there seem to me to be important conclusions about the nature of social change to be drawn from our experience of the secondary modern school. This kind of school has been created, from democratic impulses: parity of esteem. Such schools are often housed in handsome buildings, and appear to all intents and purposes to be working, to be a new kind of education. Yet essentially the secondary modern school is a failure, and the acceptance of an examination for these schools puts the cap on the failure. As a social experiment the secondary modern school has been abandoned, because it failed to find aims for itself. This reflects the lack of aims in our society, and the prevailing absence of adequate concepts of what education is or should be. If there is a lesson it is that mere organisational change by itself is not enough—it needs to be informed by substantial notions of purpose and value. I do not myself find adequate notions of what education should be either on the right or the left of the political scene. I consequently distrust political action, and would hope for a gradual development of a different perspective—in terms of a better understanding of what the growing animula of the child requires from education. Of course, this problem becomes political as soon as one asks how any such adequate intention is to be implemented: it cannot be implemented while schools are overcrowded, staff short, untrained, ill-paid, and while expenditure is liable from time to time to be mean and limited, by local or national pressure groups. But the first thing to do is to ask ourselves what education should give the child.

The failure to give adequate aims to the secondary modern school may perhaps be linked with the fact that those who influence thought and administration on such matters have insufficient experience of the kind of child who goes to a secondary modern school. I propose to call this kind of child “unacademic”. In doing so I am not accepting the infallibility of intelligence tests, or the implications of the present system of dividing children at eleven years of age into grammar school and secondary school children. But roughly speaking one may say that most children are unacademic, in that they need a liberal training of the sensibility and intelligence, but to this need many of the traditional modes of formal learning are irrelevant. English, for instance, is best given them by a rich experience of imaginative writing of all kinds, from which their own practical employment of language will develop. They simply cannot work by the academic short cuts. They are not easily capable of taking in such abstractions from the processes of language as grammar, and they do not have that capacity of the mind to criticise what it is doing. Also the acquisition of facts, the understanding of theory, and the capacity to deal with abstract processes of thought such as algebra or geometry are not the best means of training the mental powers of, say, three-quarters to 80 per cent of the nation’s children. There are other aspects of the whole personality which are as important as abstract thought, and for these unacademic children we must approach education in fresh lights.

A young creature is not inferior because it cannot perform the tricks demanded by examinations, though we all tend to carry with us somewhere an unconscious assumption that this is so. The implications of being in a “C” stream—or an “H” or “J” stream—are too terribly inhuman at times. We need to consider children in the old Christian sense of being “equal in the sight of God”, despite the fact that a Christian society implicitly denies this by paying more attention to the child endowed with more “intelligence” than his brother, because he may be expected to contribute more to the “results” demanded by an industrial commercial society.

But we need to look at children as creatures requiring to be given in school well developed capacities to deal with life. These capacities they will develop from their inheritance—from the wisdom and experience of their forebears. This is embodied in “learning”: but too much of it has been conceived of as being embodied in academic learning. Most children need from their education not the capacity to multiply, or to know facts about historical events—or to work a lathe, or to sell packets of soap-powder. They need to be equipped to deal with sex, love, marriage, being a parent, setting up a home, finding satisfaction (if it can be found) in work and service, enduring the assaults of circumstance (pain, loss by death, poverty, the torments of aimless affluence). They need to be trained to use their leisure to the fullest satisfaction, to contribute to the community and to social and political life. And this kind of equipment comes best from a liberal education—through the arts subjects, through the experience of community life in the school, and through some experience of disciplines of learning, but not necessarily those of formal, abstract learning.