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Aristocratic Education

House of Lords, Jan. 25, 1920.--The House of Lords
commenced to-day in Committee the consideration of Clause
No. 52,000 of the Education Bill, dealing with the teaching
of Geometry in the schools.

The Leader of the Government in presenting the clause
urged upon their Lordships the need of conciliation. The
Bill, he said, had now been before their Lordships for
sixteen years. The Government had made every concession.
They had accepted all the amendments of their Lordships
on the opposite side in regard to the original provisions
of the Bill. They had consented also to insert in the
Bill a detailed programme of studies of which the present
clause, enunciating the fifth proposition of Euclid, was
a part. He would therefore ask their Lordships to accept
the clause drafted as follows:

"The angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are
equal, and if the equal sides of the triangle are produced,
the exterior angles will also be equal."

He would hasten to add that the Government had no intention
of producing the sides. Contingencies might arise to
render such a course necessary, but in that case their
Lordships would receive an early intimation of the fact.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke against the clause.
He considered it, in its present form, too secular. He
should wish to amend the clause so as to make it read:

"The angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are, in
every Christian community, equal, and if the sides be
produced by a member of a Christian congregation, the
exterior angles will be equal."

He was aware, he continued, that the angles at the base
of an isosceles triangle are extremely equal, but he must
remind the Government that the Church had been aware of
this for several years past. He was willing also to admit
that the opposite sides and ends of a parallelogram are
equal, but he thought that such admission should be
coupled with a distinct recognition of the existence of
a Supreme Being.

The Leader of the Government accepted His Grace's amendment
with pleasure. He considered it the brightest amendment
His Grace had made that week. The Government, he said,
was aware of the intimate relation in which His Grace
stood to the bottom end of a parallelogram and was prepared
to respect it.

Lord Halifax rose to offer a further amendment. He thought
the present case was one in which the "four-fifths"
clause ought to apply: he should wish it stated that the
angles are equal for two days every week, except in the
case of schools where four-fifths of the parents are
conscientiously opposed to the use of the isosceles

The Leader of the Government thought the amendment a
singularly pleasing one. He accepted it and would like
it understood that the words isosceles triangle were not
meant in any offensive sense.

Lord Rosebery spoke at some length. He considered the
clause unfair to Scotland, where the high state of morality
rendered education unnecessary. Unless an amendment in
this sense was accepted, it might be necessary to reconsider
the Act of Union of 1707.

The Leader of the Government said that Lord Rosebery's
amendment was the best he had heard yet. The Government
accepted it at once. They were willing to make every
concession. They would, if need be, reconsider the Norman

The Duke of Devonshire took exception to the part of the
clause relating to the production of the sides. He did
not think the country was prepared for it. It was unfair
to the producer. He would like the clause altered to
read, "if the sides be produced in the home market."

The Leader of the Government accepted with pleasure His
Grace's amendment. He considered it quite sensible. He
would now, as it was near the hour of rising, present
the clause in its revised form. He hoped, however, that
their Lordships would find time to think out some further
amendments for the evening sitting.

The clause was then read.

His Grace of Canterbury then moved that the House, in
all humility, adjourn for dinner.

Stephen Leacock