Sylvia Ashton-Warner Katharine Taylor - Essay

Katharine Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

On the surface ["Teacher"] is a record of Miss Ashton-Warner's 24 years in an "Infant (elementary) School" for Maori and white children in New Zealand. Yet it is more than that—a vivid journal of incidents, personalities, sudden moments of insight, and a philosophy of education which emerges through reflection upon experiences. It should have great value not only for those interested in the problems of education in old cultures and new nations, but also for those concerned with the future of civilization—for all anywhere who live and work with children. (p. 1)

Miss Ashton-Warner's book … carries implications that reach far beyond the classroom, for she is one of those teachers convinced that education must learn—and learn quickly—how to take its part in enabling the young of each generation to grow in their understanding of the forces in human society which determine civilization's future….

"When a war is over," Miss Ashton-Warner writes, "the statesmen should turn their attention to the infant rooms since it is from there that comes peace or war." This is neither fanciful dreaming nor sentimentality. There is no trace in her of either. Her experience, her self-searching and questioning—for she is her own best critic—have led her to a deep conviction that the releasing and directing of the creative energies in young children is not merely a teaching matter but an international matter; it has to do with the future of life on this earth.

No one could convert Sylvia Ashton-Warner's way of work with children into a "system." No one could succeed in the effort to imitate her. But the essence of her wisdom, her philosophy, is here for anyone in this unique, vital and refreshing book. (p. 36)

Katharine Taylor, "The How Is Mightier Than the What," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1963 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 8, 1963, pp. 1, 36.