Classics Transformed: Schools, Universities, and Society in England, 1830-1960

By Christopher Stray | Go to book overview

10
Discipline, Specialism, and Hierarchy:
The Realm of Latin, 1920-1960

The Lord High Executioner [in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado] represented division of labour; the Lord High Everything-Else represented faculty training. He was, doubtless, a public school man, able to turn his hand to anything, and therefore in no need of the more specific training demanded of ordinary mortals. 'Les gens de qualité savent tout sans avoir jamais rien appris' . . . Division of labour is good enough for the poor; transferability of faculty is a useful creed for the rich.1

Before 1920 the pervasive and embedded authority of Latin had been overshadowed by the cultural glories of Hellenism. After 1920, however, it emerged in its own right as a symbolic exemplar of disciplinary authority in the tripartite system of secondary schooling. This chapter considers both the way this authority was institutionalized, and the wider social and cultural contexts of curriculum content and organization.

In 1922, the Board of Education published a circular on the secondary curriculum which compared the recommendations of the four governmental committees on English, classics, science, and modern languages. It concluded that their timetable demands left little room for other subjects, but offered no solution to the problem. The circular pointed out that the 'conflicting claims of the expert teachers of subjects' were likely to grow more powerful.2 But if the marketplace was taking over from the command interventionist elements in the Board's policies, this was not a cause for alarm, since 'convention and tradition' were likely to govern the allocation of time and choice of subjects. In other words, the market could safely be left to run itself. The Board's withdrawal

____________________
1
F. H. Hayward, The Psychology of Educational Administration and Criticism:A Sequel to the 'Holmes Circular' ( London: Ralph & Holland, 1913), 4-5. The quotation is from Molière's Les Précieuses Ridicules. Hayward is an interesting minor figure who deserves investigation.
2
Board of Education, Curricula of Secondary Schools in England (Circular 1294) ( London: HMSO, 1922).

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