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    Treatise On Parents And Children

    by George Bernard Shaw
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    Trailing Clouds of Glory

    Childhood is a stage in the process of that continual remanufacture of
    the Life Stuff by which the human race is perpetuated. The Life Force
    either will not or cannot achieve immortality except in very low
    organisms: indeed it is by no means ascertained that even the amoeba
    is immortal. Human beings visibly wear out, though they last longer
    than their friends the dogs. Turtles, parrots, and elephants are
    believed to be capable of outliving the memory of the oldest human
    inhabitant. But the fact that new ones are born conclusively proves
    that they are not immortal. Do away with death and you do away with
    the need for birth: in fact if you went on breeding, you would
    finally have to kill old people to make room for young ones.

    Now death is not necessarily a failure of energy on the part of the
    Life Force. People with no imagination try to make things which will
    last for ever, and even want to live for ever themselves. But the
    intelligently imaginative man knows very well that it is waste of
    labor to make a machine that will last ten years, because it will
    probably be superseded in half that time by an improved machine
    answering the same purpose. He also knows that if some devil were to
    convince us that our dream of personal immortality is no dream but a
    hard fact, such a shriek of despair would go up from the human race as
    no other conceivable horror could provoke. With all our perverse
    nonsense as to John Smith living for a thousand million eons and for
    ever after, we die voluntarily, knowing that it is time for us to be
    scrapped, to be remanufactured, to come back, as Wordsworth divined,
    trailing ever brightening clouds of glory. We must all be born again,
    and yet again and again. We should like to live a little longer just
    as we should like 50 pounds: that is, we should take it if we could
    get it for nothing; but that sort of idle liking is not will. It is
    amazing--considering the way we talk--how little a man will do to get
    50 pounds: all the 50-pound notes I have ever known of have been more
    easily earned than a laborious sixpence; but the difficulty of
    inducing a man to make any serious effort to obtain 50 pounds is
    nothing to the difficulty of inducing him to make a serious effort to
    keep alive. The moment he sees death approach, he gets into bed and
    sends for a doctor. He knows very well at the back of his conscience
    that he is rather a poor job and had better be remanufactured. He
    knows that his death will make room for a birth; and he hopes that it
    will be a birth of something that he aspired to be and fell short of.
    He knows that it is through death and rebirth that this corruptible
    shall become incorruptible, and this mortal put on immortality.
    Practise as you will on his ignorance, his fears, and his imagination,
    with bribes of paradises and threats of hells, there is only one
    belief that can rob death of its sting and the grave of its victory;
    and that is the belief that we can lay down the burden of our wretched
    little makeshift individualities for ever at each lift towards the
    goal of evolution, which can only be a being that cannot be improved
    upon. After all, what man is capable of the insane self-conceit of
    believing that an eternity of himself would be tolerable even to
    himself? Those who try to believe it postulate that they shall be
    made perfect first. But if you make me perfect I shall no longer be
    myself, nor will it be possible for me to conceive my present
    imperfections (and what I cannot conceive I cannot remember); so that
    you may just as well give me a new name and face the fact that I am a
    new person and that the old Bernard Shaw is as dead as mutton. Thus,
    oddly enough, the conventional belief in the matter comes to this:
    that if you wish to live for ever you must be wicked enough to be
    irretrievably damned, since the saved are no longer what they were,
    and in hell alone do people retain their sinful nature: that is to
    say, their individuality. And this sort of hell, however convenient
    as a means of intimidating persons who have practically no honor and
    no conscience, is not a fact. Death is for many of us the gate of
    hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.
    Therefore let us give up telling one another idle stories, and rejoice
    in death as we rejoice in birth; for without death we cannot be born
    again; and the man who does not wish to be born again and born better
    is fit only to represent the City of London in Parliament, or perhaps
    the university of Oxford.

    The Child is Father to the Man

    Is he? Then in the name of common sense why do we always treat
    children on the assumption that the man is father to the child? Oh,
    these fathers! And we are not content with fathers: we must have
    godfathers, forgetting that the child is godfather to the man. Has it
    ever struck you as curious that in a country where the first article
    of belief is that every child is born with a godfather whom we all
    call "our father which art in heaven," two very limited individual
    mortals should be allowed to appear at its baptism and explain that
    they are its godparents, and that they will look after its salvation
    until it is no longer a child. I had a godmother who made herself
    responsible in this way for me. She presented me with a Bible with a
    gilt clasp and edges, larger than the Bibles similarly presented to my
    sisters, because my sex entitled me to a heavier article. I must have
    seen that lady at least four times in the twenty years following. She
    never alluded to my salvation in any way. People occasionally ask me
    to act as godfather to their children with a levity which convinces me
    that they have not the faintest notion that it involves anything more
    than calling the helpless child George Bernard without regard to the
    possibility that it may grow up in the liveliest abhorrence of my

    A person with a turn for logic might argue that if God is the Father
    of all men, and if the child is father to the man, it follows that the
    true representative of God at the christening is the child itself.
    But such posers are unpopular, because they imply that our little
    customs, or, as we often call them, our religion, mean something, or
    must originally have meant something, and that we understand and
    believe that something.

    However, my business is not to make confusion worse confounded, but to
    clear it up. Only, it is as well to begin by a sample of current
    thought and practice which shews that on the subject of children we
    are very deeply confused. On the whole, whatever our theory or no
    theory may be, our practice is to treat the child as the property of
    its immediate physical parents, and to allow them to do what they like
    with it as far as it will let them. It has no rights and no
    liberties: in short, its condition is that which adults recognize as
    the most miserable and dangerous politically possible for themselves:
    namely, the condition of slavery. For its alleviation we trust to the
    natural affection of the parties, and to public opinion. A father
    cannot for his own credit let his son go in rags. Also, in a very
    large section of the population, parents finally become dependent on
    their children. Thus there are checks on child slavery which do not
    exist, or are less powerful, in the case of manual and industrial
    slavery. Sensationally bad cases fall into two classes, which are
    really the same class: namely, the children whose parents are
    excessively addicted to the sensual luxury of petting children, and
    the children whose parents are excessively addicted to the sensual
    luxury of physically torturing them. There is a Society for the
    Prevention of Cruelty to Children which has effectually made an end of
    our belief that mothers are any more to be trusted than stepmothers,
    or fathers than slave-drivers. And there is a growing body of law
    designed to prevent parents from using their children ruthlessly to
    make money for the household. Such legislation has always been
    furiously resisted by the parents, even when the horrors of factory
    slavery were at their worst; and the extension of such legislation at
    present would be impossible if it were not that the parents affected
    by it cannot control a majority of votes in Parliament. In domestic
    life a great deal of service is done by children, the girls acting as
    nursemaids and general servants, and the lads as errand boys. In the
    country both boys and girls do a substantial share of farm labor.
    This is why it is necessary to coerce poor parents to send their
    children to school, though in the relatively small class which keeps
    plenty of servants it is impossible to induce parents to keep their
    children at home instead of paying schoolmasters to take them off
    their hands.

    It appears then that the bond of affection between parents and
    children does not save children from the slavery that denial of rights
    involves in adult political relations. It sometimes intensifies it,
    sometimes mitigates it; but on the whole children and parents confront
    one another as two classes in which all the political power is on one
    side; and the results are not at all unlike what they would be if
    there were no immediate consanguinity between them, and one were white
    and the other black, or one enfranchised and the other
    disenfranchised, or one ranked as gentle and the other simple. Not
    that Nature counts for nothing in the case and political rights for
    everything. But a denial of political rights, and the resultant
    delivery of one class into the mastery of another, affects their
    relations so extensively and profoundly that it is impossible to
    ascertain what the real natural relations of the two classes are until
    this political relation is abolished.

    What is a Child?

    An experiment. A fresh attempt to produce the just man made perfect:
    that is, to make humanity divine. And you will vitiate the experiment
    if you make the slightest attempt to abort it into some fancy figure
    of your own: for example, your notion of a good man or a womanly
    woman. If you treat it as a little wild beast to be tamed, or as a
    pet to be played with, or even as a means to save you trouble and to
    make money for you (and these are our commonest ways), it may fight
    its way through in spite of you and save its soul alive; for all its
    instincts will resist you, and possibly be strengthened in the
    resistance; but if you begin with its own holiest aspirations, and
    suborn them for your own purposes, then there is hardly any limit to
    the mischief you may do. Swear at a child, throw your boots at it,
    send it flying from the room with a cuff or a kick; and the experience
    will be as instructive to the child as a difficulty with a
    short-tempered dog or a bull. Francis Place tells us that his father
    always struck his children when he found one within his reach. The
    effect on the young Places seems to have been simply to make them keep
    out of their father's way, which was no doubt what he desired, as far
    as he desired anything at all. Francis records the habit without
    bitterness, having reason to thank his stars that his father respected
    the inside of his head whilst cuffing the outside of it; and this made
    it easy for Francis to do yeoman's service to his country as that rare
    and admirable thing, a Freethinker: the only sort of thinker, I may
    remark, whose thoughts, and consequently whose religious convictions,
    command any respect.

    Now Mr Place, senior, would be described by many as a bad father; and
    I do not contend that he was a conspicuously good one. But as
    compared with the conventional good father who deliberately imposes
    himself on his son as a god; who takes advantage of childish credulity
    and parent worship to persuade his son that what he approves of is
    right and what he disapproves of is wrong; who imposes a corresponding
    conduct on the child by a system of prohibitions and penalties,
    rewards and eulogies, for which he claims divine sanction: compared
    to this sort of abortionist and monster maker, I say, Place appears
    almost as a Providence. Not that it is possible to live with children
    any more than with grown-up people without imposing rules of conduct
    on them. There is a point at which every person with human nerves has
    to say to a child "Stop that noise." But suppose the child asks why!
    There are various answers in use. The simplest: "Because it
    irritates me," may fail; for it may strike the child as being rather
    amusing to irritate you; also the child, having comparatively no
    nerves, may be unable to conceive your meaning vividly enough. In any
    case it may want to make a noise more than to spare your feelings.
    You may therefore have to explain that the effect of the irritation
    will be that you will do something unpleasant if the noise continues.
    The something unpleasant may be only a look of suffering to rouse the
    child's affectionate sympathy (if it has any), or it may run to
    forcible expulsion from the room with plenty of unnecessary violence;
    but the principle is the same: there are no false pretences involved:
    the child learns in a straightforward way that it does not pay to be
    inconsiderate. Also, perhaps, that Mamma, who made the child learn
    the Sermon on the Mount, is not really a Christian.

    The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

    But there is another sort of answer in wide use which is neither
    straightforward, instructive, nor harmless. In its simplest form it
    substitutes for "Stop that noise," "Dont be naughty," which means that
    the child, instead of annoying you by a perfectly healthy and natural
    infantile procedure, is offending God. This is a blasphemous lie; and
    the fact that it is on the lips of every nurserymaid does not excuse
    it in the least. Dickens tells us of a nurserymaid who elaborated it
    into "If you do that, angels wont never love you." I remember a
    servant who used to tell me that if I were not good, by which she
    meant if I did not behave with a single eye to her personal
    convenience, the cock would come down the chimney. Less imaginative
    but equally dishonest people told me I should go to hell if I did not
    make myself agreeable to them. Bodily violence, provided it be the
    hasty expression of normal provoked resentment and not vicious
    cruelty, cannot harm a child as this sort of pious fraud harms it.
    There is a legal limit to physical cruelty; and there are also human
    limits to it. There is an active Society which brings to book a good
    many parents who starve and torture and overwork their children, and
    intimidates a good many more. When parents of this type are caught,
    they are treated as criminals; and not infrequently the police have
    some trouble to save them from being lynched. The people against whom
    children are wholly unprotected are those who devote themselves to the
    very mischievous and cruel sort of abortion which is called bringing
    up a child in the way it should go. Now nobody knows the way a child
    should go. All the ways discovered so far lead to the horrors of our
    existing civilizations, described quite justifiably by Ruskin as heaps
    of agonizing human maggots, struggling with one another for scraps of
    food. Pious fraud is an attempt to pervert that precious and sacred
    thing the child's conscience into an instrument of our own
    convenience, and to use that wonderful and terrible power called Shame
    to grind our own axe. It is the sin of stealing fire from the altar:
    a sin so impudently practised by popes, parents, and pedagogues, that
    one can hardly expect the nurserymaids to see any harm in stealing a
    few cinders when they are worrited.

    Into the blackest depths of this violation of children's souls one can
    hardly bear to look; for here we find pious fraud masking the
    violation of the body by obscene cruelty. Any parent or school
    teacher who takes a secret and abominable delight in torture is
    allowed to lay traps into which every child must fall, and then beat
    it to his or her heart's content. A gentleman once wrote to me and
    said, with an obvious conviction that he was being most reasonable and
    high minded, that the only thing he beat his children for was failure
    in perfect obedience and perfect truthfulness. On these attributes,
    he said, he must insist. As one of them is not a virtue at all, and
    the other is the attribute of a god, one can imagine what the lives of
    this gentleman's children would have been if it had been possible for
    him to live down to his monstrous and foolish pretensions. And yet he
    might have written his letter to The Times (he very nearly did, by the
    way) without incurring any danger of being removed to an asylum, or
    even losing his reputation for taking a very proper view of his
    parental duties. And at least it was not a trivial view, nor an ill
    meant one. It was much more respectable than the general consensus of
    opinion that if a school teacher can devise a question a child cannot
    answer, or overhear it calling omega omeega, he or she may beat the
    child viciously. Only, the cruelty must be whitewashed by a moral
    excuse, and a pretence of reluctance. It must be for the child's
    good. The assailant must say "This hurts me more than it hurts you."
    There must be hypocrisy as well as cruelty. The injury to the child
    would be far less if the voluptuary said frankly "I beat you because I
    like beating you; and I shall do it whenever I can contrive an excuse
    for it." But to represent this detestable lust to the child as Divine
    wrath, and the cruelty as the beneficent act of God, which is exactly
    what all our floggers do, is to add to the torture of the body, out of
    which the flogger at least gets some pleasure, the maiming and
    blinding of the child's soul, which can bring nothing but horror to

    The Manufacture of Monsters

    This industry is by no means peculiar to China. The Chinese (they
    say) make physical monsters. We revile them for it and proceed to
    make moral monsters of our own children. The most excusable parents
    are those who try to correct their own faults in their offspring. The
    parent who says to his child: "I am one of the successes of the
    Almighty: therefore imitate me in every particular or I will have the
    skin off your back" (a quite common attitude) is a much more absurd
    figure than the man who, with a pipe in his mouth, thrashes his boy
    for smoking. If you must hold yourself up to your children as an
    object lesson (which is not at all necessary), hold yourself up as a
    warning and not as an example. But you had much better let the
    child's character alone. If you once allow yourself to regard a child
    as so much material for you to manufacture into any shape that happens
    to suit your fancy you are defeating the experiment of the Life Force.
    You are assuming that the child does not know its own business, and
    that you do. In this you are sure to be wrong: the child feels the
    drive of the Life Force (often called the Will of God); and you cannot
    feel it for him. Handel's parents no doubt thought they knew better
    than their child when they tried to prevent his becoming a musician.
    They would have been equally wrong and equally unsuccessful if they
    had tried to prevent the child becoming a great rascal had its genius
    lain in that direction. Handel would have been Handel, and Napoleon
    and Peter of Russia _them_selves in spite of all the parents in
    creation, because, as often happens, they were stronger than their
    parents. But this does not happen always. Most children can be, and
    many are, hopelessly warped and wasted by parents who are ignorant and
    silly enough to suppose that they know what a human being ought to be,
    and who stick at nothing in their determination to force their
    children into their moulds. Every child has a right to its own bent.
    It has a right to be a Plymouth Brother though its parents be
    convinced atheists. It has a right to dislike its mother or father or
    sister or brother or uncle or aunt if they are antipathetic to it. It
    has a right to find its own way and go its own way, whether that way
    seems wise or foolish to others, exactly as an adult has. It has a
    right to privacy as to its own doings and its own affairs as much as
    if it were its own father.

    Small and Large Families

    These rights have now become more important than they used to be,
    because the modern practice of limiting families enables them to be
    more effectually violated. In a family of ten, eight, six, or even
    four children, the rights of the younger ones to a great extent take
    care of themselves and of the rights of the elder ones too. Two adult
    parents, in spite of a house to keep and an income to earn, can still
    interfere to a disastrous extent with the rights and liberties of one
    child. But by the time a fourth child has arrived, they are not only
    outnumbered two to one, but are getting tired of the thankless and
    mischievous job of bringing up their children in the way they think
    they should go. The old observation that members of large families
    get on in the world holds good because in large families it is
    impossible for each child to receive what schoolmasters call
    "individual attention." The children may receive a good deal of
    individual attention from one another in the shape of outspoken
    reproach, ruthless ridicule, and violent resistance to their attempts
    at aggression; but the parental despots are compelled by the multitude
    of their subjects to resort to political rather than personal rule,
    and to spread their attempts at moral monster-making over so many
    children, that each child has enough freedom, and enough sport in the
    prophylactic process of laughing at its elders behind their backs, to
    escape with much less damage than the single child. In a large school
    the system may be bad; but the personal influence of the head master
    has to be exerted, when it is exerted at all, in a public way, because
    he has little more power of working on the affections of the
    individual scholar in the intimate way that, for example, the mother
    of a single child can, than the prime minister has of working on the
    affections of any individual voter.

    Children as Nuisances

    Experienced parents, when children's rights are preached to them, very
    naturally ask whether children are to be allowed to do what they like.
    The best reply is to ask whether adults are to be allowed to do what
    they like. The two cases are the same. The adult who is nasty is not
    allowed to do what he likes: neither can the child who likes to be
    nasty. There is no difference in principle between the rights of a
    child and those of an adult: the difference in their cases is one of
    circumstance. An adult is not supposed to be punished except by
    process of law; nor, when he is so punished, is the person whom he has
    injured allowed to act as judge, jury, and executioner. It is true
    that employers do act in this way every day to their workpeople; but
    this is not a justified and intended part of the situation: it is an
    abuse of Capitalism which nobody defends in principle. As between
    child and parent or nurse it is not argued about because it is
    inevitable. You cannot hold an impartial judicial inquiry every time
    a child misbehaves itself. To allow the child to misbehave without
    instantly making it unpleasantly conscious of the fact would be to
    spoil it. The adult has therefore to take action of some sort with
    nothing but his conscience to shield the child from injustice or
    unkindness. The action may be a torrent of scolding culminating in a
    furious smack causing terror and pain, or it may be a remonstrance
    causing remorse, or it may be a sarcasm causing shame and humiliation,
    or it may be a sermon causing the child to believe that it is a little
    reprobate on the road to hell. The child has no defence in any case
    except the kindness and conscience of the adult; and the adult had
    better not forget this; for it involves a heavy responsibility.

    And now comes our difficulty. The responsibility, being so heavy,
    cannot be discharged by persons of feeble character or intelligence.
    And yet people of high character and intelligence cannot be plagued
    with the care of children. A child is a restless, noisy little
    animal, with an insatiable appetite for knowledge, and consequently a
    maddening persistence in asking questions. If the child is to remain
    in the room with a highly intelligent and sensitive adult, it must be
    told, and if necessary forced, to sit still and not speak, which is
    injurious to its health, unnatural, unjust, and therefore cruel and
    selfish beyond toleration. Consequently the highly intelligent and
    sensitive adult hands the child over to a nurserymaid who has no
    nerves and can therefore stand more noise, but who has also no
    scruples, and may therefore be very bad company for the child.

    Here we have come to the central fact of the question: a fact nobody
    avows, which is yet the true explanation of the monstrous system of
    child imprisonment and torture which we disguise under such
    hypocrisies as education, training, formation of character and the
    rest of it. This fact is simply that a child is a nuisance to a
    grown-up person. What is more, the nuisance becomes more and more
    intolerable as the grown-up person becomes more cultivated, more
    sensitive, and more deeply engaged in the highest methods of adult
    work. The child at play is noisy and ought to be noisy: Sir Isaac
    Newton at work is quiet and ought to be quiet. And the child should
    spend most of its time at play, whilst the adult should spend most of
    his time at work. I am not now writing on behalf of persons who
    coddle themselves into a ridiculous condition of nervous feebleness,
    and at last imagine themselves unable to work under conditions of
    bustle which to healthy people are cheerful and stimulating. I am
    sure that if people had to choose between living where the noise of
    children never stopped and where it was never heard, all the
    goodnatured and sound people would prefer the incessant noise to the
    incessant silence. But that choice is not thrust upon us by the
    nature of things. There is no reason why children and adults should
    not see just as much of one another as is good for them, no more and
    no less. Even at present you are not compelled to choose between
    sending your child to a boarding school (which means getting rid of it
    altogether on more or less hypocritical pretences) and keeping it
    continually at home. Most working folk today either send their
    children to day schools or turn them out of doors. This solves the
    problem for the parents. It does not solve it for the children, any
    more than the tethering of a goat in a field or the chasing of an
    unlicensed dog into the streets solves it for the goat or the dog; but
    it shews that in no class are people willing to endure the society of
    their children, and consequently that it is an error to believe that
    the family provides children with edifying adult society, or that the
    family is a social unit. The family is in that, as in so many other
    respects, a humbug. Old people and young people cannot walk at the
    same pace without distress and final loss of health to one of the
    parties. When they are sitting indoors they cannot endure the same
    degrees of temperature and the same supplies of fresh air. Even if
    the main factors of noise, restlessness, and inquisitiveness are left
    out of account, children can stand with indifference sights, sounds,
    smells, and disorders that would make an adult of fifty utterly
    miserable; whilst on the other hand such adults find a tranquil
    happiness in conditions which to children mean unspeakable boredom.
    And since our system is nevertheless to pack them all into the same
    house and pretend that they are happy, and that this particular sort
    of happiness is the foundation of virtue, it is found that in
    discussing family life we never speak of actual adults or actual
    children, or of realities of any sort, but always of ideals such as
    The Home, a Mother's Influence, a Father's Care, Filial Piety, Duty,
    Affection, Family Life, etc. etc., which are no doubt very comforting
    phrases, but which beg the question of what a home and a mother's
    influence and a father's care and so forth really come to in practice.
    How many hours a week of the time when his children are out of bed
    does the ordinary bread-winning father spend in the company of his
    children or even in the same building with them? The home may be a
    thieves' kitchen, the mother a procuress, the father a violent
    drunkard; or the mother and father may be fashionable people who see
    their children three or four times a year during the holidays, and
    then not oftener than they can help, living meanwhile in daily and
    intimate contact with their valets and lady's-maids, whose influence
    and care are often dominant in the household. Affection, as
    distinguished from simple kindliness, may or may not exist: when it
    does it either depends on qualities in the parties that would produce
    it equally if they were of no kin to one another, or it is a more or
    less morbid survival of the nursing passion; for affection between
    adults (if they are really adult in mind and not merely grown-up
    children) and creatures so relatively selfish and cruel as children
    necessarily are without knowing it or meaning it, cannot be called
    natural: in fact the evidence shews that it is easier to love the
    company of a dog than of a commonplace child between the ages of six
    and the beginnings of controlled maturity; for women who cannot bear
    to be separated from their pet dogs send their children to boarding
    schools cheerfully. They may say and even believe that in allowing
    their children to leave home they are sacrificing themselves for their
    children's good; but there are very few pet dogs who would not be the
    better for a month or two spent elsewhere than in a lady's lap or
    roasting on a drawingroom hearthrug. Besides, to allege that children
    are better continually away from home is to give up the whole popular
    sentimental theory of the family; yet the dogs are kept and the
    children are banished.

    Child Fanciers

    There is, however, a good deal of spurious family affection. There is
    the clannishness that will make a dozen brothers and sisters who
    quarrel furiously among themselves close up their ranks and make
    common cause against a brother-in-law or a sister-in-law. And there
    is a strong sense of property in children, which often makes mothers
    and fathers bitterly jealous of allowing anyone else to interfere with
    their children, whom they may none the less treat very badly. And
    there is an extremely dangerous craze for children which leads certain
    people to establish orphanages and baby farms and schools, seizing any
    pretext for filling their houses with children exactly as some
    eccentric old ladies and gentlemen fill theirs with cats. In such
    places the children are the victims of all the caprices of doting
    affection and all the excesses of lascivious cruelty. Yet the people
    who have this morbid craze seldom have any difficulty in finding
    victims. Parents and guardians are so worried by children and so
    anxious to get rid of them that anyone who is willing to take them off
    their hands is welcomed and whitewashed. The very people who read
    with indignation of Squeers and Creakle in the novels of Dickens are
    quite ready to hand over their own children to Squeers and Creakle,
    and to pretend that Squeers and Creakle are monsters of the past. But
    read the autobiography of Stanley the traveller, or sit in the company
    of men talking about their school-days, and you will soon find that
    fiction, which must, if it is to be sold and read, stop short of being
    positively sickening, dare not tell the whole truth about the people
    to whom children are handed over on educational pretexts. Not very
    long ago a schoolmaster in Ireland was murdered by his boys; and for
    reasons which were never made public it was at first decided not to
    prosecute the murderers. Yet all these flogging schoolmasters and
    orphanage fiends and baby farmers are "lovers of children." They are
    really child fanciers (like bird fanciers or dog fanciers) by
    irresistible natural predilection, never happy unless they are
    surrounded by their victims, and always certain to make their living
    by accepting the custody of children, no matter how many alternative
    occupations may be available. And bear in mind that they are only the
    extreme instances of what is commonly called natural affection,
    apparently because it is obviously unnatural.

    The really natural feeling of adults for children in the long prosaic
    intervals between the moments of affectionate impulse is just that
    feeling that leads them to avoid their care and constant company as a
    burden beyond bearing, and to pretend that the places they send them
    to are well conducted, beneficial, and indispensable to the success of
    the children in after life. The true cry of the kind mother after her
    little rosary of kisses is "Run away, darling." It is nicer than
    "Hold your noise, you young devil; or it will be the worse for you";
    but fundamentally it means the same thing: that if you compel an
    adult and a child to live in one another's company either the adult or
    the child will be miserable. There is nothing whatever unnatural or
    wrong or shocking in this fact; and there is no harm in it if only it
    be sensibly faced and provided for. The mischief that it does at
    present is produced by our efforts to ignore it, or to smother it
    under a heap of sentimental lies and false pretences.

    Childhood as a State of Sin

    Unfortunately all this nonsense tends to accumulate as we become more
    sympathetic. In many families it is still the custom to treat
    childhood frankly as a state of sin, and impudently proclaim the
    monstrous principle that little children should be seen and not heard,
    and to enforce a set of prison rules designed solely to make
    cohabitation with children as convenient as possible for adults
    without the smallest regard for the interests, either remote or
    immediate, of the children. This system tends to produce a tough,
    rather brutal, stupid, unscrupulous class, with a fixed idea that all
    enjoyment consists in undetected sinning; and in certain phases of
    civilization people of this kind are apt to get the upper hand of more
    amiable and conscientious races and classes. They have the ferocity
    of a chained dog, and are proud of it. But the end of it is that they
    are always in chains, even at the height of their military or
    political success: they win everything on condition that they are
    afraid to enjoy it. Their civilizations rest on intimidation, which
    is so necessary to them that when they cannot find anybody brave
    enough to intimidate them they intimidate themselves and live in a
    continual moral and political panic. In the end they get found out
    and bullied. But that is not the point that concerns us here, which
    is, that they are in some respects better brought up than the children
    of sentimental people who are always anxious and miserable about their
    duty to their children, and who end by neither making their children
    happy nor having a tolerable life for themselves. A selfish tyrant
    you know where to have, and he (or she) at least does not confuse your
    affections; but a conscientious and kindly meddler may literally worry
    you out of your senses. It is fortunate that only very few parents
    are capable of doing what they conceive their duty continuously or
    even at all, and that still fewer are tough enough to ride roughshod
    over their children at home.


    But please observe the limitation "at home." What private amateur
    parental enterprise cannot do may be done very effectively by
    organized professional enterprise in large institutions established
    for the purpose. And it is to such professional enterprise that
    parents hand over their children when they can afford it. They send
    their children to school; and there is, on the whole, nothing on earth
    intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with,
    it is a prison. But it is in some respects more cruel than a prison.
    In a prison, for instance, you are not forced to read books written by
    the warders and the governor (who of course would not be warders and
    governors if they could write readable books), and beaten or otherwise
    tormented if you cannot remember their utterly unmemorable contents.
    In the prison you are not forced to sit listening to turnkeys
    discoursing without charm or interest on subjects that they dont
    understand and dont care about, and are therefore incapable of making
    you understand or care about. In a prison they may torture your body;
    but they do not torture your brains; and they protect you against
    violence and outrage from your fellow prisoners. In a school you have
    none of these advantages. With the world's bookshelves loaded with
    fascinating and inspired books, the very manna sent down from Heaven
    to feed your souls, you are forced to read a hideous imposture called
    a school book, written by a man who cannot write: a book from which
    no human being can learn anything: a book which, though you may
    decipher it, you cannot in any fruitful sense read, though the
    enforced attempt will make you loathe the sight of a book all the rest
    of your life. With millions of acres of woods and valleys and hills
    and wind and air and birds and streams and fishes and all sorts of
    instructive and healthy things easily accessible, or with streets and
    shop windows and crowds and vehicles and all sorts of city delights at
    the door, you are forced to sit, not in a room with some human grace
    and comfort or furniture and decoration, but in a stalled pound with a
    lot of other children, beaten if you talk, beaten if you move, beaten
    if you cannot prove by answering idiotic questions that even when you
    escaped from the pound and from the eye of your gaoler, you were still
    agonizing over his detestable sham books instead of daring to live.
    And your childish hatred of your gaoler and flogger is nothing to his
    adult hatred of you; for he is a slave forced to endure your society
    for his daily bread. You have not even the satisfaction of knowing
    how you are torturing him and how he loathes you; and you give
    yourself unnecessary pains to annoy him with furtive tricks and
    spiteful doing of forbidden things. No wonder he is sometimes
    provoked to fiendish outbursts of wrath. No wonder men of downright
    sense, like Dr Johnson, admit that under such circumstances children
    will not learn anything unless they are so cruelly beaten that they
    make desperate efforts to memorize words and phrases to escape
    flagellation. It is a ghastly business, quite beyond words, this

    And now I hear cries of protest arising all round. First my own
    schoolmasters, or their ghosts, asking whether I was cruelly beaten at
    school? No; but then I did not learn anything at school. Dr
    Johnson's schoolmaster presumably did care enough whether Sam learned
    anything to beat him savagely enough to force him to lame his mind
    --for Johnson's great mind _was_ lamed--by learning his lessons. None
    of my schoolmasters really cared a rap (or perhaps it would be fairer
    to them to say that their employers did not care a rap and therefore
    did not give them the necessary caning powers) whether I learnt my
    lessons or not, provided my father paid my schooling bill, the
    collection of which was the real object of the school. Consequently I
    did not learn my school lessons, having much more important ones in
    hand, with the result that I have not wasted my life trifling with
    literary fools in taverns as Johnson did when he should have been
    shaking England with the thunder of his spirit. My schooling did me a
    great deal of harm and no good whatever: it was simply dragging a
    child's soul through the dirt; but I escaped Squeers and Creakle just
    as I escaped Johnson and Carlyle. And this is what happens to most of
    us. We are not effectively coerced to learn: we stave off punishment
    as far as we can by lying and trickery and guessing and using our
    wits; and when this does not suffice we scribble impositions, or
    suffer extra imprisonments--"keeping in" was the phrase in my time--or
    let a master strike us with a cane and fall back on our pride at being
    able to hear it physically (he not being allowed to hit us too hard)
    to outface the dishonor we should have been taught to die rather than
    endure. And so idleness and worthlessness on the one hand and a
    pretence of coercion on the other became a despicable routine. If my
    schoolmasters had been really engaged in educating me instead of
    painfully earning their bread by keeping me from annoying my elders
    they would have turned me out of the school, telling me that I was
    thoroughly disloyal to it; that I had no intention of learning; that I
    was mocking and distracting the boys who did wish to learn; that I was
    a liar and a shirker and a seditious little nuisance; and that nothing
    could injure me in character and degrade their occupation more than
    allowing me (much less forcing me) to remain in the school under such
    conditions. But in order to get expelled, it was necessary commit a
    crime of such atrocity that the parents of other boys would have
    threatened to remove their sons sooner than allow them to be
    schoolfellows with the delinquent. I can remember only one case in
    which such a penalty was threatened; and in that case the culprit, a
    boarder, had kissed a housemaid, or possibly, being a handsome youth,
    been kissed by her. She did not kiss me; and nobody ever dreamt of
    expelling me. The truth was, a boy meant just so much a year to the
    institution. That was why he was kept there against his will. That
    was why he was kept there when his expulsion would have been an
    unspeakable relief and benefit both to his teachers and himself.

    It may be argued that if the uncommercial attitude had been taken, and
    all the disloyal wasters and idlers shewn sternly to the door, the
    school would not have been emptied, but filled. But so honest an
    attitude was impossible. The masters must have hated the school much
    more than the boys did. Just as you cannot imprison a man without
    imprisoning a warder to see that he does not escape, the warder being
    tied to the prison as effectually by the fear of unemployment and
    starvation as the prisoner is by the bolts and bars, so these poor
    schoolmasters, with their small salaries and large classes, were as
    much prisoners as we were, and much more responsible and anxious ones.
    They could not impose the heroic attitude on their employers; nor
    would they have been able to obtain places as schoolmasters if their
    habits had been heroic. For the best of them their employment was
    provisional: they looked forward to escaping from it into the pulpit.
    The ablest and most impatient of them were often so irritated by the
    awkward, slow-witted, slovenly boys: that is, the ones that required
    special consideration and patient treatment, that they vented their
    irritation on them ruthlessly, nothing being easier than to entrap or
    bewilder such a boy into giving a pretext for punishing him.

    My Scholastic Acquirements

    The results, as far as I was concerned, were what might have been
    expected. My school made only the thinnest pretence of teaching
    anything but Latin and Greek. When I went there as a very small boy I
    knew a good deal of Latin grammar which I had been taught in a few
    weeks privately by my uncle. When I had been several years at school
    this same uncle examined me and discovered that the net result of my
    schooling was that I had forgotten what he had taught me, and had
    learnt nothing else. To this day, though I can still decline a Latin
    noun and repeat some of the old paradigms in the old meaningless way,
    because their rhythm sticks to me, I have never yet seen a Latin
    inscription on a tomb that I could translate throughout. Of Greek I
    can decipher perhaps the greater part of the Greek alphabet. In
    short, I am, as to classical education, another Shakespear. I can
    read French as easily as English; and under pressure of necessity I
    can turn to account some scraps of German and a little operatic
    Italian; but these I was never taught at school. Instead, I was
    taught lying, dishonorable submission to tyranny, dirty stories, a
    blasphemous habit of treating love and maternity as obscene jokes,
    hopelessness, evasion, derision, cowardice, and all the blackguard's
    shifts by which the coward intimidates other cowards. And if I had
    been a boarder at an English public school instead of a day boy at an
    Irish one, I might have had to add to these, deeper shames still.

    Schoolmasters of Genius

    And now, if I have reduced the ghosts of my schoolmasters to
    melancholy acquiescence in all this (which everybody who has been at
    an ordinary school will recognize as true), I have still to meet the
    much more sincere protests of the handful of people who have a natural
    genius for "bringing up" children. I shall be asked with kindly scorn
    whether I have heard of Froebel and Pestalozzi, whether I know the
    work that is being done by Miss Mason and the Dottoressa Montessori
    or, best of all as I think, the Eurythmics School of Jacques Dalcroze
    at Hellerau near Dresden. Jacques Dalcroze, like Plato, believes in
    saturating his pupils with music. They walk to music, play to music,
    work to music, obey drill commands that would bewilder a guardsman to
    music, think to music, live to music, get so clearheaded about music
    that they can move their several limbs each in a different metre until
    they become complicated living magazines of cross rhythms, and, what
    is more, make music for others to do all these things to. Stranger
    still, though Jacques Dalcroze, like all these great teachers, is the
    completest of tyrants, knowing what is right and that he must and will
    have the lesson just so or else break his heart (not somebody else's,
    observe), yet his school is so fascinating that every woman who sees
    it exclaims "Oh, why was I not taught like this!" and elderly
    gentlemen excitedly enrol themselves as students and distract classes
    of infants by their desperate endeavors to beat two in a bar with one
    hand and three with the other, and start off on earnest walks round
    the room, taking two steps backward whenever Monsieur Daleroze calls
    out "Hop!" Oh yes: I know all about these wonderful schools that you
    cannot keep children or even adults out of, and these teachers whom
    their pupils not only obey without coercion, but adore. And if you
    will tell me roughly how many Masons and Montessoris and Dalcrozes you
    think you can pick up in Europe for salaries of from thirty shillings
    to five pounds a week, I will estimate your chances of converting your
    millions of little scholastic hells into little scholastic heavens.
    If you are a distressed gentlewoman starting to make a living, you can
    still open a little school; and you can easily buy a secondhand brass
    plate inscribed PESTALOZZIAN INSTITUTE and nail it to your door,
    though you have no more idea of who Pestalozzi was and what he
    advocated or how he did it than the manager of a hotel which began as
    a Hydropathic has of the water cure. Or you can buy a cheaper plate
    inscribed KINDERGARTEN, and imagine, or leave others to imagine, that
    Froebel is the governing genius of your little _creche_. No doubt the
    new brass plates are being inscribed Montessori Institute, and will be
    used when the Dotteressa is no longer with us by all the Mrs Pipchins
    and Mrs Wilfers throughout this unhappy land.

    I will go further, and admit that the brass plates may not all be
    frauds. I will tell you that one of my friends was led to genuine
    love and considerable knowledge of classical literature by an Irish
    schoolmaster whom you would call a hedge schoolmaster (he would not be
    allowed to teach anything now) and that it took four years of Harrow
    to obliterate that knowledge and change the love into loathing.
    Another friend of mine who keeps a school in the suburbs, and who
    deeply deplores my "prejudice against schoolmasters," has offered to
    accept my challenge to tell his pupils that they are as free to get up
    and go out of the school at any moment as their parents are to get up
    and go out of a theatre where my plays are being performed. Even
    among my own schoolmasters I can recollect a few whose classes
    interested me, and whom I should certainly have pestered for
    information and instruction if I could have got into any decent human
    relationship with them, and if they had not been compelled by their
    position to defend themselves as carefully against such advances as
    against furtive attempts to hurt them accidentally in the football
    field or smash their hats with a clod from behind a wall. But these
    rare cases actually do more harm than good; for they encourage us to
    pretend that all schoolmasters are like that. Of what use is it to us
    that there are always somewhere two or three teachers of children
    whose specific genius for their occupation triumphs over our tyrannous
    system and even finds in it its opportunity? For that matter, it is
    possible, if difficult, to find a solicitor, or even a judge, who has
    some notion of what law means, a doctor with a glimmering of science,
    an officer who understands duty and discipline, and a clergyman with
    an inkling of religion, though there are nothing like enough of them
    to go round. But even the few who, like Ibsen's Mrs Solness, have "a
    genius for nursing the souls of little children" are like angels
    forced to work in prisons instead of in heaven; and even at that they
    are mostly underpaid and despised. That friend of mine who went from
    the hedge schoolmaster to Harrow once saw a schoolmaster rush from an
    elementary school in pursuit of a boy and strike him. My friend, not
    considering that the unfortunate man was probably goaded beyond
    endurance, smote the schoolmaster and blackened his eye. The
    schoolmaster appealed to the law; and my friend found himself waiting
    nervously in the Hammersmith Police Court to answer for his breach of
    the peace. In his anxiety he asked a police officer what would happen
    to him. "What did you do?" said the officer. "I gave a man a black
    eye" said my friend. "Six pounds if he was a gentleman: two pounds
    if he wasnt," said the constable. "He was a schoolmaster" said my
    friend. "Two pounds" said the officer; and two pounds it was. The
    blood money was paid cheerfully; and I have ever since advised
    elementary schoolmasters to qualify themselves in the art of
    self-defence, as the British Constitution expresses our national
    estimate of them by allowing us to blacken three of their eyes for the
    same price as one of an ordinary professional man. How many Froebels
    and Pestalozzis and Miss Masons and Doctoress Montessoris would you be
    likely to get on these terms even if they occurred much more
    frequently in nature than they actually do?

    No: I cannot be put off by the news that our system would be perfect
    if it were worked by angels. I do not admit it even at that, just as
    I do not admit that if the sky fell we should all catch larks. But I
    do not propose to bother about a supply of specific genius which does
    not exist, and which, if it did exist, could operate only by at once
    recognizing and establishing the rights of children.

    What We Do Not Teach, and Why

    To my mind, a glance at the subjects now taught in schools ought to
    convince any reasonable person that the object of the lessons is to
    keep children out of mischief, and not to qualify them for their part
    in life as responsible citizens of a free State. It is not possible
    to maintain freedom in any State, no matter how perfect its original
    constitution, unless its publicly active citizens know a good deal of
    constitutional history, law, and political science, with its basis of
    economics. If as much pains had been taken a century ago to make us
    all understand Ricardo's law of rent as to learn our catechisms, the
    face of the world would have been changed for the better. But for
    that very reason the greatest care is taken to keep such beneficially
    subversive knowledge from us, with the result that in public life we
    are either place-hunters, anarchists, or sheep shepherded by wolves.

    But it will be observed that these are highly controversial subjects.
    Now no controversial subject can be taught dogmatically. He who knows
    only the official side of a controversy knows less than nothing of its
    nature. The abler a schoolmaster is, the more dangerous he is to his
    pupils unless they have the fullest opportunity of hearing another
    equally able person do his utmost to shake his authority and convict
    him of error.

    At present such teaching is very unpopular. It does not exist in
    schools; but every adult who derives his knowledge of public affairs
    from the newspapers can take in, at the cost of an extra halfpenny,
    two papers of opposite politics. Yet the ordinary man so dislikes
    having his mind unsettled, as he calls it, that he angrily refuses to
    allow a paper which dissents from his views to be brought into his
    house. Even at his club he resents seeing it, and excludes it if it
    happens to run counter to the opinions of all the members. The result
    is that his opinions are not worth considering. A churchman who never
    reads The Freethinker very soon has no more real religion than the
    atheist who never reads The Church Times. The attitude is the same in
    both cases: they want to hear nothing good of their enemies;
    consequently they remain enemies and suffer from bad blood all their
    lives; whereas men who know their opponents and understand their case,
    quite commonly respect and like them, and always learn something from

    Here, again, as at so many points, we come up against the abuse of
    schools to keep people in ignorance and error, so that they may be
    incapable of successful revolt against their industrial slavery. The
    most important simple fundamental economic truth to impress on a child
    in complicated civilizations like ours is the truth that whoever
    consumes goods or services without producing by personal effort the
    equivalent of what he or she consumes, inflicts on the community
    precisely the same injury that a thief produces, and would, in any
    honest State, be treated as a thief, however full his or her pockets
    might be of money made by other people. The nation that first teaches
    its children that truth, instead of flogging them if they discover it
    for themselves, may have to fight all the slaves of all the other
    nations to begin with; but it will beat them as easily as an
    unburdened man with his hands free and with all his energies in full
    play can beat an invalid who has to carry another invalid on his back.

    This, however, is not an evil produced by the denial of children's
    rights, nor is it inherent in the nature of schools. I mention it
    only because it would be folly to call for a reform of our schools
    without taking account of the corrupt resistance which awaits the

    A word must also be said about the opposition to reform of the vested
    interest of the classical and coercive schoolmaster. He, poor wretch,
    has no other means of livelihood; and reform would leave him as a
    workman is now left when he is superseded by a machine. He had
    therefore better do what he can to get the workman compensated, so as
    to make the public familiar with the idea of compensation before his
    own turn comes.

    Taboo in Schools

    The suppression of economic knowledge, disastrous as it is, is quite
    intelligible, its corrupt motive being as clear as the motive of a
    burglar for concealing his jemmy from a policeman. But the other
    great suppression in our schools, the suppression of the subject of
    sex, is a case of taboo. In mankind, the lower the type, and the less
    cultivated the mind, the less courage there is to face important
    subjects objectively. The ablest and most highly cultivated people
    continually discuss religion, politics, and sex: it is hardly an
    exaggeration to say that they discuss nothing else with fully-awakened
    interest. Commoner and less cultivated people, even when they form
    societies for discussion, make a rule that politics and religion are
    not to be mentioned, and take it for granted that no decent person
    would attempt to discuss sex. The three subjects are feared because
    they rouse the crude passions which call for furious gratification in
    murder and rapine at worst, and, at best, lead to quarrels and
    undesirable states of consciousness.

    Even when this excuse of bad manners, ill temper, and brutishness (for
    that is what it comes to) compels us to accept it from those adults
    among whom political and theological discussion does as a matter of
    fact lead to the drawing of knives and pistols, and sex discussion
    leads to obscenity, it has no application to children except as an
    imperative reason for training them to respect other people's
    opinions, and to insist on respect for their own in these as in other
    important matters which are equally dangerous: for example, money.
    And in any case there are decisive reasons; superior, like the reasons
    for suspending conventional reticences between doctor and patient, to
    all considerations of mere decorum, for giving proper instruction in
    the facts of sex. Those who object to it (not counting coarse people
    who thoughtlessly seize every opportunity of affecting and parading a
    fictitious delicacy) are, in effect, advocating ignorance as a
    safeguard against precocity. If ignorance were practicable there
    would be something to be said for it up to the age at which ignorance
    is a danger instead of a safeguard. Even as it is, it seems
    undesirable that any special emphasis should be given to the subject,
    whether by way of delicacy and poetry or too impressive warning. But
    the plain fact is that in refusing to allow the child to be taught by
    qualified unrelated elders (the parents shrink from the lesson, even
    when they are otherwise qualified, because their own relation to the
    child makes the subject impossible between them) we are virtually
    arranging to have our children taught by other children in guilty
    secrets and unclean jests. And that settles the question for all
    sensible people.

    The dogmatic objection, the sheer instinctive taboo which rules the
    subject out altogether as indecent, has no age limit. It means that
    at no matter what age a woman consents to a proposal of marriage, she
    should do so in ignorance of the relation she is undertaking. When
    this actually happens (and apparently it does happen oftener than
    would seem possible) a horrible fraud is being practiced on both the
    man and the woman. He is led to believe that she knows what she is
    promising, and that he is in no danger of finding himself bound to a
    woman to whom he is eugenically antipathetic. She contemplates
    nothing but such affectionate relations as may exist between her and
    her nearest kinsmen, and has no knowledge of the condition which, if
    not foreseen, must come as an amazing revelation and a dangerous
    shock, ending possibly in the discovery that the marriage has been an
    irreparable mistake. Nothing can justify such a risk. There may be
    people incapable of understanding that the right to know all there is
    to know about oneself is a natural human right that sweeps away all
    the pretences of others to tamper with one's consciousness in order to
    produce what they choose to consider a good character. But they must
    here bow to the plain mischievousness of entrapping people into
    contracts on which the happiness of their whole lives depends without
    letting them know what they are undertaking.

    Alleged Novelties in Modern Schools

    There is just one more nuisance to be disposed of before I come to the
    positive side of my case. I mean the person who tells me that my
    schooldays belong to a bygone order of educational ideas and
    institutions, and that schools are not now a bit like my old school.
    I reply, with Sir Walter Raleigh, by calling on my soul to give this
    statement the lie. Some years ago I lectured in Oxford on the subject
    of Education. A friend to whom I mentioned my intention said, "You
    know nothing of modern education: schools are not now what they were
    when you were a boy." I immediately procured the time sheets of half
    a dozen modern schools, and found, as I expected, that they might all
    have been my old school: there was no real difference. I may
    mention, too, that I have visited modern schools, and observed that
    there is a tendency to hang printed pictures in an untidy and soulless
    manner on the walls, and occasionally to display on the mantel-shelf a
    deplorable glass case containing certain objects which might possibly,
    if placed in the hands of the pupils, give them some practical
    experience of the weight of a pound and the length of an inch. And
    sometimes a scoundrel who has rifled a bird's nest or killed a
    harmless snake encourages the children to go and do likewise by
    putting his victims into an imitation nest and bottle and exhibiting
    them as aids to "Nature study." A suggestion that Nature is worth
    study would certainly have staggered my schoolmasters; so perhaps I
    may admit a gleam of progress here. But as any child who attempted to
    handle these dusty objects would probably be caned, I do not attach
    any importance to such modernities in school furniture. The school
    remains what it was in my boyhood, because its real object remains
    what it was. And that object, I repeat, is to keep the children out
    of mischief: mischief meaning for the most part worrying the

    What is to be Done?

    The practical question, then, is what to do with the children.
    Tolerate them at home we will not. Let them run loose in the streets
    we dare not until our streets become safe places for children, which,
    to our utter shame, they are not at present, though they can hardly be
    worse than some homes and some schools.

    The grotesque difficulty of making even a beginning was brought home
    to me in the little village in Hertfordshire where I write these lines
    by the lady of the manor, who asked me very properly what I was going
    to do for the village school. I did not know what to reply. As the
    school kept the children quiet during my working hours, I did not for
    the sake of my own personal convenmence want to blow it up with
    dynamite as I should like to blow up most schools. So I asked for
    guidance. "You ought to give a prize," said the lady. I asked if
    there was a prize for good conduct. As I expected, there was: one
    for the best-behaved boy and another for the best-behaved girl. On
    reflection I offered a handsome prize for the worst-behaved boy and
    girl on condition that a record should be kept of their subsequent
    careers and compared with the records of the best-behaved, in order to
    ascertain whether the school criterion of good conduct was valid out
    of school. My offer was refused because it would not have had the
    effect of encouraging the children to give as little trouble as
    possible, which is of course the real object of all conduct prizes in

    I must not pretend, then, that I have a system ready to replace all
    the other systems. Obstructing the way of the proper organization of
    childhood, as of everything else, lies our ridiculous misdistribution
    of the national income, with its accompanying class distinctions and
    imposition of snobbery on children as a necessary part of their social
    training. The result of our economic folly is that we are a nation of
    undesirable acquaintances; and the first object of all our
    institutions for children is segregation. If, for example, our
    children were set free to roam and play about as they pleased, they
    would have to be policed; and the first duty of the police in a State
    like ours would be to see that every child wore a badge indicating its
    class in society, and that every child seen speaking to another child
    with a lower-class badge, or any child wearing a higher badge than
    that allotted to it by, say, the College of Heralds, should
    immediately be skinned alive with a birch rod. It might even be
    insisted that girls with high-class badges should be attended by
    footmen, grooms, or even military escorts. In short, there is hardly
    any limit to the follies with which our Commercialism would infect any
    system that it would tolerate at all. But something like a change of
    heart is still possible; and since all the evils of snobbery and
    segregation are rampant in our schools at present we may as well make
    the best as the worst of them.

    Children's Rights and Duties

    Now let us ask what are a child's rights, and what are the rights of
    society over the child. Its rights, being clearly those of any other
    human being, are summed up in the right to live: that is, to have all
    the conclusive arguments that prove that it would be better dead, that
    it is a child of wrath, that the population is already excessive, that
    the pains of life are greater than its pleasures, that its sacrifice
    in a hospital or laboratory experiment might save millions of lives,
    etc. etc. etc., put out of the question, and its existence accepted as
    necessary and sacred, all theories to the contrary notwithstanding,
    whether by Calvin or Schopenhauer or Pasteur or the nearest person
    with a taste for infanticide. And this right to live includes, and in
    fact is, the right to be what the child likes and can, to do what it
    likes and can, to make what it likes and can, to think what it likes
    and can, to smash what it dislikes and can, and generally to behave in
    an altogether unaccountable manner within the limits imposed by the
    similar rights of its neighbors. And the rights of society over it
    clearly extend to requiring it to qualify itself to live in society
    without wasting other peoples time: that is, it must know the rules
    of the road, be able to read placards and proclamations, fill voting
    papers, compose and send letters and telegrams, purchase food and
    clothing and railway tickets for itself, count money and give and take
    change, and, generally, know how many beans made five. It must know
    some law, were it only a simple set of commandments, some political
    economy, agriculture enough to shut the gates of fields with cattle in
    them and not to trample on growing crops, sanitation enough not to
    defile its haunts, and religion enough to have some idea of why it is
    allowed its rights and why it must respect the rights of others. And
    the rest of its education must consist of anything else it can pick
    up; for beyond this society cannot go with any certainty, and indeed
    can only go this far rather apologetically and provisionally, as doing
    the best it can on very uncertain ground.

    Should Children Earn their Living?

    Now comes the question how far children should be asked to contribute
    to the support of the community. In approaching it we must put aside
    the considerations that now induce all humane and thoughtful political
    students to agitate for the uncompromising abolition of child labor
    under our capitalist system. It is not the least of the curses of
    that system that it will bequeath to future generations a mass of
    legislation to prevent capitalists from "using up nine generations of
    men in one generation," as they began by doing until they were
    restrained by law at the suggestion of Robert Owen, the founder of
    English Socialism. Most of this legislation will become an
    insufferable restraint upon freedom and variety of action when
    Capitalism goes the way of Druidic human sacrifice (a much less
    slaughterous institution). There is every reason why a child should
    not be allowed to work for commercial profit or for the support of its
    parents at the expense of its own future; but there is no reason
    whatever why a child should not do some work for its own sake and that
    of the community if it can be shewn that both it and the community
    will be the better for it.

    Children's Happiness

    Also it is important to put the happiness of the children rather
    carefully in its place, which is really not a front place. The
    unsympathetic, selfish, hard people who regard happiness as a very
    exceptional indulgence to which children are by no means entitled,
    though they may be allowed a very little of it on their birthdays or
    at Christmas, are sometimes better parents in effect than those who
    imagine that children are as capable of happiness as adults. Adults
    habitually exaggerate their own capacity in that direction grossly;
    yet most adults can stand an allowance of happiness that would be
    quite thrown away on children. The secret of being miserable is to
    have leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not. The cure
    for it is occupation, because occupation means pre-occupation; and the
    pre-occupied person is neither happy nor unhappy, but simply alive and
    active, which is pleasanter than any happiness until you are tired of
    it. That is why it is necessary to happiness that one should be
    tired. Music after dinner is pleasant: music before breakfast is so
    unpleasant as to be clearly unnatural. To people who are not
    overworked holidays are a nuisance. To people who are, and who can
    afford them, they are a troublesome necessity. A perpetual holiday is
    a good working definition of hell.

    The Horror of the Perpetual Holiday

    It will be said here that, on the contrary, heaven is always conceived
    as a perpetual holiday, and that whoever is not born to an independent
    income is striving for one or longing for one because it gives
    holidays for life. To which I reply, first, that heaven, as
    conventionally conceived, is a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so
    miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in
    heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside;
    and that the genuine popular verdict on it is expressed in the proverb
    "Heaven for holiness and Hell for company." Second, I point out that
    the wretched people who have independent incomes and no useful
    occupation, do the most amazingly disagreeable and dangerous things to
    make themselves tired and hungry in the evening. When they are not
    involved in what they call sport, they are doing aimlessly what other
    people have to be paid to do: driving horses and motor cars; trying
    on dresses and walking up and down to shew them off; and acting as
    footmen and housemaids to royal personages. The sole and obvious
    cause of the notion that idleness is delightful and that heaven is a
    place where there is nothing to be done, is our school system and our
    industrial system. The school is a prison in which work is a
    punishment and a curse. In avowed prisons, hard labor, the only
    alleviation of a prisoner's lot, is treated as an aggravation of his
    punishment; and everything possible is done to intensify the
    prisoner's inculcated and unnatural notion that work is an evil. In
    industry we are overworked and underfed prisoners. Under such absurd
    circumstances our judgment of things becomes as perverted as our
    habits. If we were habitually underworked and overfed, our notion of
    heaven would be a place where everybody worked strenuously for
    twenty-four hours a day and never got anything to eat.

    Once realize that a perpetual holiday is beyond human endurance, and
    that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do" and it
    will be seen that we have no right to impose a perpetual holiday on
    children. If we did, they would soon outdo the Labor Party in their
    claim for a Right to Work Bill.

    In any case no child should be brought up to suppose that its food and
    clothes come down from heaven or are miraculously conjured from empty
    space by papa. Loathsome as we have made the idea of duty (like the
    idea of work) we must habituate children to a sense of repayable
    obligation to the community for what they consume and enjoy, and
    inculcate the repayment as a point of honor. If we did that
    today--and nothing but flat dishonesty prevents us from doing it--we
    should have no idle rich and indeed probably no rich, since there is
    no distinction in being rich if you have to pay scot and lot in
    personal effort like the working folk. Therefore, if for only half an
    hour a day, a child should do something serviceable to the community.

    Productive work for children has the advantage that its discipline is
    the discipline of impersonal necessity, not that of wanton personal
    coercion. The eagerness of children in our industrial districts to
    escape from school to the factory is not caused by lighter tasks or
    shorter hours in the factory, nor altogether by the temptation of
    wages, nor even by the desire for novelty, but by the dignity of adult
    work, the exchange of the factitious personal tyranny of the
    schoolmaster, from which the grown-ups are free, for the stern but
    entirely dignified Laws of Life to which all flesh is subject.

    University Schoolboyishness

    Older children might do a good deal before beginning their collegiate
    education. What is the matter with our universities is that all the
    students are schoolboys, whereas it is of the very essence of
    university education that they should be men. The function of a
    university is not to teach things that can now be taught as well or
    better by University Extension lectures or by private tutors or modern
    correspondence classes with gramophones. We go to them to be
    socialized; to acquire the hall mark of communal training; to become
    citizens of the world instead of inmates of the enlarged rabbit
    hutches we call homes; to learn manners and become unchallengeable
    ladies and gentlemen. The social pressure which effects these changes
    should be that of persons who have faced the full responsibilities of
    adults as working members of the general community, not that of a
    barbarous rabble of half emancipated schoolboys and unemancipable
    pedants. It is true that in a reasonable state of society this
    outside experience would do for us very completely what the university
    does now so corruptly that we tolerate its bad manners only because
    they are better than no manners at all. But the university will
    always exist in some form as a community of persons desirous of
    pushing their culture to the highest pitch they are capable of, not as
    solitary students reading in seclusion, but as members of a body of
    individuals all pursuing culture, talking culture, thinking culture,
    above all, criticizing culture. If such persons are to read and talk
    and criticize to any purpose, they must know the world outside the
    university at least as well as the shopkeeper in the High Street does.
    And this is just what they do not know at present. You may say of
    them, paraphrasing Mr. Kipling, "What do they know of Plato that only
    Plato know?" If our universities would exclude everybody who had not
    earned a living by his or her own exertions for at least a couple of
    years, their effect would be vastly improved.

    The New Laziness

    The child of the future, then, if there is to be any future but one of
    decay, will work more or less for its living from an early age; and in
    doing so it will not shock anyone, provided there be no longer any
    reason to associate the conception of children working for their
    living with infants toiling in a factory for ten hours a day or boys
    drudging from nine to six under gas lamps in underground city offices.
    Lads and lasses in their teens will probably be able to produce as
    much as the most expensive person now costs in his own person (it is
    retinue that eats up the big income) without working too hard or too
    long for quite as much happiness as they can enjoy. The question to
    be balanced then will be, not how soon people should be put to work,
    but how soon they should be released from any obligation of the kind.
    A life's work is like a day's work: it can begin early and leave off
    early or begin late and leave off late, or, as with us, begin too
    early and never leave off at all, obviously the worst of all possible
    plans. In any event we must finally reckon work, not as the curse our
    schools and prisons and capitalist profit factories make it seem
    today, but as a prime necessity of a tolerable existence. And if we
    cannot devise fresh wants as fast as we develop the means of supplying
    them, there will come a scarcity of the needed, cut-and-dried,
    appointed work that is always ready to everybody's hand. It may have
    to be shared out among people all of whom want more of it. And then a
    new sort of laziness will become the bugbear of society: the laziness
    that refuses to face the mental toil and adventure of making work by
    inventing new ideas or extending the domain of knowledge, and insists
    on a ready-made routine. It may come to forcing people to retire
    before they are willing to make way for younger ones: that is, to
    driving all persons of a certain age out of industry, leaving them to
    find something experimental to occupy them on pain of perpetual
    holiday. Men will then try to spend twenty thousand a year for the
    sake of having to earn it. Instead of being what we are now, the
    cheapest and nastiest of the animals, we shall be the costliest, most
    fastidious, and best bred. In short, there is no end to the
    astonishing things that may happen when the curse of Adam becomes
    first a blessing and then an incurable habit. And in that day we must
    not grudge children their share of it.

    The Infinite School Task

    The question of children's work, however, is only a question of what
    the child ought to do for the community. How highly it should qualify
    itself is another matter. But most of the difficulty of inducing
    children to learn would disappear if our demands became not only
    definite but finite. When learning is only an excuse for
    imprisonment, it is an instrument of torture which becomes more
    painful the more progress is made. Thus when you have forced a child
    to learn the Church Catechism, a document profound beyond the
    comprehension of most adults, you are sometimes at a standstill for
    something else to teach; and you therefore keep the wretched child
    repeating its catechism again and again until you hit on the plan of
    making it learn instalments of Bible verses, preferably from the book
    of Numbers. But as it is less trouble to set a lesson that you know
    yourself, there is a tendency to keep repeating the already learnt
    lesson rather than break new ground. At school I began with a fairly
    complete knowledge of Latin grammar in the childish sense of being
    able to repeat all the paradigms; and I was kept at this, or rather
    kept in a class where the master never asked me to do it because he
    knew I could, and therefore devoted himself to trapping the boys who
    could not, until I finally forgot most of it. But when progress took
    place, what did it mean? First it meant Caesar, with the
    foreknowledge that to master Caesar meant only being set at Virgil,
    with the culminating horror of Greek and Homer in reserve at the end
    of that. I preferred Caesar, because his statement that Gaul is
    divided into three parts, though neither interesting nor true, was the
    only Latin sentence I could translate at sight: therefore the longer
    we stuck at Caesar the better I was pleased. Just so do less
    classically educated children see nothing in the mastery of addition
    but the beginning of subtraction, and so on through multiplication and
    division and fractions, with the black cloud of algebra on the
    horizon. And if a boy rushes through all that, there is always the
    calculus to fall back on, unless indeed you insist on his learning
    music, and proceed to hit him if he cannot tell you the year Beethoven
    was born.

    A child has a right to finality as regards its compulsory lessons.
    Also as regards physical training. At present it is assumed that the
    schoolmaster has a right to force every child into an attempt to
    become Porson and Bentley, Leibnitz and Newton, all rolled into one.
    This is the tradition of the oldest grammar schools. In our times an
    even more horrible and cynical claim has been made for the right to
    drive boys through compulsory games in the playing fields until they
    are too much exhausted physically to do anything but drop off to
    sleep. This is supposed to protect them from vice; but as it also
    protects them from poetry, literature, music, meditation and prayer,
    it may be dismissed with the obvious remark that if boarding schools
    are places whose keepers are driven to such monstrous measures lest
    more abominable things should happen, then the sooner boarding schools
    are violently abolished the better. It is true that society may make
    physical claims on the child as well as mental ones: the child must
    learn to walk, to use a knife and fork, to swim, to ride a bicycle, to
    acquire sufficient power of self-defence to make an attack on it an
    arduous and uncertain enterprise, perhaps to fly. What as a matter of
    common-sense it clearly has not a right to do is to make this an
    excuse for keeping the child slaving for ten hours at physical
    exercises on the ground that it is not yet as dexterous as Cinquevalli
    and as strong as Sandow.

    The Rewards and Risks of Knowledge

    In a word, we have no right to insist on educating a child; for its
    education can end only with its life and will not even then be
    complete. Compulsory completion of education is the last folly of a
    rotten and desperate civilization. It is the rattle in its throat
    before dissolution. All we can fairly do is to prescribe certain
    definite acquirements and accomplishments as qualifications for
    certain employments; and to secure them, not by the ridiculous method
    of inflicting injuries on the persons who have not yet mastered them,
    but by attaching certain privileges (not pecuniary) to the

    Most acquirements carry their own privileges with them. Thus a baby
    has to be pretty closely guarded and imprisoned because it cannot take
    care of itself. It has even to be carried about (the most complete
    conceivable infringement of its liberty) until it can walk. But
    nobody goes on carrying children after they can walk lest they should
    walk into mischief, though Arab boys make their sisters carry them, as
    our own spoiled children sometimes make their nurses, out of mere
    laziness, because sisters in the East and nurses in the West are kept
    in servitude. But in a society of equals (the only reasonable and
    permanently possible sort of society) children are in much greater
    danger of acquiring bandy legs through being left to walk before they
    are strong enough than of being carried when they are well able to
    walk. Anyhow, freedom of movement in a nursery is the reward of
    learning to walk; and in precisely the same way freedom of movement in
    a city is the reward of learning how to read public notices, and to
    count and use money. The consequences are of course much larger than
    the mere ability to read the name of a street or the number of a
    railway platform and the destination of a train. When you enable a
    child to read these, you also enable it to read this preface, to the
    utter destruction, you may quite possibly think, of its morals and
    docility. You also expose it to the danger of being run over by
    taxicabs and trains. The moral and physical risks of education are
    enormous: every new power a child acquires, from speaking, walking,
    and co-ordinating its vision, to conquering continents and founding
    religions, opens up immense new possibilities of mischief. Teach a
    child to write and you teach it how to forge: teach it to speak and
    you teach it how to lie: teach it to walk and you teach it how to
    kick its mother to death.

    The great problem of slavery for those whose aim is to maintain it is
    the problem of reconciling the efficiency of the slave with the
    helplessness that keeps him in servitude; and this problem is
    fortunately not completely soluble; for it is not in fact found
    possible for a duke to treat his solicitor or his doctor as he treats
    his laborers, though they are all equally his slaves: the laborer
    being in fact less dependent on his favor than the professional man.
    Hence it is that men come to resent, of all things, protection,
    because it so often means restriction of their liberty lest they
    should make a bad use of it. If there are dangerous precipices about,
    it is much easier and cheaper to forbid people to walk near the edge
    than to put up an effective fence: that is why both legislators and
    parents and the paid deputies of parents are always inhibiting and
    prohibiting and punishing and scolding and laming and cramping and
    delaying progress and growth instead of making the dangerous places as
    safe as possible and then boldly taking and allowing others to take
    the irreducible minimum of risk.

    English Physical Hardihood and Spiritual Cowardice

    It is easier to convert most people to the need for allowing their
    children to run physical risks than moral ones. I can remember a
    relative of mine who, when I was a small child, unused to horses and
    very much afraid of them, insisted on putting me on a rather
    rumbustious pony with little spurs on my heels (knowing that in my
    agitation I would use them unconsciously), and being enormously amused
    at my terrors. Yet when that same lady discovered that I had found a
    copy of The Arabian Nights and was devouring it with avidity, she was
    horrified, and hid it away from me lest it should break my soul as the
    pony might have broken my neck. This way of producing hardy bodies
    and timid souls is so common in country houses that you may spend
    hours in them listening to stories of broken collar bones, broken
    backs, and broken necks without coming upon a single spiritual
    adventure or daring thought.

    But whether the risks to which liberty exposes us are moral or
    physical our right to liberty involves the right to run them. A man
    who is not free to risk his neck as an aviator or his soul as a
    heretic is not free at all; and the right to liberty begins, not at
    the age of 21 years but of 21 seconds.

    The Risks of Ignorance and Weakness

    The difficulty with children is that they need protection from risks
    they are too young to understand, and attacks they can neither avoid
    nor resist. You may on academic grounds allow a child to snatch
    glowing coals from the fire once. You will not do it twice. The
    risks of liberty we must let everyone take; but the risks of ignorance
    and self-helplessness are another matter. Not only children but
    adults need protection from them. At present adults are often exposed
    to risks outside their knowledge or beyond their comprehension or
    powers of resistance or foresight: for example, we have to look on
    every day at marriages or financial speculations that may involve far
    worse consequences than burnt fingers. And just as it is part of the
    business of adults to protect children, to feed them, clothe them,
    shelter them, and shift for them in all sorts of ways until they are
    able to shift for themselves, it is coming more and more to be seen
    that this is true not only of the relation between adults and
    children, but between adults and adults. We shall not always look on
    indifferently at foolish marriages and financial speculations, nor
    allow dead men to control live communities by ridiculous wills and
    living heirs to squander and ruin great estates, nor tolerate a
    hundred other absurd liberties that we allow today because we are too
    lazy to find out the proper way to interfere. But the interference
    must be regulated by some theory of the individual's rights. Though
    the right to live is absolute, it is not unconditional. If a man is
    unbearably mischievous, he must be killed. This is a mere matter of
    necessity, like the killing of a man-eating tiger in a nursery, a
    venomous snake in the garden, or a fox in the poultry yard. No
    society could be constructed on the assumption that such extermination
    is a violation of the creature's right to live, and therefore must not
    be allowed. And then at once arises the danger into which morality
    has led us: the danger of persecution. One Christian spreading his
    doctrines may seem more mischievous than a dozen thieves: throw him
    therefore to the lions. A lying or disobedient child may corrupt a
    whole generation and make human Society impossible: therefore thrash
    the vice out of him. And so on until our whole system of abortion,
    intimidation, tyranny, cruelty and the rest is in full swing again.

    The Common Sense of Toleration

    The real safeguard against this is the dogma of Toleration. I need
    not here repeat the compact treatise on it which I prepared for the
    Joint Committee on the Censorship of Stage Plays, and prefixed to The
    Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet. It must suffice now to say that the
    present must not attempt to schoolmaster the future by pretending to
    know good from evil in tendency, or protect citizens against shocks to
    their opinions and convictions, moral, political or religious: in
    other words it must not persecute doctrines of any kind, or what is
    called bad taste, and must insist on all persons facing such shocks as
    they face frosty weather or any of the other disagreeable, dangerous,
    or bracing incidents of freedom. The expediency of Toleration has
    been forced on us by the fact that progressive enlightenment depends
    on a fair hearing for doctrines which at first appear seditious,
    blasphemous, and immoral, and which deeply shock people who never
    think originally, thought being with them merely a habit and an echo.
    The deeper ground for Toleration is the nature of creation, which, as
    we now know, proceeds by evolution. Evolution finds its way by
    experiment; and this finding of the way varies according to the stage
    of development reached, from the blindest groping along the line of
    least resistance to intellectual speculation, with its practical
    sequel of hypothesis and experimental verification; or to observation,
    induction, and deduction; or even into so rapid and intuitive an
    integration of all these processes in a single brain that we get the
    inspired guess of the man of genius and the desperate resolution of
    the teacher of new truths who is first slain as a blasphemous apostate
    and then worshipped as a prophet.

    Here the law for the child is the same as for the adult. The high
    priest must not rend his garments and cry "Crucify him" when he is
    shocked: the atheist must not clamor for the suppression of Law's
    Serious Call because it has for two centuries destroyed the natural
    happiness of innumerable unfortunate children by persuading their
    parents that it is their religious duty to be miserable. It, and the
    Sermon on the Mount, and Machiavelli's Prince, and La Rochefoucauld's
    maxims, and Hymns Ancient and Modern, and De Glanville's apologue, and
    Dr. Watts's rhymes, and Nietzsche's Gay Science, and Ingersoll's
    Mistakes of Moses, and the speeches and pamphlets of the people who
    want us to make war on Germany, and the Noodle's Orations and articles
    of our politicians and journalists, must all be tolerated not only
    because any of them may for all we know be on the right track but
    because it is in the conflict of opinion that we win knowledge and
    wisdom. However terrible the wounds suffered in that conflict, they
    are better than the barren peace of death that follows when all the
    combatants are slaughtered or bound hand and foot.

    The difficulty at present is that though this necessity for Toleration
    is a law of political science as well established as the law of
    gravitation, our rulers are never taught political science: on the
    contrary, they are taught in school that the master tolerates nothing
    that is disagreeable to him; that ruling is simply being master; and
    that the master's method is the method of violent punishment. And our
    citizens, all school taught, are walking in the same darkness. As I
    write these lines the Home Secretary is explaining that a man who has
    been imprisoned for blasphemy must not be released because his remarks
    were painful to the feelings of his pious fellow townsmen. Now it
    happens that this very Home Secretary has driven many thousands of his
    fellow citizens almost beside themselves by the crudity of his notions
    of government, and his simple inability to understand why he should
    not use and make laws to torment and subdue people who do not happen
    to agree with him. In a word, he is not a politician, but a grown-up
    schoolboy who has at last got a cane in his hand. And as all the rest
    of us are in the same condition (except as to command of the cane) the
    only objection made to his proceedings takes the shape of clamorous
    demands that _he_ should be caned instead of being allowed to cane
    other people.

    The Sin of Athanasius

    It seems hopeless. Anarchists are tempted to preach a violent and
    implacable resistance to all law as the only remedy; and the result of
    that speedily is that people welcome any tyranny that will rescue them
    from chaos. But there is really no need to choose between anarchy and
    tyranny. A quite reasonable state of things is practicable if we
    proceed on human assumptions and not on academic ones. If adults will
    frankly give up their claim to know better than children what the
    purposes of the Life Force are, and treat the child as an experiment
    like themselves, and possibly a more successful one, and at the same
    time relinquish their monstrous parental claims to personal private
    property in children, the rest must be left to common sense. It is
    our attitude, our religion, that is wrong. A good beginning might be
    made by enacting that any person dictating a piece of conduct to a
    child or to anyone else as the will of God, or as absolutely right,
    should be dealt with as a blasphemer: as, indeed, guilty of the
    unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost. If the penalty were death,
    it would rid us at once of that scourge of humanity, the amateur Pope.
    As an Irish Protestant, I raise the cry of No Popery with hereditary
    zest. We are overrun with Popes. From curates and governesses, who
    may claim a sort of professional standing, to parents and uncles and
    nurserymaids and school teachers and wiseacres generally, there are
    scores of thousands of human insects groping through our darkness by
    the feeble phosphorescence of their own tails, yet ready at a moment's
    notice to reveal the will of God on every possible subject; to explain
    how and why the universe was made (in my youth they added the exact
    date) and the circumstances under which it will cease to exist; to lay
    down precise rules of right and wrong conduct; to discriminate
    infallibly between virtuous and vicious character; and all this with
    such certainty that they are prepared to visit all the rigors of the
    law, and all the ruinous penalties of social ostracism on people,
    however harmless their actions maybe who venture to laugh at their
    monstrous conceit or to pay their assumptions the extravagant
    compliment of criticizing them. As to children, who shall say what
    canings and birchings and terrifyings and threats of hell fire and
    impositions and humiliations and petty imprisonings and sendings to
    bed and standing in corners and the like they have suffered because
    their parents and guardians and teachers knew everything so much
    better than Socrates or Solon?

    It is this ignorant uppishness that does the mischief. A stranger on
    the planet might expect that its grotesque absurdity would provoke
    enough ridicule to cure it; but unfortunately quite the contrary
    happens. Just as our ill health delivers us into the hands of medical
    quacks and creates a passionate demand for impudent pretences that
    doctors can cure the diseases they themselves die of daily, so our
    ignorance and helplessness set us clamoring for spiritual and moral
    quacks who pretend that they can save our souls from their own
    damnation. If a doctor were to say to his patients, "I am familiar
    with your symptoms, because I have seen other people in your
    condition; and I will bring the very little knowledge we have to your
    treatment; but except in that very shallow sense I dont know what is
    the matter with you; and I cant undertake to cure you," he would be a
    lost man professionally; and if a clergyman, on being called on to
    award a prize for good conduct in the village school, were to say, "I
    am afraid I cannot say who is the best-behaved child, because I really
    do not know what good conduct is; but I will gladly take the teacher's
    word as to which child has caused least inconvenience," he would
    probably be unfrocked, if not excommunicated. And yet no honest and
    intellectually capable doctor or parson can say more. Clearly it
    would not be wise of the doctor to say it, because optimistic lies
    have such immense therapeutic value that a doctor who cannot tell them
    convincingly has mistaken his profession. And a clergyman who is not
    prepared to lay down the law dogmatically will not be of much use in a
    village school, though it behoves him all the more to be very careful
    what law he lays down. But unless both the clergyman and the doctor
    are in the attitude expressed by these speeches they are not fit for
    their work. The man who believes that he has more than a provisional
    hypothesis to go upon is a born fool. He may have to act vigorously
    on it. The world has no use for the Agnostic who wont believe
    anything because anything might be false, and wont deny anything
    because anything might be true. But there is a wide difference
    between saying, "I believe this; and I am going to act on it," or, "I
    dont believe it; and I wont act on it," and saying, "It is true; and
    it is my duty and yours to act on it," or, "It is false; and it is my
    duty and yours to refuse to act on it." The difference is as great as
    that between the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed. When you
    repeat the Apostles' Creed you affirm that you believe certain things.
    There you are clearly within your rights. When you repeat the
    Athanasian Creed, you affirm that certain things are so, and that
    anybody who doubts that they are so cannot be saved. And this is
    simply a piece of impudence on your part, as you know nothing about it
    except that as good men as you have never heard of your creed. The
    apostolic attitude is a desire to convert others to our beliefs for
    the sake of sympathy and light: the Athanasian attitude is a desire
    to murder people who dont agree with us. I am sufficient of an
    Athanasian to advocate a law for the speedy execution of all
    Athanasians, because they violate the fundamental proposition of my
    creed, which is, I repeat, that all living creatures are experiments.
    The precise formula for the Superman, _ci-devant_ The Just Man Made
    Perfect, has not yet been discovered. Until it is, every birth is an
    experiment in the Great Research which is being conducted by the Life
    Force to discover that formula.

    The Experiment Experimenting

    And now all the modern schoolmaster abortionists will rise up beaming,
    and say, "We quite agree. We regard every child in our school as a
    subject for experiment. We are always experimenting with them. We
    challenge the experimental test for our system. We are continually
    guided by our experience in our great work of moulding the character
    of our future citizens, etc. etc. etc." I am sorry to seem
    irreconcilable; but it is the Life Force that has to make the
    experiment and not the schoolmaster; and the Life Force for the
    child's purpose is in the child and not in the schoolmaster. The
    schoolmaster is another experiment; and a laboratory in which all the
    experiments began experimenting on one another would not produce
    intelligible results. I admit, however, that if my schoolmasters had
    treated me as an experiment of the Life Force: that is, if they had
    set me free to do as I liked subject only to my political rights and
    theirs, they could not have watched the experiment very long, because
    the first result would have been a rapid movement on my part in the
    direction of the door, and my disappearance there-through.

    It may be worth inquiring where I should have gone to. I should say
    that practically every time I should have gone to a much more
    educational place. I should have gone into the country, or into the
    sea, or into the National Gallery, or to hear a band if there was one,
    or to any library where there were no schoolbooks. I should have read
    very dry and difficult books: for example, though nothing would have
    induced me to read the budget of stupid party lies that served as a
    text-book of history in school, I remember reading Robertson's Charles
    V. and his history of Scotland from end to end most laboriously.
    Once, stung by the airs of a schoolfellow who alleged that he had read
    Locke On The Human Understanding, I attempted to read the Bible
    straight through, and actually got to the Pauline Epistles before I
    broke down in disgust at what seemed to me their inveterate
    crookedness of mind. If there had been a school where children were
    really free, I should have had to be driven out of it for the sake of
    my health by the teachers; for the children to whom a literary
    education can be of any use are insatiable: they will read and study
    far more than is good for them. In fact the real difficulty is to
    prevent them from wasting their time by reading for the sake of
    reading and studying for the sake of studying, instead of taking some
    trouble to find out what they really like and are capable of doing
    some good at. Some silly person will probably interrupt me here with
    the remark that many children have no appetite for a literary
    education at all, and would never open a book if they were not forced
    to. I have known many such persons who have been forced to the point
    of obtaining University degrees. And for all the effect their
    literary exercises has left on them they might just as well have been
    put on the treadmill. In fact they are actually less literate than
    the treadmill would have left them; for they might by chance have
    picked up and dipped into a volume of Shakespear or a translation of
    Homer if they had not been driven to loathe every famous name in
    literature. I should probably know as much Latin as French, if Latin
    had not been made the excuse for my school imprisonment and

    Why We Loathe Learning and Love Sport

    If we are to discuss the importance of art, learning, and intellectual
    culture, the first thing we have to recognize is that we have very
    little of them at present; and that this little has not been produced
    by compulsory education: nay, that the scarcity is unnatural and has
    been produced by the violent exclusion of art and artists from
    schools. On the other hand we have quite a considerable degree of
    bodily culture: indeed there is a continual outcry against the
    sacrifice of mental accomplishments to athletics. In other words a
    sacrifice of the professed object of compulsory education to the real
    object of voluntary education. It is assumed that this means that
    people prefer bodily to mental culture; but may it not mean that they
    prefer liberty and satisfaction to coercion and privation. Why is it
    that people who have been taught Shakespear as a school subject loathe
    his plays and cannot by any means be persuaded ever to open his works
    after they escape from school, whereas there is still, 300 years after
    his death, a wide and steady sale for his works to people who read his
    plays as plays, and not as task work? If Shakespear, or for that
    matter, Newton and Leibnitz, are allowed to find their readers and
    students they will find them. If their works are annotated and
    paraphrased by dullards, and the annotations and paraphrases forced on
    all young people by imprisonment and flogging and scolding, there will
    not be a single man of letters or higher mathematician the more in the
    country: on the contrary there will be less, as so many potential
    lovers of literature and mathematics will have been incurably
    prejudiced against them. Everyone who is conversant with the class in
    which child imprisonment and compulsory schooling is carried out to
    the final extremity of the university degree knows that its scholastic
    culture is a sham; that it knows little about literature or art and a
    great deal about point-to-point races; and that the village cobbler,
    who has never read a page of Plato, and is admittedly a dangerously
    ignorant man politically, is nevertheless a Socrates compared to the
    classically educated gentlemen who discuss politics in country houses
    at election time (and at no other time) after their day's earnest and
    skilful shooting. Think of the years and years of weary torment the
    women of the piano-possessing class have been forced to spend over the
    keyboard, fingering scales. How many of them could be bribed to
    attend a pianoforte recital by a great player, though they will rise
    from sick beds rather than miss Ascot or Goodwood?

    Another familiar fact that teaches the same lesson is that many women
    who have voluntarily attained a high degree of culture cannot add up
    their own housekeeping books, though their education in simple
    arithmetic was compulsory, whereas their higher education has been
    wholly voluntary. Everywhere we find the same result. The
    imprisonment, the beating, the taming and laming, the breaking of
    young spirits, the arrest of development, the atrophy of all
    inhibitive power except the power of fear, are real: the education is
    sham. Those who have been taught most know least.


    Among the worst effects of the unnatural segregation of children in
    schools and the equally unnatural constant association of them with
    adults in the family is the utter defeat of the vital element in
    Christianity. Christ stands in the world for that intuition of the
    highest humanity that we, being members one of another, must not
    complain, must not scold, must not strike, nor revile nor persecute
    nor revenge nor punish. Now family life and school life are, as far
    as the moral training of children is concerned, nothing but the
    deliberate inculcation of a routine of complaint, scolding,
    punishment, persecution, and revenge as the natural and only possible
    way of dealing with evil or inconvenience. "Aint nobody to be whopped
    for this here?" exclaimed Sam Weller when he saw his employer's name
    written up on a stage coach, and conceived the phenomenon as an insult
    which reflected on himself. This exclamation of Sam Weller is at once
    the negation of Christianity and the beginning and the end of current
    morality; and so it will remain as long as the family and the school
    persist as we know them: that is, as long as the rights of children
    are so utterly denied that nobody will even take the trouble to
    ascertain what they are, and coming of age is like the turning of a
    convict into the street after twenty-one years penal servitude.
    Indeed it is worse; for the convict may have learnt before his
    conviction how to live in freedom and may remember how to set about
    it, however lamed his powers of freedom may have become through
    disuse; but the child knows no other way of life but the slave's way.
    Born free, as Rousseau says, he has been laid hands on by slaves from
    the moment of his birth and brought up as a slave. How is he, when he
    is at last set free, to be anything else than the slave he actually
    is, clamoring for war, for the lash, for police, prisons, and
    scaffolds in a wild panic of delusion that without these things he is
    lost. The grown-up Englishman is to the end of his days a badly
    brought-up child, beyond belief quarrelsome, petulant, selfish,
    destructive, and cowardly: afraid that the Germans will come and
    enslave him; that the burglar will come and rob him; that the bicycle
    or motor car will run over him; that the smallpox will attack him; and
    that the devil will run away with him and empty him out like a sack of
    coals on a blazing fire unless his nurse or his parents or his
    schoolmaster or his bishop or his judge or his army or his navy will
    do something to frighten these bad things away. And this Englishman,
    without the moral courage of a louse, will risk his neck for fun fifty
    times every winter in the hunting field, and at Badajos sieges and the
    like will ram his head into a hole bristling with sword blades rather
    than be beaten in the one department in which he has been brought up
    to consult his own honor. As a Sportsman (and war is fundamentally
    the sport of hunting and fighting the most dangerous of the beasts of
    prey) he feels free. He will tell you himself that the true sportsman
    is never a snob, a coward, a duffer, a cheat, a thief, or a liar.
    Curious, is it not, that he has not the same confidence in other sorts
    of man?

    And even sport is losing its freedom. Soon everybody will be
    schooled, mentally and physically, from the cradle to the end of the
    term of adult compulsory military service, and finally of compulsory
    civil service lasting until the age of superannuation. Always more
    schooling, more compulsion. We are to be cured by an excess of the
    dose that has poisoned us. Satan is to cast out Satan.

    Under the Whip

    Clearly this will not do. We must reconcile education with liberty.
    We must find out some means of making men workers and, if need be,
    warriors, without making them slaves. We must cultivate the noble
    virtues that have their root in pride. Now no schoolmaster will teach
    these any more than a prison governor will teach his prisoners how to
    mutiny and escape. Self-preservation forces him to break the spirit
    that revolts against him, and to inculcate submission, even to obscene
    assault, as a duty. A bishop once had the hardihood to say that he
    would rather see England free than England sober. Nobody has yet
    dared to say that he would rather see an England of ignoramuses than
    an England of cowards and slaves. And if anyone did, it would be
    necessary to point out that the antithesis is not a practical one, as
    we have got at present an England of ignoramuses who are also cowards
    and slaves, and extremely proud of it at that, because in school they
    are taught to submit, with what they ridiculously call Oriental
    fatalism (as if any Oriental has ever submitted more helplessly and
    sheepishly to robbery and oppression than we Occidentals do), to be
    driven day after day into compounds and set to the tasks they loathe
    by the men they hate and fear, as if this were the inevitable destiny
    of mankind. And naturally, when they grow up, they helplessly
    exchange the prison of the school for the prison of the mine or the
    workshop or the office, and drudge along stupidly and miserably, with
    just enough gregarious instinct to turn furiously on any intelligent
    person who proposes a change. It would be quite easy to make England
    a paradise, according to our present ideas, in a few years. There is
    no mystery about it: the way has been pointed out over and over
    again. The difficulty is not the way but the will. And we have no
    will because the first thing done with us in childhood was to break
    our will. Can anything be more disgusting than the spectacle of a
    nation reading the biography of Gladstone and gloating over the
    account of how he was flogged at Eton, two of his schoolfellows being
    compelled to hold him down whilst he was flogged. Not long ago a
    public body in England had to deal with the case of a schoolmaster
    who, conceiving himself insulted by the smoking of a cigaret against
    his orders by a pupil eighteen years old, proposed to flog him
    publicly as a satisfaction to what he called his honor and authority.
    I had intended to give the particulars of this ease, but find the
    drudgery of repeating such stuff too sickening, and the effect unjust
    to a man who was doing only what others all over the country were
    doing as part of the established routine of what is called education.
    The astounding part of it was the manner in which the person to whom
    this outrage on decency seemed quite proper and natural claimed to be
    a functionary of high character, and had his claim allowed. In Japan
    he would hardly have been allowed the privilege of committing suicide.
    What is to be said of a profession in which such obscenities are made
    points of honor, or of institutions in which they are an accepted part
    of the daily routine? Wholesome people would not argue about the
    taste of such nastinesses: they would spit them out; but we are
    tainted with flagellomania from our childhood. When will we realize
    that the fact that we can become accustomed to anything, however
    disgusting at first, makes it necessary for us to examine carefully
    everything we have become accustomed to? Before motor cars became
    common, necessity had accustomed us to a foulness in our streets which
    would have horrified us had the street been our drawing-room carpet.
    Before long we shall be as particular about our streets as we now are
    about our carpets; and their condition in the nineteenth century will
    become as forgotten and incredible as the condition of the corridors
    of palaces and the courts of castles was as late as the eighteenth
    century. This foulness, we can plead, was imposed on us as a
    necessity by the use of horses and of huge retinues; but flogging has
    never been so imposed: it has always been a vice, craved for on any
    pretext by those depraved by it. Boys were flogged when criminals
    were hanged, to impress the awful warning on them. Boys were flogged
    at boundaries, to impress the boundaries on their memory. Other
    methods and other punishments were always available: the choice of
    this one betrayed the sensual impulse which makes the practice an
    abomination. But when its viciousness made it customary, it was
    practised and tolerated on all hands by people who were innocent of
    anything worse than stupidity, ill temper, and inability to discover
    other methods of maintaining order than those they had always seen
    practised and approved of. From children and animals it extended to
    slaves and criminals. In the days of Moses it was limited to 39
    lashes. In the early nineteenth century it had become an open
    madness: soldiers were sentenced to a thousand lashes for trifling
    offences, with the result (among others less mentionable) that the
    Iron Duke of Wellington complained that it was impossible to get an
    order obeyed in the British army except in two or three crack
    regiments. Such frantic excesses of this disgusting neurosis provoked
    a reaction against it; but the clamor for it by depraved persons never
    ceased, and was tolerated by a nation trained to it from childhood in
    the schools until last year (1913), when in what must be described as
    a paroxysm of sexual excitement provoked by the agitation concerning
    the White Slave Traffic (the purely commercial nature of which I was
    prevented from exposing on the stage by the Censorship twenty years
    ago) the Government yielded to an outcry for flagellation led by the
    Archbishop of Canterbury, and passed an Act under which a judge can
    sentence a man to be flogged to the utmost extremity with any
    instrument usable for such a purpose that he cares to prescribe. Such
    an Act is not a legislative phenomenon but a psychopathic one. Its
    effect on the White Slave Traffic was, of course, to distract public
    attention from its real cause and from the people who really profit by
    it to imaginary "foreign scoundrels," and to secure a monopoly of its
    organization for women.

    And all this evil is made possible by the schoolmaster with his cane
    and birch, by the parents getting rid as best they can of the nuisance
    of children making noise and mischief in the house, and by the denial
    to children of the elementary rights of human beings.

    The first man who enslaved and "broke in" an animal with a whip would
    have invented the explosion engine instead could he have foreseen the
    curse he was laying on his race. For men and women learnt thereby to
    enslave and break in their children by the same means. These
    children, grown up, knew no other methods of training. Finally the
    evil that was done for gain by the greedy was refined on and done for
    pleasure by the lustful. Flogging has become a pleasure purchasable
    in our streets, and inhibition a grown-up habit that children play at.
    "Go and see what baby is doing; and tell him he mustnt" is the last
    word of the nursery; and the grimmest aspect of it is that it was
    first formulated by a comic paper as a capital joke.

    Technical Instruction

    Technical instruction tempts to violence (as a short cut) more than
    liberal education. The sailor in Mr Rudyard Kipling's Captains
    Courageous, teaching the boy the names of the ship's tackle with a
    rope's end, does not disgust us as our schoolmasters do, especially as
    the boy was a spoiled boy. But an unspoiled boy would not have needed
    that drastic medicine. Technical training may be as tedious as
    learning to skate or to play the piano or violin; but it is the price
    one must pay to achieve certain desirable results or necessary ends.
    It is a monstrous thing to force a child to learn Latin or Greek or
    mathematics on the ground that they are an indispensable gymnastic for
    the mental powers. It would be monstrous even if it were true; for
    there is no labor that might not be imposed on a child or an adult on
    the same pretext; but as a glance at the average products of our
    public school and university education shews that it is not true, it
    need not trouble us. But it is a fact that ignorance of Latin and
    Greek and mathematics closes certain careers to men (I do not mean
    artificial, unnecessary, noxious careers like those of the commercial
    schoolmaster). Languages, even dead ones, have their uses; and, as it
    seems to many of us, mathematics have their uses. They will always be
    learned by people who want to learn them; and people will always want
    to learn them as long as they are of any importance in life: indeed
    the want will survive their importance: superstition is nowhere
    stronger than in the field of obsolete acquirements. And they will
    never be learnt fruitfully by people who do not want to learn them
    either for their own sake or for use in necessary work. There is no
    harder schoolmaster than experience; and yet experience fails to teach
    where there is no desire to learn.

    Still, one must not begin to apply this generalization too early. And
    this brings me to an important factor in the case: the factor of

    Docility and Dependence

    If anyone, impressed by my view that the rights of a child are
    precisely those of an adult, proceeds to treat a child as if it were
    an adult, he (or she) will find that though the plan will work much
    better at some points than the usual plan, at others it will not work
    at all; and this discovery may provoke him to turn back from the whole
    conception of children's rights with a jest at the expense of
    bachelors' and old maids' children. In dealing with children what is
    needed is not logic but sense. There is no logical reason why young
    persons should be allowed greater control of their property the day
    after they are twenty-one than the day before it. There is no logical
    reason why I, who strongly object to an adult standing over a boy of
    ten with a Latin grammar, and saying, "you must learn this, whether
    you want to or not," should nevertheless be quite prepared to stand
    over a boy of five with the multiplication table or a copy book or a
    code of elementary good manners, and practice on his docility to make
    him learn them. And there is no logical reason why I should do for a
    child a great many little offices, some of them troublesome and
    disagreeable, which I should not do for a boy twice its age, or
    support a boy or girl when I would unhesitatingly throw an adult on
    his own resources. But there are practical reasons, and sensible
    reasons, and affectionate reasons for all these illogicalities.
    Children do not want to be treated altogether as adults: such
    treatment terrifies them and over-burdens them with responsibility.
    In truth, very few adults care to be called on for independence and
    originality: they also are bewildered and terrified in the absence of
    precedents and precepts and commandments; but modern Democracy allows
    them a sanctioning and cancelling power if they are capable of using
    it, which children are not. To treat a child wholly as an adult would
    be to mock and destroy it. Infantile docility and juvenile dependence
    are, like death, a product of Natural Selection; and though there is
    no viler crime than to abuse them, yet there is no greater cruelty
    than to ignore them. I have complained sufficiently of what I
    suffered through the process of assault, imprisonment, and compulsory
    lessons that taught me nothing, which are called my schooling. But I
    could say a good deal also about the things I was not taught and
    should have been taught, not to mention the things I was allowed to do
    which I should not have been allowed to do. I have no recollection of
    being taught to read or write; so I presume I was born with both
    faculties; but many people seem to have bitter recollections of being
    forced reluctantly to acquire them. And though I have the uttermost
    contempt for a teacher so ill mannered and incompetent as to be unable
    to make a child learn to read and write without also making it cry,
    still I am prepared to admit that I had rather have been compelled to
    learn to read and write with tears by an incompetent and ill mannered
    person than left in ignorance. Reading, writing, and enough
    arithmetic to use money honestly and accurately, together with the
    rudiments of law and order, become necessary conditions of a child's
    liberty before it can appreciate the importance of its liberty, or
    foresee that these accomplishments are worth acquiring. Nature has
    provided for this by evolving the instinct of docility. Children are
    very docile: they have a sound intuition that they must do what they
    are told or perish. And adults have an intuition, equally sound, that
    they must take advantage of this docility to teach children how to
    live properly or the children will not survive. The difficulty is to
    know where to stop. To illustrate this, let us consider the main
    danger of childish docility and parental officiousness.

    The Abuse of Docility

    Docility may survive as a lazy habit long after it has ceased to be a
    beneficial instinct. If you catch a child when it is young enough to
    be instinctively docile, and keep it in a condition of unremitted
    tutelage under the nurserymaid, the governess, the preparatory school,
    the secondary school, and the university, until it is an adult, you
    will produce, not a self-reliant, free, fully matured human being, but
    a grown-up schoolboy or schoolgirl, capable of nothing in the way of
    original or independent action except outbursts of naughtiness in the
    women and blackguardism in the men. That is exactly what we get at
    present in our rich and consequently governing classes: they pass
    from juvenility to senility without ever touching maturity except in
    body. The classes which cannot afford this sustained tutelage are
    notably more self-reliant and grown-up: an office boy of fifteen is
    often more of a man than a university student of twenty.
    Unfortunately this precocity is disabled by poverty, ignorance,
    narrowness, and a hideous power of living without art or love or
    beauty and being rather proud of it. The poor never escape from
    servitude: their docility is preserved by their slavery. And so all
    become the prey of the greedy, the selfish, the domineering, the
    unscrupulous, the predatory. If here and there an individual refuses
    to be docile, ten docile persons will beat him or lock him up or shoot
    him or hang him at the bidding of his oppressors and their own. The
    crux of the whole difficulty about parents, schoolmasters, priests,
    absolute monarchs, and despots of every sort, is the tendency to abuse
    natural docility. A nation should always be healthily rebellious; but
    the king or prime minister has yet to be found who will make trouble
    by cultivating that side of the national spirit. A child should begin
    to assert itself early, and shift for itself more and more not only in
    washing and dressing itself, but in opinions and conduct; yet as
    nothing is so exasperating and so unlovable as an uppish child, it is
    useless to expect parents and schoolmasters to inculcate this
    uppishness. Such unamiable precepts as Always contradict an
    authoritative statement, Always return a blow, Never lose a chance of
    a good fight, When you are scolded for a mistake ask the person who
    scolds you whether he or she supposes you did it on purpose, and
    follow the question with a blow or an insult or some other
    unmistakable expression of resentment, Remember that the progress of
    the world depends on your knowing better than your elders, are just as
    important as those of The Sermon on the Mount; but no one has yet seen
    them written up in letters of gold in a schoolroom or nursery. The
    child is taught to be kind, to be respectful, to be quiet, not to
    answer back, to be truthful when its elders want to find out anything
    from it, to lie when the truth would shock or hurt its elders, to be
    above all things obedient, and to be seen and not heard. Here we have
    two sets of precepts, each warranted to spoil a child hopelessly if
    the other be omitted. Unfortunately we do not allow fair play between
    them. The rebellious, intractable, aggressive, selfish set provoke a
    corrective resistance, and do not pretend to high moral or religious
    sanctions; and they are never urged by grown-up people on young
    people. They are therefore more in danger of neglect or suppression
    than the other set, which have all the adults, all the laws, all the
    religions on their side. How is the child to be secured its due share
    of both bodies of doctrine?

    The Schoolboy and the Homeboy

    In practice what happens is that parents notice that boys brought up
    at home become mollycoddles, or prigs, or duffers, unable to take care
    of themselves. They see that boys should learn to rough it a little
    and to mix with children of their own age. This is natural enough.
    When you have preached at and punished a boy until he is a moral
    cripple, you are as much hampered by him as by a physical cripple; and
    as you do not intend to have him on your hands all your life, and are
    generally rather impatient for the day when he will earn his own
    living and leave you to attend to yourself, you sooner or later begin
    to talk to him about the need for self-reliance, learning to think,
    and so forth, with the result that your victim, bewildered by your
    inconsistency, concludes that there is no use trying to please you,
    and falls into an attitude of sulky resentment. Which is an
    additional inducement to pack him off to school.

    In school, he finds himself in a dual world, under two dispensations.
    There is the world of the boys, where the point of honor is to be
    untameable, always ready to fight, ruthless in taking the conceit out
    of anyone who ventures to give himself airs of superior knowledge or
    taste, and generally to take Lucifer for one's model. And there is
    the world of the masters, the world of discipline, submission,
    diligence, obedience, and continual and shameless assumption of moral
    and intellectual authority. Thus the schoolboy hears both sides, and
    is so far better off than the homebred boy who hears only one. But
    the two sides are not fairly presented. They are presented as good
    and evil, as vice and virtue, as villainy and heroism. The boy feels
    mean and cowardly when he obeys, and selfish and rascally when he
    disobeys. He looses his moral courage just as he comes to hate books
    and languages. In the end, John Ruskin, tied so close to his mother's
    apron-string that he did not escape even when he went to Oxford, and
    John Stuart Mill, whose father ought to have been prosecuted for
    laying his son's childhood waste with lessons, were superior, as
    products of training, to our schoolboys. They were very conspicuously
    superior in moral courage; and though they did not distinguish
    themselves at cricket and football, they had quite as much physical
    hardihood as any civilized man needs. But it is to be observed that
    Ruskin's parents were wise people who gave John a full share in their
    own life, and put up with his presence both at home and abroad when
    they must sometimes have been very weary of him; and Mill, as it
    happens, was deliberately educated to challenge all the most sacred
    institutions of his country. The households they were brought up in
    were no more average households than a Montessori school is an average

    The Comings of Age of Children

    All this inculcated adult docility, which wrecks every civilization as
    it is wrecking ours, is inhuman and unnatural. We must reconsider our
    institution of the Coming of Age, which is too late for some purposes,
    and too early for others. There should be a series of Coming of Ages
    for every individual. The mammals have their first coming of age when
    they are weaned; and it is noteworthy that this rather cruel and
    selfish operation on the part of the parent has to be performed
    resolutely, with claws and teeth; for your little mammal does not want
    to be weaned, and yields only to a pretty rough assertion of the right
    of the parent to be relieved of the child as soon as the child is old
    enough to bear the separation. The same thing occurs with children:
    they hang on to the mother's apron-string and the father's coat tails
    as long as they can, often baffling those sensitive parents who know
    that children should think for themselves and fend for themselves, but
    are too kind to throw them on their own resources with the ferocity of
    the domestic cat. The child should have its first coming of age when
    it is weaned, another when it can talk, another when it can walk,
    another when it can dress itself without assistance; and when it can
    read, write, count money, and pass an examination in going a simple
    errand involving a purchase and a journey by rail or other public
    method of locomotion, it should have quite a majority. At present the
    children of laborers are soon mobile and able to shift for themselves,
    whereas it is possible to find grown-up women in the rich classes who
    are actually afraid to take a walk in the streets unattended and
    unprotected. It is true that this is a superstition from the time
    when a retinue was part of the state of persons of quality, and the
    unattended person was supposed to be a common person of no quality,
    earning a living; but this has now become so absurd that children and
    young women are no longer told why they are forbidden to go about
    alone, and have to be persuaded that the streets are dangerous places,
    which of course they are; but people who are not educated to live
    dangerously have only half a life, and are more likely to die
    miserably after all than those who have taken all the common risks of
    freedom from their childhood onward as matters of course.

    The Conflict of Wills

    The world wags in spite of its schools and its families because both
    schools and families are mostly very largely anarchic: parents and
    schoolmasters are good-natured or weak or lazy; and children are
    docile and affectionate and very shortwinded in their fits of
    naughtiness; and so most families slummock along and muddle through
    until the children cease to be children. In the few cases when the
    parties are energetic and determined, the child is crushed or the
    parent is reduced to a cipher, as the case may be. When the opposed
    forces are neither of them strong enough to annihilate the other,
    there is serious trouble: that is how we get those feuds between
    parent and child which recur to our memory so ironically when we hear
    people sentimentalizing about natural affection. We even get
    tragedies; for there is nothing so tragic to contemplate or so
    devastating to suffer as the oppression of will without conscience;
    and the whole tendency of our family and school system is to set the
    will of the parent and the school despot above conscience as something
    that must be deferred to abjectly and absolutely for its own sake.

    The strongest, fiercest force in nature is human will. It is the
    highest organization we know of the will that has created the whole
    universe. Now all honest civilization, religion, law, and convention
    is an attempt to keep this force within beneficent bounds. What
    corrupts civilization, religion, law, and convention (and they are at
    present pretty nearly as corrupt as they dare) is the constant
    attempts made by the wills of individuals and classes to thwart the
    wills and enslave the powers of other individuals and classes. The
    powers of the parent and the schoolmaster, and of their public
    analogues the lawgiver and the judge, become instruments of tyranny in
    the hands of those who are too narrow-minded to understand law and
    exercise judgment; and in their hands (with us they mostly fall into
    such hands) law becomes tyranny. And what is a tyrant? Quite simply
    a person who says to another person, young or old, "You shall do as I
    tell you; you shall make what I want; you shall profess my creed; you
    shall have no will of your own; and your powers shall be at the
    disposal of my will." It has come to this at last: that the phrase
    "she has a will of her own," or "he has a will of his own" has come to
    denote a person of exceptional obstinacy and self-assertion. And even
    persons of good natural disposition, if brought up to expect such
    deference, are roused to unreasoning fury, and sometimes to the
    commission of atrocious crimes, by the slightest challenge to their
    authority. Thus a laborer may be dirty, drunken, untruthful,
    slothful, untrustworthy in every way without exhausting the indulgence
    of the country house. But let him dare to be "disrespectful" and he
    is a lost man, though he be the cleanest, soberest, most diligent,
    most veracious, most trustworthy man in the county. Dickens's
    instinct for detecting social cankers never served him better than
    when he shewed us Mrs Heep teaching her son to "be umble," knowing
    that if he carried out that precept he might be pretty well anything
    else he liked. The maintenance of deference to our wills becomes a
    mania which will carry the best of us to any extremity. We will allow
    a village of Egyptian fellaheen or Indian tribesmen to live the lowest
    life they please among themselves without molestation; but let one of
    them slay an Englishman or even strike him on the strongest
    provocation, and straightway we go stark mad, burning and destroying,
    shooting and shelling, flogging and hanging, if only such survivors as
    we may leave are thoroughly cowed in the presence of a man with a
    white face. In the committee room of a local council or city
    corporation, the humblest employees of the committee find defenders if
    they complain of harsh treatment. Gratuities are voted, indulgences
    and holidays are pleaded for, delinquencies are excused in the most
    sentimental manner provided only the employee, however patent a
    hypocrite or incorrigible a slacker, is hat in hand. But let the most
    obvious measure of justice be demanded by the secretary of a Trade
    Union in terms which omit all expressions of subservience, and it is
    with the greatest difficulty that the cooler-headed can defeat angry
    motions that the letter be thrown into the waste paper basket and the
    committee proceed to the next business.

    The Demagogue's Opportunity

    And the employee has in him the same fierce impulse to impose his will
    without respect for the will of others. Democracy is in practice
    nothing but a device for cajoling from him the vote he refuses to
    arbitrary authority. He will not vote for Coriolanus; but when an
    experienced demagogue comes along and says, "Sir: _you_ are the
    dictator: the voice of the people is the voice of God; and I am only
    your very humble servant," he says at once, "All right: tell me what
    to dictate," and is presently enslaved more effectually with his own
    silly consent than Coriolanus would ever have enslaved him without
    asking his leave. And the trick by which the demagogue defeats
    Coriolanus is played on him in his turn by _his_ inferiors.
    Everywhere we see the cunning succeeding in the world by seeking a
    rich or powerful master and practising on his lust for subservience.
    The political adventurer who gets into parliament by offering himself
    to the poor voter, not as his representative but as his will-less
    soulless "delegate," is himself the dupe of a clever wife who
    repudiates Votes for Women, knowing well that whilst the man is
    master, the man's mistress will rule. Uriah Heep may be a crawling
    creature; but his crawling takes him upstairs.

    Thus does the selfishness of the will turn on itself, and obtain by
    flattery what it cannot seize by open force. Democracy becomes the
    latest trick of tyranny: "womanliness" becomes the latest wile of

    Between parent and child the same conflict wages and the same
    destruction of character ensues. Parents set themselves to bend the
    will of their children to their own--to break their stubborn spirit,
    as they call it--with the ruthlessness of Grand Inquisitors. Cunning,
    unscrupulous children learn all the arts of the sneak in circumventing
    tyranny: children of better character are cruelly distressed and more
    or less lamed for life by it.

    Our Quarrelsomeness

    As between adults, we find a general quarrelsomeness which makes
    political reform as impossible to most Englishmen as to hogs. Certain
    sections of the nation get cured of this disability. University men,
    sailors, and politicians are comparatively free from it, because the
    communal life of the University, the fact that in a ship a man must
    either learn to consider others or else go overboard or into irons,
    and the habit of working on committees and ceasing to expect more of
    one's own way than is included in the greatest common measure of the
    committee, educate the will socially. But no one who has ever had to
    guide a committee of ordinary private Englishmen through their first
    attempts at collective action, in committee or otherwise, can retain
    any illusions as to the appalling effects on our national manners and
    character of the organization of the home and the school as petty
    tyrannies, and the absence of all teaching of self-respect and
    training in self-assertion. Bullied and ordered about, the Englishman
    obeys like a sheep, evades like a knave, or tries to murder his
    oppressor. Merely criticized or opposed in committee, or invited to
    consider anybody's views but his own, he feels personally insulted and
    wants to resign or leave the room unless he is apologized to. And his
    panic and bewilderment when he sees that the older hands at the work
    have no patience with him and do not intend to treat him as
    infallible, are pitiable as far as they are anything but ludicrous.
    That is what comes of not being taught to consider other people's
    wills, and left to submit to them or to over-ride them as if they were
    the winds and the weather. Such a state of mind is incompatible not
    only with the democratic introduction of high civilization, but with
    the comprehension and maintenance of such civilized institutions as
    have been introduced by benevolent and intelligent despots and

    We Must Reform Society before we can Reform Ourselves

    When we come to the positive problem of what to do with children if we
    are to give up the established plan, we find the difficulties so great
    that we begin to understand why so many people who detest the system
    and look back with loathing on their own schooldays, must helplessly
    send their children to the very schools they themselves were sent to,
    because there is no alternative except abandoning the children to
    undisciplined vagabondism. Man in society must do as everybody else
    does in his class: only fools and romantic novices imagine that
    freedom is a mere matter of the readiness of the individual to snap
    his fingers at convention. It is true that most of us live in a
    condition of quite unnecessary inhibition, wearing ugly and
    uncomfortable clothes, making ourselves and other people miserable by
    the heathen horrors of mourning, staying away from the theatre because
    we cannot afford the stalls and are ashamed to go to the pit, and in
    dozens of other ways enslaving ourselves when there are comfortable
    alternatives open to us without any real drawbacks. The contemplation
    of these petty slaveries, and of the triumphant ease with which
    sensible people throw them off, creates an impression that if we only
    take Johnson's advice to free our minds from cant, we can achieve
    freedom. But if we all freed our minds from cant we should find that
    for the most part we should have to go on doing the necessary work of
    the world exactly as we did it before until we organized new and free
    methods of doing it. Many people believed in secondary co-education
    (boys and girls taught together) before schools like Bedales were
    founded: indeed the practice was common enough in elementary schools
    and in Scotland; but their belief did not help them until Bedales and
    St George's were organized; and there are still not nearly enough
    co-educational schools in existence to accommodate all the children of
    the parents who believe in co-education up to university age, even if
    they could always afford the fees of these exceptional schools. It
    may be edifying to tell a duke that our public schools are all wrong
    in their constitution and methods, or a costermonger that children
    should be treated as in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister instead of as they
    are treated at the elementary school at the corner of his street; but
    what are the duke and the coster to do? Neither of them has any
    effective choice in the matter: their children must either go to the
    schools that are, or to no school at all. And as the duke thinks with
    reason that his son will be a lout or a milksop or a prig if he does
    not go to school, and the coster knows that his son will become an
    illiterate hooligan if he is left to the streets, there is no real
    alternative for either of them. Child life must be socially
    organized: no parent, rich or poor, can choose institutions that do
    not exist; and the private enterprise of individual school masters
    appealing to a group of well-to-do parents, though it may shew what
    can be done by enthusiasts with new methods, cannot touch the mass of
    our children. For the average parent or child nothing is really
    available except the established practice; and this is what makes it
    so important that the established practice should be a sound one, and
    so useless for clever individuals to disparage it unless they can
    organize an alternative practice and make it, too, general.

    The Pursuit of Manners

    If you cross-examine the duke and the coster, you will find that they
    are not concerned for the scholastic attainments of their children.
    Ask the duke whether he could pass the standard examination of
    twelve-year-old children in elementary schools, and he will admit,
    with an entirely placid smile, that he would almost certainly be
    ignominiously plucked. And he is so little ashamed of or
    disadvantaged by his condition that he is not prepared to spend an
    hour in remedying it. The coster may resent the inquiry instead of
    being amused by it; but his answer, if true, will be the same. What
    they both want for their children is the communal training, the
    apprenticeship to society, the lessons in holding one's own among
    people of all sorts with whom one is not, as in the home, on
    privileged terms. These can be acquired only by "mixing with the
    world," no matter how wicked the world is. No parent cares twopence
    whether his children can write Latin hexameters or repeat the dates of
    the accession of all the English monarchs since the Conqueror; but all
    parents are earnestly anxious about the manners of their children.
    Better Claude Duval than Kaspar Hauser. Laborers who are
    contemptuously anti-clerical in their opinions will send their
    daughters to the convent school because the nuns teach them some sort
    of gentleness of speech and behavior. And peers who tell you that our
    public schools are rotten through and through, and that our
    Universities ought to be razed to the foundations, send their sons to
    Eton and Oxford, Harrow and Cambridge, not only because there is
    nothing else to be done, but because these places, though they turn
    out blackguards and ignoramuses and boobies galore, turn them out with
    the habits and manners of the society they belong to. Bad as those
    manners are in many respects, they are better than no manners at all.
    And no individual or family can possibly teach them. They can be
    acquired only by living in an organized community in which they are

    Thus we see that there are reasons for the segregation of children
    even in families where the great reason: namely, that children are
    nuisances to adults, does not press very hardly, as, for instance, in
    the houses of the very poor, who can send their children to play in
    the streets, or the houses of the very rich, which are so large that
    the children's quarters can be kept out of the parents' way like the
    servants' quarters.

    Not too much Wind on the Heath, Brother

    What, then, is to be done? For the present, unfortunately, little
    except propagating the conception of Children's Rights. Only the
    achievement of economic equality through Socialism can make it
    possible to deal thoroughly with the question from the point of view
    of the total interest of the community, which must always consist of
    grown-up children. Yet economic equality, like all simple and obvious
    arrangements, seems impossible to people brought up as children are
    now. Still, something can be done even within class limits. Large
    communities of children of the same class are possible today; and
    voluntary organization of outdoor life for children has already begun
    in Boy Scouting and excursions of one kind or another. The discovery
    that anything, even school life, is better for the child than home
    life, will become an over-ridden hobby; and we shall presently be told
    by our faddists that anything, even camp life, is better than school
    life. Some blundering beginnings of this are already perceptible.
    There is a movement for making our British children into priggish
    little barefooted vagabonds, all talking like that born fool George
    Borrow, and supposed to be splendidly healthy because they would die
    if they slept in rooms with the windows shut, or perhaps even with a
    roof over their heads. Still, this is a fairly healthy folly; and it
    may do something to establish Mr Harold Cox's claim of a Right to Roam
    as the basis of a much needed law compelling proprietors of land to
    provide plenty of gates in their fences, and to leave them unlocked
    when there are no growing crops to be damaged nor bulls to be
    encountered, instead of, as at present, imprisoning the human race in
    dusty or muddy thoroughfares between walls of barbed wire.

    The reaction against vagabondage will come from the children
    themselves. For them freedom will not mean the expensive kind of
    savagery now called "the simple life." Their natural disgust with the
    visions of cockney book fanciers blowing themselves out with "the wind
    on the heath, brother," and of anarchists who are either too weak to
    understand that men are strong and free in proportion to the social
    pressure they can stand and the complexity of the obligations they are
    prepared to undertake, or too strong to realize that what is freedom
    to them may be terror and bewilderment to others, will drive them back
    to the home and the school if these have meanwhile learned the lesson
    that children are independent human beings and have rights.

    Wanted: a Child's Magna Charta

    Whether we shall presently be discussing a Juvenile Magna Charta or
    Declaration of Rights by way of including children in the Constitution
    is a question on which I leave others to speculate. But if it could
    once be established that a child has an adult's Right of Egress from
    uncomfortable places and unpleasant company, and there were children's
    lawyers to sue pedagogues and others for assault and imprisonment,
    there would be an amazing change in the behavior of schoolmasters, the
    quality of school books, and the amenities of school life. That
    Consciousness of Consent which, even in its present delusive form, has
    enabled Democracy to oust tyrannical systems in spite of all its
    vulgarities and stupidities and rancors and ineptitudes and
    ignorances, would operate as powerfully among children as it does now
    among grown-ups. No doubt the pedagogue would promptly turn
    demagogue, and woo his scholars by all the arts of demagogy; but none
    of these arts can easily be so dishonorable or mischievous as the art
    of caning. And, after all, if larger liberties are attached to the
    acquisition of knowledge, and the child finds that it can no more go
    to the seaside without a knowledge of the multiplication and pence
    tables than it can be an astronomer without mathematics, it will learn
    the multiplication table, which is more than it always does at
    present, in spite of all the canings and keepings in.

    The Pursuit of Learning

    When the Pursuit of Learning comes to mean the pursuit of learning by
    the child instead of the pursuit of the child by Learning, cane in
    hand, the danger will be precocity of the intellect, which is just as
    undesirable as precocity of the emotions. We still have a silly habit
    of talking and thinking as if intellect were a mechanical process and
    not a passion; and in spite of the German tutors who confess openly
    that three out of every five of the young men they coach for
    examinations are lamed for life thereby; in spite of Dickens and his
    picture of little Paul Dombey dying of lessons, we persist in heaping
    on growing children and adolescent youths and maidens tasks Pythagoras
    would have declined out of common regard for his own health and common
    modesty as to his own capacity. And this overwork is not all the
    effect of compulsion; for the average schoolmaster does not compel his
    scholars to learn: he only scolds and punishes them if they do not,
    which is quite a different thing, the net effect being that the school
    prisoners need not learn unless they like. Nay, it is sometimes
    remarked that the school dunce--meaning the one who does not
    like--often turns out well afterwards, as if idleness were a sign of
    ability and character. A much more sensible explanation is that the
    so-called dunces are not exhausted before they begin the serious
    business of life. It is said that boys will be boys; and one can only
    add one wishes they would. Boys really want to be manly, and are
    unfortunately encouraged thoughtlessly in this very dangerous and
    overstraining aspiration. All the people who have really worked
    (Herbert Spencer for instance) warn us against work as earnestly as
    some people warn us against drink. When learning is placed on the
    voluntary footing of sport, the teacher will find himself saying every
    day "Run away and play: you have worked as much as is good for you."
    Trying to make children leave school will be like trying to make them
    go to bed; and it will be necessary to surprise them with the idea
    that teaching is work, and that the teacher is tired and must go play
    or rest or eat: possibilities always concealed by that infamous
    humbug the current schoolmaster, who achieves a spurious divinity and
    a witch doctor's authority by persuading children that he is not
    human, just as ladies persuade them that they have no legs.

    Children and Game: a Proposal

    Of the many wild absurdities of our existing social order perhaps the
    most grotesque is the costly and strictly enforced reservation of
    large tracts of country as deer forests and breeding grounds for
    pheasants whilst there is so little provision of the kind made for
    children. I have more than once thought of trying to introduce the
    shooting of children as a sport, as the children would then be
    preserved very carefully for ten months in the year, thereby reducing
    their death rate far more than the fusillades of the sportsmen during
    the other two would raise it. At present the killing of a fox except
    by a pack of foxhounds is regarded with horror; but you may and do
    kill children in a hundred and fifty ways provided you do not shoot
    them or set a pack of dogs on them. It must be admitted that the
    foxes have the best of it; and indeed a glance at our pheasants, our
    deer, and our children will convince the most sceptical that the
    children have decidedly the worst of it.

    This much hope, however, can be extracted from the present state of
    things. It is so fantastic, so mad, so apparently impossible, that no
    scheme of reform need ever henceforth be discredited on the ground
    that it is fantastic or mad or apparently impossible. It is the
    sensible schemes, unfortunately, that are hopeless in England.
    Therefore I have great hopes that my own views, though fundamentally
    sensible, can be made to appear fantastic enough to have a chance.

    First, then, I lay it down as a prime condition of sane society,
    obvious as such to anyone but an idiot, that in any decent community,
    children should find in every part of their native country, food,
    clothing, lodging, instruction, and parental kindness for the asking.
    For the matter of that, so should adults; but the two cases differ in
    that as these commodities do not grow on the bushes, the adults cannot
    have them unless they themselves organize and provide the supply,
    whereas the children must have them as if by magic, with nothing to do
    but rub the lamp, like Aladdin, and have their needs satisfied.

    The Parents' Intolerable Burden

    There is nothing new in this: it is how children have always had and
    must always have their needs satisfied. The parent has to play the
    part of Aladdin's djinn; and many a parent has sunk beneath the burden
    of this service. All the novelty we need is to organize it so that
    instead of the individual child fastening like a parasite on its own
    particular parents, the whole body of children should be thrown not
    only upon the whole body of parents, but upon the celibates and
    childless as well, whose present exemption from a full share in the
    social burden of children is obviously unjust and unwholesome. Today
    it is easy to find a widow who has at great cost to herself in pain,
    danger, and disablement, borne six or eight children. In the same
    town you will find rich bachelors and old maids, and married couples
    with no children or with families voluntarily limited to two or three.
    The eight children do not belong to the woman in any real or legal
    sense. When she has reared them they pass away from her into the
    community as independent persons, marrying strangers, working for
    strangers, spending on the community the life that has been built up
    at her expense. No more monstrous injustice could be imagined than
    that the burden of rearing the children should fall on her alone and
    not on the celibates and the selfish as well.

    This is so far recognized that already the child finds, wherever it
    goes, a school for it, and somebody to force it into the school; and
    more and more these schools are being driven by the mere logic of
    facts to provide the children with meals, with boots, with spectacles,
    with dentists and doctors. In fact, when the child's parents are
    destitute or not to be found, bread, lodging, and clothing are
    provided. It is true that they are provided grudgingly and on
    conditions infamous enough to draw down abundant fire from Heaven upon
    us every day in the shape of crime and disease and vice; but still the
    practice of keeping children barely alive at the charge of the
    community is established; and there is no need for me to argue about
    it. I propose only two extensions of the practice. One is to provide
    for all the child's reasonable human wants, on which point, if you
    differ from me, I shall take leave to say that you are socially a fool
    and personally an inhuman wretch. The other is that these wants
    should be supplied in complete freedom from compulsory schooling or
    compulsory anything except restraint from crime, though, as they can
    be supplied only by social organization, the child must be conscious
    of and subject to the conditions of that organization, which may
    involve such portions of adult responsibility and duty as a child may
    be able to bear according to its age, and which will in any case
    prevent it from forming the vagabond and anarchist habit of mind.

    One more exception might be necessary: compulsory freedom. I am sure
    that a child should not be imprisoned in a school. I am not so sure
    that it should not sometimes be driven out into the open--imprisoned
    in the woods and on the mountains, as it were. For there are frowsty
    children, just as there are frowsty adults, who dont want freedom.
    This morbid result of over-domestication would, let us hope, soon
    disappear with its cause.


    Those who see no prospect held out to them by this except a country in
    which all the children shall be roaming savages, should consider,
    first, whether their condition would be any worse than that of the
    little caged savages of today, and second, whether either children or
    adults are so apt to run wild that it is necessary to tether them fast
    to one neighborhood to prevent a general dissolution of society. My
    own observation leads me to believe that we are not half mobilized
    enough. True, I cannot deny that we are more mobile than we were.
    You will still find in the home counties old men who have never been
    to London, and who tell you that they once went to Winchester or St
    Albans much as if they had been to the South Pole; but they are not so
    common as the clerk who has been to Paris or to Lovely Lucerne, and
    who "goes away somewhere" when he has a holiday. His grandfather
    never had a holiday, and, if he had, would no more have dreamed of
    crossing the Channel than of taking a box at the Opera. But with all
    allowance for the Polytechnic excursion and the tourist agency, our
    inertia is still appalling. I confess to having once spent nine years
    in London without putting my nose outside it; and though this was
    better, perhaps, than the restless globe-trotting vagabondage of the
    idle rich, wandering from hotel to hotel and never really living
    anywhere, yet I should no more have done it if I had been properly
    mobilized in my childhood than I should have worn the same suit of
    clothes all that time (which, by the way, I very nearly did, my
    professional income not having as yet begun to sprout). There are
    masses of people who could afford at least a trip to Margate, and a
    good many who could afford a trip round the world, who are more
    immovable than Aldgate pump. To others, who would move if they knew
    how, travelling is surrounded with imaginary difficulties and terrors.
    In short, the difficulty is not to fix people, but to root them up.
    We keep repeating the silly proverb that a rolling stone gathers no
    moss, as if moss were a desirable parasite. What we mean is that a
    vagabond does not prosper. Even this is not true, if prosperity means
    enjoyment as well as responsibility and money. The real misery of
    vagabondage is the misery of having nothing to do and nowhere to go,
    the misery of being derelict of God and Man, the misery of the idle,
    poor or rich. And this is one of the miseries of unoccupied
    childhood. The unoccupied adult, thus afflicted, tries many
    distractions which are, to say the least, unsuited to children. But
    one of them, the distraction of seeing the world, is innocent and
    beneficial. Also it is childish, being a continuation of what nurses
    call "taking notice," by which a child becomes experienced. It is
    pitiable nowadays to see men and women doing after the age of 45 all
    the travelling and sightseeing they should have done before they were
    15. Mere wondering and staring at things is an important part of a
    child's education: that is why children can be thoroughly mobilized
    without making vagabonds of them. A vagabond is at home nowhere
    because he wanders: a child should wander because it ought to be at
    home everywhere. And if it has its papers and its passports, and gets
    what it requires not by begging and pilfering, but from responsible
    agents of the community as of right, and with some formal
    acknowledgment of the obligations it is incurring and a knowledge of
    the fact that these obligations are being recorded: if, further,
    certain qualifications are exacted before it is promoted from
    permission to go as far as its legs will carry it to using mechanical
    aids to locomotion, it can roam without much danger of gypsification.

    Under such circumstances the boy or girl could always run away, and
    never be lost; and on no other conditions can a child be free without
    being also a homeless outcast.

    Parents could also run away from disagreeable children or drive them
    out of doors or even drop their acquaintance, temporarily or
    permanently, without inhumanity. Thus both parties would be on their
    good behavior, and not, as at present, on their filial or parental
    behavior, which, like all unfree behavior, is mostly bad behavior.

    As to what other results might follow, we had better wait and see; for
    nobody now alive can imagine what customs and institutions would grow
    up in societies of free children. Child laws and child fashions,
    child manners and child morals are now not tolerated; but among free
    children there would certainly be surprising developments in this
    direction. I do not think there would be any danger of free children
    behaving as badly as grown-up people do now because they have never
    been free. They could hardly behave worse, anyhow.

    Children's Rights and Parents' Wrongs

    A very distinguished man once assured a mother of my acquaintance that
    she would never know what it meant to be hurt until she was hurt
    through her children. Children are extremely cruel without intending
    it; and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the reason is that they
    do not conceive their elders as having any human feelings. Serve the
    elders right, perhaps, for posing as superhuman! The penalty of the
    impostor is not that he is found out (he very seldom is) but that he
    is taken for what he pretends to be, and treated as such. And to be
    treated as anything but what you really are may seem pleasant to the
    imagination when the treatment is above your merits; but in actual
    experience it is often quite the reverse. When I was a very small
    boy, my romantic imagination, stimulated by early doses of fiction,
    led me to brag to a still smaller boy so outrageously that he, being a
    simple soul, really believed me to be an invincible hero. I cannot
    remember whether this pleased me much; but I do remember very
    distinctly that one day this admirer of mine, who had a pet goat,
    found the animal in the hands of a larger boy than either of us, who
    mocked him and refused to restore the animal to his rightful owner.
    Whereupon, naturally, he came weeping to me, and demanded that I
    should rescue the goat and annihilate the aggressor. My terror was
    beyond description: fortunately for me, it imparted such a
    ghastliness to my voice and aspect as I under the eye of my poor
    little dupe, advanced on the enemy with that hideous extremity of
    cowardice which is called the courage of despair, and said "You let go
    that goat," that he abandoned his prey and fled, to my unforgettable,
    unspeakable relief. I have never since exaggerated my prowess in
    bodily combat.

    Now what happened to me in the adventure of the goat happens very
    often to parents, and would happen to schoolmasters if the prison door
    of the school did not shut out the trials of life. I remember once,
    at school, the resident head master was brought down to earth by the
    sudden illness of his wife. In the confusion that ensued it became
    necessary to leave one of the schoolrooms without a master. I was in
    the class that occupied that schoolroom. To have sent us home would
    have been to break the fundamental bargain with our parents by which
    the school was bound to keep us out of their way for half the day at
    all hazards. Therefore an appeal had to be made to our better
    feelings: that is, to our common humanity, not to make a noise. But
    the head master had never admitted any common humanity with us. We
    had been carefully broken in to regard him as a being quite aloof from
    and above us: one not subject to error or suffering or death or
    illness or mortality. Consequently sympathy was impossible; and if
    the unfortunate lady did not perish, it was because, as I now comfort
    myself with guessing, she was too much pre-occupied with her own
    pains, and possibly making too much noise herself, to be conscious of
    the pandemonium downstairs.

    A great deal of the fiendishness of schoolboys and the cruelty of
    children to their elders is produced just in this way. Elders cannot
    be superhuman beings and suffering fellow-creatures at the same time.
    If you pose as a little god, you must pose for better for worse.

    How Little We Know About Our Parents

    The relation between parent and child has cruel moments for the parent
    even when money is no object, and the material worries are delegated
    to servants and school teachers. The child and the parent are
    strangers to one another necessarily, because their ages must differ
    widely. Read Goethe's autobiography; and note that though he was
    happy in his parents and had exceptional powers of observation,
    divination, and story-telling, he knew less about his father and
    mother than about most of the other people he mentions. I myself was
    never on bad terms with my mother: we lived together until I was
    forty-two years old, absolutely without the smallest friction of any
    kind; yet when her death set me thinking curiously about our
    relations, I realized that I knew very little about her. Introduce me
    to a strange woman who was a child when I was a child, a girl when I
    was a boy, an adolescent when I was an adolescent; and if we take
    naturally to one another I will know more of her and she of me at the
    end of forty days (I had almost said of forty minutes) than I knew of
    my mother at the end of forty years. A contemporary stranger is a
    novelty and an enigma, also a possibility; but a mother is like a
    broomstick or like the sun in the heavens, it does not matter which as
    far as one's knowledge of her is concerned: the broomstick is there
    and the sun is there; and whether the child is beaten by it or warmed
    and enlightened by it, it accepts it as a fact in nature, and does not
    conceive it as having had youth, passions, and weaknesses, or as still
    growing, yearning, suffering, and learning. If I meet a widow I may
    ask her all about her marriage; but what son ever dreams of asking his
    mother about her marriage, or could endure to hear of it without
    violently breaking off the old sacred relationship between them, and
    ceasing to be her child or anything more to her than the first man in
    the street might be?

    Yet though in this sense the child cannot realize its parent's
    humanity, the parent can realize the child's; for the parents with
    their experience of life have none of the illusions about the child
    that the child has about the parents; and the consequence is that the
    child can hurt its parents' feelings much more than its parents can
    hurt the child's, because the child, even when there has been none of
    the deliberate hypocrisy by which children are taken advantage of by
    their elders, cannot conceive the parent as a fellow-creature, whilst
    the parents know very well that the children are only themselves over
    again. The child cannot conceive that its blame or contempt or want
    of interest could possibly hurt its parent, and therefore expresses
    them all with an indifference which has given rise to the term _enfant
    terrible_ (a tragic term in spite of the jests connected with it);
    whilst the parent can suffer from such slights and reproaches more
    from a child than from anyone else, even when the child is not
    beloved, because the child is so unmistakably sincere in them.

    Our Abandoned Mothers

    Take a very common instance of this agonizing incompatibility. A
    widow brings up her son to manhood. He meets a strange woman, and
    goes off with and marries her, leaving his mother desolate. It does
    not occur to him that this is at all hard on her: he does it as a
    matter of course, and actually expects his mother to receive, on terms
    of special affection, the woman for whom she has been abandoned. If
    he shewed any sense of what he was doing, any remorse; if he mingled
    his tears with hers and asked her not to think too hardly of him
    because he had obeyed the inevitable destiny of a man to leave his
    father and mother and cleave to his wife, she could give him her
    blessing and accept her bereavement with dignity and without reproach.
    But the man never dreams of such considerations. To him his mother's
    feeling in the matter, when she betrays it, is unreasonable,
    ridiculous, and even odious, as shewing a prejudice against his
    adorable bride.

    I have taken the widow as an extreme and obvious case; but there are
    many husbands and wives who are tired of their consorts, or
    disappointed in them, or estranged from them by infidelities; and
    these parents, in losing a son or a daughter through marriage, may be
    losing everything they care for. No parent's love is as innocent as
    the love of a child: the exclusion of all conscious sexual feeling
    from it does not exclude the bitterness, jealousy, and despair at loss
    which characterize sexual passion: in fact, what is called a pure
    love may easily be more selfish and jealous than a carnal one.
    Anyhow, it is plain matter of fact that naively selfish people
    sometimes try with fierce jealousy to prevent their children marrying.

    Family Affection

    Until the family as we know it ceases to exist, nobody will dare to
    analyze parental affection as distinguished from that general human
    sympathy which has secured to many an orphan fonder care in a
    stranger's house than it would have received from its actual parents.
    Not even Tolstoy, in The Kreutzer Sonata, has said all that we suspect
    about it. When it persists beyond the period at which it ceases to be
    necessary to the child's welfare, it is apt to be morbid; and we are
    probably wrong to inculcate its deliberate cultivation. The natural
    course is for the parents and children to cast off the specific
    parental and filial relation when they are no longer necessary to one
    another. The child does this readily enough to form fresh ties,
    closer and more fascinating. Parents are not always excluded from
    such compensations: it happens sometimes that when the children go
    out at the door the lover comes in at the window. Indeed it happens
    now oftener than it used to, because people remain much longer in the
    sexual arena. The cultivated Jewess no longer cuts off her hair at
    her marriage. The British matron has discarded her cap and her
    conscientious ugliness; and a bishop's wife at fifty has more of the
    air of a _femme galante_ than an actress had at thirty-five in her
    grandmother's time. But as people marry later, the facts of age and
    time still inexorably condemn most parents to comparative solitude
    when their children marry. This may be a privation and may be a
    relief: probably in healthy circumstances it is no worse than a
    salutary change of habit; but even at that it is, for the moment at
    least, a wrench. For though parents and children sometimes dislike
    one another, there is an experience of succor and a habit of
    dependence and expectation formed in infancy which naturally attaches
    a child to its parent or to its nurse (a foster parent) in a quite
    peculiar way. A benefit to the child may be a burden to the parent;
    but people become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the
    burdens are attached to them; and to "suffer little children" has
    become an affectionate impulse deep in our nature.

    Now there is no such impulse to suffer our sisters and brothers, our
    aunts and uncles, much less our cousins. If we could choose our
    relatives, we might, by selecting congenial ones, mitigate the
    repulsive effect of the obligation to like them and to admit them to
    our intimacy. But to have a person imposed on us as a brother merely
    because he happens to have the same parents is unbearable when, as may
    easily happen, he is the sort of person we should carefully avoid if
    he were anyone else's brother. All Europe (except Scotland, which has
    clans instead of families) draws the line at second cousins.
    Protestantism draws it still closer by making the first cousin a
    marriageable stranger; and the only reason for not drawing it at
    sisters and brothers is that the institution of the family compels us
    to spend our childhood with them, and thus imposes on us a curious
    relation in which familiarity destroys romantic charm, and is yet
    expected to create a specially warm affection. Such a relation is
    dangerously factitious and unnatural; and the practical moral is that
    the less said at home about specific family affection the better.
    Children, like grown-up people, get on well enough together if they
    are not pushed down one another's throats; and grown-up relatives will
    get on together in proportion to their separation and their care not
    to presume on their blood relationship. We should let children's
    feelings take their natural course without prompting. I have seen a
    child scolded and called unfeeling because it did not occur to it to
    make a theatrical demonstration of affectionate delight when its
    mother returned after an absence: a typical example of the way in
    which spurious family sentiment is stoked up. We are, after all,
    sociable animals; and if we are let alone in the matter of our
    affections, and well brought up otherwise, we shall not get on any the
    worse with particular people because they happen to be our brothers
    and sisters and cousins. The danger lies in assuming that we shall
    get on any better.

    The main point to grasp here is that families are not kept together at
    present by family feeling but by human feeling. The family cultivates
    sympathy and mutual help and consolation as any other form of kindly
    association cultivates them; but the addition of a dictated compulsory
    affection as an attribute of near kinship is not only unnecessary, but
    positively detrimental; and the alleged tendency of modern social
    development to break up the family need alarm nobody. We cannot break
    up the facts of kinship nor eradicate its natural emotional
    consequences. What we can do and ought to do is to set people free to
    behave naturally and to change their behavior as circumstances change.
    To impose on a citizen of London the family duties of a Highland
    cateran in the eighteenth century is as absurd as to compel him to
    carry a claymore and target instead of an umbrella. The civilized man
    has no special use for cousins; and he may presently find that he has
    no special use for brothers and sisters. The parent seems likely to
    remain indispensable; but there is no reason why that natural tie
    should be made the excuse for unnatural aggravations of it, as
    crushing to the parent as they are oppressive to the child. The
    mother and father will not always have to shoulder the burthen of
    maintenance which should fall on the Atlas shoulders of the fatherland
    and motherland. Pending such reforms and emancipations, a shattering
    break-up of the parental home must remain one of the normal incidents
    of marriage. The parent is left lonely and the child is not. Woe to
    the old if they have no impersonal interests, no convictions, no
    public causes to advance, no tastes or hobbies! It is well to be a
    mother but not to be a mother-in-law; and if men were cut off
    artificially from intellectual and public interests as women are, the
    father-in-law would be as deplorable a figure in popular tradition as
    the mother-in-law.

    It is not to be wondered at that some people hold that blood
    relationship should be kept a secret from the persons related, and
    that the happiest condition in this respect is that of the foundling
    who, if he ever meets his parents or brothers or sisters, passes them
    by without knowing them. And for such a view there is this to be
    said: that our family system does unquestionably take the natural
    bond between members of the same family, which, like all natural
    bonds, is not too tight to be borne, and superimposes on it a painful
    burden of forced, inculcated, suggested, and altogether unnecessary
    affection and responsibility which we should do well to get rid of by
    making relatives as independent of one another as possible.

    The Fate of the Family

    The difficulty of inducing people to talk sensibly about the family is
    the same as that which I pointed out in a previous volume as confusing
    discussions of marriage. Marriage is not a single invariable
    institution: it changes from civilization to civilization, from
    religion to religion, from civil code to civil code, from frontier to
    frontier. The family is still more variable, because the number of
    persons constituting a family, unlike the number of persons
    constituting a marriage, varies from one to twenty: indeed, when a
    widower with a family marries a widow with a family, and the two
    produce a third family, even that very high number may be surpassed.
    And the conditions may vary between opposite extremes: for example,
    in a London or Paris slum every child adds to the burden of poverty
    and helps to starve the parents and all the other children, whereas in
    a settlement of pioneer colonists every child, from the moment it is
    big enough to lend a hand to the family industry, is an investment in
    which the only danger is that of temporary over-capitalization. Then
    there are the variations in family sentiment. Sometimes the family
    organization is as frankly political as the organization of an army or
    an industry: fathers being no more expected to be sentimental about
    their children than colonels about soldiers, or factory owners about
    their employees, though the mother may be allowed a little tenderness
    if her character is weak. The Roman father was a despot: the Chinese
    father is an object of worship: the sentimental modern western father
    is often a play-fellow looked to for toys and pocket-money. The
    farmer sees his children constantly: the squire sees them only during
    the holidays, and not then oftener than he can help: the tram
    conductor, when employed by a joint stock company, sometimes never
    sees them at all.

    Under such circumstances phrases like The Influence of Home Life, The
    Family, The Domestic Hearth, and so on, are no more specific than The
    Mammals, or The Man In The Street; and the pious generalizations
    founded so glibly on them by our sentimental moralists are unworkable.
    When households average twelve persons with the sexes about equally
    represented, the results may be fairly good. When they average three
    the results may be very bad indeed; and to lump the two together under
    the general term The Family is to confuse the question hopelessly.
    The modern small family is much too stuffy: children "brought up at
    home" in it are unfit for society. But here again circumstances
    differ. If the parents live in what is called a garden suburb, where
    there is a good deal of social intercourse, and the family, instead of
    keeping itself to itself, as the evil old saying is, and glowering at
    the neighbors over the blinds of the long street in which nobody knows
    his neighbor and everyone wishes to deceive him as to his income and
    social importance, is in effect broken up by school life, by
    out-of-door habits, and by frank neighborly intercourse through dances
    and concerts and theatricals and excursions and the like, families of
    four may turn out much less barbarous citizens than families of ten
    which attain the Boer ideal of being out of sight of one another's
    chimney smoke.

    All one can say is, roughly, that the homelier the home, and the more
    familiar the family, the worse for everybody concerned. The family
    ideal is a humbug and a nuisance: one might as reasonably talk of the
    barrack ideal, or the forecastle ideal, or any other substitution of
    the machinery of social organization for the end of it, which must
    always be the fullest and most capable life: in short, the most godly
    life. And this significant word reminds us that though the popular
    conception of heaven includes a Holy Family, it does not attach to
    that family the notion of a separate home, or a private nursery or
    kitchen or mother-in-law, or anything that constitutes the family as
    we know it. Even blood relationship is miraculously abstracted from
    it; and the Father is the father of all children, the mother the
    mother of all mothers and babies, and the Son the Son of Man and the
    Savior of his brothers: one whose chief utterance on the subject of
    the conventional family was an invitation to all of us to leave our
    families and follow him, and to leave the dead to bury the dead, and
    not debauch ourselves at that gloomy festival the family funeral, with
    its sequel of hideous mourning and grief which is either affected or

    Family Mourning

    I do not know how far this detestable custom of mourning is carried in
    France; but judging from the appearance of the French people I should
    say that a Frenchwoman goes into mourning for her cousins to the
    seventeenth degree. The result is that when I cross the Channel I
    seem to have reached a country devastated by war or pestilence. It is
    really suffering only from the family. Will anyone pretend that
    England has not the best of this striking difference? Yet it is such
    senseless and unnatural conventions as this that make us so impatient
    of what we call family feeling. Even apart from its insufferable
    pretensions, the family needs hearty discrediting; for there is hardly
    any vulnerable part of it that could not be amputated with advantage.

    Art Teaching

    By art teaching I hasten to say that I do not mean giving children
    lessons in freehand drawing and perspective. I am simply calling
    attention to the fact that fine art is the only teacher except
    torture. I have already pointed out that nobody, except under threat
    of torture, can read a school book. The reason is that a school book
    is not a work of art. Similarly, you cannot listen to a lesson or a
    sermon unless the teacher or the preacher is an artist. You cannot
    read the Bible if you have no sense of literary art. The reason why
    the continental European is, to the Englishman or American, so
    surprisingly ignorant of the Bible, is that the authorized English
    version is a great work of literary art, and the continental versions
    are comparatively artless. To read a dull book; to listen to a
    tedious play or prosy sermon or lecture; to stare at uninteresting
    pictures or ugly buildings: nothing, short of disease, is more
    dreadful than this. The violence done to our souls by it leaves
    injuries and produces subtle maladies which have never been properly
    studied by psycho-pathologists. Yet we are so inured to it in school,
    where practically all the teachers are bores trying to do the work of
    artists, and all the books artless, that we acquire a truly frightful
    power of enduring boredom. We even acquire the notion that fine art
    is lascivious and destructive to the character. In church, in the
    House of Commons, at public meetings, we sit solemnly listening to
    bores and twaddlers because from the time we could walk or speak we
    have been snubbed, scolded, bullied, beaten and imprisoned whenever we
    dared to resent being bored or twaddled at, or to express our natural
    impatience and derision of bores and twaddlers. And when a man arises
    with a soul of sufficient native strength to break the bonds of this
    inculcated reverence and to expose and deride and tweak the noses of
    our humbugs and panjandrums, like Voltaire or Dickens, we are shocked
    and scandalized, even when we cannot help laughing. Worse, we dread
    and persecute those who can see and declare the truth, because their
    sincerity and insight reflects on our delusion and blindness. We are
    all like Nell Gwynne's footman, who defended Nell's reputation with
    his fists, not because he believed her to be what he called an honest
    woman, but because he objected to be scorned as the footman of one who
    was no better than she should be.

    This wretched power of allowing ourselves to be bored may seem to give
    the fine arts a chance sometimes. People will sit through a
    performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony or of Wagner's Ring just as
    they will sit through a dull sermon or a front bench politician saying
    nothing for two hours whilst his unfortunate country is perishing
    through the delay of its business in Parliament. But their endurance
    is very bad for the ninth symphony, because they never hiss when it is
    murdered. I have heard an Italian conductor (no longer living) take
    the _adagio_ of that symphony at a lively _allegretto_, slowing down
    for the warmer major sections into the speed and manner of the
    heroine's death song in a Verdi opera; and the listeners, far from
    relieving my excruciation by rising with yells of fury and hurling
    their programs and opera glasses at the miscreant, behaved just as
    they do when Richter conducts it. The mass of imposture that thrives
    on this combination of ignorance with despairing endurance is
    incalculable. Given a public trained from childhood to stand anything
    tedious, and so saturated with school discipline that even with the
    doors open and no schoolmasters to stop them they will sit there
    helplessly until the end of the concert or opera gives them leave to
    go home; and you will have in great capitals hundreds of thousands of
    pounds spent every night in the season on professedly artistic
    entertainments which have no other effect on fine art than to
    exacerbate the hatred in which it is already secretly held in England.

    Fortunately, there are arts that cannot be cut off from the people by
    bad performances. We can read books for ourselves; and we can play a
    good deal of fine music for ourselves with the help of a pianola.
    Nothing stands between us and the actual handwork of the great masters
    of painting except distance; and modern photographic methods of
    reproduction are in some cases quite and in many nearly as effective
    in conveying the artist's message as a modern edition of Shakespear's
    plays is in conveying the message that first existed in his
    handwriting. The reproduction of great feats of musical execution is
    already on the way: the phonograph, for all its wheezing and snarling
    and braying, is steadily improving in its manners; and what with this
    improvement on the one hand, and on the other that blessed selective
    faculty which enables us to ignore a good deal of disagreeable noise
    if there is a thread of music in the middle of it (few critics of the
    phonograph seem to be conscious of the very considerable mechanical
    noise set up by choirs and orchestras) we have at last reached a point
    at which, for example, a person living in an English village where the
    church music is the only music, and that music is made by a few
    well-intentioned ladies with the help of a harmonium, can hear masses
    by Palestrina very passably executed, and can thereby be led to the
    discovery that Jackson in F and Hymns Ancient and Modern are not
    perhaps the last word of beauty and propriety in the praise of God.

    In short, there is a vast body of art now within the reach of
    everybody. The difficulty is that this art, which alone can educate
    us in grace of body and soul, and which alone can make the history of
    the past live for us or the hope of the future shine for us, which
    alone can give delicacy and nobility to our crude lusts, which is the
    appointed vehicle of inspiration and the method of the communion of
    saints, is actually branded as sinful among us because, wherever it
    arises, there is resistance to tyranny, breaking of fetters, and the
    breath of freedom. The attempt to suppress art is not wholly
    successful: we might as well try to suppress oxygen. But it is
    carried far enough to inflict on huge numbers of people a most
    injurious art starvation, and to corrupt a great deal of the art that
    is tolerated. You will find in England plenty of rich families with
    little more culture than their dogs and horses. And you will find
    poor families, cut off by poverty and town life from the contemplation
    of the beauty of the earth, with its dresses of leaves, its scarves of
    cloud, and its contours of hill and valley, who would positively be
    happier as hogs, so little have they cultivated their humanity by the
    only effective instrument of culture: art. The dearth is
    artificially maintained even when there are the means of satisfying
    it. Story books are forbidden, picture post cards are forbidden,
    theatres are forbidden, operas are forbidden, circuses are forbidden,
    sweetmeats are forbidden, pretty colors are forbidden, all exactly as
    vice is forbidden. The Creator is explicitly prayed to, and
    implicitly convicted of indecency every day. An association of vice
    and sin with everything that is delightful and of goodness with
    everything that is wretched and detestable is set up. All the most
    perilous (and glorious) appetites and propensities are at once
    inflamed by starvation and uneducated by art. All the wholesome
    conditions which art imposes on appetite are waived: instead of
    cultivated men and women restrained by a thousand delicacies, repelled
    by ugliness, chilled by vulgarity, horrified by coarseness, deeply and
    sweetly moved by the graces that art has revealed to them and nursed
    in them, we get indiscrimmate rapacity in pursuit of pleasure and a
    parade of the grossest stimulations in catering for it. We have a
    continual clamor for goodness, beauty, virtue, and sanctity, with such
    an appalling inability to recognize it or love it when it arrives that
    it is more dangerous to be a great prophet or poet than to promote
    twenty companies for swindling simple folk out of their savings. Do
    not for a moment suppose that uncultivated people are merely
    indifferent to high and noble qualities. They hate them malignantly.
    At best, such qualities are like rare and beautiful birds: when they
    appear the whole country takes down its guns; but the birds receive
    the statuary tribute of having their corpses stuffed.

    And it really all comes from the habit of preventing children from
    being troublesome. You are so careful of your boy's morals, knowing
    how troublesome they may be, that you keep him away from the Venus of
    Milo only to find him in the arms of the scullery maid or someone much
    worse. You decide that the Hermes of Praxiteles and Wagner's Tristan
    are not suited for young girls; and your daughter marries somebody
    appallingly unlike either Hermes or Tristan solely to escape from your
    parental protection. You have not stifled a single passion nor
    averted a single danger: you have depraved the passions by starving
    them, and broken down all the defences which so effectively protect
    children brought up in freedom. You have men who imagine themselves
    to be ministers of religion openly declaring that when they pass
    through the streets they have to keep out in the wheeled traffic to
    avoid the temptations of the pavement. You have them organizing hunts
    of the women who tempt them--poor creatures whom no artist would touch
    without a shudder--and wildly clamoring for more clothes to disguise
    and conceal the body, and for the abolition of pictures, statues,
    theatres, and pretty colors. And incredible as it seems, these
    unhappy lunatics are left at large, unrebuked, even admired and
    revered, whilst artists have to struggle for toleration. To them an
    undraped human body is the most monstrous, the most blighting, the
    most obscene, the most unbearable spectacle in the universe. To an
    artist it is, at its best, the most admirable spectacle in nature,
    and, at its average, an object of indifference. If every rag of
    clothing miraculously dropped from the inhabitants of London at noon
    tomorrow (say as a preliminary to the Great Judgment), the artistic
    people would not turn a hair; but the artless people would go mad and
    call on the mountains to hide them. I submit that this indicates a
    thoroughly healthy state on the part of the artists, and a thoroughly
    morbid one on the part of the artless. And the healthy state is
    attainable in a cold country like ours only by familiarity with the
    undraped figure acquired through pictures, statues, and theatrical
    representations in which an illusion of natural clotheslessness is
    produced and made poetic.

    In short, we all grow up stupid and mad to just the extent to which we
    have not been artistically educated; and the fact that this taint of
    stupidity and madness has to be tolerated because it is general, and
    is even boasted of as characteristically English, makes the situation
    all the worse. It is becoming exceedingly grave at present, because
    the last ray of art is being cut off from our schools by the
    discontinuance of religious education.

    The Impossibility of Secular Education

    Now children must be taught some sort of religion. Secular education
    is an impossibility. Secular education comes to this: that the only
    reason for ceasing to do evil and learning to do well is that if you
    do not you will be caned. This is worse than being taught in a church
    school that if you become a dissenter you will go to hell; for hell is
    presented as the instrument of something eternal, divine, and
    inevitable: you cannot evade it the moment the schoolmaster's back is
    turned. What confuses this issue and leads even highly intelligent
    religious persons to advocate secular education as a means of rescuing
    children from the strife of rival proselytizers is the failure to
    distinguish between the child's personal subjective need for a
    religion and its right to an impartially communicated historical
    objective knowledge of all the creeds and Churches. Just as a child,
    no matter what its race and color may be, should know that there are
    black men and brown men and yellow men, and, no matter what its
    political convictions may be, that there are Monarchists and
    Republicans and Positivists, Socialists and Unsocialists, so it should
    know that there are Christians and Mahometans and Buddhists and
    Shintoists and so forth, and that they are on the average just as
    honest and well-behaved as its own father. For example, it should not
    be told that Allah is a false god set up by the Turks and Arabs, who
    will all be damned for taking that liberty; but it should be told that
    many English people think so, and that many Turks and Arabs think the
    converse about English people. It should be taught that Allah is
    simply the name by which God is known to Turks and Arabs, who are just
    as eligible for salvation as any Christian. Further, that the
    practical reason why a Turkish child should pray in a mosque and an
    English child in a church is that as worship is organized in Turkey in
    mosques in the name of Mahomet and in England in churches in the name
    of Christ, a Turkish child joining the Church of England or an English
    child following Mahomet will find that it has no place for its worship
    and no organization of its religion within its reach. Any other
    teaching of the history and present facts of religion is false
    teaching, and is politically extremely dangerous in an empire in which
    a huge majority of the fellow subjects of the governing island do not
    profess the religion of that island.

    But this objectivity, though intellectually honest, tells the child
    only what other people believe. What it should itself believe is
    quite another matter. The sort of Rationalism which says to a child
    "You must suspend your judgment until you are old enough to choose
    your religion" is Rationalism gone mad. The child must have a
    conscience and a code of honor (which is the essence of religion) even
    if it be only a provisional one, to be revised at its confirmation.
    For confirmation is meant to signalize a spiritual coming of age, and
    may be a repudiation. Really active souls have many confirmations and
    repudiations as their life deepens and their knowledge widens. But
    what is to guide the child before its first confirmation? Not mere
    orders, because orders must have a sanction of some sort or why should
    the child obey them? If, as a Secularist, you refuse to teach any
    sanction, you must say "You will be punished if you disobey." "Yes,"
    says the child to itself, "if I am found out; but wait until your back
    is turned and I will do as I like, and lie about it." There can be no
    objective punishment for successful fraud; and as no espionage can
    cover the whole range of a child's conduct, the upshot is that the
    child becomes a liar and schemer with an atrophied conscience. And a
    good many of the orders given to it are not obeyed after all. Thus
    the Secularist who is not a fool is forced to appeal to the child's
    vital impulse towards perfection, to the divine spark; and no
    resolution not to call this impulse an impulse of loyalty to the
    Fellowship of the Holy Ghost, or obedience to the Will of God, or any
    other standard theological term, can alter the fact that the
    Secularist has stepped outside Secularism and is educating the child
    religiously, even if he insists on repudiating that pious adverb and
    substituting the word metaphysically.

    Natural Selection as a Religion

    We must make up our minds to it therefore that whatever measures we
    may be forced to take to prevent the recruiting sergeants of the
    Churches, free or established, from obtaining an exclusive right of
    entry to schools, we shall not be able to exclude religion from them.
    The most horrible of all religions: that which teaches us to regard
    ourselves as the helpless prey of a series of senseless accidents
    called Natural Selection, is allowed and even welcomed in so-called
    secular schools because it is, in a sense, the negation of all
    religion; but for school purposes a religion is a belief which affects
    conduct; and no belief affects conduct more radically and often so
    disastrously as the belief that the universe is a product of Natural
    Selection. What is more, the theory of Natural Selection cannot be
    kept out of schools, because many of the natural facts that present
    the most plausible appearance of design can be accounted for by
    Natural Selection; and it would be so absurd to keep a child in
    delusive ignorance of so potent a factor in evolution as to keep it in
    ignorance of radiation or capillary attraction. Even if you make a
    religion of Natural Selection, and teach the child to regard itself as
    the irresponsible prey of its circumstances and appetites (or its
    heredity as you will perhaps call them), you will none the less find
    that its appetites are stimulated by your encouragement and daunted by
    your discouragement; that one of its appetites is an appetite for
    perfection; that if you discourage this appetite and encourage the
    cruder acquisitive appetites the child will steal and lie and be a
    nuisance to you; and that if you encourage its appetite for perfection
    and teach it to attach a peculiar sacredness to it and place it before
    the other appetites, it will be a much nicer child and you will have a
    much easier job, at which point you will, in spite of your
    pseudoscientific jargon, find yourself back in the old-fashioned
    religious teaching as deep as Dr. Watts and in fact fathoms deeper.

    Moral Instruction Leagues

    And now the voices of our Moral Instruction Leagues will be lifted,
    asking whether there is any reason why the appetite for perfection
    should not be cultivated in rationally scientific terms instead of
    being associated with the story of Jonah and the great fish and the
    thousand other tales that grow up round religions. Yes: there are
    many reasons; and one of them is that children all like the story of
    Jonah and the whale (they insist on its being a whale in spite of
    demonstrations by Bible smashers without any sense of humor that Jonah
    would not have fitted into a whale's gullet--as if the story would be
    credible of a whale with an enlarged throat) and that no child on
    earth can stand moral instruction books or catechisms or any other
    statement of the case for religion in abstract terms. The object of a
    moral instruction book is not to be rational, scientific, exact, proof
    against controversy, nor even credible: its object is to make
    children good; and if it makes them sick instead its place is the
    waste-paper basket.

    Take for an illustration the story of Elisha and the bears. To the
    authors of the moral instruction books it is in the last degree
    reprehensible. It is obviously not true as a record of fact; and the
    picture it gives us of the temper of God (which is what interests an
    adult reader) is shocking and blasphemous. But it is a capital story
    for a child. It interests a child because it is about bears; and it
    leaves the child with an impression that children who poke fun at old
    gentlemen and make rude remarks about bald heads are not nice
    children, which is a highly desirable impression, and just as much as
    a child is capable of receiving from the story. When a story is about
    God and a child, children take God for granted and criticize the
    child. Adults do the opposite, and are thereby led to talk great
    nonsense about the bad effect of Bible stories on infants.

    But let no one think that a child or anyone else can learn religion
    from a teacher or a book or by any academic process whatever. It is
    only by an unfettered access to the whole body of Fine Art: that is,
    to the whole body of inspired revelation, that we can build up that
    conception of divinity to which all virtue is an aspiration. And to
    hope to find this body of art purified from all that is obsolete or
    dangerous or fierce or lusty, or to pick and choose what will be good
    for any particular child, much less for all children, is the
    shallowest of vanities. Such schoolmasterly selection is neither
    possible nor desirable. Ignorance of evil is not virtue but
    imbecility: admiring it is like giving a prize for honesty to a man
    who has not stolen your watch because he did not know you had one.
    Virtue chooses good from evil; and without knowledge there can be no
    choice. And even this is a dangerous simplification of what actually
    occurs. We are not choosing: we are growing. Were you to cut all of
    what you call the evil out of a child, it would drop dead. If you try
    to stretch it to full human stature when it is ten years old, you will
    simply pull it into two pieces and be hanged. And when you try to do
    this morally, which is what parents and schoolmasters are doing every
    day, you ought to be hanged; and some day, when we take a sensible
    view of the matter, you will be; and serve you right. The child does
    not stand between a good and a bad angel: what it has to deal with is
    a middling angel who, in normal healthy cases, wants to be a good
    angel as fast as it can without killing itself in the process, which
    is a dangerous one.

    Therefore there is no question of providing the child with a carefully
    regulated access to good art. There is no good art, any more than
    there is good anything else in the absolute sense. Art that is too
    good for the child will either teach it nothing or drive it mad, as
    the Bible has driven many people mad who might have kept their sanity
    had they been allowed to read much lower forms of literature. The
    practical moral is that we must read whatever stories, see whatever
    pictures, hear whatever songs and symphonies, go to whatever plays we
    like. We shall not like those which have nothing to say to us; and
    though everyone has a right to bias our choice, no one has a right to
    deprive us of it by keeping us from any work of art or any work of art
    from us.

    I may now say without danger of being misunderstood that the popular
    English compromise called Cowper Templeism (unsectarian Bible
    education) is not so silly as it looks. It is true that the Bible
    inculcates half a dozen religions: some of them barbarous; some
    cynical and pessimistic; some amoristic and romantic; some sceptical
    and challenging; some kindly, simple, and intuitional; some
    sophistical and intellectual; none suited to the character and
    conditions of western civilization unless it be the Christianity which
    was finally suppressed by the Crucifixion, and has never been put into
    practice by any State before or since. But the Bible contains the
    ancient literature of a very remarkable Oriental race; and the
    imposition of this literature, on whatever false pretences, on our
    children left them more literate than if they knew no literature at
    all, which was the practical alternative. And as our Authorized
    Version is a great work of art as well, to know it was better than
    knowing no art, which also was the practical alternative. It is at
    least not a school book; and it is not a bad story book, horrible as
    some of the stories are. Therefore as between the Bible and the blank
    represented by secular education, the choice is with the Bible.

    The Bible

    But the Bible is not sufficient. The real Bible of modern Europe is
    the whole body of great literature in which the inspiration and
    revelation of Hebrew Scripture has been continued to the present day.
    Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zoroaster is less comforting to the ill and
    unhappy than the Psalms; but it is much truer, subtler, and more
    edifying. The pleasure we get from the rhetoric of the book of Job
    and its tragic picture of a bewildered soul cannot disguise the
    ignoble irrelevance of the retort of God with which it closes, or
    supply the need of such modern revelations as Shelley's Prometheus or
    The Niblung's Ring of Richard Wagner. There is nothing in the Bible
    greater in inspiration than Beethoven's ninth symphony; and the power
    of modern music to convey that inspiration to a modern man is far
    greater than that of Elizabethan English, which is, except for people
    steeped in the Bible from childhood like Sir Walter Scott and Ruskin,
    a dead language.

    Besides, many who have no ear for literature or for music are
    accessible to architecture, to pictures, to statues, to dresses, and
    to the arts of the stage. Every device of art should be brought to
    bear on the young; so that they may discover some form of it that
    delights them naturally; for there will come to all of them that
    period between dawning adolescence and full maturity when the
    pleasures and emotions of art will have to satisfy cravings which, if
    starved or insulted, may become morbid and seek disgraceful
    satisfactions, and, if prematurely gratified otherwise than
    poetically, may destroy the stamina of the race. And it must be borne
    in mind that the most dangerous art for this necessary purpose is the
    art that presents itself as religious ecstasy. Young people are ripe
    for love long before they are ripe for religion. Only a very foolish
    person would substitute the Imitation of Christ for Treasure Island as
    a present for a boy or girl, or for Byron's Don Juan as a present for
    a swain or lass. Pickwick is the safest saint for us in our nonage.
    Flaubert's Temptation of St Anthony is an excellent book for a man of
    fifty, perhaps the best within reach as a healthy study of visionary
    ecstasy; but for the purposes of a boy of fifteen Ivanhoe and the
    Templar make a much better saint and devil. And the boy of fifteen
    will find this out for himself if he is allowed to wander in a
    well-stocked literary garden, and hear bands and see pictures and
    spend his pennies on cinematograph shows. His choice may often be
    rather disgusting to his elders when they want him to choose the best
    before he is ready for it. The greatest Protestant Manifesto ever
    written, as far as I know, is Houston Chamberlain's Foundations of the
    Nineteenth Century: everybody capable of it should read it. Probably
    the History of Maria Monk is at the opposite extreme of merit (this is
    a guess: I have never read it); but it is certain that a boy let
    loose in a library would go for Maria Monk and have no use whatever
    for Mr Chamberlain. I should probably have read Maria Monk myself if
    I had not had the Arabian Nights and their like to occupy me better.
    In art, children, like adults, will find their level if they are left
    free to find it, and not restricted to what adults think good for
    them. Just at present our young people are going mad over ragtimes,
    apparently because syncopated rhythms are new to them. If they had
    learnt what can be done with syncopation from Beethoven's third
    Leonora overture, they would enjoy the ragtimes all the more; but they
    would put them in their proper place as amusing vulgarities.

    Artist Idolatry

    But there are more dangerous influences than ragtimes waiting for
    people brought up in ignorance of fine art. Nothing is more pitiably
    ridiculous than the wild worship of artists by those who have never
    been seasoned in youth to the enchantments of art. Tenors and prima
    donnas, pianists and violinists, actors and actresses enjoy powers of
    seduction which in the middle ages would have exposed them to the risk
    of being burnt for sorcery. But as they exercise this power by
    singing, playing, and acting, no great harm is done except perhaps to
    themselves. Far graver are the powers enjoyed by brilliant persons
    who are also connoisseurs in art. The influence they can exercise on
    young people who have been brought up in the darkness and wretchedness
    of a home without art, and in whom a natural bent towards art has
    always been baffled and snubbed, is incredible to those who have not
    witnessed and understood it. He (or she) who reveals the world of art
    to them opens heaven to them. They become satellites, disciples,
    worshippers of the apostle. Now the apostle may be a voluptuary
    without much conscience. Nature may have given him enough virtue to
    suffice in a reasonable environment. But this allowance may not be
    enough to defend him against the temptation and demoralization of
    finding himself a little god on the strength of what ought to be a
    quite ordinary culture. He may find adorers in all directions in our
    uncultivated society among people of stronger character than himself,
    not one of whom, if they had been artistically educated, would have
    had anything to learn from him or regarded him as in any way
    extraordinary apart from his actual achievements as an artist.
    Tartuffe is not always a priest. Indeed he is not always a rascal:
    he is often a weak man absurdly credited with omniscience and
    perfection, and taking unfair advantages only because they are offered
    to him and he is too weak to refuse. Give everyone his culture, and
    no one will offer him more than his due.

    In thus delivering our children from the idolatry of the artist, we
    shall not destroy for them the enchantment of art: on the contrary,
    we shall teach them to demand art everywhere as a condition attainable
    by cultivating the body, mind, and heart. Art, said Morris, is the
    expression of pleasure in work. And certainly, when work is made
    detestable by slavery, there is no art. It is only when learning is
    made a slavery by tyrannical teachers that art becomes loathsome to
    the pupil.

    "The Machine"

    When we set to work at a Constitution to secure freedom for children,
    we had better bear in mind that the children may not be at all obliged
    to us for our pains. Rousseau said that men are born free; and this
    saying, in its proper bearings, was and is a great and true saying;
    yet let it not lead us into the error of supposing that all men long
    for freedom and embrace it when it is offered to them. On the
    contrary, it has to be forced on them; and even then they will give it
    the slip if it is not religiously inculcated and strongly safeguarded.

    Besides, men are born docile, and must in the nature of things remain
    so with regard to everything they do not understand. Now political
    science and the art of govemment are among the things they do not
    understand, and indeed are not at present allowed to understand. They
    can be enslaved by a system, as we are at present, because it happens
    to be there, and nobody understands it. An intelligently worked
    Capitalist system, as Comte saw, would give us all that most of us are
    intelligent enough to want. What makes it produce such unspeakably
    vile results is that it is an automatic system which is as little
    understood by those who profit by it in money as by those who are
    starved and degraded by it: our millionaires and statesmen are
    manifestly no more "captains of industry" or scientific politicians
    than our bookmakers are mathematicians. For some time past a
    significant word has been coming into use as a substitute for Destiny,
    Fate, and Providence. It is "The Machine": the machine that has no
    god in it. Why do governments do nothing in spite of reports of Royal
    Commissions that establish the most frightful urgency? Why do our
    philanthropic millionaires do nothing, though they are ready to throw
    bucketfuls of gold into the streets? The Machine will not let them.
    Always the Machine. In short, they dont know how.

    They try to reform Society as an old lady might try to restore a
    broken down locomotive by prodding it with a knitting needle. And
    this is not at all because they are born fools, but because they have
    been educated, not into manhood and freedom, but into blindness and
    slavery by their parents and schoolmasters, themselves the victims of
    a similar misdirection, and consequently of The Machine. They do not
    want liberty. They have not been educated to want it. They choose
    slavery and inequality; and all the other evils are automatically
    added to them.

    And yet we must have The Machine. It is only in unskilled hands under
    ignorant direction that machinery is dangerous. We can no more govern
    modern communities without political machinery than we can feed and
    clothe them without industrial machinery. Shatter The Machine, and
    you get Anarchy. And yet The Machine works so detestably at present
    that we have people who advocate Anarchy and call themselves

    The Provocation to Anarchism

    What is valid in Anarchism is that all Governments try to simplify
    their task by destroying liberty and glorifying authority in general
    and their own deeds in particular. But the difficulty in combining
    law and order with free institutions is not a natural one. It is a
    matter of inculcation. If people are brought up to be slaves, it is
    useless and dangerous to let them loose at the age of twenty-one and
    say "Now you are free." No one with the tamed soul and broken spirit
    of a slave can be free. It is like saying to a laborer brought up on
    a family income of thirteen shillings a week, "Here is one hundred
    thousand pounds: now you are wealthy." Nothing can make such a man
    really wealthy. Freedom and wealth are difficult and responsible
    conditions to which men must be accustomed and socially trained from
    birth. A nation that is free at twenty-one is not free at all; just
    as a man first enriched at fifty remains poor all his life, even if he
    does not curtail it by drinking himself to death in the first wild
    ecstasy of being able to swallow as much as he likes for the first
    time. You cannot govern men brought up as slaves otherwise than as
    slaves are governed. You may pile Bills of Right and Habeas Corpus
    Acts on Great Charters; promulgate American Constitutions; burn the
    chateaux and guillotine the seigneurs; chop off the heads of kings and
    queens and set up Democracy on the ruins of feudalism: the end of it
    all for us is that already in the twentieth century there has been as
    much brute coercion and savage intolerance, as much flogging and
    hanging, as much impudent injustice on the bench and lustful rancor in
    the pulpit, as much naive resort to torture, persecution, and
    suppression of free speech and freedom of the press, as much war, as
    much of the vilest excess of mutilation, rapine, and delirious
    indiscriminate slaughter of helpless non-combatants, old and young, as
    much prostitution of professional talent, literary and political, in
    defence of manifest wrong, as much cowardly sycophancy giving fine
    names to all this villainy or pretending that it is "greatly
    exaggerated," as we can find any record of from the days when the
    advocacy of liberty was a capital offence and Democracy was hardly
    thinkable. Democracy exhibits the vanity of Louis XIV, the savagery
    of Peter of Russia, the nepotism and provinciality of Napoleon, the
    fickleness of Catherine II: in short, all the childishnesses of all
    the despots without any of the qualities that enabled the greatest of
    them to fascinate and dominate their contemporaries.

    And the flatterers of Democracy are as impudently servile to the
    successful, and insolent to common honest folk, as the flatterers of
    the monarchs. Democracy in America has led to the withdrawal of
    ordinary refined persons from politics; and the same result is coming
    in England as fast as we make Democracy as democratic as it is in
    America. This is true also of popular religion: it is so horribly
    irreligious that nobody with the smallest pretence to culture, or the
    least inkling of what the great prophets vainly tried to make the
    world understand, will have anything to do with it except for purely
    secular reasons.


    Before we can clearly understand how baleful is this condition of
    intimidation in which we live, it is necessary to clear up the
    confusion made by our use of the word imagination to denote two very
    different powers of mind. One is the power to imagine things as they
    are not: this I call the romantic imagination. The other is the
    power to imagine things as they are without actually sensing them; and
    this I will call the realistic imagination. Take for example marriage
    and war. One man has a vision of perpetual bliss with a domestic
    angel at home, and of flashing sabres, thundering guns, victorious
    cavalry charges, and routed enemies in the field. That is romantic
    imagination; and the mischief it does is incalculable. It begins in
    silly and selfish expectations of the impossible, and ends in spiteful
    disappointment, sour grievance, cynicism, and misanthropic resistance
    to any attempt to better a hopeless world. The wise man knows that
    imagination is not only a means of pleasing himself and beguiling
    tedious hours with romances and fairy tales and fools' paradises (a
    quite defensible and delightful amusement when you know exactly what
    you are doing and where fancy ends and facts begin), but also a means
    of foreseeing and being prepared for realities as yet unexperienced,
    and of testing the possibility and desirability of serious Utopias.
    He does not expect his wife to be an angel; nor does he overlook the
    facts that war depends on the rousing of all the murderous
    blackguardism still latent in mankind; that every victory means a
    defeat; that fatigue, hunger, terror, and disease are the raw material
    which romancers work up into military glory; and that soldiers for the
    most part go to war as children go to school, because they are afraid
    not to. They are afraid even to say they are afraid, as such candor
    is punishable by death in the military code.

    A very little realistic imagination gives an ambitious person enormous
    power over the multitudinous victims of the romantic imagination. For
    the romancer not only pleases himself with fictitious glories: he
    also terrifies himself with imaginary dangers. He does not even
    picture what these dangers are: he conceives the unknown as always
    dangerous. When you say to a realist "You must do this" or "You must
    not do that," he instantly asks what will happen to him if he does (or
    does not, as the case may be). Failing an unromantic convincing
    answer, he does just as he pleases unless he can find for himself a
    real reason for refraining. In short, though you can intimidate him,
    you cannot bluff him. But you can always bluff the romantic person:
    indeed his grasp of real considerations is so feeble that you find it
    necessary to bluff him even when you have solid considerations to
    offer him instead. The campaigns of Napoleon, with their atmosphere
    of glory, illustrate this. In the Russian campaign Napoleon's
    marshals achieved miracles of bluff, especially Ney, who, with a
    handful of men, monstrously outnumbered, repeatedly kept the Russian
    troops paralyzed with terror by pure bounce. Napoleon himself, much
    more a realist than Ney (that was why he dominated him), would
    probably have surrendered; for sometimes the bravest of the brave will
    achieve successes never attempted by the cleverest of the clever.
    Wellington was a completer realist than Napoleon. It was impossible
    to persuade Wellington that he was beaten until he actually was
    beaten. He was unbluffable; and if Napoleon had understood the nature
    of Wellington's strength instead of returning Wellington's snobbish
    contempt for him by an academic contempt for Wellington, he would not
    have left the attack at Waterloo to Ney and D'Erlon, who, on that
    field, did not know when they were beaten, whereas Wellington knew
    precisely when he was not beaten. The unbluffable would have
    triumphed anyhow, probably, because Napoleon was an academic soldier,
    doing the academic thing (the attack in columns and so forth) with
    superlative ability and energy; whilst Wellington was an original
    soldier who, instead of outdoing the terrible academic columns with
    still more terrible and academic columns, outwitted them with the thin
    red line, not of heroes, but, as this uncompromising realist never
    hesitated to testify, of the scum of the earth.

    Government by Bullies

    These picturesque martial incidents are being reproduced every day in
    our ordinary life. We are bluffed by hardy simpletons and headstrong
    bounders as the Russians were bluffed by Ney; and our Wellingtons are
    threadbound by slave-democracy as Gulliver was threadbound by the
    Lilliputians. We are a mass of people living in a submissive routine
    to which we have been drilled from our childhood. When you ask us to
    take the simplest step outside that routine, we say shyly, "Oh, I
    really couldnt," or "Oh, I shouldnt like to," without being able to
    point out the smallest harm that could possibly ensue: victims, not
    of a rational fear of real dangers, but of pure abstract fear, the
    quintessence of cowardice, the very negation of "the fear of God."
    Dotted about among us are a few spirits relatively free from this
    inculcated paralysis, sometimes because they are half-witted,
    sometimes because they are unscrupulously selfish, sometimes because
    they are realists as to money and unimaginative as to other things,
    sometimes even because they are exceptionally able, but always because
    they are not afraid of shadows nor oppressed with nightmares. And we
    see these few rising as if by magic into power and affluence, and
    forming, with the millionaires who have accidentally gained huge
    riches by the occasional windfalls of our commerce, the governing
    class. Now nothing is more disastrous than a governing class that
    does not know how to govern. And how can this rabble of the casual
    products of luck, cunning, and folly, be expected to know how to
    govern? The merely lucky ones and the hereditary ones do not owe
    their position to their qualifications at all. As to the rest, the
    realism which seems their essential qualification often consists not
    only in a lack of romantic imagination, which lack is a merit, but of
    the realistic, constructive, Utopian imagination, which lack is a
    ghastly defect. Freedom from imaginative illusion is therefore no
    guarantee whatever of nobility of character: that is why inculcated
    submissiveness makes us slaves to people much worse than ourselves,
    and why it is so important that submissiveness should no longer be

    And yet as long as you have the compulsory school as we know it, we
    shall have submissiveness inculcated. What is more, until the active
    hours of child life are organized separately from the active hours of
    adult life, so that adults can enjoy the society of children in reason
    without being tormented, disturbed, harried, burdened, and hindered in
    their work by them as they would be now if there were no compulsory
    schools and no children hypnotized into the belief that they must
    tamely go to them and be imprisoned and beaten and over-tasked in
    them, we shall have schools under one pretext or another; and we shall
    have all the evil consequences and all the social hopelessness that
    result from turning a nation of potential freemen and freewomen into a
    nation of two-legged spoilt spaniels with everything crushed out of
    their nature except dread of the whip. Liberty is the breath of life
    to nations; and liberty is the one thing that parents, schoolmasters,
    and rulers spend their lives in extirpating for the sake of an
    immediately quiet and finally disastrous life.
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