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Science & Education by Thomas H. Huxley

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rudiments of science and art teaching can be introduced into elementary
schools, we must seek elsewhere for a supplementary training in these
subjects, and, if need be, in foreign languages, which may go on after
the workman's life has begun.

The means of acquiring the scientific and artistic part of this
training already exists in full working order, in the first place, in
the classes of the Science and Art Department, which are, for the most
part, held in the evening, so as to be accessible to all who choose to
avail themselves of them after working hours. The great advantage of
these classes is that they bring the means of instruction to the doors
of the factories and workshops; that they are no artificial creations,
but by their very existence prove the desire of the people for them;
and finally, that they admit of indefinite development in proportion as
they are wanted. I have often expressed the opinion, and I repeat it
here, that, during the eighteen years they have been in existence these
classes have done incalculable good; and I can say, of my own
knowledge, that the Department spares no pains and trouble in trying to
increase their usefulness and ensure the soundness of their work.

No one knows better than my friend Colonel Donnelly, to whose clear
views and great administrative abilities so much of the successful
working of the science classes is due, that there is much to be done
before the system can be said to be thoroughly satisfactory. The
instruction given needs to be made more systematic and especially more
practical; the teachers are of very unequal excellence, and not a few
stand much in need of instruction themselves, not only in the subject
which they teach, but in the objects for which they teach. I dare say
you have heard of that proceeding, reprobated by all true sportsmen,
which is called "shooting for the pot." Well, there is such a thing as
"teaching for the pot"--teaching, that is, not that your scholar may
know, but that he may count for payment among those who pass the
examination; and there are some teachers, happily not many, who have
yet to learn that the examiners of the Department regard them as
poachers of the worst description.

Without presuming in any way to speak in the name of the Department, I
think I may say, as a matter which has come under my own observation,
that it is doing its best to meet all these difficulties. It
systematically promotes practical instruction in the classes; it
affords facilities to teachers who desire to learn their business
thoroughly; and it is always ready to aid in the suppression of

All this is, as you may imagine, highly satisfactory to me. I see that
spread of scientific education, about which I have so often permitted
myself to worry the public, become, for all practical purposes, an
accomplished fact. Grateful as I am for all that is now being done, in
the same direction, in our higher schools and universities, I have
ceased to have any anxiety about the wealthier classes. Scientific
knowledge is spreading by what the alchemists called a "distillatio per
ascensum;" and nothing now can prevent it from continuing to distil
upwards and permeate English society, until, in the remote future,
there shall be no member of the legislature who does not know as much
of science as an elementary school-boy; and even the heads of houses in
our venerable seats of learning shall acknowledge that natural science
is not merely a sort of University back-door through which inferior men
may get at their degrees. Perhaps this apocalyptic vision is a little
wild; and I feel I ought to ask pardon for an outbreak of enthusiasm,
which, I assure you, is not my commonest failing.

I have said that the Government is already doing a great deal in aid of
that kind of technical education for handicraftsmen which, to my mind,
is alone worth seeking. Perhaps it is doing as much as it ought to do,
even in this direction. Certainly there is another kind of help of the
most important character, for which we may look elsewhere than to the
Government. The great mass of mankind have neither the liking, nor the
aptitude, for either literary, or scientific, or artistic pursuits;
nor, indeed, for excellence of any sort. Their ambition is to go
through life with moderate exertion and a fair share of ease, doing
common things in a common way. And a great blessing and comfort it is
that the majority of men are of this mind; for the majority of things
to be done are common things, and are quite well enough done when
commonly done. The great end of life is not knowledge but action. What
men need is, as much knowledge as they can assimilate and organise into
a basis for action; give them more and it may become injurious. One
knows people who are as heavy and stupid from undigested learning as
others are from over-fulness of meat and drink. But a small percentage
of the population is born with that most excellent quality, a desire
for excellence, or with special aptitudes of some sort or another; Mr.
Galton tells us that not more than one in four thousand may be expected
to attain distinction, and not more than one in a million some share of
that intensity of instinctive aptitude, that burning thirst for
excellence, which is called genius.

Now, the most important object of all educational schemes is to catch
these exceptional people, and turn them to account for the good of
society. No man can say where they will crop up; like their opposites,
the fools and knaves, they appear sometimes in the palace, and
sometimes in the hovel; but the great thing to be aimed at, I was
almost going to say the most important end of all social arrangements,
is to keep these glorious sports of Nature from being either corrupted
by luxury or starved by poverty, and to put them into the position in
which they can do the work for which they are especially fitted.

Thus, if a lad in an elementary school showed signs of special
capacity, I would try to provide him with the means of continuing his
education after his daily working life had begun; if in the evening
classes he developed special capabilities in the direction of science
or of drawing, I would try to secure him an apprenticeship to some
trade in which those powers would have applicability. Or, if he chose
to become a teacher, he should have the chance of so doing. Finally, to
the lad of genius, the one in a million, I would make accessible the
highest and most complete training the country could afford. Whatever
that might cost, depend upon it the investment would be a good one. I
weigh my words when I say that if the nation could purchase a potential
Watt, or Davy, or Faraday, at the cost of a hundred thousand pounds
down, he would be dirt-cheap at the money. It is a mere commonplace and
everyday piece of knowledge, that what these three men did has produced
untold millions of wealth, in the narrowest economical sense of the

Therefore, as the sum and crown of what is to be done for technical
education, I look to the provision of a machinery for winnowing out the
capacities and giving them scope. When I was a member of the London
School Board, I said, in the course of a speech, that our business was
to provide a ladder, reaching from the gutter to the university, along
which every child in the three kingdoms should have the chance of
climbing as far as he was fit to go. This phrase was so much bandied
about at the time, that, to say truth, I am rather tired of it; but I
know of no other which so fully expresses my belief, not only about
education in general, but about technical education in particular.

The essential foundation of all the organisation needed for the
promotion of education among handicraftsmen will, I believe, exist in
this country, when every working lad can feel that society has done as
much as lies in its power to remove all needless and artificial
obstacles from his path; that there is no barrier, except such as
exists in the nature of things, between himself and whatever place in
the social organisation he is fitted to fill; and, more than this,
that, if he has capacity and industry, a hand is held out to help him
along any path which is wisely and honestly chosen.

I have endeavoured to point out to you that a great deal of such an
organisation already exists; and I am glad to be able to add that there
is a good prospect that what is wanting will, before long, be

Those powerful and wealthy societies, the livery companies of the City
of London, remembering that they are the heirs and representatives of
the trade guilds of the Middle Ages, are interesting themselves in the
question. So far back as 1872 the Society of Arts organised a system of
instruction in the technology of arts and manufactures, for persons
actually employed in factories and workshops, who desired to extend and
improve their knowledge of the theory and practice of their particular
avocations; [1] and a considerable subsidy, in aid of the efforts of
the Society, was liberally granted by the Clothworkers' Company. We
have here the hopeful commencement of a rational organisation for the
promotion of excellence among handicraftsmen. Quite recently, other of
the livery companies have determined upon giving their powerful, and,
indeed, almost boundless, aid to the improvement of the teaching of
handicrafts. They have already gone so far as to appoint a committee to
act for them; and I betray no confidence in adding that, some time
since, the committee sought the advice and assistance of several
persons, myself among the number.

Of course I cannot tell you what may be the result of the deliberations
of the committee; but we may all fairly hope that, before long, steps
which will have a weighty and a lasting influence on the growth and
spread of sound and thorough teaching among the handicraftsmen [2] of
this country will be taken by the livery companies of London.

[This hope has been fully justified by the establishment of the Cowper
Street Schools, and that of the Central Institution of the City and
Guilds of London Institute, September, 1881.]

* * * * *


[1] See the _Programme_ for 1878, issued by the Society of Arts,
p. 14.

[2] It is perhaps advisable to remark that the important question of
the professional education of managers of industrial works is not
touched in the foregoing remarks.




Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen,--It must be a matter of sincere satisfaction
to those who, like myself, have for many years past been convinced of
the vital importance of technical education to this country to see that
that subject is now being taken up by some of the most important of our
manufacturing towns. The evidence which is afforded of the public
interest in the matter by such meetings as those at Liverpool and
Newcastle, and, last but not least, by that at which I have the honour
to be present to-day, may convince us all, I think, that the question
has passed out of the region of speculation into that of action. I need
hardly say to any one here that the task which our Association
contemplates is not only one of primary importance--I may say of vital
importance--to the welfare of the country; but that it is one of great
extent and of vast difficulty. There is a well-worn adage that those
who set out upon a great enterprise would do well to count the cost. I
am not sure that this is always true. I think that some of the very
greatest enterprises in this world have been carried out successfully
simply because the people who undertook them did not count the cost;
and I am much of opinion that, in this very case, the most instructive
consideration for us is the cost of doing nothing. But there is one
thing that is perfectly certain, and it is that, in undertaking all
enterprises, one of the most important conditions of success is to have
a perfectly clear comprehension of what you want to do--to have that
before your minds before you set out, and from that point of view to
consider carefully the measures which are best adapted to the end.

Mr. Acland has just given you an excellent account of what is properly
and strictly understood by technical education; but I venture to think
that the purpose of this Association may be stated in somewhat broader
terms, and that the object we have in view is the development of the
industrial productivity of the country to the uttermost limits
consistent with social welfare. And you will observe that, in thus
widening the definition of our object, I have gone no further than the
Mayor in his speech, when he not obscurely hinted--and most justly
hinted--that in dealing with this question there are other matters than
technical education, in the strict sense, to be considered.

It would be extreme presumption on my part if I were to attempt to tell
an audience of gentlemen intimately acquainted with all branches of
industry and commerce, such as I see before me, in what manner the
practical details of the operations that we propose are to be carried
out. I am absolutely ignorant both of trade and of commerce, and upon
such matters I cannot venture to say a solitary word. But there is one
direction in which I think it possible I may be of service--not much
perhaps, but still of some,--because this matter, in the first place,
involves the consideration of methods of education with which it has
been my business to occupy myself during the greater part of my life;
and, in the second place, it involves attention to some of those broad
facts and laws of nature with which it has been my business to acquaint
myself to the best of my ability. And what I think may be possible is
this, that if I succeed in putting before you--as briefly as I can, but
in clear and connected shape--what strikes me as the programme that we
have eventually to carry out, and what are the indispensable conditions
of success, that that proceeding, whether the conclusions at which I
arrive be such as you approve or as you disapprove, will nevertheless
help to clear the course. In this and in all complicated matters we
must remember a saying of Bacon, which may be freely translated thus:
"Consistent error is very often vastly more useful than muddle-headed
truth." At any rate, if there be any error in the conclusions I shall
put before you, I will do my best to make the error perfectly clear and

Now, looking at the question of what we want to do in this broad and
general way, it appears to me that it is necessary for us, in the first
place, to amend and improve our system of primary education in such a
fashion as will make it a proper preparation for the business of life.
In the second place, I think we have to consider what measures may best
be adopted for the development to its uttermost of that which may be
called technical skill; and, in the third place, I think we have to
consider what other matters there are for us to attend to, what other
arrangements have to be kept carefully in sight in order that, while
pursuing these ends, we do not forget that which is the end of civil
existence, I mean a stable social state without which all other
measures are merely futile, and, in effect, modes of going faster to

You are aware--no people should know the fact better than Manchester
people--that, within the last seventeen years, a vast system of primary
education has been created and extended over the whole country. I had
some part in the original organisation of this system in London, and I
am glad to think that, after all these years, I can look back upon that
period of my life as perhaps the part of it least wasted.

No one can doubt that this system of primary education has done wonders
for our population; but, from our point of view, I do not think anybody
can doubt that it still has very considerable defects. It has the
defect which is common to all the educational systems which we have
inherited--it is too bookish, too little practical. The child is
brought too little into contact with actual facts and things, and as
the system stands at present it constitutes next to no education of
those particular faculties which are of the utmost importance to
industrial life--I mean the faculty of observation, the faculty of
working accurately, of dealing with things instead of with words. I do
not propose to enlarge upon this topic, but I would venture to suggest
that there are one or two remedial measures which are imperatively
needed; indeed, they have already been alluded to by Mr. Acland. Those
which strike me as of the greatest importance are two, and the first of
them is the teaching of drawing. In my judgment, there is no mode of
exercising the faculty of observation and the faculty of accurate
reproduction of that which is observed, no discipline which so readily
tests error in these matters, as drawing properly taught. And by that I
do not mean artistic drawing; I mean figuring natural objects: making
plans and sections, approaching geometrical rather than artistic
drawing. I do not wish to exaggerate, but I declare to you that, in my
judgment, the child who has been taught to make an accurate elevation,
plan and section of a pint pot has had an admirable training in
accuracy of eye and hand. I am not talking about artistic education.
That is not the question. Accuracy is the foundation of everything
else, and instruction in artistic drawing is something which may be put
off till a later stage. Nothing has struck me more in the course of my
life than the loss which persons, who are pursuing scientific knowledge
of any kind, sustain from the difficulties which arise because they
never have been taught elementary drawing; and I am glad to say that in
Eton, a school of whose governing body I have the honour of being a
member, we some years ago made drawing imperative on the whole school.

The other matter in which we want some systematic and good teaching is
what I have hardly a name for, but which may best be explained as a
sort of developed object lessons such as Mr. Acland adverted to.
Anybody who knows his business in science can make anything subservient
to that purpose. You know it was said of Dean Swift that he could write
an admirable poem upon a broomstick, and the man who has a real
knowledge of science can make the commonest object in the world
subservient to an introduction to the principles and greater truths of
natural knowledge. It is in that way that your science must be taught
if it is to be of real service. Do not suppose any amount of book work,
any repetition by rote of catechisms and other abominations of that
kind are of value for our object. That is mere wasting of time. But
take the commonest object and lead the child from that foundation to
such truths of a higher order as may be within his grasp. With regard
to drawing, I do not think there is any practical difficulty; but in
respect to the scientific object lessons you want teachers trained in a
manner different from that which now prevails.

If it is found practicable to add further training of the hand and eye
by instruction in modelling or in simple carpentry, well and good. But
I should stop at this point. The elementary schools are already charged
with quite as much as they can do properly; and I do not believe that
any good can come of burdening them with special technical instruction.
Out of that, I think, harm would come.

Now let me pass to my second point, which is the development of
technical skill. Everybody here is aware that at this present moment
there is hardly a branch of trade or of commerce which does not depend,
more or less directly, upon some department or other of physical
science, which does not involve, for its successful pursuit, reasoning
from scientific data. Our machinery, our chemical processes or
dyeworks, and a thousand operations which it is not necessary to
mention, are all directly and immediately connected with science. You
have to look among your workmen and foremen for persons who shall
intelligently grasp the modifications, based upon science, which are
constantly being introduced into these industrial processes. I do not
mean that you want professional chemists, or physicists, or
mathematicians, or the like, but you want people sufficiently familiar
with the broad principles which underlie industrial operations to be
able to adapt themselves to new conditions. Such qualifications can
only be secured by a sort of scientific instruction which occupies a
midway place between those primary notions given in the elementary
schools and those more advanced studies which would be carried out in
the technical schools.

You are aware that, at present, a very large machinery is in operation
for the purpose of giving this instruction. I don't refer merely to
such work as is being done at Owens College here, for example, or at
other local colleges. I allude to the larger operations of the Science
and Art Department, with which I have been connected for a great many
years. I constantly hear a great many objections raised to the work of
the Science and Art Department. If you will allow me to say so, my
connection with that department--which, I am happy to say, remains, and
which I am very proud of--is purely honorary; and, if it appeared to me
to be right to criticise that department with merciless severity, the
Lord President, if he were inclined to resent my proceedings, could do
nothing more than dismiss me. Therefore you may believe that I speak
with absolute impartiality. My impression is this, not that it is
faultless, nor that it has not various defects, nor that there are not
sundry _lacunae_ which want filling up; but that, if we consider
the conditions under which the department works, we shall see that
certain defects are inseparable from those conditions. People talk of
the want of flexibility of the Department, of its being bound by strict
rules. Now, will any man of common sense who has had anything to do
with the administration of public funds or knows the humour of the
House of Commons on these matters--will any man who is in the smallest
degree acquainted with the practical working of State departments of
any kind, imagine that such a department could be other than bound by
minutely defined regulations? Can he imagine that the work of the
department should go on fairly and in such a manner as to be free from
just criticism, unless it were bound by certain definite and fixed
rules? I cannot imagine it.

The next objection of importance that I have heard commonly repeated is
that the teaching is too theoretical, that there is insufficient
practical teaching. I venture to say that there is no one who has taken
more pains to insist upon the comparative uselessness of scientific
teaching without practical work than I have; I venture to say that
there are no persons who are more cognisant of these defects in the
work of the Science and Art Department than those who administer it.
But those who talk in this way should acquaint themselves with the fact
that proper practical instruction is a matter of no small difficulty in
the present scarcity of properly taught teachers, that it is very
costly, and that, in some branches of science, there are other
difficulties which I won't allude to. But it is a matter of fact that,
wherever it has been possible, practical teaching has been introduced,
and has been made an essential element in examination; and no doubt if
the House of Commons would grant unlimited means, and if proper
teachers were to hand, as thick as blackberries, there would not be
much difficulty in organising a complete system of practical
instruction and examination ancillary to the present science classes.
Those who quarrel with the present state of affairs would be better
advised if, instead of groaning over the shortcomings of the present
system, they would put before themselves these two questions--Is it
possible under the conditions to invent any better system? Is it
possible under the conditions to enlarge the work of practical teaching
and practical examination which is the one desire of those who
administer the department? That is all I have to say upon that subject.

Supposing we have this teaching of what I may call intermediate
science, what we want next is technical instruction, in the strict
sense of the word technical; I mean instruction in that kind of
knowledge which is essential to the successful prosecution of the
several branches of trade and industry. Now, the best way of obtaining
this end is a matter about which the most experienced persons entertain
very diverse opinions. I do not for one moment pretend to dogmatise
about it; I can only tell you what the opinion is that I have formed
from hearing the views of those who are certainly best qualified to
judge, from those who have tested the various methods of conveying this
instruction. I think we have before us three possibilities. We have, in
the first place, trade schools--I mean schools in which branches of
trade are taught. We have, in the next place, schools attached to
factories for the purpose of instructing young apprentices and others
who go there, and who aim at becoming intelligent workmen and capable
foremen. We have, lastly, the system of day classes and evening
classes. With regard to the first there is this objection, that they
can be attended only by those who are not obliged to earn their bread,
and consequently that they will reach only a very small fraction of the
population. Moreover, the expense of trade schools is enormous, and
those who are best able to judge assure me that, inasmuch as the work
which they do is not done under conditions of pecuniary success or
failure, it is apt to be too amateurish and speculative, and that it
does not prepare the worker for the real conditions under which he will
have to carry out his work. In any case, the fact that the schools are
very expensive, and the fact that they are accessible only to a small
portion of the population, seem to me to constitute a very serious
objection to them. I suppose the best of all possible organisations is
that of a school attached to a factory, where the employer has an
interest in seeing that the instruction given is of a thoroughly
practical kind, and where the pupils pass gradually by successive
stages to the position of actual workmen. Schools of this kind exist in
various parts of the country, but it is obvious that they are not
likely to be reached by any large part of the population; so that it
appears to me we are shut up practically to schools accessible to those
who are earning their bread, and in such cases they must be essentially
evening classes. I am strongly of opinion that classes of this kind do
an immense amount of good; that they have this admirable quality, that
they involve voluntary attendance, take no man out of his position, but
enable any who chooses, to make the best of the position he happens to

Suppose that all these things are desirable, what is the best way of
obtaining them? I must confess that I have a strong prejudice in favour
of carrying out undertakings of this kind, which at first, at any rate,
must be to a great extent tentative and experimental, by private
effort. I don't believe that the man lives at this present time who is
competent to organise a final system of technical education. I believe
that all attempts made in that direction must for many years to come be
experimental, and that we must get to success through a series of
blunders. Now that work is far better performed by private enterprise
than in any other way. But there is another method which I think is
permissible, and not only permissible but highly recommendable in this
case, and that is the method of allowing the locality itself in which
any branch of industry is pursued to be its own judge of its own wants,
and to tax itself under certain conditions for the purpose of carrying
out any scheme of technical education adapted to its needs. I am aware
that there are many extreme theorists of the individualist school who
hold that all this is very wicked and very wrong, and that by leaving
things to themselves they will get right. Well, my experience of the
world is that things left to themselves don't get right. I believe it
to be sound doctrine that a municipality--and the State itself for that
matter--is a corporation existing for the benefit of its members, and
that here, as in all other cases, it is for the majority to determine
that which is for the good of the whole, and to act upon that. That is
the principle which underlies the whole theory of government in this
country, and if it is wrong we shall have to go back a long way. But
you may ask me, "This process of local taxation can only be carried out
under the authority of an Act of Parliament, and do you propose to let
any municipality or any local authority have _carte blanche_ in
these matters; is the Legislature to allow it to tax the whole body of
its members to any extent it pleases and for any purposes it pleases?"
I should reply, certainly not.

Let me point out to you that at this present moment it passes the wit
of man, so far as I know, to give a legal definition of technical
education. If you expect to have an Act of Parliament with a definition
which shall include all that ought to be included, and exclude all that
ought to be excluded, I think you will have to wait a very long time. I
imagine the whole matter is in a tentative state. You don't know what
you will be called upon to do, and so you must try and you must
blunder. Under these circumstances it is obvious that there are two
alternatives. One of these is to give a free hand to each locality.
Well, it is within my knowledge that there are a good many people with
wonderful, strange, and wild notions as to what ought to be done in
technical education, and it is quite possible that in some places, and
especially in small places, where there are few persons who take an
interest in these things, you will have very remarkable projects put
forth, and in that case the sole court of appeal for those taxpayers,
who did not approve of such projects, would be a court of law. I
suppose the judges would have to settle what is technical education.
That would not be an edifying process, I think, and certainly it would
be a very costly one. The other alternative is the principle adopted in
the bill of last year now abandoned. I don't say whether the bill was
right or wrong in detail. I am dealing now only with the principle of
the bill, which appears to me to have been very often misunderstood. It
has been said that it gave the whole of technical education into the
hands of the Science and Art Department. It appears to me nothing could
be more unfounded than that assertion. All I understand the Government
proposed to do was to provide some authority who should have power to
say in case any scheme was proposed, "Well, this comes within the four
corners of the Act of Parliament, work it as you like;" or if it was an
obviously questionable project, should take upon itself the
responsibility of saying, "No, that is not what the Legislature
intended; amend your scheme." There was no initiative, no control;
there was simply this power of giving authority to decide upon the
meaning of the Act of Parliament to a particular department of the
State, whichever it might be; and it seems to me that that is a very
much simpler and better process than relegating the whole question to
the law courts. I think that here, or anywhere else, people must be
extremely sanguine if they suppose that the House of Commons and the
House of Lords will ever dream of giving any local authority unlimited
power to tax the inhabitants of a district for any object it pleases. I
should say that was not in the range of practical politics. Well, I put
that before you as a matter for your consideration.

Another very important point in this connection is the question of the
supply of teachers. I should say that is one of the greatest
difficulties which beset the whole problem before us. I do not wish in
the slightest degree to criticise the existing system of preparing
teachers for ordinary school work. I have nothing to say about it. But
what I do wish to say, and what I trust I may impress on your minds
firmly is this, that for the purpose of obtaining persons competent to
teach science or to act as technical teachers, a different system must
be adopted. For this purpose a man must know what he is about
thoroughly, and be able to deal with his subject as if it were the
business of his ordinary life. For this purpose, for the obtaining of
teachers of science and of technical classes, the system of catching a
boy or girl young, making a pupil teacher of him, compelling the poor
little mortal to pour from his little bucket, into a still smaller
bucket, that which has just been poured into it out of a big bucket;
and passing him afterwards through the training college, where his life
is devoted to filling the bucket from the pump from morning till night,
without time for thought or reflection, is a system which should not
continue. Let me assure you that it will not do for us, that you had
better give the attempt up than try that system. I remember somewhere
reading of an interview between the poet Southey and a good Quaker.
Southey was a man of marvellous powers of work. He had a habit of
dividing his time into little parts each of which was filled up, and he
told the Quaker what he did in this hour and that, and so on through
the day until far into the night. The Quaker listened, and at the close
said, "Well, but, friend Southey, when dost thee think?" The system
which I am now adverting to is arraigned and condemned by putting that
question to it. When does the unhappy pupil teacher, or over-drilled
student of a training college, find any time to think? I am sure if I
were in their place I could not. I repeat, that kind of thing will not
do for science teachers. For science teachers must have knowledge, and
knowledge is not to be acquired on these terms. The power of repetition
is, but that is not knowledge. The knowledge which is absolutely
requisite in dealing with young children is the knowledge you possess,
as you would know your own business, and which you can just turn about
as if you were explaining to a boy a matter of everyday life.

So far as science teaching and technical education are concerned, the
most important of all things is to provide the machinery for training
proper teachers. The Department of Science and Art has been at that
work for years and years, and though unable under present conditions to
do so much as could be wished, it has, I believe, already begun to
leaven the lump to a very considerable extent. If technical education
is to be carried out on the scale at present contemplated, this
particular necessity must be specially and most seriously provided for.
And there is another difficulty, namely, that when you have got your
science or technical teacher it may not be easy to keep him. You have
educated a man--a clever fellow very likely--on the understanding that
he is to be a teacher. But the business of teaching is not a very
lucrative and not a very attractive one, and an able man who has had a
good training is under extreme temptations to carry his knowledge and
his skill to a better market, in which case you have had all your
trouble for nothing. It has often occurred to me that probably nothing
would be of more service in this matter than the creation of a number
of not very large bursaries or exhibitions, to be gained by persons
nominated by the authorities of the various science colleges and
schools of the country--persons such as they thought to be well
qualified for the teaching business--and to be held for a certain term
of years, during which the holders should be bound to teach. I believe
that some measure of this kind would do more to secure a good supply of
teachers than anything else. Pray note that I do not suggest that you
should try to get hold of good teachers by competitive examination.
That is not the best way of getting men of that special qualification.
An effectual method would be to ask professors and teachers of any
institution to recommend men who, to their own knowledge, are worthy of
such support, and are likely to turn it to good account.

I trust I am not detaining you too long; but there remains yet one
other matter which I think is of profound importance, perhaps of more
importance than all the rest, on which I earnestly beg to be permitted
to say some few words. It is the need, while doing all these things, of
keeping an eye, and an anxious eye, upon those measures which are
necessary for the preservation of that stable and sound condition of
the whole social organism which is the essential condition of real
progress, and a chief end of all education. You will all recollect that
some time ago there was a scandal and a great outcry about certain
cutlasses and bayonets which had been supplied to our troops and
sailors. These warlike implements were polished as bright as rubbing
could make them; they were very well sharpened; they looked lovely. But
when they were applied to the test of the work of war they broke and
they bent, and proved more likely to hurt the hand of him that used
them than to do any harm to the enemy. Let me apply that analogy to the
effect of education, which is a sharpening and polishing of the mind.
You may develop the intellectual side of people as far as you like, and
you may confer upon them all the skill that training and instruction
can give; but, if there is not, underneath all that outside form and
superficial polish, the firm fibre of healthy manhood and earnest
desire to do well, your labour is absolutely in vain.

Let me further call your attention to the fact that the terrible battle
of competition between the different nations of the world is no
transitory phenomenon, and does not depend upon this or that
fluctuation of the market, or upon any condition that is likely to pass
away. It is the inevitable result of that which takes place throughout
nature and affects man's part of nature as much as any other--namely,
the struggle for existence, arising out of the constant tendency of all
creatures in the animated world to multiply indefinitely. It is that,
if you look at it, which is at the bottom of all the great movements of
history. It is that inherent tendency of the social organism to
generate the causes of its own destruction, never yet counteracted,
which has been at the bottom of half the catastrophes which have ruined
States. We are at present in the swim of one of those vast movements in
which, with a population far in excess of that which we can feed, we
are saved from a catastrophe, through the impossibility of feeding
them, solely by our possession of a fair share of the markets of the
world. And in order that that fair share may be retained, it is
absolutely necessary that we should be able to produce commodities
which we can exchange with food-growing people, and which they will
take, rather than those of our rivals, on the ground of their greater
cheapness or of their greater excellence. That is the whole story. And
our course, let me say, is not actuated by mere motives of ambition or
by mere motives of greed. Those doubtless are visible enough on the
surface of these great movements, but the movements themselves have far
deeper sources. If there were no such things as ambition and greed in
this world, the struggle for existence would arise from the same

Our sole chance of succeeding in a competition, which must constantly
become more and more severe, is that our people shall not only have the
knowledge and the skill which are required, but that they shall have
the will and the energy and the honesty, without which neither
knowledge nor skill can be of any permanent avail. This is what I mean
by a stable social condition, because any other condition than this,
any social condition in which the development of wealth involves the
misery, the physical weakness, and the degradation of the worker, is
absolutely and infallibly doomed to collapse. Your bayonets and
cutlasses will break under your hand, and there will go on accumulating
in society a mass of hopeless, physically incompetent, and morally
degraded people, who are, as it were, a sort of dynamite which, sooner
or later, when its accumulation becomes sufficient and its tension
intolerable, will burst the whole fabric.

I am quite aware that the problem which I have put before you and which
you know as much about as I do, and a great deal more probably, is one
extremely difficult to solve. I am fully aware that one great factor in
industrial success is reasonable cheapness of labour. That has been
pointed out over and over again, and is in itself an axiomatic
proposition. And it seems to me that of all the social questions which
face us at this present time, the most serious is how to steer a clear
course between the two horns of an obvious dilemma. One of these is the
constant tendency of competition to lower wages beyond a point at which
man can remain man--below a point at which decency and cleanliness and
order and habits of morality and justice can reasonably be expected to
exist. And the other horn of the dilemma is the difficulty of
maintaining wages above this point consistently with success in
industrial competition. I have not the remotest conception how this
problem will eventually work itself out; but of this I am perfectly
convinced, that the sole course compatible with safety lies between the
two extremes; between the Scylla of successful industrial production
with a degraded population, on the one side, and the Charybdis of a
population, maintained in a reasonable and decent state, with failure
in industrial competition, on the other side. Having this strong
conviction, which, indeed, I imagine must be that of every person who
has ever thought seriously about these great problems, I have ventured
to put it before you in this bare and almost cynical fashion because it
will justify the strong appeal, which I make to all concerned in this
work of promoting industrial education, to have a care, at the same
time, that the conditions of industrial life remain those in which the
physical energies of the population may be maintained at a proper
level; in which their moral state may be cared for; in which there may
be some rays of hope and pleasure in their lives; and in which the sole
prospect of a life of labour may not be an old age of penury.

These are the chief suggestions I have to offer to you, though I have
omitted much that I should like to have said, had time permitted. It
may be that some of you feel inclined to look upon them as the Utopian
dreams of a student. If there be such, let me tell you that there are,
to my knowledge, manufacturing towns in this country, not one-tenth the
size, or boasting one-hundredth part of the wealth, of Manchester, in
which I do not say that the programme that I have put before you is
completely carried out, but in which, at any rate, a wise and
intelligent effort had been made to realise it, and in which the main
parts of the programme are in course of being worked out. This is not
the first time that I have had the privilege and pleasure of addressing
a Manchester audience. I have often enough, before now, thrown myself
with entire confidence upon the hard-headed intelligence and the very
soft-hearted kindness of Manchester people, when I have had a difficult
and complicated scientific argument to put before them. If, after the
considerations which I have put before you--and which, pray be it
understood, I by no means claim particularly for myself, for I presume
they must be in the minds of a large number of people who have thought
about this matter--if it be that these ideas commend themselves to your
mature reflection, then I am perfectly certain that my appeal to you to
carry them into practice, with that abundant energy and will which have
led you to take a foremost part in the great social movements of our
country many a time beforehand, will not be made in vain. I therefore
confidently appeal to you to let those impulses once more have full
sway, and not to rest until you have done something better and greater
than has yet been done in this country in the direction in which we are
now going. I heartily thank you for the attention which you have been
kind enough to bestow upon me. The practice of public speaking is one I
must soon think of leaving off, and I count it a special and peculiar
honour to have had the opportunity of speaking to you on this subject

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