EDUCATION AND THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS By
THE HONOURABLE DUNCAN McARTHUR, M.A., LL.D.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION, PROVINCE OF ONTARIO.
Chairman: The President, The Honourable G. Howard Ferguson.
Thursday, November 28, 1940
THE HONOURABLE G. HOWARD FERGUSON: Gentlemen: I have the very great pleasure, indeed, today to present to you the Minister of Education. It is true, since my day, when I had charge of the educational affairs, that the standards have slipped a bit, but I am very glad to be able to do what I can to encourage our friend, Dr. McArthur.
This is rather an unusual situation. I held that post for a considerable time. My friend, Dr. Cody was Minister of Education, and now we have Dr. McArthur. So it is a sort of "Holy Trinity" that has been running educational affairs for a long time, and today I have the very great pleasure and it is a pleasure to me, I assure you, to present to you Dr. McArthur, who, I am sure, is making great progress, many radical changes, and will be the subject of much criticism during his whole career as Minister of Education. (Applause.)
HONOURABLE DUNCAN MCARTHUR, M.A., L L.D.: Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Empire Club: I am grateful for the opportunity of discussing with you the education of the youth of this Province in the light of our experience of war. We regard our system of state education as the servant of the community, entrusted with the responsibility of preparing youth for lives of service which, in turn, will enrich the community. The creation of the good citizen must be the purpose of education. The methods by which this end is sought to be achieved may change from generation to generation, but the purpose remains constant.
Many years ago, a great man, famed for his wisdom, declared that "wisdom is the principal thing, therefore, get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding." The long centuries that have since rolled by have not subtracted one iota from the wisdom of that advice.
What is the nature of the understanding we are warranted in giving to the youth of this Province? We have been inclined too greatly in the past to regard our pupils as separate, independent units, each encased in his own cell and having no communication with the other separate and independent units encased in their cells. We have attempted to encourage the growth of each of these independent and self-contained human organisms, and we have succeeded in a very large measure in imparting information to them, in cultivating their memories and in creating certain intellectual skills.
But our educational policies have been based, in part, on a wrong conception of the real nature of the human material with which we are working. In the presence of three former Ministers of Education, I hasten to add that in saying this I am thinking particularly of the most recent past and of my own responsibility.
These young people in our schools are not separate, self-contained persons; from the time they draw their first breath they are social beings, members of a community.
We do right in providing conditions which will contribute to their growth in body and in mind, but we should not overlook the fact that while that growth proceeds they are active members of a community, enjoying the benefits of association with other members of the community, and subject to the obligation of contributing their share to the life of the community. It is this phase of the life of the child in his relations with other children, the youth in his relations with other youth, the young man and the young woman in their relations to the life of the community.
Today, we of this country, in association with our brothers of the British Empire, are engaged in the most terrific conflict the world has ever witnessed in defence of human liberty and of the democratic way of life. Sacrifices beyond the possibility of human comprehension are being made, to the end that freedom of thought and of action shall not perish and that our children and their children shall continue to enjoy the right to order their lives in accord with their own desires. These sacrifices will have been in vain if our children are not given an understanding of the freedom which we inherited and which today is endangered by the most powerful military force which the world has even known. The foundations of this understanding must be laid in our schools.
Democracy is essentially a thing of the spirit. It is based on a recognition of the supreme value of human personality--of the personality of others as well as of ourselves. The habit of mind which gives recognition to the rights of others, along with other habits of mind, must first be formed in the school, in the ordinary, every-day relations which exist among the children, who are themselves the members of the community formed by the school. For that reason, I maintain that this most important field of human relationship must be brought within the range of intelligent direction and control.
One of the first steps in that process of intelligent direction, which is but another name for education, is the creation in the mind of our youth of some understanding of the meaning of the community. We have not in the past been negligent in the discharge of our duty of informing our youth of their rights and privileges. Nor have they been remiss in the assertion of these rights. For this reason there is need in these days that we should drive home the truth that these rights cannot be enjoyed apart from the community, and, more particularly, that they are not our creations but a gift, purchased by the communities of our ancestors with the price of great sacrifices and handed down to us freely for our protection. A recognition of our right to liberty must be supplemented by an equally strong and active recognition of our obligation to preserve that liberty.
In actual practice this process of education, in an understanding of the meaning of our rights and of the extent of our obligations, must begin with the privileges actually enjoyed by our children day by day and with the rights which have meaning for them in their own personal experience. As, in the ordinary process of their growth, the horizon of their experience expands and their participation in rights and liberties extends, the development of their sense of obligation should proceed apace. Thus, when they reach the age of maturity, they should undertake the responsibility of citizenship fortified by habits of mind which accustom them to the recognition of the rights of others and of their obligations to the community; to the community as at first represented by the school, and then the municipality, the Province, the Dominion, and, finally, the Empire. Only on this foundation, I suggest, can the structure of democratic living be erected in safety.
Today, it is with the place of Empire in this gradually expanding sense of obligation that I wish to deal particularly. What are the obligations which we owe to that largest community to which we belong, obligations which we may rightfully expect our youth gradually to understand?
First among these, though possibly not first in importance, I would place our democratic system of parliamentary self-government. This has been the bulwark of our civil liberties. From the days of Magna Charta forward, English people have laboured to make the rule of law supreme in the land. And by law they meant regulations governing conduct, adopted and approved by the duly chosen representatives of the people of the Kingdom. It is true that at first the people entitled to choose representatives to sit in Parliament were relatively few, but the history of British parliamentary government is the story of two processes--the gradual transfer to Parliament of privileges and prerogatives exercised by the Crown and the gradual extension of the parliamentary franchise.
To what end was this long battle waged? To the end that the humblest subject might order his life as he willed, secure in the protection of the law against even the arbitrary authority of his sovereign. The situation is admirably stated in a debate which took place as long ago as 1647 between representatives of Cromwell's army, on the one hand, and Cromwell and Ireton, on the other. A certain Colonel Rainsboro, representing the army, gave expression to this opinion-"I think the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the richest he." "That," says the master of Balliol, "is the authentic note of democracy. The poorest has his own life to Pine, not to be managed or drilled or used by other people. His life is his and he has to live it. None can divert him of that responsibility. However different men may be in wealth, or ability, or learning, whether clever or stupid, good or bad, living their life is their concern and their responsibility."
That is the tradition which we have inherited from our British ancestors. That, too, is the essentially spiritual quality which distinguishes the British conception of the democratic way of life from the ordered regimentation of life in Germany and Italy today. This war is being waged because it is a fundamental principle of English life that "the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the richest he."
In course of time the heirs of this tradition migrated to this country, carrying with them the British conception of freedom and self-government. But here they encountered a difficulty in that the government of the colonies for generations had been regarded as the special prerogative of the Crown. How could a colonial government be responsible at one time to the Crown in England and to the people in Canada? Failure to solve that problem had caused the loss of the old American colonies; but the genius of British statesmanship, represented by Lord Durham and by Lord Elgin, discovered a happy and a satisfactory solution. In matters affecting the rights of the Crown, ultimate authority should rest with the Crown; in matters affecting the welfare of the people, ultimate authority should rest with the people. Well did Lord Durham know that the distinction between the two groups of interests was artificial and that, once the principle of responsibility to the local community were conceded, no limit could be fixed to its application. When, a few years later, Lord Elgin assented to the Rebellion Losses Bill, he established in Canada the practice and procedure of British parliamentary government. And thus we came to enjoy the right to manage our own affairs in the way we wished. That right was not wrung from an unwilling Mother Country. It was the gift to Canada of British statesmen, trained in the school of British parliamentary practice. These were our teachers when we were young and inexperienced; their understanding and their wisdom directed us to the enjoyment of the freedom bestowed by British parliamentary government. That freedom we owe to British statesmanship.
The second privilege which has been extended to us by the 1\-lother Country, and one of which we have not taken full advantage, is more difficult to define, but, in my judgment, it is of even greater importance. I can refer to it as the British tradition of service. We have acquired the framework, the bone and sinews and flesh, of the system of British parliamentary government, but the spirit which has given it life and made it a vital institution has been this recognition of the unity of interest of the individual and the community, and the sense of obligation to serve the community. This is the essential counterpart of our rights, and its existence is necessary if we are to follow the British conception of the democratic way of life. This, too, has its roots deep in the soil of British history. It is a happy survival of the English feudal system, a system by which the community was organized on the basis of gradations of rank and property, with each grade owing duties to the one above and recognizing obligations to the one below. There became ingrained in British thought the idea that the possession of privileges and power was in separable from the performance of obligations. The waves of time have washed down the peaks and the elevations and filled in the valleys and the depressions. The high and the low have been brought more closely together, but throughout this long cycle of change there has continued unchanged that recognition of obligation as the counterpart of privilege, that true noblesse oblige. Without the maintenance of that attitude, as I have suggested, our forms of democracy will remain empty shells, devoid of life, incapable of serving the needs of the community.
The miracle which the British people have performed during the past months can be explained only against the background of that tradition of noblesse oblige. They carried into the ordeal of anxiety and suffering a realization of the essential oneness of the community. Sovereign and slum-dweller found common ground in common sacrifice and in the common effort to help their neighbours. And that sense of obligation, strengthened and fortified by suffering, will continue to give courage and endurance to the British people, so long as life itself remains.
Our civilization on this continent has developed under somewhat different conditions. We had barely become established when inventions and discoveries increased manifoldly our mastery of the forces of nature. In an amazingly short time we brought our major resources under our control and, too frequently, we dissipated them with prodigal wastefulness. But in the process we acquired great wealth, and with wealth, great power. The tragedy of our development has been the rapidity with which it occurred. In England, power increased gradually, and in the minds of those entrusted with its exercise there- at the same time a sense of stewardship, of responsibility to the community. In England, the enjoyment of privilege and power was not regarded as a personal right but as a trust to be administered by the trustee, for the time being, in the interest of the community. We on this continent, on the other hand, have been inclined to regard wealth and power as personal possessions, and our acquisition of wealth has been so rapid that we, seemingly, have not had time to cultivate an adequate sense of obligation to the community for the use of the power which wealth creates. Tradition and practice have given to the British people certain controls over the exercise of power which are effective in protecting the public-interest controls which, unfortunately, have not been acquired to the same extent by the people of this continent. No external control in the form of legislative decree can be as effective as the natural and spontaneous restraints imposed by the conscience of the person who carries with him this inner sense of responsibility, of noblesse oblige.
This tradition I regard as one of our richest inheritances if we would only take advantage of it, and I suggest that we must do so if our forms of democratic living are to become real. We stand in special danger just because we are a part of a continental system which, for the reasons I have suggested, has not had the good fortune to carry forward these traditions. For that reason, in my judgment, there are found more of the essential features of democracy in Great Britain than on this continent.
We have been told in this province that, by reason of our participation in a scheme of continental defence, we may expect to turn for guidance and inspiration less to the east and more to the south. I should like to suggest that the qualities and habits of mind of which we stand in greatest need at the present time, if the foundations of our democracy are to be made secure, are those now being displayed by the British people and which incorporate the wisdom of long centuries of experience in providing for the common weal. It should, rather, be our aim to establish firmly and to maintain on this continent an economic, a social and a political order in which the individual will recognize his oneness with the community and in which the enjoyment of privilege or of power will be regarded as a trust to be administered for the benefit of one's fellows. Only in this way will we be made safe for democracy. Our surest guide in the achievement of that goal will be the assimilation of the traditions and habits of thought of the British people. (Applause.)
The third debt which we owe to the Mother Country, of which our youth should be given an understanding, is that involved in her defence of our shores, of our property and of our institutions. We know that today the first line of our defence is the English Channel. We know that the young men of the Air Force, that the sturdy seamen of Britain stand between us and invasion. (Applause.) And we know, further, that our security is not to be found in aircraft, or in guns, or in armour-plate, but in the spirit of the men of the British Services-their courage, their endurance, and, above all, their rugged determination to discharge their duty to the people of their race and Empire. These qualities of character are our first defence. (Applause.)
These are heroic days! The British tradition of service is being enriched day by day by exploits which stir the imagination and which for all time will form part of the record of British achievement. Never before in their history have the British people found their liberties so effectively challenged, and never before has a challenge evoked such greatness of spirit and of character. We owe it to the youth in our schools that they should be permitted to enjoy a feeling of participation in the great achievements which are making these days heroic. They should be enabled to preserve in their memories throughout the long years to come, a record of the deeds of valour which will enrich the British tradition of dauntless courage. Well might they be taken by the kindly hand of imagination to Dover and the Channel ports that they might witness the feverish hurrying of old men and young boys and women of all ages in search of motor-boats, of pleasure yachts, of fishing tugs and of any craft that would remain afloat, and that they might see that strange armada, almost obscuring the waters of the Channel, fighting its desperate way eastward with every ounce of energy because the men of the Empire--Englishmen, Scotchmen, Canadians--were in danger, and that they might witness the performance of that great drama of fortitude and endurance in the bloodstained waters off the coast of Dunkerque, where no thought was of self and only the safety of others was considered. There they would learn that in disaster British character can attain the highest peaks of greatness. It may well be that future generations will think of Dunkerque as the beginning of a new era in civilization.
Or, again, we might take our youth to the bridge of the "Jervis Bay" and watch the gallant Captain Fogarty Fegen drive his ship without faltering into the jaws of certain death, that others of his race and nation might be saved. There they would learn something of the reason for British pride in the quality of its seamen, and, of no less importance, what was meant by the Master when he said "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
Still yet might we take them to devastated London, where rich and poor together survey the ruins of their homes, where together they seek shelter by day and night from attack from the air, and where together they refuse to bend their souls in submission but with good cheer persist in their endurance. There our youth would learn that through common suffering and common sacrifice the British people have been welded into one community.
A day will come when this war is ended, when we of the British Empire will require all the courage and endurance and understanding that we can muster if we are to solve the problems with which the building of a new world will confront us. Great as has been our need in the past for those qualities of character which have been nurtured by centuries of training in Britain, greater still will be our need in the future. To allow the ties which bind us to the Motherland to become weakened in these days of their great need, and of ours, seems to me but an invitation to disaster. (Applause.) It would be a great tragedy should we in this country, by reason of our security and our ability to pursue without disturbance our quest of ease and comfort, fail to make our own the lessons which, through common sacrifices, are being learned by the people of the Old Land-the recognition of the essential oneness of the nation and the Empire, and the obligation of service as the counterpart of the enjoyment of liberties. Should we fail to grasp the meaning of these realities, we shall have forfeited our right to partnership with the Motherland in moral and spiritual leadership of that new world which will emerge on the morrow of this war.
I look to the future with confidence. Our young people, it seems to me, approach realities with greater frankness and with greater courage than did their elders. They have lived in a time in which the inability of things material to provide security of mind or spirit has been demonstrated with striking force. Our seeming satisfaction with things as they are in the best of all possible worlds, they regard as a delusion of those who are blinded to realities. If we of our generation can hand on to them a rekindled faith in courage, in honesty, in kindliness and unselfishness, in the supremacy of the things of the spirit, we shall have served them well. This may prove to be the crowning achievement of the ordeal of conflict through which we are now passing. It is my sincere hope that our schools may contribute to this end by providing our youth with an understanding of the extent of their obligations to the Mother Country and with an understanding of those qualities of character which have contributed to the greatness of the British people in these days. (Applause.)
THE HONOURABLE G. HOWARD FERGUSON: Gentlemen, I am quite sure that the rapt attention with which you listened to Dr. McArthur's address will be ample evidence to him of how much we appreciate his thoughtful, inspiring talk upon this vital subject that means so much to us all. That he may understand and have a proper expression of appreciation on your behalf, I am going to ask Dr. Cody if he will say a word on behalf of the meeting.
DR. H. J. CODY :Mr. Chairman, Dr. McArthur and Gentlemen: It is rather a curious thing that all the living Ministers of Education in the Province of Ontario are present in this room today. I have the honour of being the Senior, and next came Mr. Ferguson, then Mr. Henry, and Dr. McArthur. So we, who are ex-Ministers, join with the whole audience this afternoon in expressing to the Minister our appreciation of this magnificently lucid and thoughtful address and our pledge to help him in every way we can in one of the most important tasks that lies before our people, the task of rightly preparing the rising generation for the duties, as well as the opportunities, that lie before them.
It has been a great delight to listen to Dr. McArthur's enthusiastic statement of the case. Being an historian, he rightly paints his picture on a canvas of history. We shall not forget his outstanding points. May I briefly underline one or two that have appealed to me?
First of all, that great definition of Democracy as a way of life whereby each individual may make the best of himself. Democracy does not mean absolute equality, but it does mean that everyone should have the opportunity of making the best of what is in him. He did so wisely and well in bidding us remember that our duties are more important than our rights. Some people are always standing on their rights. Believe me, if you stand on anything too long you may wear it out, and some people so stand on their rights that they tend to disappear. But with rights must also go duties. With privileges must also go responsibility. He has so aptly reminded us that that has been the tradition of old Britain. He who has must give and do and serve. And that, today, is the whole ideal of education.
I remember some years ago listening to a distinguished Professor of Education from an institution across the line, who spent the whole time allotted to him on setting forth education as an enrichment of the personality. Of course it is that, but surely it doesn't rest there. Surely it is wise to link with it the ideal of service. Education prepares men and enriches their characters, that they may be better men and women, and serve better in their day and generation. We shall not forget that.
There comes to my mind, Sir, something I read the other day in an English paper, about the issue of the present struggle. You referred, and rightly referred, to our Motherland. A small boy who had been reading in the papers said, "Daddy do the Germans call their country 'The Fatherland'?" "Yes, my boy, they call it 'The Fatherland'.' "And don't we call our country 'The Motherland'?" "Yes, my boy, we call it 'The Motherland'." "Hurrah, Dad, we are going to win!" (Laughter.) That boy had great perception. But we shall win, for even weightier reasons. You know, that is not altogether a logical argument to draw great inferences from, in general, but sometimes there is a measure of truth in it.
So, on your behalf, Gentlemen, it gives me the very greatest pleasure to thank Dr. McArthur for this splendid survey of what we have inherited from the dear old Motherland. These are days when we have to examine democracy and find that it is more than a system of government and that it won't run by itself, and we have to examine the basis of democracy. That is what I liked, above everything in his speech. I believe that democracy, founded only on the rights of man is in sore peril in the world today, but democracy that is based on the relation of man to God, on the infinite value of the individual, is the only democracy that in the long run will prevail. Thank you, Sir. (Applause.)