A Dominie's Log
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A DOMINIE'S LOG
WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT.
"A Dominie's Log" was directly due to the Scottish code of Education, bywhich it is forbidden to enter general reflections or opinions in theofficial log-book.
Requiring a safety-valve, a young Dominie decides to keep a privatelog-book. In it he jots down the troubles and comedies of the day'swork. Sometimes he startles even his own bairns by hisunconventionality.
There is a lot in Education that he does not understand. The one thing,however, that he does comprehend is the Child Mind, and he possesses thesaving quality of humour.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
|A DOMINIE ABROAD||7s. 6d. net.|
|A DOMINIE DISMISSED||2s. 6d. net.|
|A DOMINIE IN DOUBT||2s. 6d. net.|
|THE BOOMING OF BUNKIE||2s. 6d. net.|
|CARROTY BROON||2s. 6d. net.|
A. S. NEILL
HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED
YORK STREET ST. JAMES'S S.W.1.
Printed in Great Britain at the Athenæum Printing Works, Redhill.
AS A BOY I ATTENDED A VILLAGE SCHOOL WHERE THE BAIRNS CHATTEREDAND WERE HAPPY. I TRACE MY LOVE OF FREEDOM TO MY FREE LIFE THERE,AND I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO MY FORMER DOMINIE, MY FATHER.
The first four installments of this Log were published in theEducational News, under the acting editorship of Mr. AlexanderSivewright, who was very anxious to publish the Log in full, butapparently public opinion on the subject of the indiscriminate kissingof girls forced him to hold up the remainder.
Then teachers began to write me letters. Some of them were verycomplimentary; others weren't. These letters worried me, for I couldn'tquite determine whether I was a lunatic or a genius. Then an unknownlady sent me a tract.
The title of the tract was: "The Sin That Found Him Out." The hero was aboy called Willie. He never told a lie, and when other boys smote him heturned the other cheek and prayed for them. "Life to him was one longprayer," said the tract. Then troubles came. He grew up and his fathertook to drink. His elder brother had a disagreement with[Pg 8] the localpolice about his whereabouts on the night of a certain robbery, and wasdecidedly unconvincing. Willie stepped in and took all the blame.
The next chapter takes Willie as a private to the fields of Flanders,and the penultimate chapter sees him a major-general. The last chaptercontains the moral, but what the moral is I cannot well make out. Infact I don't know whether the title refers to Willie or histransgressing brother, but I feel that somewhere in that pamphlet thereis a lesson for me.
Before the tract arrived I thought of publishing the Log as a brillianttreatise on education. Its arrival altered all my values. I then knewthat I was the educational equivalent of the "awful example" who sits onthe platform at temperance meetings, and with great humility I besoughtMr. Herbert Jenkins to publish my Log as a terrible warning to my fellowsinners.
A. S. N.
A DOMINIE'S LOG
A DOMINIE'S LOG
"No reflections or opinions of a general character are to be entered inthe log-book."—Thus the Scotch Code.
I have resolved to keep a private log of my own. In the regulationvolume I shall write down all the futile never-to-be-seen piffle aboutMary Brown's being laid up with the measles, and about my anxiety lestit should spread. (Incidentally, my anxiety is real; I do not want theschool to be closed; I want a summer holiday undocked of any days.) Inmy private log I shall write down my thoughts on education. I think theywill be mostly original; there has been no real authority on education,and I do not know of any book from which I can crib.
To-night after my bairns had gone away, I sat down on a desk andthought. What does it all mean? What am I trying to do? These boys aregoing out to the fields to plough;[Pg 12] these girls are going to farms asservants. If I live long enough the new generation will be bringingnotes of the plese-excuss-james-as-I-was-washing type ... and theparents who will write them went out at that door five minutes ago. Ican teach them to read, and they will read serials in the drivellingweeklies; I can teach them to write, and they will write pathetic notesto me by and bye; I can teach them to count, and they will never countmore than the miserable sum they receive as a weekly wage. The "ThreeR's" spell futility.
But what of the rest? Can I teach them drawing? I cannot. I can help aboy with a natural talent to improve his work, but of what avail is it?In their future homes they will hang up the same old prints—vile thingsgiven away with a pound of tea. I can teach them to sing, but what willthey sing?... the Tipperary of their day.
My work is hopeless, for education should aim at bringing up a newgeneration that will be better than the old. The present system is toproduce the same kind of man as we see to-day. And how hopeless he is.When first I saw Houndsditch, I said aloud: "We[Pg 13] have had education forgenerations ... and yet we have this." Yes, my work is hopeless. What isthe use of the Three R's, of Woodwork, of Drawing, of Geography, ifHoundsditch is to remain? What is the use of anything?
* * *
I smile as I re-read the words I wrote yesterday, for to-day I feel thathope has not left me. But I am not any more hopeful about the three R'sand the others. I am hopeful because I have found a solution. I shallhenceforth try to make my bairns realise. Yes, realise is the word.Realise what? To tell the truth, I have some difficulty in saying. Ithink I want to make them realise what life means. Yes, I want to givethem, or rather help them to find an attitude. Most of the stuff I teachthem will be forgotten in a year or two, but an attitude remains withone throughout life. I want these boys and girls to acquire the habit oflooking honestly at life.
Ah! I wonder if I look honestly at life myself! Am I not a veryone-sided man? Am I not a Socialist, a doubter, a heretic? Am I notbiassed when I judge men like the[Pg 14] Cecils and the Harmsworths? I admitit. I am a partisan, and yet I try to look at life honestly. I try ...and that is the main point. I do not think that I have any of thecurrent superstitions about morality and religion and art. I try toforget names; I try to get at essentials, at truth. The fathers of mybairns are, I think, interested in names. I wonder how many of them havesat down saying: "I must examine myself, so that I may find out whatmanner of man I am." I hold that self-knowledge must come before allthings. When one has stripped off all the conventions, andsuperstitions, and hypocrisies, then one is educated.
* * *
These bairns of mine will never know how to find truth; they will merelyread the newspapers when they grow up. They will wave their hats to theKing, but kingship will be but a word to them; they will shout when alawyer from the south wins the local seat, but they will not understandthe meaning of economics; they will dust their old silk hats and marchto the sacrament, but they will not realise what religion means.
I find that I am becoming pessimistic again, and I did feel hopefulwhen I began to write. I should feel hopeful, for I am resolved tofind another meaning in education. What was it?... Ah, yes, I am to helpthem to find an attitude.
* * *
I have been thinking about discipline overnight. I have seen aheadmaster who insisted on what he called perfect discipline. His bairnssat still all day. A movement foreshadowed the strap. Every child jumpedup at the word of command. He had a very quiet life.
I must confess that I am an atrociously bad disciplinarian. To-dayViolet Brown began to sing Tipperary to herself when I was marking theregisters. I looked up and said: "Why the happiness this morning,Violet?" and she blushed and grinned. I am a poor disciplinarian.
I find that normally I am very, very slack; I don't mind if they talk ornot. Indeed, if the hum of conversation stops, I feel that something hashappened and I invariably look towards the door to see whether anInspector has arrived.
I find that I am almost a good disciplinarian when my liver is bad; Idemand silence then ... but I fear I do not get it, and I generallylaugh. The only discipline I ask for usually is the discipline thatinterest draws. If a boy whets his pencil while I am describing theevents that led to the Great Rebellion, I sidetrack him on the topic ofrabbits ... and I generally make him sit up. I know that I am teachingbadly if the class is loafing, and I am honest enough in my sanermoments not to blame the bairns.
I do not like strict discipline, for I do believe that a child shouldhave as much freedom as possible. I want a bairn to be human, and I tryto be human myself. I walk to school each morning with my briar betweenmy lips, and if the fill