From Fors Clavigera
by John Ruskin

From Letter IXm September, 1871.

How many actual deaths are now annually caused by the strain and anxiety of competitive examination, it would startle us all if we could know; but the mischief done to the best faculties of the brain in all cases, and the miserable confusion and absurdity involved in the system itself, which offers every place, not to the man who is indeed fitted for it, but to the one who, on a given day, chances to have bodily strength enough to stand the cruellest strain, are evils infinite in their consequences, and more lamentable than many deaths.

This, then, shall be the first condition of what education it may become possible for us to give, that the strength of the youths shall never be strained; and that their best powers shall be developed in each, without competition, though they shall have to pass crucial, but not severe, examinations, attesting clearly to themselves and to other people, not the utmost they can do, but that at least they can do some things accurately and well: their own certainty of this,being accompanied with the quite as clear, and much happier certainty, that there are many other things which they will never be able to do at all.

. . .

But in my first series of lectures at Oxford, I stated, (and cannot too often or too firmly state) that no great arts were practicable by any people, unless they were living contented lives, in pure air, out of the way of unsightly objects, and emancipated from unnecessary mechanical occupation. It is simply one part of the practical work I have to do in Art-teaching, to bring, somewhere, such conditions into existence, and to show the working of them. I know also assuredly that the conditions necessary for the Arts of men, are the best for their souls and bodies; and knowing this, I do not doubt but that it may be with due pains, to some material extent, convincingly shown; and I am now ready to receive help, little or much, from any one who cares to forward the showing of it.