"AWAY WITH PRISON-LIKE SCHOOLS" "Large Rural Population Is Necessary
From a Special Correspondent.
EACH YEAR THE BRITISH ASSOCIATION MEETS FOR AN ORGY OF DISCUSSION. OUT OF THE THOUSANDS OF SENTENCES THERE COMES A GOOD AMOUNT OF INTERESTING FACT, AN UNFORTUNATELY MUCH BIGGER AMOUNT OF NONSENSE, AND A LITTLE WISDOM.
Professor R. G. Stapledon put brilliantly the case for increased agriculture in our land.
Mr. C. W. Guillebaud put the searchlight on the economic position in Germany.
The Bishop of Winchester told of the cruelty of totalitarianism, and Professor Griffith Taylor nailed down some Nazi heresies.
H. G. Wells said a few things about education, so did some people more directly connected with the subject. Mr. R. F. Harrod prophesied advance in the economic science. Dr. R. H. Thouless explained the working of the brain in conjunction with the eye.
One of the minor blessings of life in a demoplutocracy is that talking is encouraged. While in Germany the people feverishly build their autobahnen, heap up their furnaces, and march in the heat for manoeuvres or ceremonials; while in Spain they set the machines for killing and strive to build up a new nation on the torn flesh of old sins; while in Italy they grab empires and wait all attentive for the tourist; while in Russia they work grimly to attain the social status of stakhanovite and cheer obediently each time a batch of " wreckers " is liquidated; we in England talk.
At Cambridge where the British Association has net this year there has been a great deal of talking by the popular men of science and by more important people also.
The people who Usually get their names into the papers on these occasions, got their names into the papers, and the more trivial pronouncements, such as that of Dr. Margaret Murray on the arrogance of Cambridge University, received the mo.st publicity, for they were the easiest to understand, and the least likely to upset the optimism complex which our daily press seems determined to cling to—truth being so bad for advertising.
War and Erosion
Professor R. G. Stapledon, Professor of Agricultural Botany in the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, spoke with a sense of realities, of that subject, important even in our industrial days, the growing of our food.
He was enthusiastically in favour of the rotation system of farming. " Excessive concentration on commodities leads inevitably towards monoculture, and to what we are too lightly pleased to call specialisation, and leads away from the rotation and ultimately to disaster."
Professor Stapledon said that a generous, national approach to the reorganisation of agriculture was absolutely necessary. Three dangers threatened our food supply, war, rapidly decreasing population, and soil
erosion. The last was the only one on which he had any authority to speak, and he made use of his authority.
" The extent of the influences of soil erosion and depletion are not even yet fully realised. Our own rough and hill grazings have manifestly deteriorated; witness the spread of bracken. They have become increasingly depleted of lime and phosphates in recent years, and the same thing must be happening in a greater or lesser extent—sometimes accompanied by actual erosion —in all the great ranching areas of the world."
Need of Large Rural Population
He outlined what was required of agri culture. " To maintain as large a rural population as possible. for probably on a large and contented rural population depends to a great extent the increase of our population as a whole." (This sane viewpoint cut right across the opinions put earlier by Mr. C. S. Orwin, who made the grievous mistake of considering farming as an industry, and so bureaucratically, added up statistics about wages and hours and came to the conclusion that only " by a lowering of the standard of living can more people be employed on the land." Similarly, Mr. J. S. Wright discovered that " we must make still more use of toil-saving machines, otherwise the farm worker's job must be unpleasant and more arduous in comparison with other forms of employment." Of course any factory hand will tell Mr Wright how much nicer it is to screw bolts on a motor chassis than to milk cows, or get one's boots covered with the nasty mud of a ploughed field.
" Secondly." said Professor Stapledon, " to maintain as large an acreage as possible in a highly fertile and ploughable condition; and thirdly to conduct our farming so as to allow at all times and in all places. for the absolute maximum of flexibility in commodity production."
German Scarcity of Labour
There has been much in the press lately about a slump on the German Bourse. The slump however does not seem to have come up to the expections of the prophets of woe.
Mr. C. W. Guillebaud read a paper on Germany's economic recovery, the contents of which, had they been more widely known, might have dispelled some of the fears this recent deterioration of prices on the Bourse produced. Ciuillebaud said : " In 1932 Germany was in the depths of an intense economic depression. In 1933 however unemployment fell from 6,000,000 to 3,800,000. The stage of making work for the sake of employment was almost completed by Spring, 1935; from then on conscription and rearmament played an increasingly important part. By the end of 1936 Germany was in a state of full employment and the first Four Year Plan for the conquest of unemployment had been carried out.
"The second Four Year Plan had for aim to make Germany independent of
essential raw materials. In 1937-38 it had taken first place and rearmament had become a less important factor in the employment situation. Now there is a pronounced scarcity of labour, especially in the building and metal industries."
Guillebaud thought that when the German rearmament programme was completed there would be no serious slump because of " the vast reserves of public works (especially housing) and private investments available in the background."
He did not think however that Germany was sufficiently self-supporting economically to he completely insulated against the effects of another world slump similar to that of 1930-32.
" Not Labelled as by Mr. Wells"
H. G. Wells, who has pronounced pontifically on most things, last year at Nottingham pronounced upon education, and his criticism as to its present inadequacy in this country raised an outcry among teachers.
Since that memorable pronouncement a questionnaire has been submitted to the headmasters of a number of elementary, secondary, and preparatory schools The replies to this questionnaire were surnmarised in a report that was read to the Section of Educational Science the substance of which showed as Sir Richard Gregory put it when moving the adoption of the report " that a good deal of what Mr. Wells proposed and what certain sections of the educational press and others had disputed, was being given in the schools but was not actually labelled in the same way as by Mr. Wells."' The popular novelist himself seconded the report. The fact that out of 26 ekmentary schools, 18 made reply to the questionnaire, while out of 21 secondary schools, only 12 did so, impressed Mr.
Wells. He suggested that the secondary schools were stunned with the idea that the young student had to emerge from school with a definite vision of the world into which he was going.
Possibly they were—possibly also they may have considered no useful purpose would be served in answering Mr. Wells's queries, as they had put into practice already the things he advocated in rather obtuse terms, Mr. Wells said that education had to be a preparation to meet changing conditions.
Educate for Judgement
Some of the people more directly concerned with education than Mr. Wells, had more interesting things to say about it.
Mr. E. S. Urwin. county architect. Cambridge, said that the child must be taught to appreciate beautiful things and good design, not only in buildings, but in the common things of life.
He said in effect: " Away with the prison-like school buildings with their spiked iron railings, and high walls. They arc the dead heritage of the nineteenth century. Let us have trees and grass and flowers around our schools, and bright colours and friendliness."
Miss Ruth Dawson, headmistress of a senior girls' school at Middlesbrough. said: "Children today are born into noise. They hear the wireless without listening to it; the sound of the traffic is incessant. The cinema and the newspapers introduce them to the troubled world. Against such a background the child of today needs an educa tion that lies not in the accumulation of facts but in training the mind to make right judgements."
Heresies of Nazi Racialism
About the prostitution of the sciences by the totalitarian states of Russia and Germany, quite a lot was said, notably by the Bishop of Winchester, who attacked exaggerated nationalism and spoke of the deliberate extermination of millions of men in Russia, and the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich; and by Professor Griffith Taylor, Professor of Geography in Toronto University.
Professor Taylor exposed the fallacies of the Nazi race theories and called on Geographers throughout the world to combat these new and crude science heresies. His speech would have carried more weight had he not spoken as one who thought that " the aim of civilisation is not to prepare for a better world beyond this earth, but to prepare a better world on this earth."
The Talk Goes On . . .
Mr. R. F. Harrod talked of a " great advance in economic theory " in the very near future; Dr. R. H. Thouless talked on how we sec with our brain as well as with our eyes, on how the brain may modify the sensory image of an object so that it may fit in with other information we have about the object. The process by which colour films may be printed, and the mechanism of a gearless car were some of the things explained.
The talk and the explanations go on for a long time. The fanatics for doing may shrug their shoulders impatiently, but the talkers must not be hurried. It is essential that they should continue talking uninterrupted, and without the obligation of showing results for their talk.
There are not many places in Europe now where one may talk as a human being, for the very pleasure of exchanging thought and hearing men's voices. The commercial traveller idea advances everywhere; the doers drum out monotonously: talk must show results,