Per Ardua...

Sir Ross Chesterman
1977, Vol. 10, No. 1,


At the time when Studies in Design Education and Craft are celebrating a tenth anniversary, I thought it might be interesting to look back Iurther than the last ten years which are likely to occupy the majority of our contributors. I would like in fact to comment briefly on some of the remarkable changes I have seen myself during the last half century in our most interesting and vital field of education.

In 1920, as a boy of eleven, I won a scholarship to the local boys' grammar school. From what I have learned since, I think that this school and its attitudes and curriculum were fairly typical of the time. It was clear that education in craft, design or even art counted for very little indeed. In fact any practical work as such was barely tolerated.

After getting Matriculation I went into the Sixth Form (Science) at my peril, knowing that there would be very little supervision or help, compared with the almost full time teaching that was provided for what was known as the VIth Lit! I knew too that if I later went into the teaching profession it would be virtually impossible to obtain the Headship of a grammar school. Mathematics would have been OK, but people who used their hands (scientists, craftsmen and artists) were regarded as not quite gentlemen and unsuitable for promotion! Understandably, at the grammar school we only studied 'woodwork' for our first two years and were taught by an instructor who was not expected to enter the masters' common room. During these first two years we also studied pencil drawing, and then at 13. I dropped for good all practical work except that in Science, the spaces on my timetable being filled with yet more Latin and Divinity. To be fair to the school, we did have a weekly discussion period when the sixth formers joined and very occasionally we talked about modern art or design. But we were never involved and had no practical experience.

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