Adult Education
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Sep 1945, p. 1-12
Livingstone, Sir Richard, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Adult education meeting the needs of three classes of people: those who left school early; those who stay in school until the age of 18 but don't get much out of it intellectually; the people who have worked well at school and University, and have got a lot out of it. Why education should continue, even for the third class. Opportunities which adult education should provide. The importance of experience of life to study. The two components of education: experience of life and study of theory. Ways to make adult education effective. Advantages of Residential Study. Letters, instances, and anecdotes relating to people who did not finish formal schooling. The kinds of courses needed in adult education. What is actually being done in England in this regard. Instances of residential college which have either been actually started or are in the process of being started. Instances of adult education in Canada.
Date of Original
20 Sep 1945
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Full Text
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, September 20, 1945

MR. THOMPSON: Ladies and Gentlemen, at this special meeting of the Club, being held in advance of our opening date October 4th, and called for the purpose of honouring our guest speaker, I desire to extend a very warm welcome to all Empire Club members and to express the hope that they will continue to support the club executive by turning out to as many club luncheons as possible throughout the year.

I would also like to say a word of welcome to the members of the Royal Commission on Education, both ladies and gentlemen, who are in attendance; amongst them, our Immediate Past President, Mr. Charles Conquergood who is also a member of that Commission. We are delighted to have them with us, particularly on this occasion, owing to the character of the address.

The Empire Club was, I feel, most fortunate in having Mr. Conquergood as its President during the past year and it is my desire to publicly thank him, on your behalf, for the splendid work done. The Club prospered greatly under his excellent leadership and it was mainly through his efforts that we had such a large increase in our membership during the past season. (Applause.)

The war just over has definitely proven that, for the peace of the world as a whole, a United Empire is imperative; therefore, we Canadians of today should not only be ever mindful of the benefits we are enjoying as members of this Great British Commonwealth and Empire, but should see that the work of our ancestors, in building this glorious Empire, be carried on and the bonds which unite Canada to the Motherland, ever continue. Efforts are being made in some parts to destroy the Empire structure, and it is up to us to do our utmost to see that it is kept together. In this connection I would like to quote Lord Beaverbrook's recent remarks that appeared in last Tuesday's Globe and Mail, which were in part

"This edifice was built slowly and with much labour. Those who took part in the building, supported by all the sons of the Empire who fought so valiantly for freedom and liberty, must see the necessity for repelling now those who seek disintegration."

May I also remind you at this time of Mr. Churchill's famous words, in which he stated that he was not placed in his position as Prinie Minister to liquidate the Empire. Surely in these times, it is likewise our task as members of this Club to keep the Empire strong and I appeal to each of you to do your part.

Mr. THOMPSON then introduced the Guest Speaker as follows

Ladies and Gentlemen, also members of our radio audience

The Empire Club of Canada is again honoured in having as its guest speaker, one of Britain's most distinguished educationists, in the person of Sir Richard Livingstone, M.A., D. Litt., L.L.D.

Sir Richard, who is a graduate of New College, Oxford, was for a period of 9 years, Vice-Chancellor of Queens University, Belfast, later becoming President of Corpus Christi College, whilst today, he in addition holds the very high office of Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.

I might also say that he has a close connection with the University of Toronto, in that, during his last visit to this city, at which time he addressed this club, he was honoured by our University with the degree of Doctor of Literature.

His present visit to Toronto is at the invitation of Victoria College for the purpose of giving the Burwash Lectures, which no doubt a number of you gentlemen have had the privilege of hearing during the past three days.

Our guest of honour is not only an outstanding classical scholar, but an author of note. Amongst his prominent books are the following

The Greek Genius and Its Meaning to us.

The Mission of Greece and Greek Ideals and Modern Life.

It is now my pleasure to call upon our speaker, who will address you on the subject,

"Recent Educational Developments in England".

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, Sir Richard Livingstone!

Sir RICHARD LIVINGSTONE: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: I had the honour of speaking to your Club in 1927, and I have just had an opportunity to see what changes in one's signature are made by the lapse of 17 years.

Now I have a confession to make. I had quite forgotten, I am ashamed to say, the subject on which I was to have spoken. I was to have written to your President and given the subject which he has just read out, and then .it went entirely out of my mind, and I have come to speak of something else but something which I can't help feeling is more important, and that must be my excuse. The subject of which I was to speak is "Adult Education". I wish I could call it something else. I never observe those two words as having a very stimulating effect. The word "adult" is not exciting, and to a certain number of people "education", their formal education seems to have left many unpleasant memories. So I should like to call what is a very important thing by a different naive, and I was trying to find what it is and what needs it should meet.

It should meet the needs of three classes of people. In my own country I am sorry to say that more than 80 per cent of the population leave the school for good at fourteen. That is changing now. But what can you do by the age of fourteen? You can lay the foundations on which the edifice of education should be raised, but all you can do really is to lay the foundations. The house is not built at fourteen, and even if you keep people on at school until fifteen or sixteen, the house is not built.

Education is something that bears interest at compound rates, and it is after the year of sixteen, often at later years, that it begins to bear interest. If a man's education stops at sixteen and is never taken up again, he goes through life in some sense maimed. The only way you can enable him to fill up the gaps which this short education has left is through some opportunity for extended thought in later life. That is one class which you can only help in this way.

Another class are the people who very likely stay at home until eighteen, but don't get much taken hold of by the intellectual side of the place. I have taught at a Secondary School and what impressed me most was that at least 50 per cent of the boys, I should have said, were getting very little from the purposes for which the school presumably had been founded-that is the intellectual side of education. They were getting a great deal from another side of the school-the life-but the intellectual side, which is after all important, passed very much over their heads. They enjoyed the school life, they enjoyed the games; they enjoyed the friendships, and they regarded the time they spent in the class room as the price which they had to pay for these other enjoyments, a price which in some cases they paid in as small a degree as possible.

Now that class, the people who go through school but whose interest in education does not wake up until later, are a pretty large class, and they include some very important people. I don't know if you recognize where this quotation comes from--"It was not until I had almost completed my twenty-second year that the desire for learning came upon me." The person who wrote those words was Mr. Winston Churchill, and I dare say many people who have read his early autobiography will remember when he was a subaltern in India, it suddenly dawned upon him that there was a whole world which he had never entered at all, and how his education began then, and of course because he had a fair amount of leisure as a subaltern in India, that education could be carried on better than most people at the age of twenty-two would find at all possible to do.

Now there is an important class, the people whose interest in education does not wake up in school, and they are a large class. And I suspect there may be even in this audience some people in this class, because the fact is that education in its real intent is something practically useful. Unless you can use it, every bit of it, it is missing its purpose. But of course at school one hardly sees the uses of it.

Some people are simply industrious and do what they are told, but to a large number of people it really does not mean very much. Now all that changes as soon as those people get out into the world and begin to see life. Put a boy down in an occupation. It dawns on him that there are certain things which he could have got at school which would be very useful to him, but in most cases the opportunity for getting those things has gone. I won't say the only way but the natural way is to provide through what we call adult education, a chance of taking education up again.

And then, the third class, the people who have worked well at school and University, and have got a lot out of it. Even then, quite as much as anybody else, need opportunities I would suggest for further study. One can't by the age of eighteen or twenty-one fill up one's self with all the food and equipment that one needs for the journey of life. If one just stops there at twenty-one and attempts to go through life with what one has collected by that age, it is inevitable that in ten or twenty years one tends to get out of date.

However good one's education is, however much one has profited by it, still the world changes: new things come up over the horizon and are not familiar to one. One sees them but does not really understand them.

And that of course is one of the reasons--it has two effects. It is responsible I think partly for the gulf which sometimes exists between the older generation and the younger, even between parents and children. The older generation doesn't understand, does not feel themselves fully at home in the world in which the younger generation grows up and is accustomed to.

And then of course, apart from that, all people, human beings, no less than motor cars, need re-conditioning. One is familiar with the disease of arterio-sclerosis, the hardening of the arteries which comes on in later life. Well there is such a disease as hardening of the mental arteries, and that comes on very quickly. If one is going to keep alive, abreast with the present world, it is very difficult to do that unless one has opportunities for thinking methodically about it, and those are the opportunities which Adult Education ought to provide.

In England we continually write to the "Times" and point out how ignorant we are of many things we ought to know. You get a letter saying, we don't know enough about the Empire, we don't know enough about China, not enough about Russia, the U. S. A., we don't know enough about economics, and all sorts of things. And of course those complaints are quite justified.

The remedy which the writers of the letters usually propose is that they should be put in the school program. Well the school program is full to bursting already. What is wanted is to take things out of it, not to put things into it. And actually, unless you have real good teachers--and real good teachers. imaginative teachers are not very common-you would find that if you put on the school program classes on American history, classes I am afraid even on the Empire, would find most of it would run like water over the ducks' backs.

Well what is the remedy, but to give people an opportunity to study these things later on in life, not to attempt to push all into the curriculum, but as each thing comes on the horizon-and in the next ten years many things will come on the horizon-you ought to give opportunities for people to study them and to keep up to date. That you can only do by Adult Education.

I should like to emphasize a little more a point I have been trying td make about the importance of experience of life to study. I sometimes think that you can't really study a thing until you have done it. I think most teachers find that. We find at any rate in England that if you take your Teacher's Training diploma immediately after your degree, it is not nearly so profitable as if you take it after you have been doing a few years teaching. You have done the thing, you know the practice and problems, then you come back to the theory.

That applies to so many things. After all, supposing you have not got an automobile. Of course that is a supposition easier to make in England than here in Canada-suppose you have not got an automobile and went to lectures on a Motor Engine. How much would you remember of them at the end of six months? If, on the other hand, you have got your motor, and every time it has not started or stopped, and the electric system has gone wrong, and then you come back to have lectures, then you see what it is all about, and I am sure that is a principle which in Education we simply don't pay proper attention to-this principle that when you have done a thing, you want to study.

If you are a cynic you might almost say, a great deal of school education is compelling boys who don't want to listen, to study a thing which in the nature of things they can't understand.

In my youth there were things called "Sedlitz Powders", which sometimes were administered. It consisted of two powders, one in blue paper and one in white paper. If you put either of them in water separately, nothing much happened. When you mixed them, they fizzed. Now that is a parable of the point I have been trying to make. The proper Sedlitz powder of Education consists of two things-Experience of life on the one hand, Study of Theory on the other. Have the experience of life, without thought of it, it does not fizz. Have the theory of life, what you get in school and university, without the experience of it, it does not fizz either. Combine the two, and you get a very salutary draught.

Well now, you may say, come with something practical. Perhaps we agree with your general thesis-and I think it is very difficult to argue against-but in what you propose to do, how are you going to give people the opportunity to keep themselves up to date, and fill up the gaps which education has left? Private Reading! But then so many people don't know the right books to read, and private reading is not the same as discussion. You clearly get more, unless you are a very exceptional person, from studying with someone who really knows the subject and discussing it with people at the same time than by reading a book.

Then secondly, there are Evening Study Classes which in England are provided by the Workers' Educational Association, where you have a lecture lasting an hour, then you have a discussion lasting an hour. Admirable! Only those things have got to be taken in the evening, and many people have not got the physical energy to do it then. It was perfectly splendid to see in the Potteries, even during the war, men working up to nearly seven at night and then going straight from their work without food to attend classes. Magnificent! But you can't expect that from most people.

No, I feel we shall not really get far with this Adult Education until we make it Residential, until you have places where people can go to study and live. Now the advantages of Residential Study are these: in the first place, you can give your whole time to it. In England at any rate at the moment it is an advantage to get away from household cares, pre-occupations and difficulties. Then you get opportunities for talking those things over with other people, and discussion is the very breath of education. You meet people with different views from your own. You really thrash subjects out. That, to put it very briefly, is what I give as the case for the Residential type of education. Now that kind of education, exists already. People say, "How can you do it? It is already being done in the four Scandinavian countries. I will take the instance of Denmark. In Denmark you will find 60 Residential Colleges for Denmark's population of 3% million. If you go inside of them, you will find farmers, laborers, small holders, domestic servants come there for courses lasting from three to five months,--paying at least half of the cost out of their own pockets, coming voluntarily, and this of course is the most miraculous of all-I have not tine to explain it--but studying not as you might expect, Agriculture, or Vocational subjects, but taking courses of study in History and Literature.

Well you find this sort of thing not only in Denmark. It is the same in Sweden, where they have 59 Colleges. And different types of it in Finland and in Norway. A high level of intelligence diffused through the whole population which you won't find in most other countries. I don't like to allude to England, but may I just leave it open. But you do get in those countries an educated democracy, and. of course it has an enormous economic value. A Dane said to me once, the excellent Danish butter and bacon which we in England had been enjoying are the product of the history and literature studies its the folk high schools of Denmark. As I say, that really exists already, and there is no reason why it should not exist elsewhere.

You may say: "Would people attend these schools if we had them?" I presume we are not differently situated from the Scandinavians, and I therefore think it is possible that we would have big organizations. But I would like to read you two letters which I must say I found a very moving one, which I had in 1943 from a poor woman up at Blackpool, who had read a book I had written. She says

"I left school at the age of thirteen, have worked very hard, being the oldest of twelve children I had very little chance of attending evening classes, and up to now have had little time for social life. After warwork I do feel the lack of education. Without education one seems to have no confidence. I am fifty-five years of age. Do you think I am too old to attend one of the schools you mentioned?"

Well I did not quite put it this way, but I had practically to write and say "If you had been born in Denmark or Sweden, there would be no difficulty at all, but I am afraid in England we have not got any of the schools you want at present."

Here is a letter I had from a sergeant in the Army Educational Corps, at one of the hostels in England. He says:

"Last Sunday I was privileged to have a long conversation with a young man who has just been repatriated after three years, from a German prison camp. Briefly, he had been employed as a tailor's cutter and had no education but elementary school. During his stay at the prison camp he met a couple of Classics Masters and a Church of England parson, and took advantage to learn some Latin and Greek. He also pursued some of the best English and Russian literature",

then he goes on to say how he managed to remember enough of that splendid play by Emlyn Williams, "Night Must Fall", to have it produced in camp.

And then the, writer goes on, "Lots of young men approached me regretting bitterly the absence of any opportunity to discuss such things as Central and local government, Education, and the press, and even Religion. I feel sure if the government could be persuaded to support a school, it would meet with a very large demand from the young men and women who will be leaving the Forces after the war."

Now that young man, who left school at fourteen and worked as a tailor's cutter; if he had not by accident during the war met these people, he would have been a very different human being. And must there not be hundreds and thousands of people like that?

Let me give you one instance. Newman College at Cambridge last year offered a Summer School for Working Women. They had thirty places. They took no one who had a Secondary education and they had 700 applicants. There is evidence enough of a demand: what is wanting is the supply

Well now how can people take Courses lasting three to five months. Well my own feeling is, you must have all kinds of courses. You must have courses lasting a week and a fortnight which people can take in the National holiday. Then for people who want to go further, well in England at any rate the educational authorities are prepared to give scholarships for these kind of things. I am sure if you started these short courses you would have an enormous response, and actually -such a response exists in England at the moment.

The Co-Operative Union started summer schools lasting a week and a fortnight held in a College in Wales in 1939. The first year they had under 300 applicants. I went to one of the schools in 1942, then they had 600 people in the school and had to turn a number away. And those people are just of the British artisans and their wives.

I would like to emphasize that it is not only the people who have had an inadequate education, but we all want it. And it has been growing up in rather an informal and interesting way in England between the two wars. If you go to Oxford during the vacation, you will find always summer schools going on, all sorts of subjects--Education--India, China, and you get all sorts of people attending them.

Now I have come almost to my time, but I must say a word about what is actually being done in England in this direction. Of course this idea of residential adult education, you might say, it is a new idea of the war, and considering that the English have been pretty busy in other things, and also with a new educational development, you might not expect that much was done in that direction. I will just give you instances of residential colleges which have either been actually started or are in the process of being started. The local authorities in Herfordshire and Wiltshire have started years ago-Wiltshire is largely agricultural, Herfordshire urban. The Women's Institutes have passed a resolution in favor of having Residential Colleges. My own University started in the Potteries in co-operation with the local educational authorities there, a college of this kind which is already open, but they have at present only one week for Residential Courses, but are planning to have longer ones.

Then at Mersey--this is the work of local business men-they are planning a college. They have the house and the last time I heard they have the local educational authorities to agree to support it.

Down in the Midlands near Aylesboro, a College is being opened the end of next month. The building has been given by a private person, and the local educational authorities will support it. The big stores, John Lewis, are starting a college of this kind on the Estate which they owned down on the Thames for their own employees. Again I don't know just how far that has gone.

That is rather interesting and you will see how things are moving, and no doubt will move a lot faster in the future. It is very English-it is done partly by private enterprise, and that I think is an excellent thing: some of it is done by public authorities. But on the whole, it is a combination of the two, and on the whole I think it is much better to start gradually instead of producing a complete outfit of colleges all over the place.

But I have no doubt it is the thing of the future. No man who has seen anything of Adult Education can doubt you get an almost 100% return from it. The most optimistic person about School education would not put the return so high.

I have not spoken about Canada because I don't know the circumstances here, but I remember a Rhodes scholar telling me of an experiment of Adult Education in Antigonish, which seemed to have gone very well, and also a very interesting experiment here in Simcoe County.

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Adult Education

Adult education meeting the needs of three classes of people: those who left school early; those who stay in school until the age of 18 but don't get much out of it intellectually; the people who have worked well at school and University, and have got a lot out of it. Why education should continue, even for the third class. Opportunities which adult education should provide. The importance of experience of life to study. The two components of education: experience of life and study of theory. Ways to make adult education effective. Advantages of Residential Study. Letters, instances, and anecdotes relating to people who did not finish formal schooling. The kinds of courses needed in adult education. What is actually being done in England in this regard. Instances of residential college which have either been actually started or are in the process of being started. Instances of adult education in Canada.