26 DECEMBER 1941, Page 9



SOME weeks ago I deplored the fact that most of the inhabi- tants of the British Isles are wholly ignorant of the history, institutions and culture of the United States. I pointed out that this ignorance on our part was not only foolish in itself (since it deprived us of profitable knowledge), but that it was rude to the American people who have thought and achieved so much. It has since been suggested to me (and not only from this side of the water), that the Americans are equally ignorant of the origins, purposes and constitution of the British Empire and Common- wealth ; that were they to inform themselves regarding this interesting experiment in human governance they might acquire new ideas; and that, whereas their ignorance of the true nature of British imperialism (which is a thing of which we are proud and not ashamed) bewilders and sometimes hurts the visiting Englishman, the prejudice to which it leads is a real barrier to Anglo-American understanding. We in Great Britain are now seeking to remedy our ignorance of the United States. Two suc- cessive Presidents of the Board of Education have personally encouraged a scheme whereby the study of American institu- tions and history shall be part and parcel of our educational system. It is hoped that the rising generation of British boys and girls will leave school knowing something at least about that extraordinary document, the Constitution of the United States, and having some understanding of the methods by which the Thirteen Colonies also won their Empire. For if it be true that co-operation between countries must be founded upon an identity of practical interests, it is also true that if such co- operation is to prove durable there must also exist a basis of mutual respect. Without knowledge no such basis can be found.