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100 years ago: Public-school ‘Something’

01 March 2024

February 29th, 1924.

SIR JAMES BARRIE makes few speeches, but they are always good to hear and to read. His speech to the girls of the Wallasey Secondary School, of which his niece is the headmistress, is full of refreshing wisdom. Sir James declares that every child born into the British Empire should get an equal chance. That, he adds, will need some doing. But it is a splendid ideal. There never will be equality of gifts and powers. There possibly never will be equality of income. But equality of opportunity is possible, and it should be the ultimate aim of all educational reform. Sir James referred to the mysterious “Something” which boys get who are lucky enough to be sent to one of the great public schools, and he suggested that somehow “slabs of the Something should be procured for other schools.” The “Something” is the realization that, as Mr Kipling says, “the ship is more than the crew,” that if life is a game — and we fear that this is the too common public school assumption — it is a game which must be played unselfishly and according to the rules. It is a big “Something”, and we believe that slabs of it are already to be found both in the secondary and the elementary schools. It is a “Something” that will flourish in schools where the Catholic Faith is taught, and wither in an atmosphere of arid unbelief.

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