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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

The Education of Women

The Education of Women.

The following extracts from the above address, which is published in the Educational Review' for April, 1906, are significant :—

Must Differentiate Between Boys and Girls.

The notion has seemed to be too generally prevalent that whatever was good for a young man to learn was equally good for a young woman; that whatever studies the young man might successfully pursue a young woman might pursue with equal success. Mathematics and the sciences based upon mathematical foundations are to be found in women's colleges. Is there no indication that a distinct line of differentiation should run between the two courses of study for each? Has Nature endowed both man and woman with equal gifts of heart and mind, and with equal richness of gifts? Has Nature blazed a path which each should follow in coming into the possession of his or her powers? If there be a natural line of division, then we fly in the face of Nature if we give the same course of study to both. If Nature has given us a clue, and has indicated the desirability of a different kind of training for woman, then do we not unsex her when we attempt to force upon her the same education which fits a man for the struggle of life? We must establish an ideal which we are to attempt to realise. ... Of the highest importance is the ideal of cultivated and consecrated wifehood. What then should be the line of education to be followed in the secondary schools and colleges in educating a prospective wife and mother primarily, and incidentally a teacher, a business woman, an artist?

page 89

Marriage and Maternity the Natural Goal.

In any ideal community the largest possible number of women must be devoted to maternity, and marriage and support by men must be assumed. Female celibacy must not be the goal for the woman. The accidental and exceptional should not replace the formal and usual. It is not so much the unmarried minority that need attention as the mothers. . . . Dr Playfair, in the 'British Medical Journal,' says that the prime and alarming fault in the heads of high schools and colleges for girls is that they, consciously or unconsciously, assume the absolutely untenable theory that the sexual question is of secondary importance, and that there is little real distinction between girls and boys from fourteen to twenty. . . . When we turn to the subject of geometry, however, we find that the ordinary girl in taking up the subject tries to learn it as she has learned her history or her Latin, by committing the demonstration to memory, but she soon discovers that her teacher has spoiled the plans by reversing the position of the figures or by changing the letters for numerals. She is at once at sea. She is called upon to reason absolutely, while her natural preference is for the concrete and individual. Moreover, she is called upon to offer original demonstrations, when she finds it well-nigh impossible to offer the demonstrations of the book. Her [powers of origination are too often insufficient for the task. If she masters her geometry, it is because she varies considerably from the type, or because she devotes to the subject a disproportionate amount of time. With the acquisition there is likely also to be considerable nervous wear and tear due to the worry arising from the consciousness that she is attempting to do something for which she is not adapted, and in which she will not possibly succeed. She has found that her memory and her intuition, her love for the individual and the concrete, stand her in no stead in pursuing a subject which calls for the exercise of pure reason and inventive genius. . . . Women excel in language and in literature. . . .

Institutions for Promotion of Celibacy.

It is of interest to consider for a moment the results of higher education upon women. . . . It would be too sweeping an assertion to state that women's colleges are institutions for the promotion of celibacy, and yet an examination of the percentage of marriages among college-bred women would lend color to the statement. Dr Dewey found that 23 per cent. of the graduates of women's colleges many; 21 per cent. go into the professions. . . . Another investigator, Miss Abbott, showed that of 8.956 graduates of sixteen colleges, 23 per cent. were married. It would appear that the rate of marriage of college women is decreasing, and that the age at which marriage occurs is becoming steadily later.

Sterility, or Inability to Nourish Offspring.

Considering next the results of the higher education upon motherhood, the case appears even worse yet for educated women. Birth rates are the indication of national growth or decay; only the constant immigration of foreigners prevents us from occupying the position in which France finds herself at this time, that of facing the problem of a steady decadence of birth rates. In the New England family, probably the best type of American civilisation, where, for two centuries, the homes were almost perfect models, the birth rate has steadily declined for half a century at a very rapid rate, until now it is actually lower than that of any European nation, France itself not excepted. Comparing the forty years ending with 1890. native marriages average 2.3 children each, while those of the foreign-born average 7.4 each. Among the causes for this condition of affairs may be stated physical and mental inability to rear children; but a stronger reason appears to be in the unwillingness to sacrifice ease, freedom, and enjoyment for the responsibilities of parenthood. . . . It is evident that if our trace depended upon the rate of replenishment of the educated classes, it would be doomed to speedy extinction. Are we ready to accept the idea that further human evolution requires a decline in parenthood ? . . . Any college that depended on the children of its graduates for fresh students would be doomed to extinction. Leaders are continually recruited from the class below. Time was when marriage and children were felt to be religious duties. That day seems to be disappearing. ... An examination of the question thus far inclines one to the view that if higher education became universal, posterity would be gradually eliminated, and the schools and teachers would progressively exterminate the race.

page 90

Education Must not Spcil for Materniity.

In order that this condition of affairs may not continue to exist, it would seem to be necessary that a right ideal for womanhood be established and realised. In this work the woman's college must do its part. Girls should not be trained primarily to independence and self-support. They must not be imbued with the idea that matrimony and motherhood, if they come, will take care of themselves. . . . There is actual danger of the possibility of higher education for women becoming a fad. If the woman's colleges are established chiefly to devote their energies to the training of those who do not marry, or if they are to educate for celibacy, their point of view is entirely correct. If their ideal is that of the maiden aunt, or school teacher, or bachelor woman, they certainly are realising their ideal. But they are withdrawing from the function of heredity the best women of the age, who are leaving no posterity behind them. Modern ideas and modern training are affecting the matter for the weal or the woe of the human race, and many whom nature designed for model mothers are apparently unfitting themselves for maternity in the pursuit of higher education. Is not this a question in the determination of which altruism should find expression ?

Lofty Ideals for High Schools.

In conclusion, let me appeal more especially to woman to aid in reconstructing a sane and wholesome ideal for woman. Let me urge her to exercise her wide influence in the making of a proper course of study for the high school girl and the college girl. Let her enlist in the new cause of working out the new humanistic or liberal education which the old college claimed to stand for, and which now needs comple reconstruction to meet the demands of modern life. . . . The work in high schools and academies—the colleges of the people—is in peril, and she can aid in the rescue. If we have made a mistake in the past in placing the emphasis upon mental superiority, let us change our notion and give to the development in altruism a superior place. Perhaps our democracy has been of too strenuous a variety in insisting upon equal rights for all in the realm of intellect I as we'l as of politics. Woman has been caught in the maelstrom, and there has been danger of her destruction, and with her the great ideals which have stimulated her in the past. No exception to the general laws of evolution has been made in favor of woman, and she will come into her estate only when she recognises the nature of her high idea! and then strives zealously to realise it.*

* Mr Felter remarks that the present form of so-called higher education for women is not only detrimental to them as prospective mothers, but is not even a suitable education for fitting girls to earn their own living. It no doubt enables them to gain places as teachers, but that is a mere convention. A true and rational education would make women more capable all round—mentally and physically. The same training that would fit a girl for future motherhood might be made a far better training for enabling her to earn her own living than the present arbitrary and artificial cram system.

Further, from the point of view of the future of the race, it is a very serious fact that, as Professor Karl Pearson insists, the more capable people are tending not to reproduce themselves. It is admitted in all quarters that in England there is a great dearth of men of outstanding capability in the rising generation; and whether we hold with Karl Pearson that this is duo mainly to the fact that the most capable people are withdrawn from parenthood, or incline to the view of Harold Gorst and others, that modern higher education crushes out energy, originality, and initiative, we are equally hound to set right our system of education if we wish to maintain national supremacy.—F.T.K.