- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Nov 1933, p. 329-342
- Clarke, Prof. F., Speaker
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- The relationship between this vast business of education and the process we all talk about so much nowadays called "reconstruction." The idea of reconstruction and the too mechanical suggestions about it. Warning against reconstruction. The need rather for reinspiration. What the speaker means by educational. Some thoughts on democracy. Problem of democracy not really faced in the nineteenth century. Reinspiration yet to be found. Testing the ideas which are the basis of democracy. Education in the British Commonwealth as the testing ground for these ideas. Education as the great issue of our time. Restoring the unity we have lost since the time of the Greeks when the Greeks realized that at the bottom education and government were the same thing; getting back to that. An examination of the British Commonwealth. The speaker's suggestion that the continued existence of the British Commonwealth is itself a democratic issue in the broad and deepest sense. A definition of the British Commonwealth. The effects on the Commonwealth of the diversity of cultures within it, with examples. The ideas of the Commonwealth; the real thing that has bound us together, with illustration. The democratic order of life as the real spiritual bond between us. The philosophy lying back of the new Institute of Education as introduced as an integral part of the vast scheme described by Lord Macmillan. The essential idea the adoption of this democratic means. Inspiration which is the very life blood, the very spirit of the Commonwealth. The role of Canada and the other Dominions. A concluding quote from Professor Elliott of Harvard.
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- 16 Nov 1933
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- THE COMMONWEALTH AS EDUCATOR
AN, ADDRESS BY PROF. F. CLARKE, M.A. (OXON.)
November 16, 1933
PROFESSOR CLARKE was introduced by MAJOR BAXTER, the President of The Empire Club.
PROFESSOR CLARKE: Mr. President and Gentlemen
I came to Toronto for the responsible and somewhat onerous duty, as it seemed to me, of addressing The Empire Club of Canada, with some feeling of trepidation, but they soon disappeared when I met your President, and I am grateful to him for giving a somewhat despised professor--all professors are despised mare or less nowadays, even if they form part of a brain: trust an opportunity of showing for once that he wasn't absent minded.
One of my hosts remarked to me that such a temperature as you have had recently hasn't been known for ninety-three years anal then he went on to say that it might not be known for another ninety-three years. "By that time", I said, "we may be asking for it, cold!" I was grateful for that opportunity because it made me feel at home, and on a non-professional footing.
I propose to speak on the subject of the "Commonwealth as Educator", but one particular department of the great subject I understand Lord Macmillan explained to you two months ago. I am going to speak more particularly upon the Institute of Education which has just in the last year or two become an integral part of the University of London. I can't mention that without saying that you have had here in Toronto for a good many years, advocates of just that very thing. My colleague, Professor Sandiford, has long had ideas, too, about it, to which he has given expression and there seems to be better reason why he should have occupied this place today than I. Then you have especially distinguished yourselves by giving place to another man who has also represented this view and given it utterance in the person of Dr. Michael West, famed through the world for the study of the teaching of English as a foreign language, the methodology of language.
I just want to give expression to two facts, as it were, to guard my own position. One is that I am here as a sort of self appointed crusader for what I think is one of the great ideas of our times and that I am in no way commissioned except by myself, to do what I am doing.
The other is that I may be giving expression, here to a view of the British Commonwealth--the word doesn't matter, call it British Empire if you like--to a view which may not be entirely that held by some members here. If that is so, I want to suggest this: Is it not the very essence of this unique organization that we call the British Commonwealth, that it should be a kind of social organization where it is possible for the members to take different views; where different views are taken by different people and yet they are able to live together in peace and harmony in the common whole? It is characteristic and essential of the whole thing. My experience in South Africa has borne that in upon me. I hope that you will be characteristic British citizens and allow me to state such a view of the British Commonwealth as in the word today may not be entirely in accord with the views you take yourselves.
May I set out by talking on a line of thought familiar to us all just now, namely, what is the relation between this vast business of education and the process we all talk about so much nowadays, called "reconstruction"? I will begin with the idea of reconstruction-a word that I don't like. The word "reconstruction" to me has too mechanical a suggestion about it and it suggests ignoring of the fact that the elements with which you build are elements which by their very nature won't stay put. They are self-directing, self-controlling human beings who have their own life to live. In my four years experience on this Continent I have formed the impression that our customary ways of thinking, which we don't criticize ourselves, have become very much affected by the machine and we have fallen into the habit of thinking of whole ethical and social organizations in non-human terms.
I don't want to quote examples, but some things are going on today, particularly in this continent, that suggests a frantic engineer, groping vainly over a switchboard that doesn't exist for gadgets that won't work when he thinks he has found them. Some of the specific suggestions that are being recommended and adopted today seem to me to be drawn particularly and thoughtlessly from analogies in the physical world. Sometimes, I almost think some of the fond hopes we hear expressed from time to time are rather like the hopes of a man who would push the mercury in the thermometer up to make the weather warmer.
I want at the outset to warn against the word, "reconstruction." I think that it will lead us hopelessly astray if we allow our efforts in the educational field to be dominated by that word.
What our modern society needs is reinspiration. That is human faith fighting the suppression of the emotions of the spirit--a human faith, something we are prepared to live and die for, a new spiritual synthesis.
Nothing impressed me more in the Old Country than the fact that every man I had special reason to respect, educators, one or two statesmen and my one most respected friend--every "man jack" of them, without exception, at the base of his mind, was thinking of the fundamental problem of spiritual resynthesis--the reinspiration of a faith that has been lost. So, I would prefer to use, instead of the term reconstruction, "reinspiration".
By starting from there I can perhaps help to give you the kind of focus on which I direct the ideas of education that follow. You will see what I now mean by educational, not simply a gospel of a certain technique of learning, certain fundamentals of learning some particular catechism, and so on, but essentially a revitalization of the spirit. We need our philosophy; we need our methodology, but above all things, we need a sense of direction. We need to know what is the Heaven or ideal to which we are attaining and it is that thought of reinspiration I want to extend.
For this reason, mainly, the British Commonwealth or scheme of life which we hope we are going to hand on enriched, is through and through a democratic thing and we think we know all about democracy. There, may I say, is another idea that has formed itself in my mind. These ideas come in; they can't help it when you are coming in contact with a different environment than that of England and South Africa. Another idea that has formed itself reluctantly is the fact that the influence which has produced all the good things on this continent has not been so much Democracy as we think it has. I wonder, sometimes, whether these democratic ideas, adult suffrage, free careers and those sort of things, aren't rather like the animal's claw and bits of fur that the medicine man hands around and to which he attributes the miracle the medicine brings about; rather a prosperity phenomenon than a democracy phenomenon.
The problems of Democracy were not really faced in the nineteenth century. In the effort to face them we see people that we thought democratic going down before the fray. The real problems have not yet been faced. You can see for yourselves the great part that Canada has to play in that.
That is my general thesis against which I project what I have to say about the British Commonwealth. The reinspiration has not yet been found; it has to be found somehow or other. Our democratic ideas have not been forced to the point where we have to go right through and test the ideas which are the basis of the whole thing. Before I leave that point: these thoughts that are creeping into the minds of many of us about the democratic idea are the temptation of the devil. We can easily be false to the greatest things in us and when we say that Democracy won't work, let us see whether we don't mean the kind of thing we thought up to the present to be Democracy. Let us see whether we have thought the thing out. The conditions of the twentieth century are going to test it to the uttermost; some of us will go down under it.
You see how I view the British Commonwealth, and I want to take as the field where these ideas will be tested" education; as I understand it, it is the great issue of our time. It is not a matter of a few schools, where the teachers in some places are regarded as a sort of superior nursemaid. It is a question of restoring the unity we have lost since the time of the Greeks when the Greeks realized that at the bottom education and government were the same thing. We have to get back to that.
Let us look at the British Commonwealth. Here I come on ground with which some of you may not agree; I am going to suggest that the continued existence or not of the British Commonwealth is itself a democratic issue in the broad and deepest sense. It will continue to exist; it should continue to exist if it is there for the service of mankind, for the spiritual realization of man. If it is not, T, for one, have no use for it. I am not prepared to defend-I say it quite definitely-I am not prepared, as many would agree with me today, to defend the British Commonwealth against all comers, just because it is the British Commonwealth. If it is what I think it is, we will defend it to the last drop of our blood as so many of us did on the last occasion, where the issue is perfectly clear as to what the British Commonwealth stands for.
That leads me to lay dawn one or two policies, rather hastily and without time to elaborate, as I could if either one were my particular subject.
I am assuming, first of all, in regard to the British Commonwealth, that organized political unity of the kind that constitutes the sovereign national state, that organized political unity covering the whole commonwealth and governed from a central government, is a thing of the past, that has permanently passed away; that the organized political unit of the imperial Roman kind is no longer possible, if ever it was possible. Our American friends had something to say about that nearly two centuries ago. Again, although there are many ways in which we can derive economic advantages from our membership, in spite of some distinguished--I don't know whether to call them ex-Canadians or not; you know to whom I refer--publicists of Canadian origin, I am not prepared to take the view that an attempted real economic unity of the British Commonwealth would be anything but mischievous and dangerous and selfish and would meet from the rest of the world the reaction it deserves; that, without reference, of course, to the great possibilities of economic co-operation.
Thirdly, I don't think--and here, again, my South African experience may help me--I don't think that we can look for a common culture, for instance, in a common way of eating our meals, and a common code of manners. I have lived now in three continents and in three parts of the British Empire and in each I have had to learn, a new set of table manners, to some extent, at least; a new set of street car manners; and a new lot of taboos--things that I have to, avoid. I wouldn't have any one set for general use all over the British Empire. That diversity of culture is one of the dangers of the thing; to think that nobody is refined simply because he doesn't wear a silk hat and a top coat on certain occasions is going to ruin the British Commonwealth.
As a colleague from Toronto was saying a little while ago in Montreal, nothing seems to be left but the sentiment, and he compared that sentiment as all that is left with the once solid British Commonwealth, with the smile of the Cheshire cat which was all that was left when the Cheshire cat disappeared. (He was careful to suppress the fact that the original smile wasn't a smile-it was a grin.)
That is the opinion held. If it is true, it means this what is left is the real essence of the thing; it is not something economic or cultural in the sense of manners but it is something spiritual. It is easy enough to stress the element of sentiment; it is not so easy to analyze and we see how difficult the thing is. It is difficult in a number of ways. It is not a common sentiment.
Take the Afrikanders today; many of my best friends are Dutch Afrikanders with whom I correspond. Recent political conditions show that the Afrikander is coming whole-heartedly into the British setup, but he doesn't come in with a sentiment like yours and mine.
The same is true of the French-Canadian; it is true of the Indian. It is a highly diversified sentiment that is behind it; it is not a unitary common sentiment. There are many different forms of it. Consequently, these different forms of a sentiment within the British Commonwealth may seem to come into conflict and excite very bitter discussion.
I recall, with some satisfaction, the fact that I very narrowly escaped, some six or seven years ago, becoming a member of the Commission in South Africa which was to decide on what was to be the future of the South African flag. It was one of the luckiest escapes I ever had. The conflict was between two deep-seated, deep-rooted sentiments; one the real old British sentiment of the bulldog kind; the other the Boer sentiment, connected with their own dead kindred who had died in concentration camps in the Boer War. It had implanted in them a deep-rooted and perfectly understandable attitude toward the Union Jack. Both were worthy sentiments but they were in bitter conflict.
If you rely on sentiment only in this particularist sense, you are looking for trouble. There is a sentiment, a feeling, a common attitude, that really does bind us together. What is to be the common loyalty that is going to combine in the spiritual whole all the diverse human elements: How diverse they are, you don't know until you have seen a few of them--and you get some inkling there. I want to suggest that there is such a sentiment. For want of a better name, I call it the political sentiment. It
is a sentiment as to how the public affairs of political society should be managed. It is an attitude to matters of "public concern." We take a certain attitude toward them. And we, in our British nonplanning way, have been steadily teaching non-British people the same point of view and when they come back on us with the ideas that we, ourselves, have taught them and accept our ideas as true for them, as much as being true for us, at the beginning we don't like it. We have taught the Indians; we have taught the South African natives, the Afrikanders, to come back upon us with our own ideas and the real demand on us is the demand to be true to ourselves, to these ideas of free government and the rest which express the deepest things in us. If so viewed, they will come to be a unifying influence on the Empire as a whole-in spite of difference in table manners and street car manners, these are the unifying principles.
And when you think what these principles are, doesn't it strike you that they are just exactly the attitude within the community life and the relations of the individual man to the community life, that is being so widely challenged today. One European country after another is falling and is proud of its fall, almost. Is it not the fact that the time of trial is coming and is on us, very nearly now, when the challenge will be put straight to us
Are the ideas on, which we have built our Commonwealth and which we have spread to other people, not British? Or are they not going to be the determining ideas of the future? The issue is not smaller than that.
What are the ideas in the Commonwealth, the real thing that has bound us together? Government by consent; national units of government, autonomous within the system--the idea that we have to keep the national unit and in this we are all willing to agree. The third, you may quarrel with: Democratic conduct of industry and finance. I do not say that necessarily there should be any particular device for doing that. Some way it will have to be democratized. Political and religious freedom without discrimination on grounds of race or colour; security for minorities, of which we are proud, and rightly proud in Canada. It is a great achievement of Canadian politics; integrity of administration; universal education and freedom of opportunity; and over all, the supreme rule of law and the ideal of a society where dissimilar modes of life may be followed in harmony and peace. When we talk about loyalty to the British Commonwealth, isn't that what we mean? I think it is. To these principles, our loyalties are directed.
I give a personal illustration of that. I had a visit a year ago from an old Afrikander fried who is now high up in the world of educational administration in his own country and it was a delight to see him. He was an old student of mine who began life as a poor white; he is now an educational administrator in an important position in South Africa. While he was staying with me, I naturally had a number of Canadian friends in to meet him and as we sat around after supper, talking, I was surprised at the acceptance which these ideas had in his mind and I came to this conclusion: that that man's mind was the most British mind in the room. That is to say, he talks most naturally and most sincerely in acceptance of the basic ideas which are the essence of the British system, without exaggeration, without self detraction. I wonder sometimes, if we don't want another word than "British" to describe these things. I hope not. But you see what I am driving at.
It was my pleasure during my South African days to have a little conference with a Hindu, Mr. Sastri. I found that the Hindu's grasp of the ideals of the British Commonwealth was more clear and sure than my own. That is the situation.
And may I tell another South African story to illustrate the same thing in another form. In spite of differences in history and language and all the old quarrels and unhappy, far-off things of battles long ago, these essential things do unite us. On the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales, he went through South Africa and had a great time. Just at that time, General Hertzog had become Prime Minister. Both the Prince and the General had been warned before they met to be careful what they said, and when they did meet, they were both so sensitive that they shook hands and stood speechless! Neither said anything. But that atmosphere soon passed away. The old Boer, with native dignity and his desire to be courteous, and his radical understanding at bottom of the essentials of the British system, was out to do his best.
On one part of the Prince's tour, he had to visit and take lunch at a little town away on the high veldt in the Transvaal, where the people were all Dutch speaking,, very largely Nationalist, with a Nationalist Mayor. The Mayor hadn't had any experience in that sort of thing. He wasn't accustomed to the etiquette of the occasion but he knew that he would have to propose the Toast to the King, and he was a little in doubt as to whether he would compromise his political position with his colleagues in the place. So he consulted one of his experienced legal friends, a politician who gave his advice. He said, "It is just a conventional thing. It is done on all these occasions" and he told him in Dutch what to do. "You wait until the right moment and I will give you the wink. I will be there and all you have to do is to take up your glass (with something better than water in it, perhaps--I should say 'something stronger than water in it'; that is the right thing to say in Ontario); you take up your glass and all you say is, 'Gentlemen, The King'." And then he went on to tell the Mayor in Dutch that it was always done on these occasions and the least said about it, the better. The Mayor pondered on it for a week and he got his instructions badly mixed up, with the result that when the time came, he got up with the air of dignity that only the Boer can command, took up his glass, pulled himself together and said, "Gentlemen, the King. His Majesty is always drunk on these occasions and the least said about it the better." (Laughter.) I am told that the Prince was so impressed by the humour in it, that he almost fell off his chair. There is your touch of nature. That same old Mayor put up a bitter fight on the political platform. He said the most outrageous things about the Union, enjoying himself, I think, all the time. He is really just like ourselves.
I have deliberately spent most of my time on the explanation of the philosophy of the thing because, the institution to give expression to that can now have its adequate setting. The democratic order of life is the real spiritual bond between us. If that thing, by the very nature of the case, has to be created in the individuals of each generation, our educational problem is our supreme political problem. It is the one direction, the one means by which you are going to maintain that unique system, with its world wide and highly diversified character. What is needed now--the thing will grow as all these things grow in response to the need of the moment, but as a distinguished Spaniard has put it, "But the British way follows the undulations of fact, like a glove fitting on a hand,"-but at the moment, the one thing we can see to be clearly necessary is some more adequate and better organized means of exchange so we can meet together and find what this is on which we really agrees and where the diversities come in--a Canadian way of expressing it; a South African way of expressing it--a native African way; a Hindu way, and what other ways!--to find what is common. And that is the philosophy lying back of this new Institute of Education which is intended to be an integral part of the vast scheme which Lord Macmillian explained to you. It is to be one of the central activities of the University of London, with its home on its new site in London.
The unit is there already in the form of a well equipped college, formerly under the control of the London Council and only recently transferred to the University of London It is a University, free from public direction, a central part of a fee teaching University and that is the position the thing should be in. Its organization is rather undeveloped at the moment, but it is under the able hand of the Director who is a veteran in the whole field of British education, Sir Percy Dunn. Under his able hand, the solid foundations have been laid. The further growth depends very largely upon the full and adequate understanding of the situation by the rest of the Empire, and particularly, the Dominions.
I don't want to worry you with details of the organization but the general idea is not that it is a place for sending out bureaucrats to tell the Dominions and the other parts of the Empire how to do their educational job. The essential idea is the adoption of this democratic means of inspiration which is the very life blood the very spirit of the Commonwealth. Those who go will go on equal terms. A permanent staff is drawn, partly from England, partly from the Dominions and elsewhere. It is hoped that there will be Indian members on the staff. In addition, there is to be a visiting staff, constantly flowing through the Institution, of administrators,, teachers, professors, educators, from other parts of the Dominions, both giving and receiving. You will have that growing contingent of people, in themselves in a position to influence educational policy, coming into contact, and as a result of that, you will get a better grasp of the common idea, and a better understanding of the relations of the various differences, too.
Canada and each Dominion can help, as I am trying to help today, by spreading the idea and studying, not only the British Commonwealth, but the whole world crisis at this time. It can help by advising students, though not young people; (though there is a place for the young students fresh from university.) The thing in mind is rather that the students should be the men who have been in the field, struggling, if you like, for ten years or more. That is the man to go at this thing.
One thing we can do is to help Canadians to share in this movement, not only by receiving but by giving.
To explain that, I finish with a quotation, not from a British source at all, but from an American writer who has written what I, myself, regard as the best written, the most accurate and the most entertaining book I know on the British Empire-Professor Elliott of Harvard. This is how he concludes
"Because of her exposed position and of her imperial obligations it is not too much to say that the problems of western internationalism and democracy are being faced by Great Britain in a form big with meaning for the future of our whole civilization. If Democracy fails in England to meet the challenge of world leadership, of harmonious international order--a leadership that we as Americans in some measure have abdicated to her--the chances of Democracy and permanent success seem slight elsewhere. For British Democracy is pioneering in an effort to reconcile social control and national planning with the flexible play of economic powers and the retention of individual initiative.
"The poised Athenian way of life and the stoic Roman virtues of public service for which British tradition stands are a precious heritage to her dominions. It will be their trust to support and preserve in other lands, too, the spirit of English liberty and English justice that still keeps warmly alive their attachment to the Mother Country.
"It is for the statemen of the Dominions, too, and the whole people of the new Empire to prove equal to their task--world peace, the collaboration of classes in industrial prosperity; the reconciliation of trusteeship with colonial rule, of nationalism with international co-operation and of Democracy with strong leadership and economically efficient government. The labours are Herculanian and none but the most dogged courage, imbued with the pride of Empire and the strength of a great race could face them unappalled."
That is not only a great opportunity; it is a great challenge. It is with regard to the meeting of that challenge in my own particular field of education that I have spoken of today. You have been most attentive in listening to me dealing at such length on such a wearisome subject as Education. (Hearty Applause.)