HL Deb 07 July 1873 vol 216 cc1839-42

who had given Notice to call the attention of the House to the selection of subjects periodically published for examination of candidates for Woolwich Academy; and to ask, If the general officer at the head of the Academy is at all consulted in preparing that selection; and to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Copies of the four last published lists of subjects, said, that seeing Romeo and Juliet among the subjects announced for a recent examination, he wrote to his friend, Sir Lintorn Simmons, whose practical character, as an officer, he knew, to ask what had induced him to sanction it. Sir Lin-torn Simmons replied that he had no voice in the matter. The Royal Commission on Military Education, adopting the Duke of Wellington's principle of examining candidates to see whether they had had the proper education for gentlemen, recommended the abolition of the Council of Military Education, and the appointment of a Director-General of Education, for which post his Royal Highness had selected General W. Napier, a highly accomplished and esteemed officer. Now, surely, the choice of subjects ought to be, to a certain extent, in his hands, or the Civil Service Commissioners should, at least, consult him in the matter. He noticed in the list Chaucer, Spenser, the Epistles of Horace, and other authors from the perusal of whom a taste was likely to be formed in after-life, but who inspired distaste when imposed, as a study, on young men who saw in them no immediate practical utility. In Mr. Edgeworth's admirable work on professional education, this proposition was argued with great ability. Lord Stanhope's History of England or History of the War of Succession would be much more suitable; but what possible effect could the study of Romeo and Juliet have upon the scientific and mechanical education of Woolwich? He also noticed, among the subjects for examination, the Areopagitica, which—though he was aware that the Areopagus was a Greek tribunal—puzzled him, and it was not till after vainly consulting several dictionaries that he found that the word Areopagitica was said to have been originally derived from some tradition of a trial of the God Mars for homicide, which trial was conducted by Twelve Gods and Goddesses, when six being on one side and six on the other the accused was acquitted. This seemed a precedent for the recent proposal of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) as to Irish juries. Moreover, as soon as this curious list of subjects was published, the crammer came forward to "coach" his pupils in every detail of the works so fancifully selected—a very unwholesome system. He could not think that the selection of subjects was at all suited for young men studying for the Army, and as their Lordships were practical judges on the subject, he thought he should have their support in urging a more common-sense view as to the propriety of issuing subjects for the examination of Woolwich candidates of more elementary nature, and more likely to be of service in preparing them for the course of instruction they would be required to pursue in the academy of Woolwich, which was specially intended for training cadets for the service of Engineers and Artillery.


said, the subjects of examination for admission to the Royal Military Academy were laid down in the Regulations for first appointments in the Army. Those Regulations were framed upon the Report of a Royal Commission, of which the noble Lord was himself a Member, as also were Sir Lintorn Simmons (the present Director General of Military Education), General Napier, and Lord Northbrook. The examination was conducted, in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, by the Civil Service Commissioners, who selected the period of history and the particular authors prescribed for each examination. The Commissioners notified their selection to the Director General of Military Education, who published the particulars in the newspapers or otherwise, and who had an opportunity—of which he sometimes availed himself—of signifying to the Secretary of State any objections he might possibly take to the recommendations of the Civil Service Commissioners. The Governor of the Royal Military Academy was not, however, consulted. The authors were selected generally with reference to the period of history prescribed by the Civil Service Commissioners. He should be able to place in the hands of the House the list of authors for the last four examinations, when the House would see that, with the exception of one or two classical plays of Shakespeare, and of parts of the works of Chaucer—the authors selected either had reference to the events which took place during the period of history selected, or else the works were written during that period of history itself. He confessed that he had listened to the noble Lord opposite (Lord. de Ros) with feelings of surprise. He objected to the selection of Romeo and Juliet. Now, it was just conceivable that the noble Lord might anticipate with apprehension the effects of reading the balcony scene upon the imagination of some young lieutenant. But when the noble Lord went on to profess his surprise at the selection of the Areopagitica, and to ask the House what that treatise was, he confessed to feelings of bewilderment. With regard to the intention of these examinations he might remind the House that they were not intended as tests of the military acquirements of a candidate. The Royal Commission took this view, and their Report contained. these words:— To the general character of the entrance examinations recommended by us we have already alluded. They have been designed with a special reference to the curriculum adopted at the most advanced of our public schools, and with the express intention of enabling the competitors to come straight from one of those establishments to the examination hall, without having occasion to resort to any intermediate place of study. Moreover, as we have already observed, it is very desirable that no instruction should be rendered purely technical until after the foundations have been laid of a sound liberal education. That was the view of the Royal Commissioners, and he thought it was a sound one. It was a misapprehension to consider the examinations as forming any part of the course of military education. Their object was, not to test the military acquirements of the candidate, but to ascertain whether his general culture fitted him for admission to the Queen's service. He agreed with the noble Lord's condemnation of "cramming," but the new system tended in an opposite direction. If the candidate had to take up the whole of English literature or history he would resort to a system of "tips," or a memoria technica, and his acquaintance with the subject would be only superficial; whereas the specification of a particular period and particular authors gave him a fair chance of acquiring a solid groundwork in an important part of our history.