A Dominie in Doubt –by: Alexander Sutherland Neill
First Page:A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
A. S. NEILL, M.A.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
A DOMINIE'S LOG A DOMINIE DISMISSED THE BOOMING OF BUNKIE
HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED
3 YORK STREET ST. JAMES'S
To Homer Lane, whose first lecture convinced me that I knew nothing about education. I owe much to him, but I hasten to warn educationists that they must not hold him responsible for the views given in these pages. I never understood him fully enough to expound his wonderful educational theories.
A. S. N.
FORFAR, AUGUST 12, 1920.
A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
"Just give me your candid opinion of A Dominie's Log; I'd like to hear it."
Macdonald looked up from digging into the bowl of his pipe with a dilapidated penknife. He is now head master of Tarbonny Public School, a school I know well, for I taught in it for two years as an ex pupil teacher.
Six days ago he wrote asking me to come and spend a holiday with him, so I hastily packed my bag and made for Euston.
This evening had been a sort of complimentary dinner in my honour, the guests being neighbouring dominies and their wives, none of whom I knew. We had talked of the war, of rising prices, and a thousand other things. Suddenly someone mentioned education, and of course my unfortunate Log had come under discussion.
I had been anxious to continue my discussion with a Mrs. Brown on the subject of the relative laying values of Minorcas and Buff Orpingtons, but I had been dragged to the miserable business in spite of myself.
Now they were all gone, and Macdonald had returned to the charge.
"It's hardly a fair question," said Mrs. Macdonald, "to ask an author what he thinks of his own book. No man can judge his own work, any more than a mother can judge her own child."
"That's true!" I said. "A man can't judge his own behaviour, and writing a book is an element of behaviour. Besides, there is a better reason why a writer cannot judge his own work," I added.
"Because he never reads it?" queried Macdonald with a grin.
I shook my head.
"An author has no further interest in his book after it is published."
Macdonald looked across at me. It was clear that he doubted my seriousness.
"Surely you don't mean to say that you have no interest in A Dominie's Log ?"
"None whatever!" I said.
"You mean it?" persisted Macdonald.
"My dear Mac," I said, "an author dare not read his own book."
"Dare not! Why?"
"Because it's out of date five minutes after it's written."
For fully a minute we smoked in silence. Macdonald appeared to be digesting my remark.
"You see," I continued presently, "when I read a book on education, I want to learn, and I certainly don't expect to learn anything from the man I was five years ago."
"I think I understand," said Macdonald. "You have come to realise that what you wrote five years ago was wrong. That it?"
"True for you, Mac. You've just hit it."
"You needn't have waited five years to find that out," he said, with a good natured grin. "I could have told you the day the book was published I bought one of the first copies."
"Still," he continued, "I don't see why a book should be out of date in five years. That is if it deals with the truth. Truth is eternal."
"What is truth?" I asked wearily. "We all thought we knew the truth about gravitation. Then Einstein came along with his relativity theory, and told us we were wrong."
"Did he?" inquired Macdonald, with a faint smile.
"I am quoting from the newspapers," I added hastily. "I haven't the remotest idea what relativity means. Perhaps it's Epstein I mean no, he's a sculptor."
"You're hedging!" said Macdonald.
"Can you blame me?" I asked. "You're trying to get me to say what truth is. I am not a professor of philosophy, I'm a dominie. All I can say is that the Log was the truth . . . for me . . . five years ago; but it isn't the truth for me now."
"Then, what exactly is your honest opinion of the Log as a work on education?"
"As a work on education," I said deliberately, "the Log isn't worth a damn...