HL Deb 23 November 1915 vol 20 cc422-44

LORD SYDENHAM rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether steps have been taken to ensure that pupils in the national schools over ten years of age receive instruction in the causes of the war, its principal events, the issues at stake, and the economic conditions which will follow its conclusion.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this war has brought us many revelations, some of them very unpleasant, and among the unpleasant class I think we must put the fuller realisation which has come to most of us that there are grave defects in our system of national education. When peace returns one of the first things that will have to be considered is what steps are necessary to be taken to enable our schools to develop character instead of imparting mere book knowledge, to fit our boys and girls for the actual work which they will have to undertake in life, to teach them the dignity of that work, and to inculcate in them the highest ideals of citizenship. In a most interesting article in the current number of the Nineteenth Century the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, discusses the question of the "teaching of patriotism." The noble Earl permits me to say that only illness prevents him from being in his place this evening to share in the discussion of a subject on which he feels strongly. In this article Lord Cromer points out that in the Code of Regulations for Elementary Schools there is but one vague allusion which can at all be assumed to refer to patriotism. Teachers are enjoined to seek the cooperation of "the parents and the home" in making their pupils "worthy sons and daughters of the country to which they belong." That is all. It really seems as if the central authorities were actually afraid to use the word "patriotism." Or it may be that they believe that the untutored instincts of our race are sufficient to guarantee a perennial and dominating sense of duty owed to their country. If that is the expectation, I do not think we can hope that it will be fulfilled. It is not too much to say that the trail of politics overlies our whole system of national education, and until it has been swept away I doubt whether any real and sound progress can be made.

The Question that I have ventured to put on the Paper deals only indirectly with the teaching of patriotism, but I think your Lordships will agree that the subjects to which I refer are of special and peculiar importance at the present juncture. In our great public schools which are free from Government control there can be no doubt that much instruction is being given in those subjects. It has been recently pointed out in the Morning Post that twenty of these great schools have given no fewer than 22,700 of their pupils to the fighting forces of the Crown, that 4,000 of them have already been killed or wounded, and that 1,500 have won distinctions of different kinds. That is a very fine record; it shows that these schools at least are keeping in close touch with the course of the war, and that the great object lessons which it can teach us all are being turned to the best account in those schools. But have our education authorities done anything definite in this direction? I have no doubt that individual teachers have done something, and I gather from the Teachers World, which circulates largely amongst them, that the subject of the war is constantly before their minds. But have the authorities devised anything like a thought-out or organised system for giving this instruction in all schools?

We have been told that the war is taking a large place in French education. Surely what is considered necessary and right for the French democracy cannot be superfluous and wrong for our democracy. It is upon the children now in the schools that the burden of this war will lie heavily in the years that are to come. Not one of those children will live to see all its effects pass away from this country or from Europe; and it is necessary that they should take into manhood and womanhood some clear idea of the causes which have brought about this terrible set-back to civilisation and progress. Those causes lie deeper and stretch back much further than the contents of all those telegrams which flashed through the European capitals in the months of July and August last year. For many of our children it is only too probable that flashy posters which are mostly quite misleading are the only sources from which they derive ideas of what is happening in the field. Surely the leading features of the war ought to be brought home to them and made as plain to them as it is possible to make them. They can be told, for example, what the rally of the Empire to a great national cause implies, and stories of the splendid heroism displayed on sea and on land can be used to inculcate lessons of duty and self-sacrifice. Then, again, by the medium of current history, the events that are happening every day, it is possible to convey to our children lasting knowledge of our great Dominions, of India and of the many Colonies of every degree, that are sharing in our efforts and helping us to bear our burdens. Nothing surely, could be more important than to make clear to our future rulers the issues of this great conflict. They ought to be told of the ruthless destruction of Belgium and Serbia, and it should be explained to them that this was due to the fact that these gallant little countries stood in the path of German ambitions. Political economy may be far beyond our boys and girls in these schools, but it is easy to explain in broad terms what the conditions of this country must be when it lies under the burden of enormous War Debt and when the purchasing power of half the world is crippled for many years. The moral that they will have to work more strenuously than their fathers have done for the salvation of this country and for their own would naturally follow from such teaching.

I will not weary your Lordships by saying more on the points raised in my Question. But I wish to anticipate some objections that may be advanced to the course which I hope has been already taken. It will be said by Humanists and by many Socialists that all national ideals are false and that only international ideals are worth inculcating. The war has disposed of that fallacy for a generation at least. The teaching which I urge would have the effect of broadening the outlook of our children and bringing home to them the lessons of what, our Allies are doing in the common cause and thus interesting them in the Allied countries and in the Allied peoples. It will be said by the Pacificists that the spread of knowledge of the facts of this war must tend to inculcate hatred of our enemies, hatred which would tend to set back that universal peace to which they still seem to aspire. But that position is untenable, because it is only evil that need be combated, and hatred of evil is all that one would wish to implant in our children. Happily in this country we have had no response to the vile "Hymn of Hate"; and one of the most striking features, perhaps, of the war is the extreme tenderness that has been shown to enemy individuals and to enemy interests.

It may be said, again, that in such teaching we should be encouraging militarism of the German type. To that I reply that this war will render militarism of that kind impossible for many years to come, and that the Germans themselves when they are beaten, as they will be, will be foremost in throwing aside the system which has destroyed their liberties and wrecked the great prosperity which they were enjoying up to last year. Speaking in the Reichstag in February, 1874, von Moltke used these remarkable words— Mere knowledge does not raise a man to the point at which he is willing to stake his life for an idea—for duty, honour, or fatherland. It needs a whole training for this. It is not the schoolmaster but the State that has won our battles—the State which for sixty years past has been physically and morally arming and training the nation to punctuality and order, to conscientious obedience, to love of country and manliness. Those words were spoken before the manipulation of the educational system by the German State had been carried so far as to make inevitable the catastrophe which the rulers of Germany desired to bring about. The patriotism which has been instilled of late years into the youth of Germany is of a narrow and exclusive type. It has been directed to the glorification of everything German, and to the breeding of contempt for the achievements of all other nations. The teachers who have dominated German thought in late years have, as Lord Cromer has said, "endeavoured not merely to encourage an ardent love of Germany but also to stimulate by all possible means a profound hatred of other countries." But it was to the better side of national training to which von Moltke referred, not to the later developments of education which have led to the shocking increase of crimes, of brutality, and violence. It is true that the spirit of savagery which had arisen in Germany before the outbreak of the war found its natural outlet when all civil restraints were removed, and the atrocities which have for ever disgraced the German Navy and Army in the eyes of the civilised world might have been predicted by any one who had made a study of criminal statistics.

We need have no fear of German militarism in this country. It is opposed to all the characteristics of our people, and the Germans themselves have taught us an awful lesson which cannot soon be forgotten. It seems to me that it should not be difficult to draw up a curriculum which would be open to no valid objection and which would tend to implant only the qualities which every nation must possess if it is to be truly great—those qualities which we may still admire in the German people in spite of the horrible crimes that have been perpetrated. The Board of Education has now a rare opportunity, the greatest ever open to it. No nobler monument could be found to the memory of the gallant men who have fallen and must still fall in the greatest cause for which we have ever fought than the strengthening and extension of the foundations of the righteousness which exalteth a nation. This can be accomplished only by teaching now to our youth of all classes the great lessons of truth and honour, of duty, of courage, of patience, and of self-sacrifice. All these lessons and others can be learned and deeply engraved upon the mind of the youth of our country if the facts connected with the war are rightly understood.


My Lords, I think Your Lordships will feel that it was impossible that we could have had a subject more important brought before us than that which is raised by the Question of the noble Lord. If I take a different view from him and decline to look quite so darkly and gloomily upon the facts of to-day, if I even venture to think that his attack is a little out of date, I hope I shall be able to give reasons for the brighter faith that I entertain in the matter. The subject is connected very closely with what is at present in all our thoughts, the question of recruiting. We are considering how best to ensure the continuous supply of fit men for the service of the country in the time that lies immediately ahead, and it is a mere commonplace to say how everybody has been struck, how those who have thought most have been staggered, by the splendid response which has been made during the last fifteen months to the call for men. We praise that response, and rightly; but I venture to think that we sometimes forget one great element in its meritoriousness—I mean the fact that those who have thus responded have done so without the help which is afforded by what we have known and learnt from childhood about the story of our nation's life and the heritage which is ours. Do people generally realise that the middle-aged working men and women of to-day are practically without that stimulus which is ours, or that their possession of it, if it is there at all—their knowledge, that is, of what it is that we are fighting for and what it is that we inherit—is so vague and shadowy as to be of very little force as a motive power to patriotism? The credit is all the greater to those who, without that aid, have to the extent that we have already seen made answer to the call when their country wanted them.

We are not surprised, although we feel it to be worthy of praise, that the men who owe their education, as most of your Lordships do, to our great public schools and Universities, should have so worthily thrown themselves into the cause of maintaining that ennobling inheritance which they understand. Every great public school, as the noble Lord has reminded us, has been doing its duty at this juncture to a degree that I suppose was scarcely anticipated by anybody. I do not know the statistics of our public schools as a whole, but I do know the statistics of one—my own public school, Harrow. Harrow has provided more than 2,300 men for the Services since the beginning of the war, of whom 170 have died and about 230 have been wounded; and I have not the least doubt that in other public schools the proportion is something corresponding to that, so far as their numbers admit of it. Oxford and Cambridge have empty quadrangles, or colleges transformed into hospitals at this moment; and the whole transformation is due to the recognition by the best of our younger men of what the country needs, and why it needs it, and what the opportunity to them is of making response. It is not the least wonderful—at least I do not think it wonderful—that they should have thus used knowledge which has been soaking into them from childhood of what the heritage is that is ours, what has come down to them, and what they are asked to protect and to hand forward unimpaired. But contrast the average middle-aged working man or woman with only the vaguest notion of what all that means, and with practically no chance having ever been afforded to them of assimilating the meaning of what to us is almost an obvious and commonplace thing.

Down to quite recent years the elementary schools of this country confined themselves almost entirely to what was known as the three R's, and I have vivid recollections of my own days as a young clergyman in the schools day by day and of how impossible it would have seemed at that time to give even the upper classes in those schools any clear or far-reaching teaching of history or geography in its more intelligent aspects, or other matters which go to form the basis upon which such a thing as the growth of an Empire could be taught or understood. The boys and girls of those days are the fathers and mothers of to-day. Once more I say that to their infinite credit they have been sending their sons out to fight, or, if the men were young enough, they have themselves gone to fight for a cause which they only dimly understand. But this is the point I want to make. We are not waiting for the answer to the noble Lord's Question. We have already learned in our schools to make the change which is asked for, and it has been made. I venture to believe that those of your Lordships who are unacquainted from the inside with the working of our elementary schools to-day would be simply startled if you were to go into almost any really well-conducted school to find what is the instruction given there, not only in the upper classes but practically right through the school.

The whole of our elementary school work has in the last twenty years been transformed in its character, and in no department of it has the transformation been more marked than in teaching of the kind which must form the basis for what the noble Lord most rightly desires to see progressing and carried forward in our elementary schools to-day. For a good many years that change has been taking place. I think it could be shown that the progressive steps of it have corresponded not unremotely with great incidents, or scenes, or pageants in our national life—1887, the first Jubilee; 1897 the second Jubilee; the funeral of Queen Victoria; the two Coronations which have passed since. Every one of these incidents found its reflection or echo in the teaching which has gone through our schools as to what the meaning is of the larger life of our people, what it rests upon, what it ought to mean, and what, it has to do with character and purport in the nation's life.

I see on the Cross Benches the noble Earl (Lord Meath) to whom we owe so much for what he has done in connection with Empire Day. Empire Day throughout the whole of the British Empire has become something now of a practical kind, and in some places it is a great deal more vividly and keenly celebrated than it is in our own country. But even here it is celebrated year by year in a way which brings to light, of necessity, the very thoughts and impulses which tend towards the very kind of teaching which the noble Lord so rightly desires to see inculcated in our schools. The whole literature which is in use in the higher classes of our elementary schools, still more the literature which inspires the teacher and gives to him or her the knowledge which has to be imparted is a new discovery almost within the last twenty years or less, and that is growing steadily now. The highest official sanction, to which the noble Lord referred, has been given to the change. though I confess that looking through the various circulars and papers which have emanated front the Board of Education I find in them, though a good deal of usefulness, still a good deal of what I venture to think is timidity.

But that is not all that is being done. Round where your Lordships are assembled we have the immense area of the London School Board, in which education is going on in all our schools under the auspices of the London County Council and its Educational Department. Let any one read the circulars which have been issued by the Director of Education, Sir Robert Blair, year after year—and since the war almost month after month—giving guidance and direction to teachers how to teach patriotism, what should be the meaning of Empire Day, how our Empire came to be what it is, and instructing them to give this instruction through geography, through history, through the other various lessons which lead up to the character basis on which it is desired to build, and he will see that if the teachers are not giving such teaching in their schools it is not for lack of material furnished to them by authority. Indeed, the material is being used to a degree which I venture to think would startle a good many who have not had occasion to look into the matter closely. Go into an elementary school of the better sort in London to-day —or in the country either, but in London it is more marked, the schools being able to be carried on on a somewhat higher grade of education—and take the reading books in use in the upper forms and you will find exactly the thing which has been so rightly called for to-night, in practical operation and work day by day. A great deal of guidance has been provided for the teacher, and the teacher has in his or her hands a vast number of guides in the reading books, history books, and the rest, varied and admirable as they are and full of vivid illustration both in literature and pictorially. Let any one go to a school and he will see how the teachers hold the attention in these matters of the intelligent boys and girls in the upper classes.

The noble Lord, in his Question, asks that pupils in the national schools should receive instruction in "the causes of the war, its principal events, the issues at stake, and the economic conditions which will follow its conclusion." The last is a big one for the children in our elementary schools to grapple with, but the earlier ones are capable to some extent of being brought home to them. Now, is the thing being done? May I say a word about my own practical experience? Yesterday morning I anticipated this debate and went incidentally, not on an appointed visit, to a large Church school close to my own house, a school of some 300 boys of the very poorest class from the streets of Lambeth. I went first to the highest class. The school has seven masters—or, rather, ought to have seven masters, but five are serving in the war and the other two have offered and are ready to go if they the are allowed to. Their places are taken by young women who are doing the work quite admirably under the direction of the headmaster, and on lines which have been customary in the school. As I say, I went to the highest class first and asked to see what they were doing. My visit was entirely unexpected. Every boy had on the table a map in vaguest outline of the Balkan Peninsula, and it had been his duty that morning to fill in the mountain ranges, the rivers, the railways, the various possibilities of approach, and all the rest. I could not help thinking that a good many of us would have been the better for the lesson that was being given by that young lady to the boys in that school at that particular moment. But this was not an unusual thing. You could find a pile of papers which had been done in the previous days or weeks of lessons of that particular kind, not only with regard to the Balkan Peninsula but many incidents that led up to the war.

I then went to the next class. I found a young man who is going to enlist giving a lesson to a most intelligent set of boys, who were attending to it in the best possible way, upon the motives of great wars; and to my surprise I found on the blackboard that what he was trying to teach them was to contrast the motives of great wars—Edward III's French Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, Britain's wars of to-day—to distinguish between wars which were for greed or gain or aggrandisement, and wars waged for honour, righteousness, and the rest. The school is not an exceptional one, and this was an ordinary lesson being given to boys not at the very top of the school but in an ordinary class, and they were attending with the greatest intelligence and interest to what was being said. Nobody listening could doubt the excellence of the work that was going forward. Nobody who considered what it meant and how applicable it was to further lessons in character-building could doubt what was the gain of teaching of that sort. It is going forward normally right through our larger schools, and is admirably conducted by a set of teachers whose claim upon our gratitude cannot be exaggerated for the attention they have given to it and the care they have used in following out the guidance and instruction afforded them. I do think there is much we ought to recognise and be thankful for in the way in which our schools are being taught on such subjects to-day. The teaching given is of a kind of which I am certain our schools and their teachers have a right to be proud, and that it will be fruitful with abundant gain in years to come it is impossible to doubt. If it be true, as we know it is, that without the help of the stimulus and the knowledge of what our heritage really is people have done all that they have done in the response that has been made to the recruiting call in England during the last year, what response may we not expect in the future, if the necessity should arise, from the boys and girls now in the schools when they grow up to be men and women as the result of the teaching I have described which is going forward with thoroughness and care in practically all the elementary schools of our country?


My Lords, it would, I think, be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Question which has been asked by my noble friend Lord Sydenham. It is now a good many years—more than I like to think of—since I raised a similar question in debate in this House upon the education of the country, and I am thankful to be able to endorse almost everything that has been said by the most rev. Primate with regard to the improvement that has since arisen. In those days, as the most rev. Primate and many of your Lordships will remember, we were not taught very much about the Empire, or indeed about geography or modern history at all. The modern history that I learnt was learnt in Germany. I went to Germany thinking that I had been thoroughly well educated at Eton, but to my immense astonishment I found that I knew nothing whatever about modern history at all. I am not going to dilate upon the ignorance of a great many of us in those days. Things are better now. At the same time I would ask your Lordships to remember this. The noble Lord who has initiated this discussion is anxious that there should be some direction from the highest quarter. In England, Scotland, and Wales—I will not mention Ireland, because it has a different system—it is impossible at the present moment for the Minister for Education to exercise influence in the same way that influence is exercised by the Ministers for Education of almost every Continental country. Still less—and this is a very important point—can he exercise the influence brought to bear by the Ministers for Education of our self-governing democratic Colonies.

I have had many opportunities of studying this question through the movement to which the most rev. Primate has so very kindly referred, and I have always been struck by the fact, and I have brought it to the notice of the Government several times, that the Ministers for Education in our self-governing Colonies are in absolute touch not only with the teachers but with the children of the upper as well as of the lower classes of their schools. In Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, the Education Minister for almost every Province issues a magazine for the children to read. In Australia in some parts—I forget which for the moment—the Minister issues two magazines which go direct to the children. One is written for children between the ages of eleven and fourteen; the other is written for babies almost, and the very simplest words are used, of, if possible, not more than four letters, and, if more than four, hyphens are inserted so that the children may thoroughly understand what is written. It may be said that the children never read those magazines. I know that in some of our self-governing Colonies they insist on the magazines being bought by the children, and they examine the children on them. Consequently the children know what the Minister desires they should know. As far as I understand, we have no system at present by which the Minister for Education can instil his spirit into the children of the schools in the same way that Education Ministers on the Continent very often can. I do not wish to go to the extreme that exists in France, where I believe the Minister for Education boasts that at a particular minute he can tell you what every child throughout the whole of France is learning. But if you want to have a definite spirit instilled into the children there must be one source from which that spirit, shall emanate, and as far as I can make out we have not got it. In this country we have 324 different local educational authorities. The Minister for Education may, if he chooses, recommend to these education committees a certain policy, but I doubt whether he would have the power of enforcing that policy. The result is that the teaching must vary according to the spirit of the local governing body.

The most rev. Primate gave his experience of a visit to one of the schools in London. Unfortunately most of us are too busy to pay such a visit; I certainly should if I could. But why in London are things so good? Why is it that if you go into almost every school in London you find the same teaching going on? Simply because the local education committee of London issue yearly, somewhere about Empire Day, a statement of what they want the children to be taught. But it is not done everywhere. It may be in large towns but it certainly is not done everywhere. The result is that you have hundreds of different ideas, and sometimes you may have ideas absolutely the reverse of those which I believe the noble Lord would desire to see instilled. In fact only a few days ago a very important headmaster was brought up for having written an article which brought him under the Defence of the Realm Act.

Again there is this to be thought of. These local education authorities are all very vague in their ideas. Sometimes they really do not know their own minds, and they leave the matter in a great degree to the managers of the schools. I take the managers of the schools with which I am acquainted as an example. They are most excellent men, but they are very busy, and they in their turn very often—I do not say always, because it is not the case—leave really the details of the teaching and the spirit in which it is taught to the masters and mistresses. Happily the masters and mistresses, especially in our large towns, are first class, and during the experience which I have gained by the years in which I have been trying to inculcate in our schools a sane patriotic feeling—because I am all against what I should call an insane patriotism—splendid assistance has been given me by the masters and mistresses of the schools. I wish I could say the same of Governments. For some occult reason—Heaven knows why!—I have not received a bit of encouragement from any Government yet, but I hope the present Government is going to do something for the teaching of patriotism in the schools.

If anything could show us the need of instilling a true spirit of patriotism it is this war. This is going to be either a long war or a short war. If it is going to be a short war, what does that mean? It means that we are going to make a peace which will be inconclusive. There is no need for me to argue that point. The actual position of affairs is such that it is absolutely patent to everybody that if a peace is to be brought about shortly it will have to be an inconclusive peace. In that case there would be another war within a short time, and we should be forced into it under the spirit of militarism whether we wished to or not. We do not want that. If it is going to be a long war, well, the children in our schools, the eldest of them, will probably have to fight. In any case it appears to me that it would be very short-sighted for us as a nation to say, "We hate this spirit of fighting"—of course we do—and "we will not do anything to teach the children to love their country; patriotism comes naturally." It does not come naturally. Patriotism is more a matter of education and environment. There are a certain number of men who, though educated, are not patriots, but they are a negligible quantity. Patriotism is brought about principally by environment and the possession of something which makes it worth while to fight for your country. Therefore if you want to have patriotism the first thing you must attend to is social reform, so that everybody should have something to fight for. The next thing is not to leave it to chance, but to show the children in early youth the real solid reasons why they should be patriotic. I do not mean the waving of flags or any nonsense of that sort. You should teach them—as I have tried to the best of my ability to do through the Empire movement, though not always with success—a sane patriotism. Let them be taught that they ought to have a sense of duty and of discipline, and let their watchwords be "Responsibility, duty, sympathy, and self-sacrifice." Those words have gone over the whole Empire, with the result that last year nineteen millions more or less were associated with the movement.

I hope we shall not receive to this Question a cut-and-dried official answer. Years ago I had a reply of that kind. The Minister who replied to me knew nothing about the subject at all, and cared less. We have come to more serious days, and this is a matter which will have to be taken into consideration if we are to win this war, if we are to prevent the recurrence of this awful war. What is the wisest and best thing to do I am not capable of saying, but I do say that the Government of the day should not neglect the children, because, as I have said, the children will have to take their part in this awful cataclysm of Europe whether the war ends early or late. The other day in a debate on thrift I tried to point out to your Lordships that in this time of war we all wanted leading, and I expressed the hope that His Majesty's Government would not be satisfied with eloquent speeches on the necessity for thrift but would show us plain people exactly what we were to do, what articles we were as patriotic citizens to buy or not to buy. So also on this question of education I hope the Government will be able to give a lead. I am rather sorry that the most rev. Primate was quite so optimistic. I am an optimist, and I agree that there was an enormous amount of truth in what fell from him; but at the same time I think we should not he wise unless we saw that in dealing with this question of education we ought to go upon different lines from what we would in ordinary times of peace. We want to be all under command. We have to deal with organised scientific despotic Governments, and it is difficult for me to realise how we are going ultimately to gain the better of those Governments unless we also are organised, unless we also look ahead.

It has been an astonishment to me that Government after Government has apparently done everything to persuade the country that there never would be war in any circumstances on the Continent. If two years ago you spoke to the ordinary educated man and said "We want an Army of three millions of men to fight on the Continent," he would have replied "You ought to be in Bedlam." That has been said to me when I made the statement. I was educated in Germany. I was a young diplomatist there. I was three years in Berlin in the 'seventies. I was at Frankfort in the war of 1866. I saw what Germany was. I saw the way she carried on war in 1866 and 1870. I have visited Germany many a time since then. I was on a special mission of the Churches of Great Britain to the Churches of Germany to beg them not to have war. We were entertained in the most hospitable, lavish way from the Emperor downwards We were entertained by the Emperor, by the Reichstag, by the municipality of Berlin. I had conversations with several of the leading Ministers, and I am sorry to say that I came back impressed with the feeling that Germany meant war. Most of my colleagues did not believe it. I spoke to some of them; some of them did believe it, others did not. But there were many of them who could not speak German, and that handicapped them.

Being convinced that this war was coining I started two movements—one called Empire Day, and the other called Duty and Discipline. Why did I start the Duty and Discipline movement? I will tell your Lordships. There was a German talking to one of my colleagues, and I overheard this part of the conversation. My colleague put this question to the German, "If you do not desire war, why do you go on increasing your Navy? It must lead to war." The German did not deign to reply, but asked this question, "How did you get your Colonies?" I am sorry to say that my colleague had never considered that. Like many of us he had not thought of it before, and he began seriously to think how we had got our Colonies. The German waited a few seconds and then said, "Do not bother. I will tell you how you got your Colonies. Because your ancestors"—he laid great stress on the word. "ancestors"—"were the salt of the earth." Then he turned on his heel and walked away. It was a few seconds before my friend realised what he meant. What he meant was that we were a decadent race. That sentiment I found to be almost universal; and I believe firmly that in a very great measure it was the feeling that we were a decadent race which has led to war. When I came back I saw that there was a certain amount of truth in that—only a certain amount—and although we are all proud of the way in which our people have risen to the occasion we must all, at the bottom of our hearts, feel that there is still a residuum which has not yet grasped the necessity and the duty of self-control and of self-sacrifice both amongst rich and poor. Otherwise you would not on the one hand find in time of war men trying to make money out of the necessities of the poor, nor would you find men striking for what they consider their rights. In conclusion I earnestly ask His Majesty's Government to think whether they cannot in the future—I do not say support my movement; that is a small thing—but whether they cannot see their way to do something as emanating from themselves to encourage sane patriotism, love of country, love of God, of duty, and all that is noble and inspiring.


My Lords, there is an inscription on a monument on Wagon Hill, outside Ladysmith, which nobody can read without being moved to his heart's core. If my memory serves me right, it is in these words, "Tell England, all ye that pass by, that we who died serving her rest here content." It is a monument—Lord Milner will correct me if I am wrong—put up to the memory of men of the Imperial Light Horse. The noble Lord who introduced this Motion spoke of "self-sacrifice," and the noble Earl who has just sat down repeated the word. It is the spirit of self-sacrifice that we want to bring home to our country. It is that which you have to teach in your schools. It is well indeed that the children should be taught the history of England. It is well that they should be taught duty, patriotism, all those things which appeal to the hearts of all of us who know the history of our country. But there is a more potent, a stronger motive than history or patriotism. It is that we should see that in our schools that supreme example of self-sacrifice which is proposed to us as the model of the life of every one of us should be kept before the children as the example that they should follow—that supreme example of self-sacrifice which says to each one of us, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends." I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but I should like to tell you an anecdote which was told me the other day and which I know is literally true. There was a party of navvies in Canada, almost all of a criminal class, men from whom you could expect nothing noble, nothing good, hardly. Some of these men had to cross a lake, and in crossing the lake the boat ran on a rock. It was quite clear that she had to go to the bottom, and that the only chance any of the men had was that he should do what he could for himself. On that boat there was one woman who was so desperately ill that it was positive, whatever else happened, that she would drown, and these men, before they tried each one to save himself, went to wish her Good-bye. One of the men said to her—for there was no illusion what was going to happen to her—"Do you mind so very much?" And she answered "No, I do not know that I mind so very much. But it is rather lonely dying all by oneself"—to which the man replied, "I shall stay with you." He stayed with her, and was drowned. My Lords, that is the spirit and those are the sort of things that want to be taught to our children; and if that spirit is inculcated in them and if those are the things that are put before them as the ideals that they should follow, there would be no need to talk of any want of patriotism among the children of this country.


My Lords, my noble friend who initiated this discussion did so with an authority to which we are accustomed and he has brought before your Lordships a subject of deep meaning to the future of our nation, and, in this time of war, absorbing and entrancing in its interest to us all. We also had a speech from the most rev. Primate on this subject, which he, too, so thoroughly understands. And then we had the speech of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Meath), who has been a pioneer—more than a pioneer, a power of good—in the service of his country, teaching the children of our Dominions and Colonies as well as of the United Kingdom what love of country means, and what this Empire is going to be to our children's children and to the world in future. If the noble Earl will allow me to say so, his labour of love has not been thrown away. We can see his influence and that of men who have wrought with him, like Sir Robert Baden-Powell and others, all joining in that new stream of Imperial feeling to which the most rev. Primate alluded, and which has already produced its fruits in this war.

Before dealing with the subject that is really uppermost in your Lordships' thoughts, let me follow up certain suggestions that fell from the most rev. Primate and from Lord Meath. It is very characteristic of our system of government that. it would be almost true to say that it was not the business of the Board of Education to teach patriotism to the children of England. I do not go so far as that, but certainly it is true to say that the direct responsibility does not lie with the Board of Education but with the local education authorities. I want to make that. technical point plain before I pass far beyond technicalities. Under our system of education it is the local education authorities and not the Board of Education who are responsible for the instruction given in the elementary schools. That is very characteristic of our system, as I have said, and of course it cuts both ways. Supposing you had a Government that was careless of such matters, then the local education authorities are free to teach the true gospel of patriotism. If, on the other hand, a local education authority itself is callous in such matters, then the power of the central education authority to influence it is limited. I am informed that it is an established principle with the Board of Education in England not to provide anything in the nature of a syllabus of instruction on any subject, but to leave the choice of topics and method of presentation to the local authorities and the teachers, so far, of course, as is compatible with maintaining a minimum of efficiency. The Board of Education frequently issues circulars of advice to the teachers suggesting methods of handling particular subjects. That is, technically speaking, the position.

The noble Lord, although he passed as other speakers have done to the far wider and more permanent aspect of the subject, based his Question on teaching in the schools the causes of the war, the issues at stake, and what the war may mean in the future for the children of this country. I am informed by the Board of Education —and naturally on such a matter I had to seek my information from the officials there—that a great deal has been clone by the Board itself and by the local authorities and the teachers to bring home all these matters to the children of our land. At the very beginning of the war, Mr. Pease, who was then Minister for Education, circulated to the local education authorities a short letter on the causes and meaning of the war. The Secondary Branch of the Board followed this up with a plan for the older pupils, studying the war in its historic perspective. More recently a circular has been issued dealing with questions of thrift as necessitated by the war; and the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee's pamphlet on the war, containing copious selections of diplomatic and military Despatches, has had a very large circulation among the schools. All the information at the disposal of the Board of Education goes to show that in one form or another the subject of the war has thoroughly penetrated the elementary education of this country, and that its causes have been most thoroughly explained to the children in the schools. The inspectors of the Board are reporting specially on this subject, and a chapter will be devoted to it in the next annual report of the Board of Education. I am authorised by the Minister for Education to say on his behalf that he realises in the fullest way that it is the duty and responsibility of his Department to assist and stimulate the local education authorities in teaching the duties of citizenship to all our children; and he means by that all that is implied in the meaning of patriotism—the duty of the man or woman at home to society; the social duties which ought to be realised by every one of us, no matter from what class we are drawn; the nature of the Government which rules this land, and its work; the history of the Empire; the relations of the different parts of the Empire to the others; the responsibilities of the Empire for those in the Empire who are not able to govern themselves, and must rely upon us and the Dominions for guidance and protection; the duties of the Empire to all foreign countries, and the duties of foreign countries to the Empire.

Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to make some observations which must necessarily rather interpret my personal feelings than those of an Office over which I have not the honour to preside. I have given to your Lordships the message with which I was entrusted by the Minister for Education, and I think that your Lordships will agree with me that he has shown a full sense of his responsibilities in the matter. But we have been led on by the reflections of previous speakers to consider this subject in its broadest aspect, and Lord Sydenham made a reference to a Very remarkable article by Lord Cromer in this month's Nineteenth Century. Lord Cromer's object is to contrast our system, or want of system, with the system of Germany, and he points out to us—whilst God forbid that we should ever copy the German system—that we have erred in the opposite direction, and left this teaching of patriotism too much to take care of itself. He points out in his article that the German system aimed at guiding the actions of the body and the thoughts of the mind of every German citizen from the cradle to the grave, and that his complete personality was to be subjected to the will of a non-moral State. I do not say that the Germans would admit that theirs is a non-moral State, but we have had only too much reason to find that out for ourselves. There is no section of opinion in this country, I imagine not one, who would for a moment do other than shudder at the idea of subjecting our people to so fatal a system. But is it therefore necessary, Lord Cromer asks, to leave the teaching of patriotism alone? and he answers that question with no uncertain voice. Yet in a certain sense we have left it alone, because we have left the local education authorities free to teach it or not to teach it as they thought wise.

I cannot help thinking that we have gone too far in leaving so sacred a matter, a matter so bound up with the future of our race, entirely to the inspiration or opinion or prejudices of the local education authorities. Speaking for myself I hope that in the years to come our Board of Education will take a more leading part in helping the local education authorities to instil into our children what Lord Meath called so wisely "a sane patriotism." Yet no one, although the most rev. Primate pointed out that there was little of this teaching in our schools in the days of those of us who are past middle age and although the teaching which he has so fully described to us to-day, admirable as it is, is of comparatively recent growth—yet no one, considering the events of the last fifteen months, can refrain from thanking God that the spirit of duty still glows in the soul of the nation. It is not only the public schools or the Universities that have shown that spirit. You could not enlist or offer for enlistment millions of men—men coming from every profession, every rank, and every degree in the nation, all for no motive exempt that of pure duty, and willing to lay down their lives—you could not get that if the spirit of duty did not still glow in the soul of the nation. And it is not only at home. When the historian comes to study the annals of this war and to write its history there will be nothing, I venture to predict, on which he will dwell more than the fact that men of our race have come straggling and struggling back to England, Ireland, and Scotland from the ends of the earth, from the tropical zone, from the North Pole, from the small republics of Central and South America, from the islands of the Pacific; wherever the men could raise the money to pay their passage, they have conic and they are coming back to their motherland in the time of her need.

I hope, with the other speakers, that after this war the Board of Education, like all the rest of us, will learn its lesson and use its great influence to see that the change which has already begun in our system of elementary education is carried much further. We have already passed from that stage when knowledge was considered to be the only thing that mattered. I think we all recognise, whatever our opinions may be, that knowledge without character is of very little use to a nation. Another danger of which we have to beware is the spirit of materialism which is now embodied in Germany. One writer said it was "the struggle of a man's soul against his body." The whole German system is founded on force, and we believe that what we are struggling for is the liberty of the small nation and of the individual human being. Surely that is the lesson which should be taught to our children. Surely the one thing to teach them in the years to come is that it is not really the profits or the wages that matter, but the sense of responsibility and the power of self-sacrifice. If that were realised all through the length and breadth of our Empire, then even from this terrible war we should have learned a lesson of incalculable value, not only to our people and our Empire, but to the whole world.


My Lords, I venture to think that my Question has been justified by the very important speech which the noble Earl has just made. He has told us that the Board of Education has distinctly taken the lead in giving an outline of what should be taught in our schools with respect to this war, and therefore we may feel that the 324 authorities to which the noble Earl (Lord Meath) referred are now working harmoniously and on the same lines in this direction. But the noble Earl (Lord Selborne) went much further than that. He admitted that we had been wrong in the past in excluding patriotism from our school teaching, and therefore we may hope that in future the timidity of which the most rev. Primate spoke will pass away for ever from our elementary school teaching. Then the noble Earl went on to outline what should be the teaching of the future. I would only say that if that is to be the line which our education will follow, and if that line will be strongly taken as soon as the time conies for revising our system, we shall be a greater, a nobler, and a better people.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.