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The National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services presents a window on the world a tape recorded series of talks by eminent British citizens. This week our speaker is Professor Dennis Brogan author lecturer educator whose wartime broadcasts from Britain to America won him countless friends. His subject how should we educate. I'm going to talk to you about the differences between the English or British and American educational systems. But I should like to begin by pointing out that there are far more resemblances than our differences. And this is especially true not 1955 since in many ways our educational system is copying euros for example of this moment. One of the great controversies in English in educational theory and practice is should we adopt the good the comprehensive American high school present our high schools of small out
of a book about my subjects and often by six. The novel The controversy is should we have dog the American big high school co-educational all subjects under one roof. There are a great many other resemblances which I needn't insist on but I want to begin by saying in fact there are more things in common than things that are different. Secondly it's important to point out when using about British that two different educational systems are involved. England and Scotland they are run by different authorities. The government's role in them is different and more important still they represent different traditions. Scotland has a very old tradition of universal education for all and with a fairly easy access from the village school to the university. This idea this ideal only came into English life in the late 19th century partly in
imitation of Scotland partly an imitation of the United States partly an imitation of Germany. General education has only been imposed in England and made available to everybody. Since 1870 and high school education has only become universally a right since the end of the last war. Yes since 1945. The next thing to notice is that although until quite recent times. The school leaving age in England was variable and low compared to the United States. There was another side to that difference namely the school year. It was a lot longer. We would never have had in England what you had in some Western and Middle Western states very sharp school years of four months and five months. Our school year was a continuous 12 months with holidays but with a permanent staff to teach us and gauge roughly for life and with no notion of the school year varying
in length from year to year according to local budget needs. So if you gained by the fact that children left school later we gain by the fact they stayed at school more during their school years. But the great transformation in English education and to some extent from Scottish education came after the last war. For the first time it became a legal right in England. For everyone to have a secondary education everyone had a duty as well as a right to have an elementary education up to the age of 14. Nowadays everyone has on paper a right to a secular education. But here we run into a difficulty of what is a secondary education. A difficulty we haven't solved. The average English parent still thinks of secondary education in terms of their own academic high school curriculum. There aren't enough high schools of that type there aren't enough
teachers and consequently a great many parents find that children are sent to what are called Modern secondary schools. These may be admirable institutions some of them are but the average parent still thinks that his child his boy his girl ought to go to the old fashioned high school and your sense of the old fashioned secondary school the grammar school as we call it. And he feels on the whole frustrated if he doesn't get a chance to send his child to a grammar school that's a C an academic high school and that is one of the arguments for the Comprehensive High School on the American model that everyone can go to it. You can have the trade school aspect the high school aspect under the same roof and there isn't this marking off to live in years of age of the children of academic promise from the others. We have also problems in England now which you have to problem which I can sum up as. Why can't Johnny read. You know that's a save a considerable number of people
who go through secondary schools and Dot not to be quite illiterate. We discovered this when they enter the army or sometimes went into the police called. And this is causing a great deal of criticism of educational methods people say that in the old days when education wasn't so ambitious everybody at least could read write and count. I mean to say that we could always count better than Americans because not having the decimal system we had to anyone who can do accounts in English pounds shillings and pence which involves three different systems of numeration to do mental arithmetic in a way that would make them a quiz kid in the United States. But apart from that they can't even read nowadays in some cases. I mean fine talk without comment. But this phenomenon of juvenile illiteracy is totally unknown in Scotland. It is common in the United States or just common in England but for some mystical reason I am Scotch myself illiterate Scotch boys and girls are unknown. No boy or girl leaves a Scots school who can't at least read and write after a fashion.
But as I say our whole school system is tending towards your system of universality of universal free places free education and of emphasizing very much about McCall the social side of education where the difference begins and it's a very important one is at the college stage. But after two and a half million college students in the United States and a population of one hundred sixty millions on that are a little over 100000 in Britain in a population of 50 millions. You have nearly 2000 institutions classified as colleges and universities. We have 20. Now that represents a very great difference in attitude which can't be glossed over our idea of what colleges are for differs very much from the American idea. Our school ideas get closer and closer to us. There is no sign. I'm glad
to say that our ideas for colleges and universities get close to some American ideas. Roughly speaking we hold that the number of boys or girls who can profit by a college education is quite small. We hold that not only because we don't think that all boys can be educated up to that level but we also hold we can't find university teachers fit to educate them. We don't believe that are enough people in the country fit to be college teachers to deal with many more people than we've got. We aim at having 200000 college students in the next few years as against That's less than a tenth of what you aim at and less than a great deal less than a tenth of what will happen a few years as your birthrate begins to high birthrate begins to flood the colleges. We believe that to say that a college education is for a small minority group specially gifted acquiring specially qualified teachers of whom there is a limited number
we find indeed it's rather hard. Especially in certain departments. The staff colleges with adequate teachers I-70 various boards that appoint to jobs and I could give instances of which jobs cannot be filled although they exist because we cannot find persons who seem to us to have the real qualifications of a college teacher. The very exceptional qualifications we aim at. But there is another controversy in current British education relevant to the United States. One of the things we envy you for having and want to have for ourselves is really very high level of technical competence. This is led to an agitation for the creation in Britain of institutions like your great technical schools MIT Cal Tech Pittsburgh and the rest. This has led to a demand for a great many of these institutions or alternatively for one
vast government controlled central Technological University. What the government has done has been to choose art of the existing technical schools three each of them distinguished to be built up into great technical universities like MIT or Caltech. The Imperial College of Science which is part of the University of London the faculty of technology of the University of Manchester and the royal technical college in Glasgow which is not part of the University of Glasgow but is very loosely linked with these other three favorite instruments which are to be built up to take to the level of technical institutions like Caltech and MIT. But here I give you my personal opinion. Many of the plans for this are made by people who know nothing about either count take all Pittsburgh or MIT these technical institutions which ought to be which exist already which are very old in some cases that are technical college in Glasgow's the owner's technical college in the world. But to build them
up will require a great deal of money a great deal of reinforcement in various ways. Unfortunately just at the moment that American technical schools like MIT are broadening their curriculum trying to talk him out not merely engineers but engineers who know something of the world living on. We are turning our back on that and aiming at producing mere engineers. We're chemists. This seems to me a backward step. And it seems to me to be made by people who haven't thought out the problem of educating a technologist to live in the world as well as practice is technology. And above all it's made by people who really do not know. But that is not how MIT or Caltech or Van Brunt's let all the other institutions in America work. They do not assume that the only duty is to turn out a biochemist or an engineer or an expert in fluid mechanics. They aim to turn out a civilized human being an educated human being whose main subject is his technical specialty but not his only subject. I think here we
are imitating a MS.. If we were imitating a real American contribution imitating MIT which is the institution I know best of that type would be doing well. But we have not been imitating a nice idea or institution which in fact doesn't exist in the United States and shouldn't exist with us. To sum up our educational systems at all levels are getting more like each other. Mainly though not exclusively because we imitate you. On the other hand American colleges are more and more over the last 20 years of imitated English university methods of direct tuition general examinations and so forth. But there remain two very important grams of difference. One is simply financial We can't afford to keep so many people at school so long as you can. We haven't got the economic resources we haven't got the time so to speak to spend
on giving boys and girls a very nice time at college up to twenty two even if they haven't got any special promise. The other difference is that we have in some ways a great deal of leeway to make up especially in the field of technical education. And here we are as I suggested imitating blindly and not critically enough. And last in our school system we have not made up our mind as to whether we should go the whole hog and take the American high school as an ideal or take the other view that for some purposes the American high school is excellent and for others it is inferior to 10 or 8 different from our old traditional grammar school whether it's a boarding school or a day school. My impression is that we will not make our secondary system uniform which will have some universal high schools but we shall go home continue to have much smaller secondary schools possibly co-educational But in any case more specialized than the average American high school
or the great new comprehensive schools as they're called that. London and Manchester for example are building at this moment. You have been listening to Professor Dennis Brogan author lecturer educator speaking on the subject. How should we educate. This has been a tape recorded presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
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Window on the world
Denis Brogan
Producing Organization
British Information Services
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Professor Denis Brogan, author, lecturer, educator on "How Should We Educate?"
Series Description
A series of short talks by well-known British personalities on the subjects usually associated with them.
Broadcast Date
Radio programs--United States.
Media type
Producing Organization: British Information Services
Speaker: Brogan, D. W. (Denis William), 1900-1974
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-30-45 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:11
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Chicago: “Window on the world; Denis Brogan,” 1956-05-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2023,
MLA: “Window on the world; Denis Brogan.” 1956-05-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Window on the world; Denis Brogan. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from