2 JUNE 1961, Page 13

The Debate on the Sixth H. D. P. Lee ir

We Cared F. L. Allan. Tyrrell Burgess Look—This is You

Sheila M. B rooks. Arthur Blackwell

A Liberal Education Peter Dean Agonising Misappraisal R. E. Peierls The Other Exodus Jon Kimche Blind Goddess D. C. Hawley The Teacher's Lot I. THE DEBATE ON THE SIXTH

do not know where Mr. Peterson saw a report of what I said to the National Union of Teachers, but 1 do not think that it was quite as difficult to understand as, if he will forgive me for saying so, he seems to make out. I claimed to be doing nothing more than restate in different terms the contentions of the Crowther Report. By 'inequality of effort' I meant no more than that it has been the custom in this country not to spread the sixth-form effort equally between five or six subjects, in the continental manner, but to concen- trate or specialise on two or three. By the principle of coherence I meant that it has been customary for these two or three to bear some relation to one another—e.g. Latin. Greek and ancient history, or Physics, chemistry and mathematics. (Incidentally, if I objected to his quartet, it was for lack of co- herence.) When we come to argue the matter, I need refer no further for an admirable defence of the prin- ciple of specialisation than page 14 of Mr. Peterson's Gulbenkian Report. I have always understood that he has no wish to abandon the standard of work achieved thereby at advanced level in our sixth forms. The principle of coherence is more debatable. What those who uphold it maintain is that the Sub- jects studies should have some relation to one an- other and make up an integrated whole; but this ideal is not always easy to achieve in practice, and it may be that in some cases Mr. Peterson's mixture of arts and science subjects may be the right thing.

There are, however, two further points to notice. First, that Mr. Peterson's own proposal involves the study of four snbjects to advanced level, some Of them arts, some of them science. Most working

schoolmasters whom I know would regard four advanced level subjects as too heavy a load. And if I am reported as saying that few boys are able to combine arts and science subjects, what I in fact sajd wat that to combine Latin, Greek and mathematics at 'advanced level, as some boys at Winchester do, is pretty. exacting and beyond the reach of most.

Second, I have always maintained, as Mr. Peterson knows, that outside the field of special or advanced subjects taken there should be the study of other supplementary or compensating subjects, and that in my view about 40 per cent of the available time should be devoted to them. To find so much time for them in present examination conditions is not easy, though many of us think that it should be possible to find about a third, and are in fact find- ing it.

It would 'take me too far afield to discuss in detail some of the other questions raised or implied by Mr. Peterson. He knows my views of them as he was kind enough to invite me to address one of his conferences at Christmas. But there are many who feel that a better balance than is sometimes achieved at present might be encouraged if there were avail- able a suitable test of work done in what Crowther calls 'minority time,' either in the form of a general paper or in the form of something on the lines of the old subsidiary subject.

Finally, sir, though, as I have indicated, there are ways in which English practice might be modified, the mere fact that it differs from the practice of other countries does not necessarily mean that it is wrong.—Yours faithfully,