HOW it may be now I do not know, but in England in the first years of this century a youth with a desire to accumulate knowledge was left pretty much to his own devices. His approach to learning was influenced largely by his social status, and to a smaller degree by the nature of his occupation. There was nothing inherently snobbish about this, because what I call his social status was in itself determined by the school his parents had been able to provide. Those of us who struggled through adolescence in middle‐class homes, and received what was known as “tuition” in middle‐class secondary schools, emerged into a world admirably furnished with continuation classes, polytechnics, evening colleges and technological institutes. We were spared those elaborately paternal schemes now designed to make the acquisition of learning almost painless and entirely impermanent. We had to work I To learn a language the teachers insisted upon our memorising words, conjugations and rules, to say nothing of the exceptions. I can remember a vigorous Gallic oration by a French teacher in reply to an egregious student who had asked why, when he wanted merely to learn French “for commercial purposes,” he had to read Molière, Racine, and things like Telemaque and Voltaire's ironical fictions. The student's theory, so far as I can remember it now, was that the only Frenchmen he was likely to meet in business would be illiterates unable to appreciate a correct rendering of their own tongue. And to those who were in the way of being engineers, as I was, the doctrine was preached that only steady, grinding labour in a large number of co‐ordinated sciences would get us anywhere at all.
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