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FEW English institutions have been more profoundly or peculiarly affected by post-war social conditions than our greater English public schools. For more than half a century their traditions have been aristocratic and exclusive, and the benefit of their endowments has been absorbed by the children of the upper and upper middle classes, the governing and official ranks, with a leaven of those sons of professional people who could afford to pay for the cost of an expensive, preparatory education to enable their boys to compete in the struggle for scholarships and, later, to defray certain necessary charges not met by the emoluments of the scholarship so won.


To-day, there is such a demand among the class of newly enriched, in Great Britain and its Empire, for an education which they consider will enable their children to speak with the "public school accent," and acquire the personal power or air of command, which this education has the tradition of conferring, that these great foundations are able to pick and choose even among their "oppidan or wealthy paying pupils by imposing more exacting entrance examinations. In fact, it has come to pass that the possession even of great wealth will not by itself pass into the greater public schools a paying, oppidan pupil who, in the view of any one of the schools' teaching authorities, has not the intellectual equipment presupposed by his power to pass satisfactorily the preliminary entrance examination.

Now, as we know, the shrinkage which has befallen many middle class and professional incomes has considerably impaired or totally abolished the power of this class

to prepare its sons to compete for public school scholarships and exhibitions, or to maintain them subsequently at such schools. The frugality imposed by the harder and more stringent conditions of to-day is tending increasingly to shut out the professional classes from the public schools and, willy-nilly, to align them with that much older class of historic, poor folk whose children have long been deprived of the educational benefits which the founders of the older public schools intended them to enjoy.

Warning voices are pointing out the danger of this tendency. Lord Oxford and Asquith sees the cure in a revival of the beneficence and activity of the "pious founder." He wants English millionaires to follow the example of American plutocrats and leave their money, when they die, to endow educational foundations.

One may fear that this solution of the difficulty is problematical, even undesirable. A people which is content to await such chance aid in its distress deserves what it is pretty sure to get-higher educational institutions run upon class lines, rather than in an equalitarian spirit. What is wanted is obviously a revival, in all classes, of an interest in education for its own sake, and not an education chained to and dragged along by the automobile of narrow utilitarianism and industrial technology. Given the motive force of a passion for true education the solution would presently be found. In a sense other than that of Lowe, our masters need educating."


The last modern State inquiry into the administration and endowments of the greater public schools took place in 1864, and the first was suggested in the early years of the nineteenth century, when the middle and merchant classes had risen to power. This suggestion, tentatively put forward by Henry (later Lord) Brougham's Select Committee, in 1818, was made abortive. Flagrant abuses by the governing bodies of these great schools had continued unchecked for nearly 300 years, and nothing was done to restrain these authorities until 1864, when the

Royal or Clarendon Commission on the Public Schools made its report. Statutory effect was given to this report by the Public Schools Act of 1868, which had merely the effect of rendering the schools of Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Charter-house, Westminster, St. Paul's, Rugby, Shrewsbury, and Merchant Taylors more exclusive.

Since the 'sixties, therefore, there has been no inquiry by Royal Commission or otherwise, into the management of these schools, and it should be borne in mind that the London public day schools of St. Paul's and Merchant Taylors were powerful enough to get themselves exempted from the Public Schools Act of 1868, because the two livery companies who administer their trusts claimed private property in them.

As the Royal Commission on Secondary Education said as long as twenty-eight years ago, "There appears no reason why the seven big public schools, in an organic system of secondary education," should be excluded from the supervision of the central authority.

The ideal, therefore, to aim at in any changes in public school administration in England is to apply their resources and endowments in such a way as, in the words of the preamble of the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, "will carry out the main designs of the founders thereof by putting a liberal education within the reach of children of all classes." In that spirit we may now inquire into the history and present functions of the Greater English Public Schools.

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