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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1946

A School of Education — Why The Need?

page 31

A School of Education

Why The Need?

No age, not even the Rennaissance, has been one-quarter as clever as ours. We have mastered both the infinitely great and the infinitely little. But have we? May we not have released blind forces that are on their way to master us?

No age, having to its resources, has been more materialistic than our own. Read between their lines, all our poets from Byron to T.S. Eliot, testify to our indifference to the things of the spirit.

The true poets who are also prophets began thus testifying long enough ago. Tennyson was one of them. He lacked the boldness and the stamina of the old Hebrews, but never was a mind more sensitive than his-and therefore more aware of the shape of things to come.

A century ago he wrote:

"I had a vision when the night was late:
A youth came riding toward a palace gate.
He rode a horse with wings that would have flown,
But that his heavy rider kept him down."

What kept the winged imagination of youth down, withheld it from soaring aloft, prevented it from assaulting 'the brightest heaven of invention?' It was the pre-occupation of the Age with the employment of material means to achieve material ends.

The chief instrument of this materialism was Education. Nothing was refused it when it was a question of gaining control of the forces of nature for purposes of the factory, the mine and the countinghouse. But education turned aside from the things of the spirit. It was this indifference to spiritual values against which the poets protested. In prose Dickens added his powers of angry satire to their protests.

Beyond doubt Education, which has been pedestrian, needs lifting to a higher level, a level from which it will be able to give its mind far less to the things that Man makes and far more to the things that make Man.

To this end a School of Education is proposed. The proposal is not at all novel but included in the term, as the writer understands it, are new departures.

As space is limited may he be permitted to itemize the things he thinks a School of Education should do:

(1) The School should, by full-time post-graduate teaching, educate leaders in education whose philosophy both scientific and idealistic will give first place to a conception of life as a thing to be lived to the full; a conception to which making and getting and spending, while revelant, will be subordinate.

The school will not train experts. This can be done elsewhere and there is a danger of narrowness in expertness which has not by any means always worked for the good of education in the past.

(2) The School should, by means of courses provided for working teachers and laymen in any way concerned with or interested in education, aim to infiltrate the community generally with a deeper insight into a broader outlook upon education. This is necessary if it is to secure that co-operation from public opinion, lacking which it will be working in vacuo.

Curiously and ironically enough instruction along the lines suggested is given in economics to hundreds of parents and parents to-be who never worry their heads about education.

(3) By various means the School should make its influence felt on a national scale. It could in this connection publish booklets for parents and issue leaflets and pamphlets dealing with issues that had acquired current interest, in short, issues that were news.

In conjunction with the Training Colleges it could undertake the organization of refresher courses and/or summer schools in the provincial towns. It could invite noted educationists from overseas to pay visits to New Zealand and when here it would arrange their itineraries.

(4) The School would also have academic functions but the less these were concentrated upon pass examination in 'units' for 'credits' the better.

The cost of the School would not be considerable; $50,000 would at the outset amply provide for two such and, as they would be day schools (the Department of Education inside them would continue with the 'after hours' instruction) accommodation could at slight inconvenience be found for them in the existing colleges. Such a school to fulfill its main and high purpose would need to be conscious of a national purpose. Its atmosphere would be cultural in a sense that high browism is not cultural in a sense that high browism is not cultural. The School would, that is, aim at an attitude that gave dignity and fineness of mind to the doings of daily life.

page 32

As already said modern Education has been far too much an instrument used to fashion material means in such a way as to achieve material ends. If a School of Education succeeds it will do so by causing the community it serves to radically modify its sense of values and therefore to quest after the Good in the form of what is best for body, mind and spirit.

Such poets as Wordsworth and Arnold, and such philosophers as Ruskin, Carlyle and Emerson would, if as they deserve to be, reinstated in public esteem have quite a little to say about ends means to a genuine School of Education.

Tennyson concludes the poem already quoted with these lines:

"And on the glimmering summit far withdrawn

God made himself an awful rose of dawn."

Was this rose the harbinger of the incandescent flash that announced to us the Atomic Age?

If so we shall be fortunate is to the question, "Is there any hope?"

"An answer pealed from that high land But in a tongue no man could understand."

On the other hand I quite seriously submit that our chance of understanding that tongue would be tremendously enhanced when, with high purpose, we dedicated to the understanding and guidance of life (most of all young life), a School of Education.

F.L. Combs