13 MARCH 1953, Page 26

Shorter Notices

BALAAM, according to the Book of Numbers, is "the man whose eyes are open," and this Balaam, aware of the amount of high-souled nonsense that has been talked about teaching, sets out, protected by his anonymity, to draw the veil from the real picture. He has taught at a number of different schools and one training college, so that he can speak with authority. He has also taught long enough to see teaching as a job done for one's living rather than as a mission. (Indeed, he asserts that few teachers enter the profession with philanthropic aims; rather they teach because there seems little else for them to do.) It is not only fortuitous circumstances—uncomfortable buildings, bad head masters, awkward characters among teachers and boys—that come in for criticism; all sorts of items in the system itself are condemned. School prayers, inspectors,. the way head masters and school governors are appointed, the marking system and reports—all come in for remonstration. So also do the foibles of educationists—the tyranny of games, the pompous mannerisms and interest in childish things. It is a grey picture, but painted with much liveliness, good humour and anecdote. Indeed the jauntiness and the easy way of writing may blind the reader to the book's serious purpose. The purpose is certainly serious; not only to give an honest picture but to suggest reform, to his criticisms Balaam adds suggestions for improvement. One proposal is that every teacher should be forced to earn his living for a time in some other