Monthly Archives: October 2006

Russell While-U-Wait

Due to technical difficulties and life interferences, our regular scheduled programmes have been temporarily suspended. We apologise for any inconvenience and/or disappointment this might have caused you.

We will return to our usual assortment of original and semi-original Esterical thoughts soon after thanksgiving (we are all terribly busy with way too many things for which to give thanks).

In the meantime, we leave you with a few quotes from Mr. B. Russell’s educational works for your amusement.

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No political theory is adequate unless it is applicable to children as well as to men and women. Theorists are mostly childless, or if they have children, they are carefully screened from the disturbances which would be caused by youthful turmoil. Some of them have written books on education, but without, as a rule, having any actual children present to their minds while they wrote. (p. 401)

Authority in education is to some extent unavoidable, and those who educate have to find a way of exercising authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty.

Where authority is unavoidable, what is needed is reverence. A man who is to educate well, and is to make the young grow and develop into their full stature, must be filled through and through with the spirit of reverence. It is reverence towards others that is lacking in those who advocate machine-made cast-iron systems.

In education, with its codes of rules emanating from a Government office, its large classes and fixed curriculum and overworked teachers, its determination to produce a dead lever of glib mediocrity, the lack of reverence for the child is all but universal. Reverence requires imagination and vital warmth; it requires most imagination in respect of those who have least actual achievement or power. The child is weak and superficially foolish, the teacher is strong and in an everyday sense wiser than the child. The teacher without reverence, or the bureaucrat without reverence, easily despises the child for these outward inferiorities. He thinks it is his duty to ‘mould’ the child: in imagination he is the potter with the clay. And so he gives to the child some unnatural shape, which hardens with age, producing strains and spiritual dissatisfactions, out of which grow cruelty and envy, and the belief that others must be compelled to undergo the same distortions.The man who has reverence will not think his duty to ‘mould’ the young. (…) In the presence of a child he feels an unaccountable humility – a humility not easily defensible on any rational ground, and yet somehow nearer to wisdom than the easy self-confidence of many parents and teachers. (p. 402-3)
From “Principles of Social Reconstruction”, (1916) in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1903-1959. Ed. Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961.