23 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 17

Sm,—Sir Cyril Norwood's articles on education are so sincere in

tone that it may seem grudging in one of your readers to express disappointment at their content. May I plead in excuse my strong concern for the losers in the educational race which his scheme appears to involve—and my conviction that the proposed organisation would confirm and even ac- centuate the most mischievous fault in our present system of education? I refer to the habit of classifying young human beings as though they were so much material—and finished material at that. Schools are but elaborate mechanisms for the purposes of such classification. A schoolmaster is re- quired to say to himself, "These boys must be to me as sugar to a grocer, to be graded, weighed and labelled, and so handed over to the public." Those who love control over boys are happy enough in the situation ; those who love boys themselves detest it.

Has Sir Cyril Norwood found any really satisfactory method of grading boys? May I raise one difficulty only out of many which will occur to teachers of years and experience? What is to be done in the case of a boy who is sensitively clear- minded in all matters of social behaviour, but has apparently no scholastic gifts? Your grading-machine will say, " A most lovable fellow, but dead from the neck upwards " ; and so he must be " discarded at 16, and transferred to part-time in- struction " ; in other words, he must trail along at the end of Sir Cyril Norwood's procession. But sound moral behaviour implies sound moral judgements. It is based upon a far finer kind of intelligence than any scholastic test will reveal. Such intelligence may not be articulate ; but surely the fact of goodness matters more than the power to express its impulses.

In any case, who are these boys who " do not show signs of profiting from academic work after the age of i6 "? And who is to say that a boy's potentialities are completely manifest by the time he is 16? At what age exactly do we cease to develop mentally? I know at least two boys who have achieved remarkable results in specialised research work after leaving school at i6 without matriculating. And haven't we all met highly qualified nonentities whose degrees appeared to depend upon the simple gifts of good memory or of slavish docility?

I know the answer to all this, of course ; that the boys who are "discarded " at 16 for part-time work would not be thereby penalised ; that manual work is the oldest and most honourable of callings ; that " honest labour bears a lovely face." But as public opinion goes today, manual labour is despised. Knowing this, which teacher will enjoy the respon- sibility of dividing his flock into sheep and goats while they are yet in his charge? Only the kind of teacher who ought never