The Spike or Victoria College Review 1946
The death of Emeritus Professor W. H. Gould, late Professor of Education in Victoria College, has closed not only the life of a man and of a career, but has brought to a close a life that was in many ways a document in the history of New Zealand education, as well as in the history of the New Zealand mind. For his life and work traversed not only some fifty years in the development of our education system, but were, as it were, the epitome of the pioneering spirit. His most outstanding qualities were those most commonly forged in the give and take of pioneering a humanitarian radicalism—directness, a warm desire to help others, moral courage, quickness of emotional feeling, and candid outspokenness, and these were the foundations of his philosophy. He was an unpretentious, uncomplicated man, risen from the common people.
William Horace Gould was born in London in 1877, the year of New Zealand's first National Education Act, and, coming to the Hutt at a very early age, received his schooling in one of the first schools to come under the operation of the Act. By his own account his boyhood days were wild, irreverent, impetuous and spirited, severely disciplined and imaginatively rebellious. He was the authentic boy of those pioneering days, and the zest for life that sent him only too often to prepare a rope for his own belabouring in the rope-walk run by his father, was transmuted later into a rare feeling for the underdog, the dispossessed, and the merely young.
Perhaps it was this feeling that took him into teaching. For seven years, straight from the primary school (for the Hutt then boasted no secondary school) he served as a pupil-teacher, pursuing his post-primary studies at the same time as he was learning to teach, for this was the only way that Wellington teachers could be trained before the Wellington Teachers' Training College was opened, of which later he became Principal. He never forgot his pupil-teaching experience, often page 7 telling of the wretched status of the teacher then, whether fully-fledged or pupil-teacher. For years his annual pay was some £40 or £50, to rise in the seventh year of service to about £90. This experience contributed greatly to his mature educational philosophy. The indignity and the drudgery (Where classes customarily in the larger schools were in the region of a hundred pupils), and the humiliation of the teacher as a person through his compelled apprenticeship to a prodigious technique (in days devoted to Herbartian teaching), were without doubt a source from which sprang the emphasis in his teaching, as Training College Principal and Professor of Education, upon the personality of the teacher. his stature, his cultivation, and his autonomy.
As son of a highly skilled craftsman he inherited a mechanical ingenuity rare among University teachers. This ingenuity that later entered into his educational thought, was developed by the practical values of a community that placed a premium upon improvisation and handiness. Early in his career it served him in good stead when he went up country to the Pongaroa district to teach school. The story goes that there he was at first compelled to find shelter under a fallen tree, before he secured a tent as the school house, which remained his home until he built, with his own hands, a home for his wife and family. Those who knew him loved him for his enthusiastic capacity to improvise, a zeal that found its most characteristic expression in pottering at his Swiss Family (or was it Heath?) Robinson bach down the Sounds, in making ever more and more dinghys and motor-launches, in acquiring a succession of derelict engines, or in drawing with tireless gusto ingenious and innumerable plans for surprising ventures of first-class engineering magnitude. Here was the essential New Zealander—and here too was a source of his philosophy. He never could bear the narrow book-bound intellectual, nor could he conceive education purely in terms of the literary tradition, and the intellectual skills.
After some seventeen years in the primary service he accepted the position of Director of Education in Tonga and Principal of the Tongan Boys' College. His work in Tonga was important and indeed revolutionary, and his report on problems of Pacific Island education anticipated by many years more enlightened views that are now held about native education.
Shortly after his return to New Zealand he was appointed an Inspector of Schools, the first to be appointed, he often claimed, after the inspectors were placed under the control of the Education Department. Thus began his great colleagueship with F. H. Blakewell, who had singled him out earlier for preferment, and who valued his advice so much that he found it necessary at times to keep him in Wellington by the simple ruse of refusing to appoint him to positions he applied for in such wildernesses as Tawa Flat. Blakewell was an original, and so too was the young Gould. Each relied on the other for moral support and intellectual stimulation, and the influence of the one extended far into the work of the other. Perhaps the most significant event in Professor Gould's life was when "Old Blakey" asked for him as he lay dying.
The best years of his life, and those during which his influence and contribution were most outstanding, were the twenties and early thirties, first as Principal of the Wellington Teachers' Training College, and then as Professor of Education. He expounded a liberal educational philosophy that was consciously felt by his students of the time as a challenge to the growing spirit of authoritarianism that was then typical of the Education Department, and for that matter the profession as a whole. His unique contribution was to coalesce the humane and liberal spirit of the Hadow Reports, and the teachings of Percy Nunn, with his own indigenous philosophy, and to give to a whole generation of teachers a new view of childhood and new aims for their teaching. Only those who were his students or his colleagues during these years understand how important a part he played in preparing teachers, legislators and administrators to seek and to welcome the reforms of the later '30's and of to-day. This is his memorial.
C. L. Bailey