When Tom Brown, who's only very recently become convinced that using cribs before trying to do one's own translations is cheating, tries to convince his friend Harry East to change his ways, he reponds with a vision of the relation between teacher and student sure to plunge into depression anyone involved in education:
"Well, Tom," said he at last, "you see, when you and I came to school there were none of these sort of notions. You may be right — I dare say you are. Only what one has always felt about the masters is, that it's a fair trial of skill and last between us and them — like a match at football or a battle. We're natural enemies in school — that's the fact. We've got to learn so much Latin and Greek, and do so many verses, and they've got to see that we do it. If we can slip the collar and do so much less without getting caught, that's one to us. If they can get more out of us, or catch us shirking, that's one to them. All's fair in war but lying. If I run my luck against theirs, and go into school without looking at my lessons, and don't get called up, why am I a snob or a sneak? I don't tell the master I've learnt it. He's got to find out whether I have or not. What's he paid for? If he calls me up and I get floored, he makes me write it out in Greek and English. Very good. He's caught me, and I don't grumble. I grant you, if I go and snivel to him, and tell him I've really tried to learn it, but found it so hard without a translation, or say I've had a toothache, or any humbug of that kind, I'm a snob. That's my school morality; it's served me, and you too, Tom, for the matter of that, these five years. And it's all clear and fair, no mistake about it. We understand it, and they understand it, and I don't know what we're to come to with any other."
Tom, the narrator tells us, "couldn't help feeling how completely he had hit his own theory and practice up to that time." He tries to convince his suddenly articulate friend that with Dr. Arnold and the new masters at Rugby, things have changed radically, but East will have none of that. The new teachers, he claims, are unsure of themselves and do not yet know the way of the schoolboy world. East's comments give one an idea of what Thomas Arnold had to face when he arrived at Rugby, for, as other comments in the course of the novel make clear, Tom and his friend arrived at an early phase of the great mnaster's reforms.
Hughes, Thomas. Tom Brown's Schooldays. Electronic version from Project Gutenberg produced by Gil Jaysmith and David Widger.
Last modified 3 July 2006