Full text: Problems in eugenics

F. C. S. Schiller. Education and Eugenics.167 
exercise and a taste for outdoor life, which in after life will exact a certain 
“ fitness ” of body and soul and appreciably conduce to sanity and health. 
To conceive this ideal of “ fitness,” often dimly and crudely enough, is 
probably the most important thing the average boy learns at an English 
public school, and not remotely connected with the practical success of the 
Englishman in after life. It atones for many hours wasted on “ gerund- 
grinding ” pedantry in the teaching of the classics and on unpsychological 
unpracticality in the teaching of mathematics. Such, in barest outline, is 
the rationale of the Athletic Branch of English education, a system so 
subtle that not all the world’s psychologists in solemn conclave assembled 
could have excogitated anything half so efficient. 
For it is evident that the system as a whole makes a certain appeal also 
to the rich, and is productive of a certain measure of efficiency even in Eton 
and Harrow. A son of wealthy parents does not need a scholarship; but 
the hope of winning a distinction may incite him to work and to train his 
mind to his own benefit and that of the community. Or again his 
competitive instincts may be stimulated by the continuous series of 
examinations to which a thoroughly Darwinian scheme subjects him. More 
frequently, no doubt, the sons of the rich prefer to devote their energies to 
the Athletic Branch of the System, in which the rewards of excellence are 
quite as great or greater. The great Civil Service Examination, indeed, 
still selects into the Home and Indian Civil Service intellectuals whose 
minds are efficient in extorting marks from examiners who have not seen 
them ; but the athletic ideal prevails in the Civil Service of Egypt, the Sudan, 
and the rest of the Empire. Professionally a “ Blue ” is a greater asset, 
and a much greater advertisement, than a “ First ” for a schoolmaster, a 
lawyer, a business man, or even a clergyman. No longer would a Dean 
of Christ Church follow Gaisford in advising ambitious youth to practise 
the writing of Greek verse as “an elegant accomplishment which not 
infrequently leads to posts of considerable emolument in the Church ” or a 
Master of Balliol, Jowett, in valuing a First Class in Literce Humaniores at 
^8,000. The “ scholar ” no longer meets the spiritual requirements of 
the age, and the “ athlete ” is quite as likely to “ organize ” his parish 
well, while he is manifestly fitter to teach boys what they really want to 
know. In short the system thoroughly suits the British character, and 
really works so well that we have quite forgotten how anomalous it is, and 
how queer it must seem to those who are not accustomed to it. Those who 
are, will realize that to abolish it is impossible, and to advocate its abolition 
a piece of quixotism no eugenist will waste his energy upon. 
He will consider rather how this system may be improved and extended. 
And in the first place the Athletic Branch will need attention. It is 
evident that it already recognizes an ideal, the ideal of “ fitness,” which 
has great eugenic value. This ideal merely needs to be intellectualized and
	        

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