2 JUNE 1961, Page 15

Sla,—Champions of the secondary modern and Propagandists of literary education

are not these days scarce: they have achieved plenty of space in recent months. All the more surprising, therefore, to read the views of Mr. Dowling in last week's issue. One wonders just how deeply ruralised his 'County Gramruar School' is! Deep indeed if only 'Perhaps as much as a third of the pupils have little Pleasure in dealing with the academic content of their education' and miss all the pressures and fevers of an examination-success orientated environment. Besides, this evidence, estimate accepted, is no ground for complacency and patronage on the part of the grammar school. For complacent and Patronising Mr. Dowling is: his article amounts to nothing more than a plea for even wider dissocia- tion of grammar and secondary modern. The im- plications here are plain. 'You look to your garden- ing and metalwork and getting your three Rs up to respectability and keep off our province' ('subjects like Latin and French and maths and academic Physics'—but, significantly, no mention of the real liberalising influence: English).

Perhaps, fighting this heavy rearguard action, this is why he seeks support from two, in this context, unexpected sources, D. H. Lawrence and Ruskin, one a product of the labouring class, the other a Socialist, both 'literary.' Yet Lawrence was writing about and drawing conclusions from the circum- stances of fifty years ago—the old board-school regime, classes of fifty, dearth of books—a whole social and ideological revolution, in fact, away from the present. Lawrence may be a current OK name, but to invoke him here is to select him at his most reactionary. Ruskin's detached obseryation might well be true: to use it as an argument for abandoning the luckless fifty to a lifelong, brutalis- ing and stultifying contemplation of 'things' seems to me a complete misrepresentation, far from Ruskin's intent.

If a liberal education is not 'literary'--i.c., con- cerned with words, inspired by literature—it is nothing. Language, principally, opens up the realm of possibilities, just as, moulding and influencing, it is, the medium of most human relationships. Sen- sitivity towards language makes for and betokens a sensitivity towards life, a growth and development of individual powers. Using language is often the very moment of growth and understanding: you catch, as it were at the quick, the naked individual life reaching out, becoming, being educated, in the struggle with meaning. Any prescription which would deny or minimise this kind of imaginative opportunity (and substitute no matter what pleasure- laden `specialisation') has not begun to discuss 'liberal education.'—Yours faithfully,

Wayside Cottage, Foxton, Cambs