Josephine Ransom.

Schools of to-morrow in England online

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E.A. Ut.

ools of To -Morrow I

in England


Southern Branch
of the

University of California

Los Angeles

Form L i Educative
LA LibMI *


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THESE sketches of some of the pioneering
schools of the country are not intended to be
more than sketches. My purpose in investigat-
ing experimental schools was simply to try
to discover what was in them that marked
them as belonging to the " To-niorrow " that
is, the future in Education. I had no inten-
tion of going into a close examination or analysis
of their methods. It will be seen, though,, that
each one contributes something to the solution
of the problem of educational reform. Here a
little point is solved, there another, but in no
one school is to be found a complete solution of
all the immense and complicated problems- of
educational reform.

Moreover, I would venture to say that not
every school now struggling with pioneer work
will succeed and become established. I would
even go so far as to say that if some of them did
persist they would defeat their own purpose.



With some the vy '" failure " that they may
encounter will be their lasting success. They
will have added an intangible but important
element to the stream of education; they will
have made the stream wider and fuller, and in
that lies much of the very reason of their exist-
ence. They enrich the content of education and
contribute distinctly to the formation of opinion
as to its meaning and purpose.

It will be clearly understood, of course, that
the schools here described by no means exhaust
the number of experimental schools distributed
throughout the country. They are merely a
few of them. Some, indeed, will be seen to be
ordinary schools, with just some special element
in them which is of significance to the future.
Others are whole-heartedly pioneer schools. This
does not mean that they are either fanciful or
extravagant in their operations, but that they
carry out all their work with a special intention,
and illumine it all with a high purpose, and this
in even quite small details.

Of one thing I am fully convinced at present :
I hope nothing will ever interfere in England
with the freedom that now exists for enterprise
in educational work. From one point of view
it may be wholly desirable to have a standard
type of education to which all are required to


conform; for my own part I prefer to see a
margin left for adventure. The unrest that
stirs the educational world almost continually
breaks out into individual rebellion, to be fol-
lowed by fresh lines of endeavour, and this spells
health and sanity for the nation. No educational
system is as yet so perfect that we can say the
final expression has been reached. We are only
now finding out some of the truth about child-
hood and its needs, and are engaged in exploding
many orthodox views on the training of children.
We must be on our guard against falling into the
main error of the past in education: which is
thinking that any given system or method is to
be established into a settled and permanent
form. We are at last becoming conscious that
this procedure is wholly adverse to the spirit of
mankind, which is eternally engaged in the dis-
covery of vaster horizons, and can therefore
brook no particular and limited view for very
long. Within itself this spirit in man is aware
of its ineffable divine glory, and that its goal is
the full, free exercise of its divinity. To the
gaining of that goal every move among men is
directed. How, then, shall any system satisfy
that spirit. It outgrows them all, however
splendid and satisfactory they may be for a time.
Teachers and taught are to-day climbing to


new heights, and their way is by no means easy
or clear of obstacles. Some help to make the
pathway so far but no farther; some press on
yet higher; but all are to-day road- makers and
road-menders. Possibly a halt may be called
presently and all enjoy the view-point gained;
but the enjoyment will last only so long as is
needed to take breath before climbing' still

In watching the children in these schools, I
think I have discovered that here we see the
leaders of the future in the making'. We who
have seen much sorrow, and who strain to
catch a glimpse of the future, may well feel un-
certain about it, and even say that the prospect
is gloomy. Perhaps it is for us; there is so
much wrong that we have to put right. But
when I look into the clear eyes of youth, and, in
particular, of those who are being given special
advantages, I am comforted. I cannot but
rejoice, for here is a free and joyous youth,
already half conscious of the difference between
itself and the past. It is a youth which is not
afraid, which is sensible of its inalienable spiritual
right to liberty, and which walks with the dignity
of comradeship in our midst and will meet and !
mingle with us on no other terms. One point
I should like to press: this type of child' is- not


confined to any one class of the community, but
comes from all classes, from the palace and the
slum. Such children are the beginnings of the
true and noble democracy of the future.

In examining these schools I have met with
the greatest kindness from those in charge of
them. I record here my warm thanks to them,
for it must at times be a nuisance to have in-
quisitive visitors wandering about and asking
innumerable questions.

It is by courtesy of the Herald of the Star, in
most of which these articles first appeared, that
they are now reproduced in a book. I hope
that in this form they will reach all who as
teachers or parents are interested in watching
the present tendencies in education. It has
been a labour of love, and a such I offer
whatever it may possess of value to those who
are as deeply interested as I am in the training
of our children for the playing of their part in
the future.

J. R.























IN the beginning of 1915 the first Theosophical
School in England was opened at Letchworth
Garden City, Herts. No one knew how long
the Great War might last, and everyone was
hoping for its speedy conclusion. It did not
seem wise to those interested and eager to see a
beginning made to put off the opening of the
School, since children and teachers were ready.
To many, the idea of a Theosophical School did
not seem very pressing, as there were many good
schools throughout the country where the
children of Theosophists could be taught. But
careful investigation showed that in every case
there was something that would not give to
their children all that Theosophists desired for
them, especially where freedom of thought and
religious teaching and practice were concerned.

Dr. Armstrong Smith had gone to France
immediately on the outbreak of war to help to
organise hospitals. He put in some very stren-



uous work till Christmas, 1914, and suffered
severely from the strain. As the hospitals grew
more organised, he felt himself free to answer
the potent call of childhood, and took up his
duties as Principal of the little School, giving
his services voluntarily. A staff of teachers and
about a dozen children formed the first group
of those willing to put Theosophical principles
to the test.

At the end of the first term the question of
finance faced the promoters, and, with the help
of friends, was overcome. Then there came an
opportunity to acquire a large school in Letch-
worth, which was about to close owing to war
difficulties. The matter was taken up seriously,
and Dr. Armstrong Smith and his growing
number of pupils w T ere moved into it in August,
1915. Since then the School has gone on rapidly.

It was due to the great exertions of Dr. Arm-
strong Smith, who never spared himself, that
the School has been able to progress during the
war period, and become firmly established. He
sacrificed everything to it, even his health. This
finally necessitated his taking a long rest. So,
regretfully, he resigned, and his place was taken
by Wilfrid Layton, B.Sc., F.R.C.O.

I do not propose to follow the course of the
development of the School, nor the experiments


carried on by Dr. Armstrong Smith, which were
attended with very happy results. I am very
mindful that it was his efforts which made pos-
sible the special conditions that now prevail in
the School, and that to his genius for the under-
standing of children the School owes a debt it
is not likely to forget. His enthusiasm over-
came a whole mountain of obstacles, and gave
the School the chance it now has of swift and
steady progress.

Additions have just been made to the existing
buildings which make for added comfort for
everyone, staff and children alike.

The special quality that distinguishes this
School from other schools, though in a measure
it distinguishes all Theosophical Schools, is that
a belief in Re-incarnation affects the treatment
of the children. It is taken for granted that a
long past lies behind each child which makes him
what he is. The result is highly individualistic
work, which is turned to co-operative effort.
Therefore, one finds an unusual independence
combined with real fraternisation. With rare
freedom, the children express their views; with
rare tact, the elders meet them seriously. A
child may question the accuracy of a statement
made by a teacher who is wise enough to discuss
the matter at length, and till the young mind is


satisfied one way or the other. Very often
teachers coming from more strict schools are
puzzled by this freedom, and confuse it at first
with rudeness. It might easily be the latter if
not sympathetically met. To those who under-
stand, it is a joyous venture to embark upon a
lesson with alert and inquiring minds, ready to
question, to doubt, to discuss, and to express

This sense of freedom comes out in the fact
that, contrary to the practice in older and more
" orthodox " schools, the sense of honour is in-
dividual, too. There is added to what usually
is the tradition of honour in schools a keen sense
of personal responsibility, and willingness to
acknowledge mistake or fault.

In the " Moot," this personal freedom has been
discussed, and especially its reactions in the
form of " punishments." It is interesting to
find that children with a developed sense of
personal responsibility will come of themselves
to the point where they demand checks and
safeguards, and the power to enforce decisions.
They realise that an ordered society with rules
and regulations must have the right to hold its
members to those rules when their desires and
actions are disorderly. It is something to dis-
cover how much it means to give willing obe-


dience to laws, and also the right one has to try
to change them once they become oppressive.
The way in which civilisations grow by volun-
tary cohesions for the sake of the common good,
and then break as men grow out of them, is
thus seen by the children in the growth of their
own " Moot "or attempt to practise self-

In religion, the same spirit of independence
has run through several phases. At first it was
thought by the School authorities that they
should insist upon those children whose parents
wished it that they should attend some place of
worship. Very soon, however, with exceptions,
this presented a difficulty. The children liked
the services in some ways, in others they were
repelled by them. So far as the children of
Theosophists were concerned, this question
came: " Who is right those who tell us we are
divine in origin, but make mistakes because that
divinity has not yet reached in us its perfection ;
or those who tell us that we are all sinners, to
be redeemed only by our belief in one great and
perfect Teacher the Christ ?" And one more
question: "Who is right those who tell us
Christianity is the only religion that is true; or
those who tell us that there have been other
great teachers who. in God's name, have taught


Truth to the world ?" The children have pre-
ferred to adhere to the idea that mankind is
divine in origin, and there have been many great
teachers to lead the world. This decision makes
the orthodox Church teachings less interesting to
them, and they turn and seek religious satisfac-
tion in other ways. Various kinds of School ser-
vices have been tried, and I am not sure that any
of them have met fully the needs of the children.
They have been free to devise ways and means
for themselves, with some success, and it is a
great lesson to watch small people conduct their
own religious service with gravity and a full sense
of the decorum demanded by such occasions.

The religious problem is by no means yet
solved in Arundale School. The children seek
religion, but are not satisfied with the forms of
it presented to them either by adults or evolved
by themselves. I heard Mr. Layton giving a
Scripture lesson, and did not envy him the task.
He was subjected to a running fire of questions,
all of which he answered squarely, admitting
the difficulties that the teachings of the Christ
presented. Shrewd comment from both boys
and girls showed that certain fundamental rules
of right and wrong as against convention were
already firmly fixed in their minds, as pivots upon
which all the rest turned.


The presence of boys and girls in all the
classes evokes rich play of opinions, likes, and
dislikes. For the School is co-educational, with
the happiest results. There is a wonderful
friendliness in all the classes, a delightful spirit
of comradeship, and a sweet wholesomeness of
behaviour that is one of the particular delights
of Arundale School. Co-education is an impera-
tive necessity to youth. It offers a range of
experience that is denied to those who are edu-
cated solely with boys or with girls. Delicately
intimate friendships are established, giving a
richness to the School-life that could not other-
wise be gained. Some girls need the corrective
of a boy's outlook; some boys are helped to an
incredible extent by the warm understanding
and friendship of a girl of their own age. Every-
one who knows Arundale School admits that the
effect of co-education, frankly and sympatheti-
cally carried out, has given the School an atmos-
phere of happy intimacy that it is difficult to
describe in mere words.

I have wandered through the School at lesson
time, and watched the different classes at work.
I have always been struck by the fact that the
teachers are aware that they are educating not
only the brains and bodies of the children, but
are calling upon a deeper life and consciousness


within them. To sit and feel this at play is a
revelation. History, it may be, is in progress,
or mathematics, but whatever it is, there goes
on a subtle interchange all the time of the big,
deep forces in human nature. It is as though
the children put out invisible feelers, and sen-
sitively contacted the realities and the depths
of the teaching that is being imparted. To this
both teacher and taught respond, and to the
driest of subjects is imparted a quality that is
of the highest importance. Moreover, it satis-
fies that " pitiless logic " which is the peculiar
quality of childhood, so long as it is not covered
over or destroyed by the subterfuges and eva-
sions such as far too often accompany our grown-
up outlook.

The usual games and gymnastic exercises are
part of the School life, but Eurhythmies also
are added. The children seem thoroughly to
enjoy the power thus given them of self-expres-
sion. A thorough grasp of time-values and
rhythms is engendered by this system of musical
interpretation, and, in a high degree, control
over the movements of the body. The group
work is particularly interesting. One pupil in-
terprets a piece of music as it appeals to him or
to her. The rest closely watch, and obey the
graceful, decided gestures of this director. They


rise or sink, move to left or to right, advance or
recede with appropriate steps in quick obedience,
and thus make beautiful pictures of ordered
movement. It is fascinating to watch. Of one
thing only we must be careful in describing
Eurhythmies: not to call it " dancing." If one
does, at once a chorus of young voices arises:
" It is not dancing. It is Eurhythmies !"

In the playing-fields, boys and girls together
take part in all that goes on, except in the foot-
ball of the older boys. Here, too, the influence
of one sex upon the other plays its part. The
adult fear that it would spoil the game for boys,
or make them less brisk and efficient, has been
shown to be falsely founded. The fact is, that
they win most of their matches against schools
where only boys are taken as scholars.

In art, the pupils at Arundale take a great
interest, and many of them belong to the Art
Guild, which has, as its special motive, the
beautifying of the School, and generally to bring
beauty into everything. The work that is pro-
duced attains a high level of artistic expression.
Here, too, freedom of expression, combined with
accuracy of workmanship, show very happy

A Dramatic Society gives the needed stimulus
to those pupils who delight in the portrayal of


character and the play of emotion. One small
girl on the Committee was exceedingly proud
of the honour, and one day when a Committee
was called to consider some " resignations," used
the long word with delightful importance.

There are many other sides to the life led at
Arundale School, notably the kindly, free, home
atmosphere that pervades it. But the most
marked thing of all is the great happiness of the
pupils, big and small. They love the School,
and rejoice in all its activities. They are fond
of their teachers, and have a charming intimacy
with them, and they are at peace among them-
selves. They respect their Head; but they have
a nickname for him which they do not attempt
to hide, and when he gives them permission to
accomplish some special desire, they will say to
him by way of fervent thanks, " It's jolly decent
of you !" and then confide to one another that
" Latey is a jolly decent chap !"

Arundale is one of those schools which most
distinctly point the way of the To-morrow in
education. Even if in nothing else, yet in this :
it has rid its small, but important, world of fear.
Impositions, punishments, are unknown. Correc-
tive measures, yes; but kindly ones, appeal-
ing to that reasonableness that exists in the most
refractory child when properly approached.


Of course, there have been many pitfalls at
Arundale, into some of which they have fallen,
and courageously climbed out of; but of the one
of punishment they have kept clear. To this is
due the cheery, eager spirit of the pupils. They
leap forward to attain, not sideways to avoid.
It makes all the difference. I always feel that
in children such as these we see the makings of
that New Age for which we all long. The grip
of ancient things is hard upon us who are grown-
ups, but these children know not even the
shadow of it. They march to a future of sun-
shine, and will bring to birth the fair, new day for
which we have fought. It is our privilege to have
done so, and theirs to reap the benefit. Therefore
one greets this School as one of the heralds of the
future, and watches its growth with keen interest
to see how it will develop, and what will be the
reward of its faith in being among the pioneers
in educational reform.


THE effect of the application of the New Ideals
in Education is often seen at its best in schools
like the Brackenhill Home School. It is of
recent growth, and has therefore no traditions
through which to break, and this is at once an
advantage and a difficulty. When one says
" at its best," one really means that the School
is bravely testing how much is valuable and how
much is valueless in what is being urgently advo-
cated under the name of " New Ideals in Educa-
tion." Brackenhill frankly started out upon the
new road. It has found that a few of the sign-
posts were at fault, and has found, also, that
some parts of the road need re-making. But it
has acquired experience, and knows some of the
defects of the way it pursues and how, to a
certain extent at least, to avoid them.

The School was specially founded to meet the
needs of children who were at complete disad-
vantage in their environment. Several of the



cases would make sad reading. Some were
cruelly treated, some neglected, some deserted,
and some were, so-called, illegitimate. This
latter is usually regarded as a stain upon the
child, whereas the only real stain rests upon
those who brought children into the world only
basely to desert them because the helpless little
ones had no " legal" claim upon them. Bracken-
hill did not at first confine itself to this class of
case, but did have, and still has, some children
in it whose parents were, and are, kindly, and
their homes secure, who desired the modern
educational methods for their children, but
could not afford the high fees of most schools.
Bursaries have been raised to assist most of
these, and thus have left Brackenhill free for
the ones who most need it.

At present the School is at Bromley, Kent;
but there is hope that it will be removed more
into the country. The house is a large, de-
tached one, standing upon high ground, and
surrounded by a big garden. This environment
was made possible by the generosity of one who
is a keen " lover of children," who lent the pre-
mises, and who watches the experiment carried
on with deep and sympathetic interest.

It is necessary to appreciate to the full the
beauty and freshness of the place in order to


realise what it must mean to the little ones who
go there. Tall trees wave in the wind, shrubs
of every hue cluster beneath them, the lawns
spread their delightful green for little bare feet
in the summer, the birds sing and nest unmo-
lested ; away in the distance are the blue Kentish
hills, and everywhere the sweet, fresh air.

This dedicated place accommodates about
thirty children. To investigate some of their
short lives of but a few summers is to come face
to face with tragedy. It would sometimes seem
impossible that such small fragile things, tender
and helpless as children are, could survive some
of the vicissitudes that have befallen them. In
one case it has been that the parents have been
destitute through the father being but an " odd-
job " man, and yet having a family of twelve.
They had perforce to live in a basement, where
light and fresh air never penetrated. The
mother eventually died of consumption, and the
family scattered, some of the little weaker ones,
in spite of all effort, dying, others becoming
tubercular. Imagine what it must have meant
to come out of such a spot into the sunshine and
to plenty.

Again, two children came to Brackenhill who
had been cruelly treated by a mother who drank.
Little sullen creatures, cowed and beaten, they


scarcely knew what it meant to be loved and
cared for; but presently the very happiness of
heaven shone through their eyes. They were

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Online LibraryJosephine RansomSchools of to-morrow in England → online text (page 1 of 8)