Story type: Essay
I believe in the heart of democracy, but I am extremely suspicious of its head. Popular education among the masses is the most derelict thing in all our much-vaunted civilisation. To talk to the masses concerning anything outside the radius of their own homes and stomachs is, for the most part, like talking to children. It is not their fault. They have never had a real chance to be otherwise. When I contemplate the kind of education which the average child of the slums and country villages is given–and the type of man and woman who is popularly supposed to be competent to give it–I do not wonder that they are the victims of any firebrand, crank, or plutocrat who comes to them and sails into the Mother-of-All-Parliaments upon their votes. For the last six years I have been placed in circumstances which have enabled me to observe the results of what education has done for the average poor man. The result has made me angry and appalled. The figure is low when I declare that ninety per cent. of the poor not only cannot write the King’s English, but can neither read it nor understand it–beyond the everyday common words which a child of twelve uses in his daily vocabulary. Of history, of geography, of the art and literature of his country, of politics or law, of domestic economy–he knows absolutely nothing. Nothing of any real value is taught him. Even what he knows he knows so imperfectly that absolute ignorance were perhaps a healthier mental state. Until education is regarded with the same seriousness as the law, it is hopeless to expect a new and better world. For education is the very foundation of this finer existence. You can’t expect an A1 nation among B3 intellects. Ornamental education is not wanted–it is worse than useless until a useful education has been inculcated. And what is a useful education? It is an education which teaches a man and woman to be of some immediate use in the world; to know something of the world in which they live, and how best to fulfil their duty as useful members of a community and in the world at large. At present the average boy and girl are, as it were, educationally dragged up anyhow and launched upon the world at the first possible moment to earn the few shillings which two hands and an undeveloped intelligence are worth in the labour market. No wonder there is Bolshevism and class war and anarchy and revolution. Where the ruled are ignorant and the ruling selfish–you can never expect to found a new and happier world.