, and, to that extent, we are losing, if, indeed, we have not already lost, our moral leadership there. Because of all these things, because we cannot reconcile dialectical materialism and the philosophy of our country, which we believe to be the best for a civilised and educated community, it would be exceedingly wrong of U.N.E.S.C.O. to risk a breakdown in its functions by trying to synthesise some philosophy out of the conflicting ideologies of all the peoples of the world. Let us confine our work in U.N.E.S.C.O. to the simple straightforward things which we can do, to doing things rather than thinking things. If we can do some of these things, such as mobilising textbooks and trying to create films, it would bring the students and peoples of all nations more closely in touch with each other. The basic bond of friendship which will thus be formed will make it easier for the politicians to get together later on.
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Miss Ellen Wilkinson)
Like other speakers in this Debate, I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) has done a service to U.N.E.S.C.O. in giving us the opportunity to consider some of its implications in the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of the House of Commons on Friday afternoon. It is true that physically it has been a onesided Debate, but it has not been mentally so, even though it has been conducted very largely by my own hon. Friends. I would like first to run through the points that 1220 have been raised in the various speeches, before giving some of the information which the House might like to hear about U.N.E.S.C.O. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington rightly called attention to the scant amount of room allotted by the Press to the meeting of the Preparatory Commission that was held about a year ago in London, to the various meetings' of that Commission held in London during this year, and to the inaugural conference of the whole organisation in Paris. Of course, as anyone who has had anything to do with newspapers knows, no international conference is news unless there is a row of some kind. The most interesting point about the first conference of the Preparatory Commission last November was the wonderful sense of cooperation and unity in diversity that was shown by the men and women who came together, some of them almost directly from the battlefield, from the Maquis, from the concentration camps and from the belligerent armies, and who themselves had been teachers and scientific workers, who were able to talk in the freedom that London offered.
Russia was not at that conference, a fact which we greatly regretted, but we were very glad that the countries closely associated with Russia—the Czechs, Poles and Yugoslavs—were as ardently cooperative as any of the other nations represented there. We showed our regret that Russia was not there by keeping a place on the Executive Council for her in case she should decide to join us. However, as various Members have pointed out, the necessary condition for getting news value, in an international conference has now been injected into the conference at Paris. I do not want to talk about "his master's voice," but, at any rate, a voice has been raised and the Press have said, "Ah, here is a possibility of a row in an international conference." Not that I am blaming the Press by any means. It immediately gives an interest, as well as a news angle, and it is important that this factor which represents a real clash of ideologies and a clash of ways of looking at things in the world should be argued out. The only thing I say is: Do let us come together and argue it out. There is no point in bringing down any iron curtain between mind and mind.
The hon. Member for East Islington asked if we were going to publish a report in the form of a White Paper. We did 1221 publish the Charter as a White Paper immediately after the Preparatory Commission met last year. I do not know whether we shall be able to publish the full report of U.N.E.S.C.O. as a White Paper—that may not be possible—but I can promise that, either as a White Paper or as a Ministry pamphlet, there will be some workable summary and report of what has happened in U.N.E.S.C.O. this week.
My hon. Friend also introduced, almost as a side issue—although, like him, I do not consider it is a side issue—the question of education during the conscript year or 18 months. It is a matter with which I am specially concerned. I have already raised it with the Service chiefs and with the Ministers responsible for the Service Departments, and I am sure that they will welcome the cooperation of the Ministry of Education. The Army has already done much to make preparations on these lines, and we are in contact with them in the making of other preparations. After all, there is no such chance as when young men, often rather bored, are gathered together in large masses, to get them in smaller groups and do what has not been possible to do before. When children leave school at 14 they close their books almost with a bang and think they need not bother about education any more, because to them education means school lessons. I am concerned that they should be interested in using the mind as an instrument. There is no doubt that a similar organisation did great work in maintaining the morale of the fighting men, and by this means we could do a great deal to make the conscript young soldier realise that he is not just dragged away from his home and his own pursuits to serve an impersonal State which does not care for him at all, but that the State offers him, as a citizen, an opportunity of learning why it is necessary to defend his chosen way of life. We only hope that this will not be necessary.
The question of illiteracy has been raised, and I can assure my hon. Friend that that matter has received attention from the very first—in fact, almost before the birth of U.N.E.S.C.O., at the Council of Allied Ministers which my predecessor initiated in 1942. They regarded the liquidation of illiteracy as the most important task which any international organisation could undertake. There, of course, we might have a great deal to 1222 learn from the Soviet Union which has done a tremendous job in liquidating illiteracy in the Siberian plains and far away from any of the more cultural centres. Various hon. Members have raised the question of text books and how they should be written. That, again, is one of the matters which immediately concerns any body of intellectual workers. There is not very much difficulty about text books on mathematics, although I was very interested when I was in Germany a year ago to discover how the most elementary book for children in what we would call standard I, or even younger, was compiled. It gave a list of things which had to be added up, such as how many fighting men, bayonets and bombs were needed. I remember looking at the pictures and thinking that for a child of six to be accustomed to looking at pictures of men throwing bombs was not the right way to begin an ideological education.
Of course, the question of the teaching of history goes much deeper. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Cardiff (Mr. G. Thomas) urged that we should be very careful to ensure that we did not have text books which were dictated from above. There is certainly no question of that in this country, though I, as Minister of Education, would like to encourage more modern textbooks. I was rather horrified to discover in a school I visited, textbooks which dated back to about 1880. I think the most promising method was begun under the old and much despised Weimar Republic, when they got together German and French historians to consider the history textbooks in the schools; not to write the same kind of textbooks, and not even because they found they could not agree on the interpretation of history, but so that they could make an honest statement of difference. I think that would be a wonderfully interesting way of teaching history. As I said in my broadcast speech we could have a German, a French and an English boy reading about the battle of Waterloo, and except for the name and date they would not know they were reading about the same incident in history. It would add much to the interest if they were told, "The Frenchman says this about the battle of Waterloo; the Ger- 1223 man says this," and we could even come nearer home. That is the kind of thing U.N.E.S.C.O. could do creatively in encouraging that kind of spirit I can assure doubting minds that no one is suggesting the history books should be written by U.N.E.S.C.O.
However, I may point out that this is not the only philosophy, for a British citizen—and a very well known one, Hilaire Belloc—wrote a long essay on the Peninsular War, without even mentioning either the Duke of Wellington or the British Army. It was an interesting essay, and it does show that there may be two outlooks; and that perhaps a man or woman can be a really satisfactory internationalist only if he or she has first learned about their own country, and to reverence its traditions. A general criticism was levelled in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities—if I may say so without offence, one of the most interesting speeches I have ever heard him make, of the many interesting speeches he has made in the House. He said he would like to call attention to the fact that Australia, Canada, America and New Zealand, among others, said that U.N.E.S.C.O. was attempting too wide a programme. As Chairman of the Preparatory Commission, which has had a number of meetings during the year and which towards the end was discussing these programmes, which would be put before the conference in Paris, I can only say that if any of those countries wished to raise the matter I would rather they had done' so earlier, when it would have been possible to cut down the agenda.
At each meeting of the Executive Preparatory Commission, and of our Commission itself, the difficulty I found was that everybody wanted to add yet another subject to what was to be discussed. Referring to the question whether U.N.E.S.C.O. is, in fact, trying to get some kind of standardised philosophy, I wonder if the House would bear with me, in order that we can deal with this accusation before it gets too wide, while I read a very short paragraph which has really caused the trouble:This width and multiplicity of function produce a first impression of diffuseness and scattering in the U.N.E.S.C.O. programme. But, granted the width and multiplicity of objective inherent in U.N.E.S.C.O.'s title, and laid down in its Constitution, it was in- 1224 evitable. Furthermore, second thoughts show that a real unity of purpose exists behind this multiplicity of detail, and that unity of purpose is based upon the unity of human mental life. U.N.E S.C.O. is concerned with all the higher mental activities of man, from abstract reasoning and pure science on the one hand to music, painting and architecture on the other; and is concerned with them in all their different spatial manifestations in different parts of the world, and in all their tempotal manifestations in the manifold course of history.Hon. Members who had to write Election addresses could possibly have expressed those sentiments more simply. I thought it was important that I should read that, and put it on record, in order to show that really no attempt at all was being made to get some kind of standardised philosophy.
I may say, it causes a mild amount of amusement that the accusation of standardisation should be made from the most ironclad standardised philosophy the history of philosophy has yet known. What we are trying to do—and I think this is tremendously important—is to get people together in the beginning, to talk about their difficulties. That is why we welcome what the Yugoslav delegate said, that we should put these things on the table and argue them out. I suggest to the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities that the very beginning is not the time to narrow the concept. There should be a great deal more, so to speak, Second Reading Debates, as we would say here, about the general situation. We are going to narrow down—and I will deal with it in a moment—certain practical tasks, where it is a question of money, and people, and things to be done immediately. But on the general question it is very much better that we should have the largest possible number of people interested in intellectual matters coming together and talking round a subject, when the lines of inquiry will soon become crystallised.
I do not really feel that the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities—who himself has had so much to do with the teaching profession, and still has —can think it is an easy thing to have an essential unity of teachers at the present time. There may be a slogan. "Teachers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chalk," or "your pension" if you like, but it is not quite as simple as that. After all, teachers are 1225 citizens of the countries in which they live, and share its prejudices as well as its interests—and it is essential that they should do so. The question was raised by the hon. Member for Central Cardiff and by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), that there should be an interchange of practising teachers and an interchange of students. As regards the first, this country and America have taken the lead. As the House knows, we have sent teams of teachers to America, just as we have had teams of American teachers here; and we have also had an interchange with the Dominions. We are hoping to get a limited interchange with France very shortly. There is a certain amount already, but not quite to the extent that we would like. We have had a considerable interchange as regards the children, not only with France but with Holland and other countries, and I am anxious to extend that as far as I can.
These exchanges must be reciprocal. We are perfectly willing to have a group of young people of a very similar political complexion go to the U.S.S.R. and bring back stories of what they see there, but really the exchange the other way is not quite as easy as my hon. Friend seems to think. It is a fact that an official invitation has been extended by the Foreign Office and the Government to the Supreme Soviet to send an official delegation here, and I will not do more than say that until that official delegation takes place, it docs not lie with us whether another official delegation of students and teachers can take place.
§ Mr. Callaghan
There are two points that arise out of what my right hon. Friend has said. The first is that the delegation that went from this country was not of a similar political complexion. It was drawn from young people's organisations, the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., and many different non-political organisations. The second point is that the Russians cannot possibly refuse to come if they do not get an invitation, and my question is, why not give them an invitation now? It is over six months since our delegation returned. Why not return the compliment straight away?
§ Miss Wilkinson
I shall be very pleased when it is made possible to welcome a delegation of Russian students and teachers in this country.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Will my right hon. Friend tell me when I ought to repeat my request to her? When will the time be opportune for such a delegation to be invited?
§ Miss Wilkinson
I shall be very pleased to tell my hon. Friend. I now come to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. J. Edwards). The hon. Member said, very rightly, that the success of U.N.E.S.C.O. depended very largely not on the conference, but on the amount of weight which the Governments concerned were prepared to put behind their delegations. I assure him that from the beginning U.N.E.S.C.O. has been very sensible about this, and we— I say "we" because I am speaking for the moment as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission—have always maintained that there was no use in having people just because they were good educationists or men of good will, unless they came there definitely as the delegates of their Governments. At the same time we were anxious that U.N.E.S.C.O. should have wide roots in the countries concerned. We have here the example of the International Labour Office which, when the rest of the League of Nations rather faded away, has remained a very strong and practically unkillable plant. That is because it had its roots in the organisations of workers and employers in the different countries. We have tried, in the case of U.N.E.S.C.O., to do the same thing through national cooperating bodies, in the different countries, of all the various organisations that are concerned with education, science, and culture.
I could not agree more that one of the great problems we have to face in the world today is the appalling destruction of all kinds of educational and scientific apparatus. No one can blame any other country about this. In the scientific laboratories at Bonn and Heidelberg, lenses of almost priceless value were smashed not by bombs, but in the course of the fighting. That is one of the necessary corrollaries of war. Those things are most difficult to replace. We are seeing to what extent we can use the great inventions of science to shortcircuit some of the more obvious shortages. There is the 1227 world shortage of paper which makes for difficulty in getting books printed. We are hoping here that the invention of the microfilm may help. There is some interesting work being done on that in London which I should be very glad to show to hon. Members if they are interested in the microfilming of scientific books and of articles appearing in scattered scientific journals throughout the world. By these means it is possible to get within a small attache case the whole of the written work extant on some particular subject. What happens is that instead of having to print on almost non-existent paper vast masses of books that have been burnt—as five million books were burnt on that awful night in London—one has a' small frame with a glass in it, the student sits at the little glass frame, and the microfilm is magnified, and he can read the book in that way. There are tremendous possibilities in this which U.N.E.S.C.O. is exploring.
The problem of apparatus, and even of keeping scientists alive—what one might call relief and rehabilitation in the scientific and educational world in the widest sense—is one of very great difficulty. Last year, all that work could be very much better done by U.N.R.R.A., and the Americans felt, I think wisely, that it was no use having two relief organisations under the United Nation. Therefore, we came to an agreement with U.N.R.R.A., by which a certain trust fund should be administered by U.N.R.R.A, and a great deal of good work was done particularly in Eastern Europe. Much of that work would normally come to an end this year when U.N.R.R.A. comes to an end. One of the things that will be discussed at very high level in Paris is the way in which U.N.E.S.C.O. can now take over the relief and rehabilitation work being done by U.N.R.R.A. when that organisation is closed down.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
The right hon. Lady has spoken about a decision at high level in Paris. Presumably the highest level will be the most important official there. What about the decision on the financial side?
§ Miss Wilkinson
One has to remember— there is no need for me to say this to my hon. Friend—that U.N.E.S.C.O. is not an independant and separate body, but 1228 is a specialised agency of the United Nations, and therefore, its budget is considered by the Social and Economic Council of the United Nations. What I meant by a high level in this sense was that it was a matter for the informed and instructed delegates of the Governments themselves to discuss in Paris—not that they can decide the question, but they can put recommendations to their Governments which, if approved, will go to the United Nations.
There are many other things in the nature of what one might call immediate jobs. I mentioned microfilms. There is also the question of translation of publications; often, especially in the case of books which are not of high enough commercial value to become best sellers, they do not get translated, or if they do they are translated only into what one might call the best selling tongues, of which English, spoken by such a large number of people, is the most important. The smaller countries however must not be neglected; they have much of value to give to the world, and they are entitled to their share of translations into their own languages. That is another of the practical jobs that are being undertaken. There is also the question of a central pool of scientific information, and a considerable number of others of the same kind.
I do not want us to concentrate too much, however, on these practical tasks, as I rather felt one or two hon. Members, and particularly the hon. Member for the Combined Universities did. Because they are practical, they are not necessarily the most important, and I am not so sure that they are. They are practical, and they have to be done, but much more important I consider is the terrifically difficult job of acting as a mental clearing house. A moment's thought will show how difficult it is to separate or attempt to separate education, science and culture into separate compartments, or even to decide when a man is giving a lecture whether or not it is on a scientific subject. If he is talking about nuclear fission, to give an extreme example of practicality, it is amazing how very quickly he may get on to philosophical ground, or even into the forbidden realms of politics. These things cannot be separated. We found that out at the beginning, and therefore it was necessary to make the title and the Organisation all-embracing.
1229 I appeal to hon. Members not to be led away by the entrancing idea that there are certain practical things to be done and that if those things are done all the rest will follow. After all, it will be many many years before we can get back to the amount of apparatus and so on that we had before the war, but all that did not prevent the war coming. Now we are trying to rebuild out of the poverty and misery that is Europe, and out of the breaking down in the minds of youth of every kind of standard. God knows that that is the very worst of all the things that could happen. I shall never forget a speech made by the President of one of the South African Universities who spoke very quietly but in a way which electrified us. We who belong to countries with a vast tradition behind us in culture, religion and standards, are very apt not even to understand how difficult is the situation of teachers and university professors in countries whose great cities 150 years ago were mining camps where, because everybody was so concentrated on the practical job of merely keeping alive, they had no time for other considerations.
1230 It is therefore important that whatever else U.N.E.S.C.O. does or does not do at least it should raise the banner of what I believe is the essential thing. It is what makes our strength in this country, whatever our political differences: the sense that there are such things as standards of value, that there is a difference between right and wrong, that intellectual needs are not mere luxuries. Unless we can put standards of value into the minds of youth we cannot have a great civilisation or a great country. It is because the men and women I have worked with in U.N.E.S.C.O. have put that thing first, putting aside the idea that only practical things matter, because they have realised the value of the human spirit, that I believe U.N.E.S.C.O. will do great things, and I hope—in fact I am confident—that this House will be behind them in that task.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Fifteen Minutes to Three o'Clock.