20 OCTOBER 1961, Page 13


SIR,--Might I be allowed to take Mr. Holbrook up on two points in his letter of October 13, as he appears to be inconsistent and confusing? He says that 'streaming is necessary for progress in some subjects,' yet that 'in the Arts it is certainly possible to mix children, because children painting pictures and writing poetry are doing the same thing, seeking a meaning in experience by symbol and metaphor.'

Now this is a very peculiar and arbitrarily limited use of the word !Arts' (or 'humanities' as he later calls them); most of us would expect a much wider range of educational activity here than painting and writing poetry alone; and even were it the case that the Arts arc so confined, what are his criteria of distinction between subjects for streaming and those for mixed study? Mastery of the tools of even the two activities he mentions—draughtsmanship and words—must be more easily acquired and thus the search for meaning in experience more successful 'where classes have been streamed for progress.' He also states later in his letter that internal examinations give a child a feeling of security. I would fully admit this; but security in and from what? Surely from his fellow pupils? That he is a better one than they—and that he is correspondingly their superior—(and perhaps ultimately a feeling of security from harassment by teacher and parents).

In other words an internal categorisation of worth, and not at all what Mr. Holbrook desires.


Trinity College, Oxford