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Lewis new

C. S. Lewis







  Reflections on Education

  With Special Reference to the

  Teaching of English in

  the Upper Forms of Schools




  Chapter 1

  Men without Chests

  I DOUBT whether we are sufficiently

  pretty predicament. I do not want to pillory attentive to the importance of elementary two modest practising schoolmasters who text-books. That is why I have chosen as the were doing the best they knew: but I cannot be starting point for these lectures a little book on silent about what I think the actual tendency of English intended for ‘boys and girls in the their work. I therefore propose to conceal their upper forms of schools., I do not think the names. I shall refer to these gentlemen as authors of this book (there were two of them) Gaius and Titius and to their book as The intended any harm, and I owe them, or their Green Book. But I promise you there is such a publisher, good language for sending me a book and I have it on my shelves.

  cornplimentary copy. At the same time I shall have nothing good to say of them. Here is a In their second chapter Gaius and Titius

  wrote the well-known story of Coleridge at ible. But we need not delay over this which is the waterfall. You remember that there were the very pons asinorum of our subject. It two tourists present that one called it sublime would be unjust to Gaius and Titius them-and the other pretty and that Coleridge selves to emphasize what was doubtless a mentally endorsed the first judgement and mere inadvertence.

  rejected the second with disgust. Gaius and Titius comment as follows: ‘When the man The schoolboy who reads this passage in said That is sublime he appeared to be making The Green Book will believe two propositions a remark about the waterfall. Actually he was firstly that all sentences containing a predicate not making a remark about the waterfall but a of value are statements about the emotional remark about his own feelings. What he was state of the speaker, and, secondly, that all saying was really I have feelings associated in such statements are unimportant. It is true that my mind with the word “Sublime,” or shortly, Gaius and Titius have said neither of these I have sublime feelings. Here are a good things in so many words. They have treated many deep questions settled in a pretty only one particular predicate of value (sub-summary fashion. But the authors are not yet lime) as a word descriptive of the speaker’s finished. They add ‘This confusion is con-emotions. The pupils are left to do for them-tinually present in language as we use it. We selves the work of extending the same treat-appear be saying something very important ment to all predicates of value: and no slight-about something and actually we are only est obstacle to such extension is placed in their saying something about our own feelings.( The way. The authors may or may not desire the Green Book, pp. 19, 20).

  extension: they may never have given the question five minutes’ serious thought in their Before considering the issues really raised lives. I am not concerned with what they by this momentous little paragraph (designed, desired but with the effect their book will you will relllelllber, for the upper forms in certainly have on the schoolboy’s mind. In the schools ) we must eliminate one mere confu-same way, they have not said that judgements sion into which Gaius and Titius have fallen.

  of value are unimportant. Their words are that Even on their own view— on any conceivable we appear to be saying something very view—the man who

  important, when in reality we are ‘only saying says This is sublime cannot mean I have something about our own feelings.’ No

  sublime feelings. Even if it were granted that schoolboy will be able to resist the suggestion such qualities as sublimity were simply and brought to bear upon him by that word only. I solely projected into things from our own do not mean, of course, that he will make any emotions, yet the emotions which prompt the conscious inference from what he reads to a projection are the corrclatives and therefore general philosophical theory that all values are almost the opposites of the qualities projected.

  subjective and trivial. The very power of The feelings which make a man call an object Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they sublime are not sublime feelings but feelings are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is of veneration. If This is sublime is to be

  ‘doing’ his English prep’ and has no notion reduced at all to a statement about the that ethics, theology, and politics are all at speaker’s feelings, the proper translation stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, would be I have humble feelings. If the view but an assumption, which ten years hence, its held by Gaius and Titius were consistently origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, applied it would lead to obvious absurdities. It will condition him to take one side in a would force them to maintain that You are controversy which he has never recognized as contemptible means I have comtemptible a controversy at all. The authors themselves, I feelings: in fact that Your feelings are suspect, hardly know what they are doing to conternptible means My feelings are contempt-the boy, and he cannot know what is being

  done to him.

  did, that the tourists will not have any adventures, that the treasures they bring home will Before considering the philosophical

  be of a

  credentials of the position which Gaius and purely metaphorical nature, and that a trip Titius have adopted about value, I should like to Margate might provide ‘all the pleasure and to show its practical results on their educa-rest’ they required. All this is very true: talents tional procedure. In their fourth chapter they inferior to those of Gaius and Titius would quote a silly advertisement of a pleasure cruise have sufficed to discover it. What they have and proceed to inoculate their pupils against not noticed, or not cared about, is that a very the sort of writing it exhibits. The advertise-similar treatment could be applied to much ment tells us that those who buy tickets for good literature which treats the same emotion.

  this cruise will go ‘across the Western Ocean What, after all, can the history of early British where Drake of Devon sailed,’ ‘adventuring Christianity, in pure reason, add to the motives after the treasures of the Indies,’ and bringing for piety as they exist in the eighteenth cen-home themselves also a ‘treasure’ of ‘golden tury? Why should Mr. Wordsworth’s inn be hours’ and ‘glowing colours.’ It is a bad bit of more comfortable or the air of London more writing, of course: a venal and bathetic healthy because London has existed for a long exploitation of those emotions of awe and time? Or, if there is indeed any obstacle which pleasure which men feel in visiting places that will prevent a critic from ‘debunking’ Johnson have striking associations with history or and Wordsworth (and Lamb, and Virgil, and legend. If (Gaius and Titius were to stick to Thomas Browner and Mr. de la Mare) as The their last and teach their readers (as they Green Book debunks the advertisement. Gaius promised to do) the art of English composi-and Titius have given their schoolboy readers tion, it was their business to put this advertise-no faintest help to its discovery. From this ment side by side with passages from great passage the schoolboy will learn about litera-writers in which the very same emotion is well ture precisely notiling. What he will learn expressed and then show where the difference quickly enough, and perhaps indelibly, is the lies. They might leave used Johnson’s famous belief that all emotions aroused by local passage from the Western Islands, which association are in themselves contrary to concludes: ‘That man is little to be envied, reason and contemptible. He will have no whose patriotism would not gain force upon notion that there are two ways of being tile plain of Marathon, or whose piety would immune to such an advertisement—that it falls not grow warmer
among the Sins of Iona.’

  equally flat on those who are above it and They might have taken that place in The those who are below it, on the man of real Prelude where Wordsworth describes how the sensibility and on the mere trousered ape who antiquity of London first aescended on his has never been able to conceive the Atlantic as mind with ‘Weight and power, Power growing anything more than so many million tons of under weight.’ A lesson which had laid such cold salt water. There are two men to whom literature beside the advertisement and really we offer in vain a false leading article on discriminated the good from the bad would patriotism and honour: one is the coward, the have been a lesson worth teaching. There other is the honourable and patriotic man.

  would have been some blood and sap in it—

  None of this is brought before the schoolboy’s the trees of knowledge and of life growing mind. On the contrary, he is encouraged to together. It would also have had the merit of reject the lure of the ‘Western Ocean, on the being a lesson in literature: a subject of which very dangerous ground that in so doing he will Gaius and Titius, despite their professed prove himself a knowing fellow who can’t be purpose, are uncommonly shy. What they bubbled out of his cash. Gaius and Titius, actually do is to point out that the luxurious while teaching him nothing about letters, have motor-vessel won’t really sail where Drake cut out of his soul, long before he is old

  enough to choose, the possibility of having such teachers as Gaius and Titius do

  certain experiences which thinkers of more not fully realize what they are doing

  authority than they have held to be generous, and do not intend the far-reaching

  fruitful, and humane.

  consequences it will actually have.

  There is, of course, another possibil-

  But it is not only Gaius and Titius. In ity. What I have called (presuming on

  another little book, whose author I will call their concurrence in a certain tradi-Orbilius, I find that the same operation, under tional system of values) the ‘trousered the same general anaesthetic, is being carried ape, and the ‘urban blockhead’ may be

  out. Orbilius chooses for ‘debunking’ a silly precisely the kind of man they really

  bit of writing on horses, where these animals wish to produce. The differences

  are praised as the thrilling servants’ of the between us may go all the way down.

  early colonists in Austrailia. And he falls into They may really hold that the ordinary the same trap as Gaius and Titius. Of Ruksh human feelings about the past or

  and Sleipnir and the weeping horses of animals or large waterfalls are con-Achilles and the war-horse in the Book of Job-trary to reason and contemptible and

  nay even of Brer Rabbit and of Peter Rabbit—

  ought to be irradicated. They may be

  of man’s prehistoric piety to ‘our brother the intending to make a clean sweep of

  ox’—of all that this semi-anthropomorphic traditional values and start with a new treatment of beasts has meant in human set. That position will be discussed

  history and of the literature where it finds later. If it is the position which Gaius noble or piquant expression—he has not a and Titius are holding, I must for the word to say. Even of the problems of animal moment content myself with pointing

  psychology as they exist for science he says out that it is a philosophical and not a nothing. He contents himself with explaining literary position. In filling their book that horses are not, secundum litteram, inter-with it they have been unjust to the

  ested in colonial expansion. This piece of parent or headmaster who buys it and

  information is really all that his pupils get who has got the work of amateur

  from him. Why the composition before them philosophers where he expected the

  is bad, when others that lie open to the same work of professional grammarians. A

  charge are good, they do not hear. Much less man would be annoyed if his son

  do they learn of the two classes of men who returned from the dentist with his

  are, respectively above and below the danger teeth untouched and his head

  of such writing—the man who really knows crammed with the dentists obiter dicta horses and really loves them, not with anthro-on bimetallism or the Baconian

  pomorphic illusions, but with ordinate love, theory.

  and the irredeemable urban blockhead to whom a horse is merely an old-fashioned But I doubt whether Gaius and ‘I’itius means of transport. Some pleasure in their have really planned under cover of teaching own ponies and dogs they will have lost: some English to propagate their philosopily. I think incentive to cruelty or neglect they will have they have slipped into it for the following received some pleasure in their own

  reasons. In the first place, literary criticism is knowingness will have entered their minds.

  difficult, and what they actually do is very That is their day’s lesson in English, though of much easier. To explain why a bad treatment English they have learned nothing. Another of some basic human emotion is bad literature little portion of the human heritage has been is, if we exclude all question-begging attacks quietly taken from them before they were old on the emotion itself, a very hard thing to do.

  enough to understand.

  Even Dr. Ricilards who first seriously tackled I have hitherto been assuming that

  the problem of badness in literature, failed I

  think, to do it. To ‘debunk’ the emotion, on disagreed with the one who called it pretty the basis of a commonplace rationalism, is was of course that he believed inanimate within almost anyone’s capacity. In the second nature to be such that certain responses could place, I think Gaius and Titius may have be more ‘just’ or ‘ordinate’ or ‘appropriate’ to honestly misunderstood the pressing educa-it than others. And he believed (correctly) that tional need of the moment. They see the world the tourists thought the same. The man who around them swayed by emotional propa-called the cataract sublime was not intending ganda—they have learned from tradition that simply to describe his own emotions about it: youth is sentimental—and they conclude that he was also claiming that the object was one the best thing they can do is to fortify the which merited those emotions. But for this minds of young people against emotion. My claim there would be nothing to agree or own experience as a teacher tells an opposite disagree about. To disagree with This is pretty tale. For every one pupil who needs to be if those words simply described the lady’s guarded from a weak excess of sensibility feelings, would be absurd: if she had said I there are three who need to be awakened from feel sick Coleridge would hardly have replied the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the No; I feel quite well. When Shelley, having modern educator is not to cut down jungles compared the human sensibility to an Aeolian but to irrigate deserts. The right defence lyre, goes on to add that it differs from a lyre against false sentiments is to inculcate just in having a power of ‘internal adjustment’

  sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our whereby it can ‘accommodate its chords to the pupils we only make them easier prey to the motions of that which strikes them,’ he is propagandist when he comes. For famished assuming the same belief. ‘Can you be righ-nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no teous,’ asks Traherne, ‘unless you be just in infallible protection against a soft head.

  rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were But there is a third, and a profounder, made to prize them according to their value.’

  reason for the procedure which Gaius and St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, Titius adopt. They may be perfectly ready to the ordinate condition of the affections in admit that a good education should build which every object is accorded that kind and some sentiments while destroying others.

  degree of love which is appropriate to it.

  They may endeavour to do so. But it is Aristotle says that the aim of education is to impossible that they
should succeed. Do what make the pupil like and dislike what he ought.

  they will, it is the ‘debunking’ side of their When the age for reflective thought comes, the work, and this side alone, which will really pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate tell. In order to grasp this necessity clearly I affections’ or ‘just sentiments’’ will easily find must digress for a moment to show that what the first principles in Ethics: but to the corrupt may be called the educational predicament of man they will never be visible at all and he Gaius and Titius is different from that of all can make no progress in that science. Plato their predecessors.

  before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right Until quite modern times all teachers and responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, even all men believed the universe to be such liking, disgust, and hatred at those things that certain emotional reactions on our part which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, could be either congruous or incongruous to and hateful. In the Republic, the well-nurtured it—believed, in fact, that objects did not youth is one ‘who would see most clearly merely receive, but could merit our approval whatever was amiss in ill-made worlds of man or disapproval, our reverence, or our con-or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just tempt. The reason why Coleridge agreed with distaste would blame and hate the ugly even the tourist who called the cataract sublime and from his earliest years and would give de-

  lighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his our own parental or filial emotions at the soul and being nourished by it, so that he moment, but to recognize a quality which becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before demands a certain response from us whether he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason we make it or not. I myself do not enjoy the at length comes to him, then, bred as he has society of small children: because I speak been, he will hold out his hands in welcome from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect and recognize her because of the affinity he in myself—just as a man may have to recog-bears to her., In early Hinduism that conduct nize that he is tone deaf or colour blind. And in men which can be called good consists in because our approvals and disapprovals are conformity to, or almost participation in, the thus recognitions of objective value or re-Rta— that great ritual or pattern of nature and sponses to an objective order, therefore supernature which is revealed alike in the emotional states can be in harmony with cosmic order, the moral virtues, and the reason (when we feel liking for what ought to ceremonial of the temple. Righteousness, be approved) or out of harmony with reason correctness, order, the Rta, is constantly (when we perceive that liking is due but identified with satya or truth, correspondence cannot feel it). No emotion is, in itself, a to reality. As Plato said that the Good was judgement: in that sense all emotions and