3 NOVEMBER 1917, Page 6


READERS of Mark Twain will remember how when Tom Sawyer was condemned to whitewash his aunt's garden fence, he induced his friends, by presenting the task to them in the light of a rare and enviable privilege, to buy out his prior claims and undertake the work themselves, and so arrived at the end of the morning with a notable increase its his boy wealth and the fence neatly white- washed. Tom Sawyer'a discovery—that whether any given opera- tion is work or play depends solely upon the mental attitude of the person engaged in it—is one of the three principles upon which Mr. Cook bases his educational method. The other two are, first, that we learn by doing, and, second, that we do things thoroughly when we do them wills interest. The Play Way is, in fact, an extension of the kindergarten system to children of a larger growth. Its aim is not to pump information at high pressure into unwilling recipients, but to induce pupils to cultivate and exploit their own fe-culties ; to educate rather than to inform, and to teach, not subjects, but boys.

The exponent of the traditional method would probably exclaim indignantly that these were his aims also. " We go upon the prac- tical mode of teaching, Nickleby ; the regular education system," exclaimed Mr. Wackier(' Squeers. " clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der, winder, a ease- ment. When the boy knows this out of book, Ito goes and does it." The novelty in the Parse School is that tho boy "goes and dons it" first ; and so much ingenuity is brought by the teacher to make the " going " attractive that the boy is inevitably excited to put his heart into the " doing." Mr. Cook's pupils learn Shakespeare by acting his plays, and they are anxious to learn because they enjoy the acting. The desire to invent and perform playa of their own follows naturally, and is allowed full opportunity to develop. They acquire the art of composition and public speaking by delivering lice-minute lectures to each other on subjects of their own choice They organize a play town, they produce chap-books, and draw • Ti, Play Way: an Essay to Edueationa Method. By H. Caldwell Cook, ILA. louden: vi1111am lIcluemana, lent ed. act .l " Ilonds "—picture maps of those Fortunate Isles about which every proper boy has streamed, and for which a child has given us the only practical sailing directions : " You go on and on till you don't get there." Tho Perso boys are educated in self-government by the practice of it ; the school diseipline is largely in their own hands, and they pride themselves on proving worthy of the responsi- bility entrusted to them. As to the results of the system, apart from Mr. Cook's testimony, which might be regarded as biassed, we hove in the present volume eleven " Littleman Lectures " written by hia pupils (all about twelve years old) or reported ver- batim from their delivery ; and we need only say that in maturity of thought and style they are conspicuously in advance of anything we have soon from boys of a similar age.

The case made out for the Play Way is so strong that we naturally wonder why it has not been more widely adopted, Mr. Cook deals with one immediate objection. It is essential to his method that the teacher should join, and should delight to join, with his pupils in their play to prevent it from degenerating into a mere aimless, romp ; and it is felt that his dignity is thus in danger of being compromised. " A schools:easter," says Walter Bagehot, ironically expressing the common view, " should have an atmosphere of awe, and walk wonderingly, as if he was amazed at being himself." Mr. Cook does not believe in the artificial dignity of schoolmasters " Is it such a frail thing, then, the respect they inspire in their boys ? " he asks. " Will the boys in their hearts think any less of a master who confesses himself human ? On the playing field, where both boys and master behave in a perfectly natural way, they can play together without any loss of dignity to either side. The sternest of schoolmasters can, in a Rugger game, butt into the scrum with hia boys. Why should he not be on equally good terms with them at all times, and frankly enjoy with them the play of the classroom as ho does the play of the games field ? "

A more serious obstacle is the lack of a sufficient number of suitable teachers. The Play Way cannot be reduced to a settled practice ; it must be kept infinitely flexible and constantly varied ; it needs is man with enough vitality to keep his animal spirits up to the high boy level, with enough versatility of mind to be fertile in expeclionts for overcoming an endless succession of difficulties, with enough imagination and sympathetic insight to be able to see everything from the point of view of each of his pupils. Such men are had to get, not only at the price the public is willing to pay for so trivial an affair as education, but at any price at all. Any man with a modicum of information about his subject, and a sufficiently etrong right arm, can drive a class of boys along the old high-road of routine ; but to load than in the Play Way demands a touch of the didactic genius.

Then, again, the majority of schools teach, not as they would like, but as they must. Their programmes are conditioned largely by the demands of outside forces. A boy, for example, who is in- tended for the Civil Service must be taught, not what would bene- fit him most, but what the Civil Service examiners insist upon his knowing. A candidate may bo thoroughly imbued with the real spirit of literature ; he may be a competent organizer, a skilled speaker, alert, tactful, and effioient ; but if he cannot do " long tote" and " digest returns into summaries" more quickly and accurately than his competitors, he will not bo appointed to a clerkship in the Second Division. With some modifications, the some rule holds good of all public bodies, including even the Universities. They ask of an aspirant loss " What is he ? " than What does he know ? " In the long run teachers must teach what parents ask for ; and in all but the leisured classes what parents ask for is not culture of mind and character, but the immediate potentiality of earning s Mr. Cook has, however, the true enthusiasm that moves noun. tains, and although it would be too much to expect that he would overcome our public inertia in these matters, we hope ho will manage to disturb it. We commend his most stimulating book to all teachers who believe in their profession, and to all readers of the Spectator who think that education is a matter of some importance to their own and the coming generation.