‘Education..Education.. Education’…Lawrence and others
In this talk I would like to look at some aspects of Educational theory—what we might expect of education and how we might attain that ‘pot of gold’ where every child is able to achieve their potential and, as a retired teacher, now seems a good time to examine some aspects of what I thought I was trying to teach, what I wanted from my students and how I saw the best way to achieve ambitious goals….and how we as Lawrence ‘fans’ can contribute towards education policy, methods and content that may go some way towards the ideal that Lawrence postulated
Education is, in one sense, something that we all do—we pass on knowledge and experiences and we pick up knowledge and experiences from others. The classroom/ lecture theatre is one place where we acquire only what we need to pass through the gate(s) of formal education, where we seek to gain the grades that some external legislator deems necessary to indicate that we are competent at a given task.
(For those of a certain age I would argue that Billy Casper in ‘Kes” finally knew more about Kestrels than his biology teacher might ever have taught him).
In the main I propose to look at the ideas of four people who wrote specifically on the subject of Education or worked directly in schools.
Mary Wollstonecraft 1759—1797
Robert Owen 1771—1858
D.H. Lawrence 1885—1930
Louie Burrows 1888—1962
In looking at Wollstonecraft and Robert Owen we can look at ideas and theories that they expressed and look at how in some way many of their ideas might have influenced the thinking behind the learning process as Lawrence saw it, both in his writing and theory and in his actual time as a teacher in Croydon.
Of these three writers two wrote in what some have described as “The Age of Revolution (and/ or Romanticism) while Lawrence wrote almost two centuries later, but all have specific theories on Education and all, I feel, contribute something to where we are today. Wollstonecraft’s experiences as a child and young woman were very much shaped by her society, very much class bound and male dominated. Robert Owen, writing a little later, was a new and up and coming industrial magnate who had more specific, but interesting, motives in the implementation of his educational theory. The class system has not entirely broken down even today but now we have a much more complex social structure and a new and wealthy capitalist and manufacturing middle class… Examples of education being specifically integrated into the work place existed in the ‘model villages’ and factories / mills such as Quarry Bank Mill, Port Sunlight and Bourneville where industrialist (Often Quaker or non-conformists) set up libraries, reading rooms and even schools for the children of their workers, and even for the workers themselves. The Barber and Walker families were examples of new industrial power and wealth which existed outside the Church of England or the land owning gentry, Gerald Crich perhaps the fiction one.
Mary Wollstonecraft knew a childhood of poverty, largely the result of her father’s failings as a farmer, and her father could be violent to her mother….a feature not unknown in the Lawrence household. For both Lawrence and Wollstonecraft there were tensions within the home, but both also enjoyed the freedoms to roam, and the benefit of what Mary called ‘simple fresh air’ …Mary in Yorkshire, Lawrence in the countryside around Eastwood. In his essay “Return to Bestwood" Lawrence describes his childhood recollection: -
“When I was a boy, the whole population lived very much more with the country” (my underlining)
Do we today deny our children the freedom to roam and explore on their own, to take risks? Is our urban ‘city dominated’ society preventing children from experiencing the awe and excitement of their environment? How do we compensate for this?
Lawrence knew and loved his countryside and that knowledge, I believe, fed very much into his own later writing, but also shaped his youthful desire to explore, and to learn from experiences with an open mind. In a similar situation to Mary Wollstonecraft, Robert Owen was born into farming stock and from an early age in Welshpool knew the pleasure of the freedom of the countryside.
Ian Donnachie writing of Owen said: -
“the splendid riverside setting and lush rolling countryside of farms and small hamlets…. where nature was appreciated in all its infinite variety, greatly
attracted him and were to prove enduring influences both on his own
outlook……and on his later views about social development and education”
All three enjoyed a childhood freedom to explore the world around them, perhaps by sometimes taking risks, perhaps sometimes by being in awe of their created environment. It seems their responses were often spontaneous and their reactions subjective and personal. They loved to learn/ discover. Learning on one’s own and by first hand experience outside a set curriculum is, I believe, an essential part of the education process.
The opportunity for schooling around Beverley, where Wollstonecraft was a child, was adequate but Mary was later to admit ‘most of the time I was self-taught’ Like Lawrence she lacked the availability of a ‘full library’ at home but where Lawrence was encouraged and driven by an ambitious mother Mary was left much more to her own devices. BUT, like Lawrence, she was determined to get on. By 1783—aged 24— she had decided on her route to self supporting independence, and she established a school in Newington Green. In this she was encouraged by the support and challenge of some dissenting churchmen who had already seem in her a determination to challenge and question conventional learning and to encourage free thinking in others. (Among them James Burgh and Richard Price.) One of the common factors shared by Lawrence and Mary Wollstonecraft was the questioning of their early teaching of Christian theology and, interestingly, the support they got from non-conformist churchmen in doing this. Lawrence, and Jessie chambers were in their time drawn to the sermons of the Rev Reid at the congregational church…though Lawrence in the famous letter that he writes to Rev Reid says that he cannot accept much of conventional Christian doctrine.
In seeing her way to progress her own learning, and to encourage free thinking in others, Mary took the same road as another ‘liberal thinker. In 1796—aged 24— the young Coleridge determined he would ‘open a school in Bristol for a dozen or so young men’ based on an interesting three part curriculum:
a) Man as Animal——Anatomy, Chemistry, Optics
b) Man as intellectual being—-Metaphysics; philosophy and the
c). Man as a Religious Being—an historic summary of all
Mary’s school failed—Coleridge’s never really got off the ground—partly because her strong supporter Fanny Blood died, but Mary was determined to share and develop her radical thinking and in 1787 penned her treatise “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters”. This, like her school, did not meet with much success but it gave her a springboard to journalism and essay writing.
In her chapter on “National Education” in “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” Mary is obviously writing as a champion of education for women, an education that would be on a par with that deemed suitable for men.
One opportunity that both Mary Wollstonecraft and Lawrence had as they grew up, and Jessie Chambers and some of the others in their circle had, was the chance to hear new ideas, to mix with thinkers who were often radical and challenging in their views. In London in 1787 Mary found herself part of a group that met in the rooms of Joseph Johnson, above his bookshop. He was a bookseller but also a publisher and he had previously published some of the works of William Blake. Among those who met with Johnson were Henry Fuseli, the painter, Joseph Priestley, Blake, Thomas Paine and William Godwin. Johnson was considered a man of ‘liberal politics and generous disposition’. He promised Mary that he would publish “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters” and her first novel “Mary A Fiction” (1788).
If new ideas in Mary were encouraged by Johnson, in Eastwood it was Willie Hopkin who most probably encouraged Lawrence’s path off the straight and narrow. Willie Hopkin knew of Lawrence from an early age but his initial comments about Lawrence (Then aged 12) were that ‘he was not distinguished for anything unless it was his tidy habits and his love of study’. Lawrence read widely and was open to new ideas, both political and in terms of theology. He was happy to ask questions and to challenge conventional views. One stimulus for the young Lawrence was the very idea of rebellion. Lawrence was not unique as a teenager in that he rebelled. He rejected the theology that his mother had tried to indoctrinate him with, as he rejected the beliefs the Rev Reid tried to share with him, and by 1907/8 he was much more influenced by the views expressed by Willie Hopkin. It was March 1908 when Lawrence gave his talk ‘Art and the Individual’ to the Eastwood Debating Society at Hopkin’s house on Devonshire Drive —Alice Dax and Jessie Chambers were among those present. In the same way that Mary Wollstonecraft and Lawrence were both involved with radical groups, so another group also met to exchange new and exciting ideas—more closely linked to the sciences—and they were The Lunar Men of Birmingham. Among them was Darwin (And remember Lawrence read Darwin) Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt and Joseph Priestley.
For Lawrence and Jessie Chambers there also existed in Eastwood the Congregational Literary Society…. Founded by Rev Robert Reid in 1899. This society, plus the services and sermons provided in the chapel, gave many of the young and ‘educationally motivated men and women’ the chance to hear new ideas and to discuss. Many of those involved in the group were set on training at Ilkeston as teachers or pupil teachers.
(Among Lawrence’s reading material at this time was a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He gave Jessie a copy.)
In her essay Mary Wollstonecraft describes
‘schools as they are now regulated as hot beds of vice and folly and instead of the knowledge of human nature, supposed to be attained there, merely cunning and selfishness’ …are learnt.’
Her solution to the extremes of school, or education at home, was to continue to find some way of combining a public and private education…what she calls ‘day schools’. She gives praise that there were some men—and it was almost entirely men— who had been educated to be of ‘cultured minds’ who appeared to have a higher relish for the simple beauties of the natural world around them, and some of these men were willing to teach. She calls this ‘power of looking into the heart and responding to the individual emotions a gift to the poet and painter’. It was sometimes found in teachers and certainly involved an openness to new ideas and a sensitive response to the patterns and balances of the natural world. I believe Lawrence would share such an assessment of this one aspect of education….in fact he was, surely, such a young man himself, and remained so for the whole of his life. Of the education of women Wollstonecraft complained that they were often kept in ignorance and ‘slavish dependence’ on men’, often, particularly in the case of the middle class women, the process of the women’s education being aimed at their perfecting the fine art of ‘attraction’, and being ‘coy’, and the development of these arts and skills which would make them most suitable for ‘marrying’ and, as a result of such favourable marriages, of being secure and happy for at least some years.
Quotation “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” Page 79
In his essay “Give Her A Pattern” Lawrence appears to argue that a desire to conform is all too evident in women and may well be a fault in their nature that: -
‘The real trouble about women is that they must always go on trying to adapt themselves to men’s theories of women, as they have always done’.
Lawrence argues that all too often women have been forced to seek a role which conforms to the model that men (or a man) want them to take on. They may be asked to be capable; noble; pure or even supposedly learned. They may be motherly, the pure, coy virgin or the ’secret ideal of men’—the prostitute. For Lawrence the real problem, however lies with the men. The tragedy for women is not that they ask for a pattern of womanhood but that “Man is willing to accept woman as an equal…the one thing he won’t accept her as is a human being, a real human being of the feminine sex.” And what of his statement in the essay: -
“For the fact of life is that women MUST play up to a man’s pattern”?
In her dedication of the book to Talleyrand (Wollstonecraft is partly answering a pamphlet of his) she pleads for ‘independence’ and the ‘rights of women’ and for ‘national education’. Wollstonecraft is motivated by the need to ‘see women placed in a station’ where they could contribute in a positive way to the principles which give substance to morality. It is, I believe, her own argument that women should have the opportunity to develop those qualities and abilities which they have with equal freedom as that given to men of equal class and standing. This is an ideal which Birkin expresses in “Women in Love” in chapter 16: =
“the new day, when we are beings each of us, fulfilled in difference. The man is pure man, the woman pure woman, and they are perfectly polarised."
When Mary Wollstonecraft argues for ‘equality’ she is very much arguing for equal opportunities rather than suggesting that all men and women are equal in what they do and what their strengths and weaknesses are. In this respect the idea behind the word ‘equal/ equality becomes a complex concept. “In no sense whatever are men actually equal” (Lawrence ‘Education of the People’) For Lawrence the more that we compare men the more we see their inequality. So, what does Lawrence suggest is the value of the individual and how, and to what extent, can we educate and encourage this sense of the unique quality and richness of every individual? Lawrence would emphasise not just ‘equality’ between male and female but something much more. For him equality is a recognition of every person—male or female—as himself/ herself. ‘as himself, purely himself’ (Lawrence). He calls this ‘the ideal for a new system of education’ and suggests the idea that ‘every man shall be himself and shall have every opportunity to ‘come to his own intrinsic fulness of being’ . So, what is this position and how is it to be achieved if we are to have an ordered and stable social structure? Lawrence argues ‘it is no use just letting the child do as it likes’.
(This ‘do as it liked' was the philosophy that underpinned the structure and methodology of A.S. Neill’s famous “Summerhill School—founded in1921. The school was founded in Dresden but in 1923 moved to Lyme Regis and then in 1927 to Leiston in Suffolk where it still exists. It was planned as a rebuke to all the old norms—the set curriculum, a disciplined and ordered structure to each day and, instead, it emphasised each pupil’s individual progress which was, initially, not assessed or examined. It was viewed favourably by, among others, Bertrand Russell but frowned on by many who saw it as a ‘do as you please school’.
Ironically in recent times a small number of other schools have sought to follow this more flexible approach to learning—Dartington in Devon—to some extent—and Countesthorpe in Leicestershire. Both Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell had part of their education at Dartington.)
What makes Wollstonecraft’s appeal for ‘equality’ even more interesting, particularly given the period in which she is writing—something of an age which has been labelled ‘the age of social and democratic revolution’ is her idea that this new education should not only be available to males and females with equal opportunity but also at least be available for 5—9-year-olds in day schools established by government and absolutely free and open to all classes. (The fact that they were established by ‘government’ would put them beyond the potentially limiting influence of the established church). Going further she suggests that in each parish there should be a ‘select committee’ to whom complaint can be made by parents if there is a feeling that ‘targets’ are not being met…..this sounds very modern.
Wollstonecraft is not writing a vague theory of education. She is very practical. Rich and poor should meet together, they should dress alike—school uniform—and submit to the same discipline. She even outlines the ideal location. The school-room should be surrounded by a large piece of ground, a play-ground— and for a curriculum ‘botany, mechanics, anatomy, the Three Rs the elements of religion, history and politics should be taught, but these pursuits should never encroach on gymnastic play in the open air.
Mary Wollstonecraft recognises that children will grow up to pursue very different adult roles, but she is inclined to the view that a common foundation would be of benefit to all. After nine the boys and girls intended for domestic service, or the trades, would go to other schools, but even then the sexes would be together for half of each school day. Whatever form of education the older children should follow, and Wollstonecraft hints at something like the old grammar schools and secondary modern or technical schools, she insists that the sexes remain together, and she does not hint at all at the idea of a 9+ failure (as opposed to our old 11+) but nor does she recognise anything that might be an all intake “Comprehensive School’. There is, however, the suggestion that these schools should be government provided. Private education, home schools and private tutoring are acknowledged by Wollstonecraft, but she does not discuss these institutions in any great detail.
(Remember schools like Eton 1440; Harrow 1527 and Winchester 1382 were already established as flagships of the English education system but catering only for an elite social group.)
Of the ‘problems’ of co-ed schools she suggests (perhaps joking) is that ‘it will be a long time before the world is so enlightened that parents should allow their children to choose companions for life themselves’. For her the co-ed form in education was an ideal and was favoured as the arena most likely to ensure a degree of equality between the sexes and allow ‘friendship and love to temper the heart’, while also providing a school of morality and ‘the happiness of Man.’
The whole of her chapter on ‘National Education’ emphasises what she sees as a new requirement, in particular for the education of women, but it is an education for equality and through this of benefit to families and to the wider society. Knowledge is not power to control but should be the key to the enrichment of the individual, of imagination and of creativity. There is here something of the ‘Utopian dream, of something the Enlightenment called ‘reason, nature, happiness, progress and liberty’, and it was secular, and there is little in Wollstonecraft’s writing that suggests that it should be anything else.
What Wollstonecraft suggested for the education of the young seemed to be very much the pattern for the early education that Lawrence had at Beauvale Board School. In some ways the sense of an education which was liberal and directed towards a sensitive and questioning role for both boys and girls seems a
positive ambition but, as Lawrence suggested in his essay “Education of the People” the ideal and the reality may be poles apart.
Article in ‘Prospects’, by Peter Gordon Review of Education.
“Robert Owen; Social visionary” Ian Donnachie 2000
Robert Owen was, of course, writing from a very different perspective to Wollstonecraft. He was first and foremost a businessman, an entrepreneur, and his motive was in the end profit, his driving force to compete and do better than other mill owners in Manchester and New Lanark. His upbringing in Newtown in Wales was very rural and he described himself as being ‘ill-educated and awkward’ in terms of his speech—a sort of Welsh/ English. His own formal education began early, probably between 4 or 5 years old, and he recognised the importance of these early years learning as he, like Wollstonecraft, set up his own school (s) later in life—-his were more successful that hers. He expounds his doctrine of education in his “A New View of Society” (1816). Education was at the core of his ‘new view’. Many of his ideas were ideas that he had drawn from the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and these he had sought to effect at his ‘village’ at New Lanark, and then later at New Harmony in Indiana U.S.A. One of the priorities of Owen’s educational theories was that children should be ‘happy’, but some accused him of actually meaning that children should ‘fit in’ and be docile and easily managed. It was an aspect of his methods that some labelled as ‘benevolent paternalism’. As a pupil Owen had been granted the responsibility of being a monitor/ mentor (Probably because he appeared bright) but this responsibility carried some element of overseeing the class and drawing the attention of the teacher to pupils who did not ‘conform’. Despite this desire for ‘conformity’ Owen later encouraged the children to be involved in music, dancing and physical exercise—-Like Lawrence’s Beauvale School Owen’s school in Newtown, and the schools he founded later, had ‘playgrounds’ and the facility for recreation. Again, however, the accusation against Owen was that his desire to allow ‘dancing, music and drill’ was part of a scheme to ‘reform and control vicious habits’. In particular ‘drill’ was thought of as a way that Owen could ensure ‘a sense of bodily control and precision’ while the singing of folk songs and, at the end of the day a hymn, encouraged a sense of corporate identity and community. Bible reading and instruction were not over emphasised as a means to a moral set of values. In his ‘junior’ school Owen was happy to have mixed groups as he felt this gave the children a feeling of being comfortable—a sense of ease—as they grew up and worked together. In later life many of the children whose parents Owen employed were ‘drafted’ into his factories. His factories were busy and often dusty but even here Owen sought to ensure that the workers were healthy and happy and had free time to socialise.
If Owen shared Lawrence’s and Wollstonecraft’s enjoyment of the freedom of the ‘open air’ he also shared with them an enjoyment of books and reading. In the early stages of their education all three were expected to learn the basics of the ‘three Rs’ but the accusation was clearly levelled that while Owen enjoyed books and reading as a child, and was bright in that he absorbed factual information, once he began to have an influence on the education and training of his workers, and their children, he was much more inclined to attempt to control what was learnt, and to discourage free thinking or creative imagination in writing or art work. (There is little mention of the reading of Poetry or drama in Owen’s curriculum). The accusation was made that the teaching of factual knowledge was emphasised because he could ‘control what was learnt. It was not quite Sissy Jupe and Gradgrind in “Hard Times”, but it had elements of that style of learning for that purpose. In his own choice of reading Owen preferred stories of travel and adventure, and he encouraged this in his schools, and one result of this emphasis was that what the children read and what they learnt could again be more easily ‘controlled’ and ‘tested’. One cause of concern for some who judged Owen’s methods was this ‘level of testing.’…pupils were often questioned about what they learnt.
If Mary Wollstonecraft encouraged the setting up of government run mixed sex schools with the aim of creating young men and women who had knowledge but added to this further the benefit of freedom for creative reasoning, enquiry and expression then Robert Owen’s ‘Principles’ for education seemed, to me, much more aimed at producing a ‘happy but docile’ labour force for his mills. Owen claimed that at an early age (2—5) his pupils could enjoy the opportunity to exercise their curiosity by conversation and enjoyment of ‘the common things around them’ but by 10—12 most children were withdrawn from the schools by parents so that the children could begin work in the mills. Only later did some go on to day and evening classes (but the working hours in the day were 10 or 11 hours so ‘spare time’ was very limited and most workers too exhausted to study.
The challenges and problems as Lawrence saw them.
I have already hinted that in his essay “Education of the People” Lawrence recognised that the provision of education, and the whole learning process, was a complex and oft times difficult issue. In his essay “Enslaved by Civilisation” (Probably written Nov 1928) Lawrence protests at what he sees as the dynamic in society to shape the behaviour and character of small boys, especially the sons of the poor. Ironically the article may never in fact have seen the light of day. A suggestion was made by Bernard Falk that the right-wing magazine “Sunday Dispatch” needed more magazine items. Nancy Pearn, responsible for ‘periodical publications’ at the London office of Lawrence’s literary agent Curtis Brown, took up Falk’s suggestion. Eventually the item was published by Vanity Fair under the title “The Manufacture of Good Little Boys”.
(Thank you Annalice for your essay in “Lawrence in Context”). In his opening line Lawrence bemoans the fact that ‘one thing men have not learned to do is to stick up for their own instinctive feelings, against what they are taught’. For Lawrence too many young boys are ‘formed’ into ‘a slave or at least an automaton’, but they are perceived by then as being ‘good little boys’—-the concept of Owen’s ‘docile’. There is no suggestion that the coal company owners in Eastwood directly influenced what was taught in the Eastwood schools but the lure of ‘money and wages’ undoubtedly shaped the career choices of many of the local children—remember Lawrence was the first pupil from his school to get a scholarship so his choices suddenly became wider. (Between Walker Street and the Breach was a pottery and this must also have provided employment opportunities as well as there being the draw of work in the pits.). This emphasis on the need to create a work force was central to Owen’s thinking, and the suggestion seems to be that his was a deliberate, structured system with just this purpose as its basic goal. Lawrence argues the effect of this pressure to find a job and ‘get money, especially for the elementary school teacher ‘you must make a decent screw’ in the first section of his extended essay “Education of the People”. Some vestige of ‘high ideal…the dignity of human life or the nobility of labour’ may exist but in the end it is about ‘pay-day. (Education, Lawrence suggests, doesn’t matter for people with money). Lawrence felt his opportunity to go to Nottingham High School in 1898 was an ‘escape’…in the same way he has Ursula in “The Rainbow” escape.
“Then she found that the way to escape was easy…. One went away to the Grammar School, and left the little school.”
“Enslaved by Civilisation” is very conversational in style and slightly mocking but Lawrence again asks us as readers to consider where the fault lies for this apparent emphasis on ‘Poor Johnny becoming a good little boy’. Lawrence recalls his first day at ‘board school’…. ‘And we all hated school’. He uses words like: -
‘anguish’; ‘forced to’; ‘captured’; masters as ‘jailers’.
In his book “D.H. Lawrence the Early Years” John Worthen describes in detail Lawrence’s own school experiences. He suggests that Lawrence was a keen learner and felt happier in the school partly because it was a mixed school—Lawrence often felt more comfortable as a child in the company of girls, and he was often mocked for this by other boys. It may well have been that this was because of his sensitivity, and the fact that he did not have the robust, aggressive and competitive dominant character trait that was evident in so many of his peers. Beauvale was described as having ‘tough teachers’ whose attitude would tear at the sensitivity that Lawrence showed, but even some of the girls commented that he was ‘potty’ in his response to the world of flowers and nature.
Lawrence and his sensitivity. See references
“Life of Lawrence” Dr. Andrew Harrison pages 6 and 7
“D.H. Lawrence; The Life of an Outsider” John Worthen pages 15—16
“D.H. Lawrence; The Early Years” John Worthen pages 48—51 and 76—79.
The harsh discipline and narrow restraints of the school did not suit the free ranging imagination that the young Lawrence displayed.
Lawrence won a scholarship but here another problem arose…that of class and finance. Nottingham High School was a good school and Lawrence had a scholarship BUT very quickly social differences became obvious, as well as the real problem of money for books, travel etc. At the High School—a purely bourgeois school—it was the middle-class children that he did not fit in with. Lawrence also came up against the issue of ambition. Most of his peers at Beauvale accepted their lot “When I get down the pit…” but Mrs. Lawrence had higher ambitions for her children.
The whole concept of education, it seems to me, is the sum total of ability, expectation, character and class. It is questionable…is the child the product of ‘education/ parental influences and pressures/ experiences/ expectations or does the form and nature of the formal education play a considerable role in shaping the adult? And, equally, does the significance of gender contribute to the form and objectives of education? (Jane Austen’s Bennett girls aimed to be ‘coy’, able in the arts of sewing and piano playing and convenient for marriage. Elizabeth was an exception to this…As Bathsheba was in Hardy’s novel “Far from the Madding Crowd”.)
Ironically the women who Lawrence had most to do with in his years before he met Frieda were strong women who showed creative thinking and a sense of their own value—some were teachers or training as teachers e.g Jessie Chambers; Louie Burrows; Helen Corke; Alice Dax and Agnes Holt who was described as being ‘smart with tongue and independent in manner.’ She is recreated as Agnes D’Archy in “The White Peacock”.
Owen wanted ‘docile’ children who were largely content to be fodder for his factories; Lawrence admits that on his return to the Midlands
..during the great coal strike. The men of my age, the men of just over forty, were there, standing derelict, pale, silent…. the men of my generation were broken in…’
Lawrence accepts that this state may be fine for wives, schoolmasters and employers of labour.. For the nation of England, it is a disaster. For Mary Wollstonecraft the issue seemed to be that girls/ women had every right to aim for an education and adult role equal to the very best available to men, they had the right to be free thinkers. In her essay “On National Education” she argues in detail for ‘equality’, for the opportunity for women to have a taste for ‘fine arts’, she argues for ‘schools of morality’ open to all. In one sense Lawrence would not be opposed to this.
We could go on looking at different aspects of what will always be, and has always been, a complex discussion on what is Education and how we can feed into the education process as fairly as possible all those factors which will enable each child to develop as himself/ herself as Lawrence would seem to desire.
One example of the complexity of the education process is shown in the classroom discussion described in the second chapter of “Women in Love” (Cambridge Edt “The First Women in Love” pages 29–37) Before Hermione appears Ursula and Birkin are having a discussion over some drawings of flowers. Birkin encourages her: -
“It’s the facts you want to emphasise, not a subjective impression to record. What’s the facts ?….. make a pictorial record of the facts
(This sounds rather Gradgrind).
Once Hermione comes in the discussion becomes more open. Initially Birkin describes the Catkins in terms which are very much ‘biology text-book’.
Lawrence has Hermione and Birkin discuss the effect of ‘all this knowledge’ on children. She suggests that it generates ‘the incapacity to be spontaneous.’ Her argument is that the children might grow up ‘crippled, crippled in their souls’.
Birkin asks her pointedly and ‘irritably.
“But do you think it is knowledge that makes us unthinking and self-conscious?”
“Yes, she said….it is the mind and that is death”
She suggests that it is the mind which ‘destroys all our spontaneity, all our instincts. Are not the young people growing up today the living dead?”
(Does this sound a little William Blake on Newton?)
Briefly I would like to make two other references to Education; Education; Education.
Lawrence’s experience as a teacher in Croydon and Louie Burrows as a “Head” in a Leicester school
OR What happens when reality sets in!!
A big thank you to Christopher Pollnitz for the recent essay in our 2020 Journal “D.H. Lawrence: Croydon Poet”. It gives very good insight into the dilemma of Lawrence the teacher (and emerging poet) in that Croydon period.
In “Education of the People” it seems to me that Lawrence argues for a number of solutions to the HOW question in terms of Education. Lawrence does not want his children to be broken and ‘docile, he wants to encourage them to think for themselves.
For what Lawrence calls ‘a sensible system of education’ he suggests that it should begin at 7—5 is too young— and it should only include three hours of what he calls ‘mental subjects’ like writing and maths, but also one hour for physical exercise and ‘domestic’ training. At 12 comes the ‘division. He gives detail in the text in terms of post 12 education but suggests that only ‘some’ will go on for two more years.
Lawrence is specific in his description of what form this education should take. Like Mary Wollstonecraft he believes that it should be provided by the ‘State’, and he argues for mixed classes, as Wollstonecraft does, as this should give a ‘common radical understanding’.
Lawrence further argues for the importance of the ‘judging of the scholars’. He encourages an input from ‘teachers, masters, inspectors and parents’, but the final word will be with the Head-master and the inspectors. Again, like Wollstonecraft, Lawrence argues that the point of the system is to ‘recognise the true nature in each class and to give each child its natural chance’—-this is much more Wollstonecraft than Owen. In his argument for a new system Lawrence states: -
“We must educate our children. Which means we have to decide for them day to day, year after year”
Of the Robert Owen emphasis Lawrence would argue from this same essay. :-
“a system which is established for the purpose of pure material production, as ours today is, is in its very nature a mechanism, a social machine. In this system we live and die?
In summary Lawrence sees his two aims as: -
1). The production of desirable citizens.
2). The development of the individual.
So. How in his “Croydon years” experience did he work these out? He did not want Owen’s docile, broken vessels, but he found he could not teach 50 or more rebellious children—some from the orphanage, the Gordon House for Waifs and Strays—though he tried with classroom drama and ‘performance Shakespeare’, and some reports on him as a teacher at the time were favourable.
In “The Early Years” John Worthen describes some of Lawrence’s struggles with boys who were ‘often rough and insolent’. Lawrence describes teaching at times as a ‘conflict.’
We get a glimpse of his struggles, and his successes, in some of the letters that he wrote at the time.
To Blanche Jennings 26th Oct 1908
“I was never born to command”
But again, to Blanche Jennings 4th Nov 1908
“School is better. I can teach better when I know my lad individually”
And to Louie Burrows 28th Feb 1909
“School is really pleasant here. I have tamed my wild beasts”.
in the end Lawrence cannot go back to teaching. In a letter to Edward Garnett of 17th Dec 1911 he explains. :-
“The doctor says I mustn’t go to school again or I will be consumptive.”
Lawrence’s experience at Davidson Road School is described by Dr Andrew Harrison in “The Life of D.H. Lawrence” as being ‘a struggle.’ But Dr. Harrison quotes another Lawrence letter as describing the boys as ‘delightful…refined, manly and amiable.’ Lawrence encourages ‘free expression’ in art classes but complains about the lack of discipline, and partly blames the Head for this.
So, what did Lawrence achieve? He left with some good reports, but he was exhausted and becoming increasingly ill. It seems to me that he saw the need to allow the pupils to express their ideas but at the same time knew that he needed to impose something of the discipline that would make them ‘docile’.
Lawrence also wrote in some detail on “First Steps in Education” and “Education, and Sex in Man, Woman and Child” …. two chapters in “Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious”
It is, of course, in the text of “The Rainbow” that we see Lawrence further describing, in some detail, his ideas and frustrations with the education process through the chapters ‘Widening Circle’ and ‘Bitterness of Ecstasy’ of Ursula Brangwen’s education experiences. When Ursula’s leaves St. Philip’s School she is presented with two books and the staff seem positive and pleased with what she has done in the school. Ursula enters a college course and comes to it with idealistic expectations but instead of finding it ‘something of a religious experience’ her professors are in fact ‘not priests initiated into the deep mysteries of life and knowledge’. Aidan Burns in “Nature and Culture in D.H. Lawrence” quotes Lawrence.. “it was a little slovenly laboratory for the factory and other commercial interests of the town…. a little apprentice-shop where one was further equipped for making money”. What Ursula is looking for is an existence within what Burns calls ‘that living, organic, believing community within which the full potential of the self, individual and social, can become actual’. Her tragedy is that by the end of “The Rainbow” she repeats to herself ‘I have no allocated place in the world of things……I must break out of it” (“The Rainbow” Camb Edt pp 456)
SO…..where for Miss Louie Burrows/ Ursula or D.H. Lawrence does this ’community’ exist? What ere ‘em looking for? Can Education provide it? How?
Louie Burrows, Teacher and Head Teacher
(Born 13th Feb 1888 at Ilkeston)
My main sources for this brief outline were: -
“Louie: Her remarkable East Midlands Life” by Jon Turner
“Lawrence in Love” by James Boulton
“The story of the Saff” Edt Cynthia Brown *
(currently seems to be out of print. Possible available from Leicester New Walk Museum. A copy is held in Leic Ref library—-at present shut.)
Log books for Newry School and archive material relating to Louie Burrow’s period as Head are available from Leicestershire County Archives, Long Street Wigston Leic LE18 2AH——Ref DE7444
* This is another book about life on the ‘Saff’ estate and it contains a section on the schools on the estate. It was edited by Cynthia Brown of the Living History Unit of Leicester City Council. In it she records that in 1928 Louie Burrow transferred from Southfields Drive to become head of Linwood Lane Senior School and in 1932 became Head of Newry School.
The record shows
“There was a pleasant friendly atmosphere in the school, due possibly to the kindly informal attitude of the Head. Miss Burrows did all she could to provide colourful surroundings for the children and staff.”
Louie left in 1941.
We know little of Louie Burrow’s education as a child, but it seems that, like Lawrence, she was encouraged to read from an early age and was given considerable support by her mother. (Lawrence felt that she was a little naive, perhaps because her upbringing had been ‘happy and protected’). Her father showed skills at handicraft and was also involved in his local church as verger and choirmaster. In 1859 her father Alfred obtained his “City and Guilds Manual Training Certificate”. (See parallels with Ursula’s father in “The Rainbow” He gets a job as a handiwork instructor for Notts. Educat Committee and works for 2 days a week at Willey Green Grammar School…. where experiments in education were being carried on). While these facts would support the idea that education was seen as important in her household we know little of her experience before she attended the Ilkeston Pupil- Teacher Centre (Lawrence joined it in July 1904 and Louie in 1905. The Centre closed in 1913) She became friends with both Lawrence and Jessie Chambers so probably came under the influence of what they were reading and discussing though it is unlikely she was as involved in the ideas ‘preached’ and shared by Rev. Robert Reid.
In 1907-08 the Burrows family moved to Quorn in Leicestershire. By July 1908 Louie was in her first teaching post at St. Mary’s School in Leicester. By 1912 she was Head of the village school in Ratcliffe near Rothley,. This was quite a promotion for a girl so young (23/24) and with only 4 years teaching experience. However, it came about Louie Burrow’s elevation to a headship of even a small village school suggests that she was well thought of as a teacher, and perhaps became more ambitious in terms of her own career after her ‘break’ with Lawrence… (See his letter of 4th Feb 1912). There is evidence that as Louie became more involved in teaching she also became involved with some societies where the emphasis was on change….one was a suffragist movement, “The Women’s Social and Political Union”, another the N.U.T… even then something of a ‘left wing’ group.
Her involvement in the activities of these organisations suggests an extension of the attitudes and ideology she had as a member of an informal organisation which some called ‘The Pagans’ which counted Lawrence, Jessie Chambers and George Neville among its members. Her involvement with these organisations was not as a ‘shrinking violet’. She attended a conference of the N.U.T. in 1925 and was asked for an article * for the Sunday Express on anti feminist views, views being expressed at the N.A.S. conference. She ‘roundly denounced’ these views.
* This article is reproduced in full as Appendix 1 in Jon Turner’s “Louie; Her Remarkable Life”
Louie Burrow’s approach to education was not entirely conventional, but it was an approach which was becoming ‘trendy and popular’. She had very definite ideas about child-centred education, about equality of opportunity for boys and girls and for reforming the education process. There is no evidence that she read Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay but she was very sympathetic to the holistic approach to learning that Wollstonecraft had hinted at centuries earlier. If she had not read Wollstonecraft she certainly adopted the philosophy of three continental educational theorists…Friedrich Froebel; Rudolf Steiner; Maria Montessori. The writings and methods of these educational theorists were taken up by many but, equally, were opposed by more conservative practitioners…how could “Play”, especially if it was enjoyed, be appropriate training for the severe demands of adult life, or for the specific demands of a workplace? The emphasis on ‘play’ implied a sense of the individual enjoying learning experiences and seeking new experiences at a personal level. The child was more an individual than a ‘docile automaton’ trained for the workplace, it was a method more akin to Summerhill than to Robert Owen.
Louie Burrows gained a Ladies Licentiate in Arts diploma from St. Andrews University by external studies in 1919. By 1928 she was teaching at Linwood Lane Senior School, with approx 800 pupils and class sizes, like Lawrence’s in Croydon, anything up to 50. The new Newry School opened on the saffron Lane estate in April 1932 and Louie Burrows was its first Head. She almost certainly had some say in the design of the schools and certainly had input into the decoration and interior layout. She kept a daily log from 1932 until she retired in 1941.
Records suggest Louie’s approach was very much child-centred. Art, Dance and ‘Play’ featured strongly on her curriculum. She also encouraged informal contact and involvement with parents. In the 1935 Inspector’s report Louie is described as being ‘cheerful’, and she was considered an ‘awe inspiring’ teacher who encouraged the aesthetic side of her pupils’ development. Louie was spoken of as: -
‘a Head Mistress who has gifts of personality which have established an excellent social tone…. the staff work hard in loyal cooperation with her, and the children learn self respect and work well in a very happy environment”.
She even organised day trips to Hunstanton on the coast for pupils who had ‘never seen the sea’.
She writes in her final log entry of 4th July of ‘being happy’ in her 14 years at the school and enthusiastic about the support she got from parents and fellow members of staff. She speaks of her time as ‘work very well worth the doing’.
A report in the Leicester Mercury of August 2006 contained some of the comments made by ex pupils from Newry School when Louie Burrows was Head. She was felt ‘to be strict but fair, but also very caring’. Some pupils spoke of her as being ‘awe inspiring’.
In this talk I have tried to outline some ideas as to what I think we mean by Education. The great question is, surely…What are we hoping to achieve as we go through any educational process—-the formal in the classroom and outside that the day to day exchanges of ideas and experiences?
I believe that we have a responsibility to be involved in the education process, many of us are, or have been in the direct sense. We all are indirectly. Does Lawrence have anything to suggest as to how we might educate pupils/ students today, and how we might communicate the study and enjoyment of Lawrence’s own work to a wider audience? How can we contribute towards a richer and more benevolent society through our study of Lawrence’s work?
Malcolm Gray April 2021