16 APRIL 1932, Page 9

The Teacher in Modern Life


ACENTURY ago Macaulay, criticizing Southey's pessimism, made a guess about the state of England in 1930. "If we were to prophesy," he said, " that in the year 1930. a population of fifty millions, better fed, clad and lodged than the English of our time, will cover these islands, that Sussex and Huntingdonshire will be wealthier than the richest parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire now are, that cultivation, rich as that of a flower garden, will be carried up to the very tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, that machines constructed on principles undis- covered will be in every house, that there will be no high- ways but railroads, no travelling but by steam, that our debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our greatgrand- children a trifling encumbrance which might easily be paid off in a year or two, many people would think us insane." Macaulay went on to say that he would not prophesy, but lie asked his readers to imagine how a person who had predicted the England of 1880 would have appeared to the Parliament which met in perplexity and terror after the South Sea Bubble crash of 1720. What would that Parliament have thought of a picture of England in which men would be in the habit of sailing without wind and beginning to ride without horses, and in which the annual revenue would equal the principal of the debt which that Parliament considered an intolerable burden ?

The progress of the English people in the arts and con- trivances of life made in the century after Macaulay's pro- phecy did not disappoint his calculations. That progress grew faster and faster in its pace until, under the stimulus of the Great War, it produced a new industrial revolution. The state of the world in this respect of 1930 would have some shocks and surprises for the world of 1900. Yet the most remarkable revolution in the last fifteen years is a revolution that does not belong to this picture. To com- plete his account of England in 1930 Macaulay would have had to add that almost without knowing it this England was building up a civilization based on a conception funda- mentally different from the basis of nineteenth-century life.

What is this difference ? •

In the nineteenth century we tried to build up a civiliza- tion on the plan of making everything depend on the pos- session of money. If you had money you could see or own good pictures, hear good music, read good literature, and find a generous and intellectual enjoyment in your leisure. The Industrial Revolution in its early stages seemed to reflecting minds to be chiefly important for the oppor- tunity it provided, an opportunity much richer than ever before in history, for poor men to become rich men. The industry, abstinence, and the qualities of mind and charac- ter that brought this success were rewarded not only by making a man rich, but by putting him into the favoured class which had access to all these amenities. The most striking difference between England to-day and that England is that to-day the poorest man can hear good music, see good pictures, read good literature. We are trying to build up a civilization on a principle quite different from that which characterized the civilization of the Industrial Revolution ; we are trying to build up a civilization in which the want of money shall not cut people off from the pleasures and interests that make the difference between a civilized and barbarous society. Instead of dividing the world between a civilized class and a bar. barons 'mass, and congratulating ourselves on providing opportunities for industrious and exceptional men to pass from one to the other, we are trying to create a World in

which civilized pleasure is brought within reach of the community.

The importance of this change, obvious to anybody who looks around him in his own town or village, is missed by many people of all classes just because the obstinate traditions of the nineteenth century keep their minds in the old fashions. Some trade unionists still speak as if their standard of life was represented merely by their actual wages, disregarding the large part of 'a man's life which has ceased to depend on his wages. Critics of imblic expenditure compare our modern municipal budgets with those that belong to alt age when all that history had to teach about the import- ance of common enjoyment and common culture had been forgotten. Yet those lessons have been reinforced in the last few year's. One reason for the patience with which the mass of men and women, not here only but in other countries also, have borne the privations of the - post-War unemployment, it is safe to say, is to be found in this change—the most important of all the contrasts between the world in 1930 and the world in 1848.

But nothing showed better how the old spirit persists than the proposal of the Economy Committee last year to cut teachers' salaries by 15 per cent. That committee merely looked at the improvement that had come over the salaries and conditions of teachers in the last few years and saw the opportunity for a drastic cut. But they were still thinking of the teacher as he was thought of during the last century. In the philosophy of the Industrial. Revolution the teacher was despised because he was regarded as the person who gave boys and girls just enough instruction to make them clerks and artisans., He was merely a means of production, and to many w means of doubtful value. As culture was not. related to• common life, his functions were modest and limited. The education of the poor had never escaped the tradi- tions of the factory school when the man or woman: who taught was the man or woman who was disabled mentally or bodily for every other task. People of sixty to-day can remember villages where the school- master used to be summoned to the vicarage to wait at: a dinner party. But in modern conditions the teacher is the most important person in the community. For it is his function above all to teach people to enjoy their, leisure, and to find happiness outside acquisition, including the highest happiness of all, the happiness so well described by Mr. Desmond MacCarthy as "the sense. of sharing a contemplative attitude to the whole of life." We can all see to-day that Victorian England might have been a poorer and yet a happier England. Be Tocqueville upset Nassau Senior by saying that le hien du pouvre had been sacrificed in England

to that of the rich. Senior quoted wage statistics in answer. Be Tocqueville replied that he meant by Nen "all that contributes to happiness," and that. in his view, the rich in England had gradually monopo- lized almost all the advantages that society bestows upon mankind. These advantages may be spread more widely in England even if she becomes a poorer country. But for this purpose the teacher must play a very different part from the part assigned to him in the days of Samuel Smiles. He has to educate for leisure eveu more than for occupation.

Nor is. this his only function. The provision and improvement of common amenities are only possible if a great deal of voluntary work is done by persons who have public spirit, educated taste and a sense of the importanee•

of those amenities. All of our modern histitutions, from the W.E.A. or the B.B.C.. Study Circle to the smallest village club, demand for their success the help of raen and women who care about them. The village used to live under the guiding rule of squire and parson ; the English town under that of merchant and tradesman. To-day there is no person on whom so much depends as the teacher. The modern world has established the right of all classes to leisure. Modern science has pro- vided facilities for the use and enjoyment of leisure that Macaulay himself never dreamt of. Of all economies none is quite so dangerous to the welfare of the whole community as the economy which, hi a world Using the wireless, the cinema, the village institute, village drama and all the other resources and amenities of modern life, keeps a view of the teacher and of Isis needs and functions which belongs to the world of Lancaster and Bell.