29 JUNE 1918, Page 12


!To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] SiR,—Mr. Richard Crook pleads with great force against Dr. Montessori and in favour of what one might irreverently call the inethods of Dr. Forster. (He, I mean, of whom the poet tells us that he "whipped his scholars now and then," thereby inspiring them to remarkable terpsichorean feats.) I should like, however, to advance two points for the defence, one of practice and one of theory. The aristocracy of the generation which fought the Napoleonic Wars was educated on the " hardening " system— birching for boys, the back-board and the " seen-and-not-heard" principle for girls, and very long lesson-hours for both. The generation now fighting Was educated on a system so compara- tively soft that all Mr. Crook's arguments would have been levelled against it by the former generation of pedagogues. Read Miss Austen's novels or any contemporary memoir, and compare the temper of the nation and its willingness for sacrifice then and now. Mr. Crook truly says that when " the child of a larger growth " says " I don't want to," there will be no Montessori specialist to insist that compulsion is a grave psychological mistake. But I am by no means sure that for a grown-up offender Dr. Montessori might not ho the first to help to snap on the handcuffs and beckon up Black Maria. Isn't Mr. Crook confusing children and adults ? The child may be father to the man, but he is emphatically not just a man seen through the wrong end of a telescope. That simple fact seems to me one to which many educationists have been singu- larly blind. We have taught children much as we should have taught illiterate adult students. We owe a hearing, surely, to any one—Froehel or Montessori—who in tackling the problem will iemember St. Paul's words : " When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood ae a child. I thought as a child."—I am, Sir,