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Harold E. Gorst and The Curse of Education
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Reservations   Contents    

  1. Flourishing Mediocrity
  2. Square Pegs in Round Holes
  3. The Destruction of Genius
  4. Human Factories
  5. The Greatest Misery of the Greatest Number
  6. The Output of Prigs
  7. Boy Degeneration
  8. The Struggle of the Educated
  9. Woman's Empire Over Man
  10. Youth and Crime
  11. Mental Breakdown
  12. Evidence of History
  13. The Apotheosis of Cram
  14. The Great Fallacy
  15. Real Education
  16. The Open Door to Intelligence

Towards Sane Schooling

Utopias aside, there is room for much better general education. Critics of public schooling abound, both among former teachers and many others. It is fit to investigate whether there is anything fit in various allegations and - perhaps - exaggerations. That is my opinion. - TK

A teacher example: John Taylor Gatto

The retired American school teacher John Taylor Gatto (1935 -), the author of Dumbing Us Down, is a bit concerned about detrimental effects of unsound public schooling. The same year he was named New York State Teacher of the Year, in 1991, he wrote his retirement letter. In it he said he no longer wished to "hurt kids to make a living."

Gatto says that public schooling makes children confused - a sort of willy-nillies or puppets in strings more than inner-directed, healthy ones. And some grown-ups think that is not too bad.

Alternative schools, some are better than public schools in some respects. There are potentially better schools too

Those who would like to have their children - and those of others - sanely and well educated, have looked for alternatives to gross cramming and being driven and steered by exam systems. After blaming public schooling for its detrimental effects of many sorts, many also come up with alternatives. The Waldorf Education is one alternative schooling system. Montessori schooling is another, and sensible home schooling - which I advocate because of its inherentor budding capacity to eliminate very much that makes sensitive sides to school children suffer and maybe flounder over the years of enforced schooling.

Home learning, also called home schooling, may also help delicate children evolve at their own, individual pace, adjusting to interests, preferences, different learning styles, and much else. There is much good to say of the fine potentials of home learning. There are other alternatives too, and they may not all be equally bad - or good. See for yourself.


The Curse of Education

A notable forerunner of Gatto was the British author and journalist Harold Edward Gorst (1868�1950). He was married to Nina Cecilia Francesca Rose Kennedy (1869-1926), a home educated novelist and playwright. Harold Gost published the third edition of the book called The Curse of Education in 1901. It refers to and reflects conditions on the British Isles at least 110 years ago, and although all his thoughts are not weighed carefully, see if not many of them still apply. Those who have studied Steiner Education, may recognize many ideas that are forerunners to basic ideas of Steiner as to schooling.

Gorst talks entertainingly much too big on many subjects, and perhaps more than a tad chauvinistic too. He may also be set in some "good, old, and stiff" prejudices masked as facts or "established, good sides to life". Thus his insulting remarks on women that had better stay at home rather than being educated, on the lower class criminals, and such stuff. Speaking of criminals, he is not at all in tune with the folk wisdom:

  • Great thieves hang little thieves. [German]

  • We hang little thieves, and let great ones escape. [Dutch]
  • Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape. [Romanian]
  • We hang little thieves, and take off our hats to great ones. [German]

  • A hundred bakers, a hundred millers, and a hundred tailors are three hundred thieves. [Dutch]

  • Little thieves have iron chains, and great thieves gold ones. [Dutch]

Youth criminals that are sentenced to jail, are not as experienced as those who set up banks and others that are hailed for ill-gotten privileges and money. The inquisitive person would perhaps ask: Are there any facts behind that? Asking politely for evidence is great and good help against indoctrination.

And even though history is the version of the winners, as Voltaire observed, the chronicles of the Viking Age kings of Norway show very well how raiders of old became nobility on top of victims, and ancestors of nobility in many parts of Europe - helped by nasty deals over and over, and in the course of time by facades and waggling victims hailing these guys and kissing their hands fervently, thankfully, elatedly - it happens.

That was my retort to Gorst's view that criminals are most of all recruited from the lower classes. It may not be as he thinks - not today, at any rate. Further, Gorst hardly discerns between desperate thieves and all the others who do not get caught as easily. Gorst holds that British education serves to make criminals better criminals. It depends.

Some of Gorst's outlooks are not ideal. Aside from his gross blunders, there are many good observations on education and its mighty effects in his little book. It contains sharp looks into the defects and possible outcomes of a public schooling system that was harsher then. In some places he also holds a not too substantiated belief that what is crammed is recalled. Yet in other places toward the end of the book he thinks otherwise, that crammed knowledge is soon forgotten. There is evidence that it is so in Norway - low-ranked knowledge (from rote learning) can be surprisingly soon forgotten beyond recall, and when and if it happens, it signifies that much has been wasted - school money, time, efforts, and much else. Think about it.

Gorst offers an alternative to enforced public schooling, an alternative that reminds me of mentoring or tutoring (see further down). Having one's own lenient, considerate and polite tutor, or coach, can work well for most part. Tutors may provide material for homeschooling.

Instead of cramming-rooted, public schooling, Gorst advocates tutoring, and thus homeschooling as well. Homeschooling may take many forms, and so may tutoring.

At any rate, it is not a bitter, former school teacher that writes:

It is . . . with the universal method of cramming the mind with facts, and particularly with the manufacture of uniformity and mediocrity by subjecting every individual to a common process, regardless of his natural bent, that I have chiefly to find fault. [Harold E. Gorst, 1901, p. v]

The foundations of all existing education systems are absolutely false in principle . . . Teaching itself, as opposed to natural development and self-culture, is the greatest obstacle to human progress that social evolution has ever had to encounter. [Harold E. Gorst, 1901, p. v-vi]

The chapter headlines in the book, The Curse of Education, a book that Gorst reedited a couple of times, are furnished on top of the page. He mulls over the various subjects chapter by chapter. It is for a good cause, and we may call it better schooling.

Suppose that sour public schooling undermines democracy -

One may ask if the public schooling has improved since 1901, when Gorst published the third edition of his book. The answer is: In some ways, and to some degree. For example, corporeal punishment of pupils is largely banished, at least in Western democraties. But exams based on rote learning, cramming, still exist, and much else that go along with them and prepare for them. There are large numbers who suffer from their schooling.

A good deal of Gorst's main themes are still to the point. That suggests how poor public education could be, at least to some, in some countries. But as long as the government or dominant political parties suppose they are best served by "what" comes out of more or less well regulated public schools or government-sanctioned private schools, major changes to the compulsory public schooling system may not be forthcoming.

Gorst's still vital book book is online, and a reprint from 2009 also exists. Below are extracts chapter by chapter, mostly in the form of verbatim quotations.

1. Flourishing Mediocrity

The majority of mankind are compelled to swallow a uniform prescription of knowledge made up for them by the State. [p. 1]

There is a proverb, as excellent as it is ancient, which says that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. No doubt learned theoretical treatises upon the scope and aim of educational methods are capital things in their way, but they tell us nothing of the effects of this systematic teaching and cramming upon the world at large. If we wish to ascertain them, we must turn to life itself, and judge by results. [p. 2]

The supposed benefits of education are not only now free to all, but have been compulsorily conferred upon most nations. [p. 2]

Who are the men to whom the administration of all important departments of Government is entrusted, and how are they selected? . . . For every vacancy in the various departments of the Administration there are dozens, or even scores, of applicants; and the candidate selected for the post is the one whose mind has been most successfully subjected to this process of over-cramming, and consequently most effectually ruined for all the practical purposes of life. [p. 3]

It is only in times of great emergency that the truth leaks out, to the general consternation . . . When this does happen there is a great outcry about the inefficiency of this or that branch of the public service. The Government in power wait to see if the agitation dies a natural death; and if it is successfully kept up, a sort of pretence at reform takes place. There is a re-shuffle . . . Then all goes on as heretofore. [p. 4]

The evils of bad administration are to be located . . . The fault lies with the officials themselves, who are the victims of the stupid system which has placed them in the position they occupy. The education they have received has, in the first case, unfitted them for the performance of any but mechanical and routine work; and the strain of a competitive examination, involving the most unintellectual and brain-paralyzing process of cram, has probably destroyed the faculty of initiative. [p. 5]

It is the permanent official who needs reforming . . . the embodiment of mediocrity. [p. 5]

We fill our public service with specially prepared mediocrity. [p. 5]

And as long as education is synonymous with cramming on an organized plan, it will continue to produce mediocrity. [p. 5]

No useful reform can be achieved by alterations in the drill-book . . . It is our entire system of education which is again at fault. [p. 6]

A quantity of useless and some useful knowledge is drilled into the pupil in such a manner that the mind retains nothing that has been put into it . . . all this is done at the expense of retarding the proper development of faculties which would be of incalculable value. [p. 6]

Common sense consists in the capacity of an individual to think for himself and to exercise his judgment. Educational methods which, in the majority of cases, appear to destroy this faculty altogether are clearly pernicious. [p. 6]

Common sense . . . is deliberately destroyed by conventional methods of bringing up children and instructing youth. [p. 6, 7]

Wherever we go we find this curse of mediocrity . . . it is apparent everywhere. [p. 7]

Some people . . . may think it very unreasonable to expect able men to be plentiful in all walks of life. That is, to my mind, the chief pathos of the situation. [p. 7]

The educated classes [are filled] with a very vast preponderance of conventional minds manufactured to meet the supposed requirements of our complicated civilization. But I deny that this need be the case. On the contrary, we are surrounded on all sides by ability, by great possibilities of individual development, even by genius. [p. 7]

And our education systems are busily engaged in . . . forcing the mind away from its natural bent, and manufacturing a machine instead of a man. [p. 7]

2. Square Pegs in Round Holes

Perhaps in olden times [a] man had . . . at least some opportunity of developing a natural bent. He was not taken by the State almost from infancy, crammed with useless knowledge, and totally unfitted for any employment within his reach. [p. 9]

Linnaeus, the great naturalist, had a very narrow escape from missing his proper vocation. He was sent to a grammar-school, but exhibited no taste for books; therefore his father decided to apprentice him to a shoemaker. Fortunately, however, a discriminating physician had observed the boy's love of natural history, and took him into his own house to teach him botany and physiology. [p. 10]

Now we have, what happily did not exist in the day of Herschel, Faraday, Turner, Linnaeus and others[,] a compulsory education system to strangle originality and natural development at the earliest possible stage. . [p. 10]

The failures in life are so obviously in excess . . . The loss is not only to the individual, it is . . . to the whole world. . [p. 11]

Nothing is more despairing than the effort to convince conventionally brought up people that some cherished convention, with which the world has put up for an indefinite period, is founded upon fallacy, and ought to be cast out root and branch. [p. 11]

I have . . . learnt that nothing is more common in the States than to find individuals brought up to exercise functions for which they are wholly unfitted by natural capacity and inclination. [p. 11]

Main example: How a musical German boy became listless

The parent is often as bad an educator as the school itself. [p. 13]

It has become so much an accepted axiom that children are to be manufactured into anything that happens to suit the taste or convenience of their guardians, that it probably never occurred to the parent [that he may be doing] a cruel and foolish act in forcing his son out of the path into which the boy's natural instinct was guiding him. [p. 13]

[I have] enjoyed an intimate acquaintance with many German families. Nothing has left upon my mind a deeper impression than the tragedy I witnessed of a boy being gradually and systematically weaned from the pursuit to which he was passionately devoted, and forced into a career utterly unsympathetic and distasteful to his peculiar temperament. [p. 14]

The boy was simply, from head to foot, a musician . . . I have never seen anything more painful than the deliberate discouragement, during a period extending over several years, of the boy's natural bent, and the application of absolute compulsion to force him, against every natural instinct, to prepare himself for a profession repugnant to his inclinations, and for which he was not in the smallest degree adapted. [p. 14]

Out of this promising musical material the Stadt Gymnasium manufactured the usual piece of intellectual mediocrity. He was stuffed with the regulation measure of facts, scraped through the customary examination . . . When I last saw him he was a plodding lawyer of the conventional type, doing his duties in a listless manner . . . and quite broken down in spirit. The Gymnasium, the university, and the parental obstinacy had done their work very effectually . . . In all probability Germany lost an excellent musician who might have given pleasure to thousands of others, besides enjoying an honourable career of useful and congenial work. [p. 14-15]

Between the stupidity of the parent and the inflexibility of the school system children have little chance of developing their natural propensities . . . There is no effort to differentiate between individuals, or to discover the natural bent of each particular child. Instruction consists in cramming and prescribing by a more or less pernicious method according to the lights of the particular school authorities in some cases, and in others according to a hard and fast code enforced by the State a certain quantity of facts into all pupils without distinction. [p. 15]

Parents, on the other hand, think they have fulfilled their duty simply by sending their children to school . . . The parent leaves everything to the school, regardless of the fact that schools do not pretend to concern themselves about the natural tendencies of their pupils. He is satisfied if his son is receiving the same education as his neighbour's, and is quite contented to leave the question of his future career to be an after-consideration. [p. 15-16]

This double neglect on the part of parents and school systems is disastrous in the extreme. In the first place, it makes the life of the misplaced individual a burden to himself and to those by whom he is surrounded. Natural tendencies cannot be wholly suppressed, even by education systems; and the victim's existence is not rendered more bearable by the reflection that, but for circumstances which he is rarely able to analyze, he might have succeeded in some other and more agreeable occupation had he only received the necessary encouragement in his youth. [p. 16]

Secondly, there is the fact that the progress of civilization is enormously retarded by its being rarely in the hands of the most fit. The most fit are not, and cannot be, produced under prevailing conditions. The whole machinery of education is directed towards the production of a dead level of mediocrity. . . . All are subjected, more or less, to the same process. They are fitted for nothing in particular. [p. 16]

It scarcely requires pointing out that the enormous sums of money spent by Governments, by municipalities, and by private persons upon education, in order to produce this lamentable state of affairs, is so much waste and extravagance. Not only does it bring in no practical return, but it works out in a precisely opposite direction. Schools and colleges that only serve to . . . stifle genius and talent, and that cause widespread misery among the unsuitably educated, must be reckoned as a national loss. [p. 17]

[The heavy] expenditure to support a systematic manufacture of the unfit, and to assist in the distribution of individuals to stations in the social scheme for which they are wholly unsuited [is indeed costly � I would say ruinous]. [p. 17]

3. The Destruction of Genius

If children are left to themselves, they will breed ideas at an astonishing rate. Give an imaginative child of five or six some simple object, such as a button or a piece of tape, and it will weave round it a web of romance that would put many a poet or author to shame. [p 18]

Naturally brought up children . . . [w]hen left to observe facts for themselves, . . . will develop powers of reasoning and logic which no amount of cramming and caning would ever succeed in driving into them. [p 18, 19]

Observant and reflective parents, who have not chosen to leave the entire development and upbringing of their children in the hands of nurses. [p 19]

[Observant people] will have noticed that there is a natural tendency on the part of a child, if not interfered with, to think and to expand its faculty of imagination . . . the more backward it appears to be, the more care should be taken not to destroy it or to check its natural growth. [p 20]

Bad dolls

There is the invariable custom of giving young children toys which, far from stimulating the imagination, only serve to impress upon their minds the commonplace facts of everyday life. [p 21]

A doll is the plaything usually given to little girls. At first sight nothing can appear more charming or instructive than the gift to a little girl, who will one day be a wife and a mother, of the miniature representation of a baby. There will be a bath provided, in which she may learn to wash it. Everything will be complete soap, sponge, loofah, puff-box, and powder. The present will be accompanied by a layette^ so that the child may learn to dress her infant and to change its clothes. Hair-brushes will teach her to keep the doll's hair neat; and probably a dozen other toilet requisites, of which the masculine mind has no notion or is expected to affect ignorance, will be found ready at hand to inculcate the lesson of nursery routine. [p 21]

In this ingenious way the materialistic side of life is deliberately forced upon the attention of the child . . . The child is not encouraged to make a living creature of this inanimate dummy, to tell it stories, or to exercise her imagination in some other way. She is provided with a round of prosaic and extremely material duties, and her mind is carefully kept within these bounds by details of soap and feeding-bottles, which do not offer scope for any flight of imagination. [p 21-22]

It would be far better to place a bundle of rags in the arms of a little girl, and to tell her to imagine it to be a baby. [p 22]

[NOTE. The later-appearing Waldorf Kindergartens, founded on sayings of Rudolf Steiner, operate according to very similar ideas.]

Boys with their toys

With the same lack of forethought boys are surrounded from earliest infancy with objects designed to keep their minds within the narrow limits . . . The imagination is allowed as little play as possible. Interest is carefully concentrated upon the mechanical details . . . which go to make up a mechanical contrivance. . . . The parents then fondly imagine that, in stocking the nursery with these abominations, they are largely assisting in the development of the boy's mind. [p 22]

Fatal result [are] produced upon the dawning intellect by this introduction of materialism into the nursery. . . . The pernicious effects of such toys as have been described are not easily discernible. [p 22]

Toys in themselves are harmless and unobjectionable things, though every observant person who has had much to do with young children will readily concede how superfluous they are as a means of amusement. [p 23]

The second way in which the thinking and imaginative faculties are impeded in their development is by the discouragement of, or by the injudicious answers given to, the questions asked by children. At a certain age the latter become inquisitive about everything in the universe. They ply their elders with perpetual questioning; and it must be acknowledged that many of their interrogations are highly inconvenient and unanswerable. [p 23]

It is very difficult for the average person to reply offhand to elementary questions such as, Why does the sun shine? What makes the wind blow? How does a seed grow into a tree? and so forth. Few people have the patience to answer the numerous inquiries of an intelligent child; and sooner than expose their ignorance, parents will generally quench this thirst for knowledge at the outset by a flat prohibition. [p 23-24]

They do not stop to think of the immense harm that may be done to the child by throwing cold water upon its first attempts at research. Children . . . shrink back quickly under the influence of unsympathetic treatment. [p 24]

Children strive constantly to use the brains . . . Being naturally imaginative and original, these faculties only need ordinary encouragement to develop and flourish. Yet the entire method of bringing up children, from the cradle to the school bench, is directed towards stifling all originality and substituting for it a stock of commonplace ideas and conventional knowledge. [p 24]

The process is begun at home. It takes its root in conventionality . . . [p 24]

Parents . . . carry on the imbecile traditions that have been handed down to them from former generations, without stopping to consider whether they are rational or foolish. [p 24]

[One should avoid] hedging round the intelligence with conventionalities to such an extent as to exclude vigorous and independent thought. [p 25]

Intelligent people often find the utmost difficulty in attempting to shake off the prejudices inculcated during the early years of life. [p 25]

For parents there is . . . a certain amount of excuse. For the school system there is none. [p 25]

4. Human Factories

Education . . . when we come to consider the amount of evil produced . . . there is a good deal to choose between. [p. 26]

The private tutor . . . is in a far better position to encourage the individual development of a child than is the schoolmaster who has the care of a class. [p. 26]

At five years of age children will generally learn with avidity. Their minds are . . . receptive, and . . . they are ready to learn . . . within the limits of their comprehension. [p. 27]

[Government regulations and exams] inevitably give . . . a mechanical turn to the school teaching, a mechanical turn to the inspection, [and it is] trying to the intellectual life of the school [if inconvenient]. [p. 29]

The duty of the inspectors is no longer to examine the children, but to investigate the methods of teaching, the qualifications of the teachers, and so forth. [p. 30]

In a room properly constructed and furnished for the instruction of infants . . . infants should be taught 'suitably to their age'. [p. 31]

To impose a cascade of unasked-for subjects on the child prevents the development of the mind in any direction but that which is being enforced. . . . The harm done to the individual child by this means is incalculable. [p. 33]

The child . . . is taken by the State at an early age and subjected . . . to a careful drilling. [p. 33]

Apart from . . . cramming or forcing the brain in a particular direction . . . [W]hen rigidly carried out, [it] has very serious and far-reaching effects. [p. 33]

The harm done to the individual child by this means is incalculable. On the very threshold of the development of its faculties according to natural instincts. [p. 33]

Interference with Nature is carried on throughout the whole school career of the child, and the tradition flourishes in a modified form in the colleges and universities. It is, in fact, the vital principle of modern education. [p. 33]

These schools in which the children of the people are taught are nothing more than factories for turning out a uniformly-patterned article. [p. 33]

The practical working of the machinery of State education is to check the natural development of the mind, and to unfit those whom it has victimized, not only for one, but for all occupations that demand manual dexterity or practical intelligence. [p. 34]

5. The Greatest Misery of the Greatest Number

The product of the public elementary school is . . . generally wanting in intelligence [as] discovered by the victims themselves after years of bitter experience. [p. 35]

Children of agricultural labourers and small farmers are given instruction which will be of no earthly use to them . . . they are given an inferior type of all-round education . . . When they leave school they . . . can mispronounce a few French words . . . and they have acquired by rote a few dry facts . . . all of which will be totally obliterated from their memories within a space of twelve months. [p. 36]

We are pretending to educate the rural population by conferring upon them the blessings of French and shorthand. The natural consequence of . . . spreading this type of culture throughout the land is that . . . there is some difficulty in getting damsels to churn butter. [Hum] [p. 37]

Men of business . . . do not pretend to be anything worse. [p. 40]

[On fiction literature.] The enormous demand for this class of literature is the most pregnant evidence of the miserable effects of misapplied education and defective instruction that could well be brought forward. But it is by no means confined to the uncultured masses who have been driven through the standards of an elementary school. [p. 40-41]

Thousands who have been put through the paces of what is called 'higher education' may be seen in railway-carriages, at health resorts, or in the public libraries, deeply immersed in cheap-jack readingmatter that no self-respecting person of moderate intelligence would care even to be capable of specifying. [p. 41]

This painful sight . . . must surely lead the reflective man or woman to doubt the value of educational methods that have led to no better result [than] a taste for sensational rags, middle-class magazines, and inferior fiction. [p. 41]

See the common people in a constant attitude of servility towards the classes above them. To thinking people nothing is more painful than to observe such signs of a want of proper selfrespect and independence on the part of freeborn men and women. [p. 42]

Educating the masses . . . has had the effect of eradicating from them all respect for education. [p. 42]

6. The Output of Prigs

All boys who go to school are not destined for professions that necessitate the passing of an examination. [p. 44]

The whole of school life is a scramble for marks. The school managers and masters are interested in getting the boys stuffed with facts, dates, figures, and inflections, because the prestige of the school and consequently its commercial success is mainly dependent upon the creditable placing of pupils in public examinations. Therefore the boys are encouraged, or rather compelled, to occupy themselves with what will best conduce to secure this object, regardless of their own wishes or obvious inclinations. [p. 45]

Edward Thring wrote the following remarks in his diary: 'Education is not bookworm work, but the giving the subtle power of observation, the faculty of seeing, the eye and mind to catch hidden truths and new creative genius.' [p. 46]

There must be some material to work upon, and probably their individuality, weak at the commencement and therefore doubly in need of tender treatment and fostering care, has been hopelessly crushed out of existence by the conventional training of school and university. [p. 48]

The ideals of men like Arnold and Thring cannot be carried out as long as the examination system puts a premium upon cramming. ' I call that the best theme,' said Dr. Arnold, alluding to original composition, 'which shows that the boy has read and thought for himself; that the next best, which shows that he has read several books, and digested what he has read; and that the worst, which shows that he has followed but one book, and followed that without reflection.' [p. 49]

His entire mental horizon will be bounded by academic conventionalities in such a cast-iron fashion that it would, you are well aware, waste your time to attempt to extend its boundaries by the fraction of an inch. If you say anything yourself out of the beaten track, you know that you will be looked down upon as a fool or a faddist. [p. 50]

The system . . . fails to evoke . . . the distinguishing traits of each individual, and substitutes a kind of manufactured personality according to the particular institution, or type of institution . . . [t]he narrowest type of educational tradition. [p. 50]

The man who is unable . . . to think for himself is a prig. England is peopled with them. We meet them at every turn . . . and we send our sons to the schools and universities to be manufactured after the same pattern. [p. 51-52]

7. Boy Degeneration

It would be difficult to conjure up a more melancholy picture than that presented by . . . plodders . . . They suffer more under the system than the dull, the lazy, and the fractious. [p. 54]

The average mediocrity amongst schoolboys . . . neither profit by the teaching process, nor do they possess those qualities that would enable them to resist its consequences. [p. 54]

The boy who is trained to pass examinations has a respectable chance of getting into some branch of the public service. [p. 54]

The average schoolboy, who does his work mechanically and without enthusiasm, probably furnishes the greatest number of examples of the misplaced individual. [p. 55]

Unwilling boys are driven, like cattle, along the highway of what is termed . . . knowledge. [p. 55]

Anybody who has been coerced . . . and flogged through the curriculum of a public school will acknowledge that the performance is not an exhilarating one. [p. 55]

The wonder is that anybody survives the process and retains his sanity. That many nervous temperaments and highly-gifted minds do not survive it is a point of so much importance that it will be dealt with . . . [p. 55]

To make boys do certain things under compulsion is not developing their faculties, but is absolutely preventing their development. [p. 56]

This infamous but universal proceeding is responsible for a positive degeneration amongst those whom it is supposed to educate and improve. [p. 56]

[A headmaster of Rugby, Dr. Arnold, in a letter to a friend, told how he was] 'unwilling to undergo the responsibility of advising any man to send his son to a public school. There has been a system of persecution carried on by the bad against the good, and then, when complaint was made to me, there came fresh persecution on that very account, and divers instances of boys joining in it out of pure cowardice, both physical and moral . . . [E]xceedingly small number of boys . . . can be relied on for active and steady good on these occasions.' [p. 56-57]

This sweeping statement has been quoted because it comes with double force from an undisputed authority such as the late Dr. Arnold. [p. 57]

The average boy spends a great deal of his time in cheating the masters, lying to the authorities, and playing every sort and kind of mischievous or disreputable prank that comes into his head. [p. 57]

The system of education . . . not only fails to develop and encourage the boy's individual tastes or faculties, but actually forces upon him occupations that are, for the most part, absolutely foreign to his nature. This is the real key to the vagaries of boyhood. [p. 58]

The discipline upon which schools pride themselves so much is an altogether false and pernicious discipline. [p. 59]

It is an excellent thing that boys should be free to choose the manner in which they make use of their leisure hours [within suitable limits]. [p. 59 ]

The school curriculum, or any other arbitrary course of study, is a mental strait-waistcoat . . . nobody, from Arnold and Thring down to the professional crammer of to-day, seems to have grasped this simple fact. [p. 60]

In boyhood the natural tendencies incline to push their way boisterously to the front. They are constantly trying to find an egress. But the parent and the pedagogue, in their blindness, can only . . . speedy application of the educational strait-waistcoat. [p. 61]

What is to be said of the degeneration of the majority? [p. 61]

8. The Struggle of the Educated

[T]he individual . . . suffers . . . through being subjected, from his earliest childhood, to a more or less inflexible method of training. [Moreover,] certain disabilities . . . are brought about indirectly. [p. 62]

Perhaps the profession of literature and journalism affords the aptest illustration of the utter folly and uselessness of producing these machine-made scholars. [p. 65]

There is need of originality, intellectual independence, insight, judgment, and imagination. [p. 65]

The average academically-trained . . . has an assortment of second-hand ideas borrowed [to offer]. [p. 66]

The university graduate . . . is pre-eminently fitted is to assist others, by means of extension lectures and cramming, to be his companions in misfortune. [p. 66]

9. Woman's Empire Over Man

Women think out things for themselves a great deal more than does the average man. [p. 68]

The average woman sees things the subtleties of which escape man altogether. [p. 70]

The average man, on the other hand, is the most unobservant creature under the sun. [p. 70]

The education of women on the modern system is much to be deplored . . . The more the idea spreads that girls must be given the same educational equipment as boys, the more rapid will be the degeneration of woman. [p. 74-75]

Women, it must be acknowledged, by no means use their faculties of thinking and observation to the best advantage . . . Yet the remarkable accuracy of a woman's intuitions is evidence that there underlies them some . . . solid basis. [p. 75]

If man . . . were encouraged to . . . apply his intelligence . . ., the ratio of the world's progress would be enormously increased. [p. 76]

It would be a grand thing if educationists could be persuaded to open their eyes to the fact that women, . . . saved from school instruction for past generations, have been enabled to preserve mental faculties that no amount of cramming and corporal punishment has ever succeeded in awakening in man. [p. 76]

10. Youth and Crime

Education teaches the criminal . . . to be more wary. [p. 79]

There probably are . . . substantial reasons for discrediting statistics that are . . . absolutely misleading. [p. 79-80 Hum]

Youthful criminals abound in spite of education systems. [p. 81 — Demagogy aside: Much else abounds too. A question is how related crime and education are, and in what ways. And for those looking for help: ◦TM offers great help to many. - TK]

From 'Prisons and Prisoners': 'While covetousness is a factor of crime, the tools education places in the hands make crimes of greed more possible, and possible at an earlier age than in past generations.

Crime is varied, not abolished, not even most effectually decreased, by the sharpening of wits.' [p. 81,82]

Superficial education causes . . . self-deceit as well as self-conceit, and makes young people imagine that because, in addition to what they have learnt, they can present a good outward appearance, they are qualified to fill any kind of appointment with success. [p. 83]

Mental Breakdown

There is no concrete evidence of a reliable nature as to the immoral effects of our education system. [p. 86]

We all of us know, probably, of some isolated instances here and there where the severe strain of cramming for a competitive examination has resulted in loss of health and physical breakdown. Some are even aware of cases in which the unhappy victim of overwork has lost his reason altogether. [p. 86-87]

The . . . healthy brain offers a sound resistance to the stuffing process, and speedily forgets what has been forced into it. From an educational point of view this is, of course, very disastrous; but as far as health considerations are concerned it affords a certain amount of consolation. [p. 87]

What is, after all, stupidity or dulness in a schoolboy? It simply means that the boy's faculties are undeveloped, and that no amount of fact-cramming has succeeded in developing them. The . . . school is [trying] merely to force him to adapt himself to its own curriculum and conventionality. [p. 88]

There is a strain that can only be endured by second-rate minds, and it is not, therefore, the intellectually fittest who are encouraged to survive under the present system. [p. 89]

Compulsory teaching of children whose bodies have not been properly nourished tends to weaken the intellect. [p. 90]

If brain specialists are continually coming across cases of mental breakdown resulting from cramming or over-education, it is quite clear that a system which is productive of such evils must be altogether defective in principle and wanting in common sense. [p. 91]

12. Evidence of History

It is refreshing to turn to history for illustrious examples of men who not only did not owe their greatness to academic training, but who actually owed it to what would nowadays be designated a neglected education. [p. 92-104]

Children are usually encouraged to think by their elders. 105]

The conventional process of cramming would have destroyed the fine intellectual faculties possessed by [Sir Isaac] Watt. [p. 106]

All minds are sensitive. [p. 106]

For every man of genius or talent who has been permitted to survive, education systems have killed a hundred. [p. 107]

All the genius in the world cannot survive the hopeless imbecility of educational methods, except by successfully dodging them. [p. 108 ]

13. The Apotheosis of Cram

The doctrines of social democracy . . . if they were put into practice, the liberty of each individual would be subjected to intolerable restraint, even within the very circle of the home. [p. 111]

The danger of this direct State control is obvious. It [tends to stifle] independent ideas, criticisms, and whatever else may be of value to the interests of the community at large. [p. 111]

To cram the youth of the nation after this fashion with all the facts and fancies that may happen to suit the weaknesses of the national constitution, is exactly the way in which to bring about the decay of both Government and country. [p. 111]

Everything in the Prussian curriculum may be suspected of serving some political purpose. [p. 112]

The commercial success of the scheme has been notorious. [p. 112]

Because Germany seems to have shot ahead of us by leaps and bounds of late years, [it does not follow that] she has adopted sound means to accomplish this end. [p. 113]

If the expedients by which this commercial supremacy has been attained are an exaggeration of the worst evils of education systems, then Germany has started upon a downward path which must eventually lead her to the brink of ruin. [p. 113]

And this is precisely the case. [p. 113]

The individuality of individuals is rapidly disappearing throughout that part of the world which has chosen to subject itself to uniform education systems. One Englishman is much like another. [p. 114]

The only individuality which education is leaving us is that of nationality [because] the school systems of various countries still differ to a certain extent. [p. 114]

We are rapidly approaching the point where the whole strength and resources of each nation will be employed to co-operate against the rest of the world. [p. 114]

Germany . . . is deliberately and systematically throwing away the most precious of all human possessions - the character of the individual. [p. 115]

The inevitable result of this sacrifice of individuality must be the intellectual decay of the nation, or at least its degeneration into a state of hopeless mediocrity. [p. 115]

This educational suicide . . . can only be committed without serious social disturbance in a despotically-governed country like the German Empire. [p. 116]

The benefit, so gratefully acknowledged by Wordsworth, of being neglected by his teachers. [Fragment, p. 117]

14. The Great Fallacy

The magnificent achievements of exceptional individuals pale beside the stupendous blundering of the many. [p. 118]

The most that can be said of the individual is: 'There goes a Cambridge man or a grammarschool man, and when you have knocked all the nonsense out of him you'll find he's not a bad fellow at bottom.' [p. 119]

In the course of a recent conversation with an exceptionally brilliant woman of my acquaintance, it transpired that she believed Winchester and Cambridge to be in the same county . . . There are many persons who can accurately locate any town in England, and yet are vastly inferior in mental capacity to the lady. [p. 121]

Even . . . reformers of education appear to have deceived themselves. [p. 124-25]

15. Real Education

There is . . . a wide difference between what education is and what it should be. [p. 127]

[I]deal education would consist in assisting every individual to develop the faculties with which Nature had endowed him, and to train . . . any special talents that might reveal themselves during the process. Above all things, real education would encourage the utilization of the brain for purposes of thought and reflection, instead of trying to make it a warehouse for storing van-loads of useless knowledge. [p. 127]

It is absurd to assume that this simple educational aim is beyond the reach of humanity. [p. 127]

The main thing that is required to carry out the true principle of education is more individual common sense and less State interference. [p. 128]

The child's mind is not a blank, upon which anything may be written at will; it is scored invisibly with heredity and individual tendencies. [p. 128]

The imagination of the child should be encouraged and developed. It is the richest vein in the whole mental machinery of man, the faculty within which genius most frequently lurks. [p. 130]

Grown-up people should remember that an indiscreet answer to a childish question, or a snub administered to an inquiring mind, is often sufficient to check thought. It should be mainly the care of the parent to encourage the imagination in young children. [p. 130]

The position of teacher and pupil would have to be practically reversed. The pupil would lead, and the teacher follow. In fact, the latter should become an adviser rather than instructor. [p. 130]

Education should resemble a person groping forward in the dark . . . [I]t would be of ten thousand times greater value to the individual, and to the community at large, than the acquisition of a large stock of facts at the price of losing all power of reflection and initiative. [p. 131]

In any system of real education it would be impossible for the schoolmaster to dictate the subjects to which the pupil should give his attention. [p. 132]

Modern education consists entirely of interference. There is, in the first place, the interference of the parent . . . Then there comes the interference of the schoolmaster . . . Lastly appears the Government, [which causes young persons to devote] years to being crammed in such a scandalous fashion, that it is a toss-up whether he breaks down altogether under the ordeal, or simply forgets, a few months after the consummation of the process, all that has been pitchforked into his brain. [p. 132-33]

Some children develop later than others; but with proper care and encouragement it would be possible not to lead, but to follow, each child to its own bent. The child must show the way that is the essence of real education, and it involves a complete upheaval of the principles upon which systems of instruction are at present founded. [p. 134]

There is only one way in which people are now able to obtain a genuine education . . . The process consists simply in the individual choosing his own subjects and studying them as best he can. No doubt the method could be immensely extended and improved, for the selfcultured man has no mentor to guide him when he is in perplexity, and would profit by experienced advice. [p. 134]

Gorst antecipates the psychoanalytic approach in this: It holds that character is the result of following up and developing one's natural interests for long. Compare the epigenetic scheme of Erikson.

It would be far better to abolish schools and universities and to let everybody shift for himself, than to insist upon subjecting the youth of the nation to a system that ingeniously manufactures failures for every walk in life, and accomplishes practically nothing else. [p. 134] — Test this by such as, "Are there no other alternatives? No middle ground somewhere?" And much else, if you dare. - TK

The Open Door to Intelligence

It has been the chief aim in these pages . . . to point out the utter folly of persisting with a system that has worked a vast amount of evil. [p. 135]

Where the highest intellectual qualities are brought into play, most of the great discoverers have owed their entire scientific knowledge to self-taught methods of investigation . . . by self-inculcated habits of reflection. [p. 135-36]

The self-made man['s] first objective must be his own selfpreservation. [p. 140]

Schools and colleges in which the mind is crammed instead of being developed cannot . . . manufacture in unlimited quantities the type of well intentioned, honourable mediocrity with which our public service is stocked. [p. 140, Opp]

The self-made man usually creates far more mischief in the course of his upward political struggle, than is compensated for afterwards when he has secured his position. [p. 140]

What is, after all, the main object of education?

It is to assist everybody to develop his faculties and talents, so that he may be fitted for the position in life which Nature intended him to occupy. [p. 142]

But what if "Nature" meant him or her to kill and kill? That's where human ingenuity comes into the picture and helps out by such as, "Instead of becoming a criminal killer and butcher, find savoury, respectable outlets, such as becoming an officer." You get the point, I guess. � TK

The door should be left open to intelligence. [p. 143]

Misery suffered by humanity has been produced by artificial means. Providence did not intend this world to be a place of purgatory for the majority of mankind. [p. 143-44]


Afterword: Mentors and Tutors and Coaches

Gorst advocates some sides to mentoring or tutoring and coaching as his solution to predicaments he eyed in 1901. Below is an incomplete explanation of such terms terms in our times:

Mentor and tutor are synonyms, although there are different shades of meanings:

Mentor often means a trusted friend, counsellor, teacher, or more experienced person. Mentors provide expertise to less experienced individuals to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks. The student of a mentor is called a protégé, and sometimes also a mentee. Mentoring applied to academics is called academic coaching.

A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor (as a verb) is to perform the functions of a tutor. It can be in universities, in secondary schools, and privately.

A private tutor is a private instructor who teaches specific educational subjects or skills to individuals or small groups of students. Such attention allows the students to improve knowledge or skills far more rapidly than in a classroom setting. Many tutors provide more advanced material for exceptionally capable and highly motivated students, or in the context of homeschooling.

Tutoring also occurs when one adult helps another adult student to study a specific course or subject that he/she is taking to get a better result. The adult can also let the student work on his/her own, and can be there if the student has any questions.

Tutelage is the process of being under the guidance of a tutor. To become a private tutor in the UK, you don't need any formal qualifications, and can set up your own business as a tutor, shows Graham Woodward (2010).

Online tutoring is a new way for a student to receive help, either scheduled or on-demand. Online tutoring has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years due to the ease of being able to connect to a tutor at moment's notice when help is required.

In-home tutoring is a form of tutoring that occurs in the home. It is also known as "Private Tutoring" or "Personal Tutoring". Most often the tutoring relates to an academic subject or test preparation. This is in contrast to tutoring centers or tutoring provided through after-school programs. The service most often involves one-on-one attention provided to the pupil.

Coaching involves a more collaborative approach. Coaches help students learn how they best learn and how to operate in an academic environment. Coaches work with such as study skills, time management, stress management, effective reading, note-taking, test-taking, and understanding how to use a syllabus. Academic coaches meet with the student regularly throughout the semester, usually once a week. Academic coaching is a huge industry in Asia. For example, in India, most students visit a coaching center or a "study circle.


Harold A. Gorst, The Curse of Education, quotations, extracts, quotations, Literature  


Gatto, John Taylor. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992 (Last edition: 2005).

Gorst, Harold Edward. The Curse of Education. 3rd ed. London: Grant Richards. 1901.

Woodward, Graham. How to Start a Business as a Private Tutor - Set Up a Tutoring Business from Home. Bury, Lancashire: Universe of Learning, 2010.

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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