Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Boreham on Babies and Education

One of the reasons why Boreham grew silent on war issues and loud on biographical sermons and editorials was, according to T Howard Crago, his biographer, because his reading of Gibbon’s Decline and fall had given him the insight:

"…that the fate of peoples had been decided not so much by the outcome of wars as by the influence of strategic personalities. Creasy might write of the world’s decisive battles. But FWB saw that, in the working out of humanity’s destiny, battles were not nearly so decisive as babies. Compared with the power of a single personality, the greatest battle in history was of comparatively trifling importance."[1]

Addressing the Baptist Assembly in New Zealand in his presidential capacity, Boreham told stories about significant babies in history, building on the gospel words, “[Jesus] called a child, whom he put among them”.[2] Calling for a study of the significance of the child, Boreham said:

"You will find that in the Imperial Parliament the themes that are debated with the greatest warmth and vigour are such questions as the Education Bill and the Sale of Liquor to Young Children Bill. The little child is in the midst. Here in New Zealand we are dealing with such burning questions as Juvenile Depravity, Bible in Schools, and Technical Education—the little child still occupies his old place."[3]

In Australia, in the last decade of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth century, the growing acknowledgement of the rights of children was evident in public discussion, new laws and the emergence of societies advocating the protection of children.[4]

Increasing attention was being given to the physical welfare of children and Tasmania figured prominently in 1906 when the state pioneered the regular medical inspection of students, a practice that eventually was adopted in all states.[5] Into this climate Boreham wrote various editorials about enabling children to reach their “maximum capacity”.[6] He called for an education that stimulated curiosity and questioning,[7] engendered wonder,[8] fired the imagination[9] and encouraged “the philosophy of play”.[10]

Boreham had a high regard for the teaching profession and, judging by the number of editorials on the man, his supreme model for teaching was Thomas Arnold of Rugby, “whose personality pervaded everything”.[11]

In 1914 Boreham diplomatically criticised Australian education as being “too stereotyped and stilted” with “no room for individuality”.[12] Relaying some murmurs from the commercial and industrialised quarters, he challenged schools for “doing little to equip young people for the stress of actual life”, the result being that “the labour market is glutted with incompetence”. While being pragmatic about the need for education to be related to employment and declaring that “a man’s first duty ... is to make himself marketable”,[13] Boreham envisaged schools equipping people “for loftier citizenship and finer social influence”[14] in “a world that is being swept by a hurricane of change”[15] and training them in discernment skills “to detect the difference between the beautiful and the gaudy, between courage and bravado, between liberty and licence”.[16]

Geoff Pound

Image: “…battles were not nearly so decisive as babies.”
[1] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 171.
[2] Matthew 18:2.
[3] F W Boreham, The whisper of God (London: A H Stockwell, 1902), 26.
[4] Dorothy Scott and Shurlee Swain detail the establishment of organisations to advance the care and protection of children. In Dorothy Scott and Shurlee Swain, Confronting cruelty: Historical perspectives on child abuse (Carlton Sth., Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 1-33.
[5] Alexander Mackie, ‘Education in Australia’, Australia economic and political studies, ed. Meredith Atkinson (Melbourne: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1920), 243-244.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 21 January 1950.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 16 July 1921.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 29 March 1952.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 6 January 1934.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 7 July 1920.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 12 January 1924.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 26 February 1914.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 18 February 1922.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 23 July 1921.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 21 January 1950.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 5 May 1951.