From the archive - Why public schools fail

10th September 2010 at 01:00
September 6, 1910: The first ever edition of The TES was intent on taking `puny' schoolmasters to task

The public school boy in the past has been too often in some ways an ignoramus; examinations have been a terror to him, and he has frequently been able to disguise the uncertainty of his spelling only by the obscurity of his handwriting. But on the other hand, he has learned how to hold his own in life, how to face difficulties, and how, when in a tight place, to "muddle through" by sheer pluck and resolution. His education has been of the old Roman type which, if it despised the arts, at least strengthened the character, and had for its chief aim to secure that respect for "manliness", without which no race can long make good its claim to leadership or Empire.

Today, however, things are changing. Our upper classes are becoming intolerant of austerity, and education is, one thinks, losing that touch of sternness without which it can never remain sound. Neither St. Paul's maxim "Endure hardness", nor the Pagan motto, ?? ???, ?? ???*, is any longer in favour; increasing wealth with it, as ever, while corseting and coddling, the study of clinical thermometers and the diagnosis of dyspepsia are coming to be counted virtues in a schoolmaster. It is his proper task to be a guide, a ruler, and at times an autocrat; but he is no longer the man he was. Whereas the work of a great school demands at least some great qualities, schoolmasters are every year becoming a more dwarfed and puny breed. There are hardly half a score of them who in any other profession would stand out above the common level of the crowd.

*translates as, "You've drawn Sparta, take care of it," which means, "That's the hand you've been dealt, now make the best of it."

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