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Moralizing science: the uses of science's past in national education in the 1920s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 March 1997

ANNA-KATHERINA MAYER
Affiliation:
Department for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH

Abstract

The present interest of Englishmen in education is partly due to the fact that they are impressed by German thoroughness. Now let there be no mistake. The war has shown the effectiveness of German education in certain departments of life, but it has shown not only its ineffectiveness, but its grotesque absurdity in regard to other departments of life, and those the departments which are, even in a political sense, the most important. In the organization of material resources Germany has won well-merited admiration, but in regard to moral conduct, and in regard to all that art of dealing with other men and other nations which is closely allied to moral conduct, she has won for herself the horror of the civilized world. If you take the whole result, and ask whether we prefer German or English education, I at any rate should not hesitate in my reply.

Thus William Temple, future archbishop, addressing the Educational Section at the 1916 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Newcastle. Temple's statement introduced his contribution to the ‘neglect-of-science’ debate, a public dispute over the place of science in English secondary education. Originally, the debate had been started by prominent scientists convinced that England's military and industrial fortunes were suffering as a result of the country's continuing scientific illiteracy. The contrasts Temple drew between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between England and Germany, between ‘conduct’ and ‘efficiency’, cropped up throughout the debate.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1997 British Society for the History of Science

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