Michael Ernest Sadler

Michael Ernest Sadler

Infobox Writer
name = Michael Ernest Sadler

imagesize = 200px
caption = portrait, 1914, by George Charles Beresford [ [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?LinkID=mp70357&rNo=0&role=sit National Portrait Gallery] ]
pseudonym =
birthdate = 1861
birthplace = Barnsley
deathdate = 1943
deathplace = Oxford
occupation = Writer
nationality = British
period =
genre =
subject = Education
movement =
influences = John Ruskin
influenced =

website =

Sir Michael Ernest Sadler (born July 3, 1861 - died October 14, 1943) was a British historian, educationalist and university administrator. He worked at the universities of Manchester and Leeds. He was a champion of the public school system.


Michael Ernest Sadler, born into a radical home in 1861 at Barnsley in the industrial north ofEngland, died in Oxford in 1943. [http://www.ibe.unesco.org/publications/ThinkersPdf/sadlere.pdf A detailed biography from UNESCO] accessed July 2007] He is the father of Michael Sadleir.

His early youth was coloured by the fact that one of hisforebears, Michael Thomas Sadler, was among the pioneers of the Factory Acts. His earlymemories were full of associations with the leaders of the working-class movement in thenorth of England. Remembering these pioneers, Sadler recorded: ‘I can see how muchreligion deepened their insight and steadied their judgement, and saved them from coarsematerialism in their judgement of economic values. This common heritage was a bond ofsocial union. A social tradition is the matrix of education’.J. H. Higginson (ed.), Selections from Michael Sadler, p. 11. Liverpool, Dejall & Meyorre, 1980. Thearticle In the Days of My Youth is reproduced in full.] Sadler’s schooling was typical ofhis times. It gave him a diverse background, which was to be reflected throughout his life inhis interpretation of the process and content of education. When he was 10 years old, he wassent to a private boarding school at Winchester where the atmosphere was markedlyconservative. Sadler recalls:

Think of the effect on my mind of being swug from the Radical West Riding…where I never heard theConservative point of view properly put, to where I was thrown into an entirely new atmosphere in which the oldConservative and Anglican traditions were still strong.
From this preparatory school he moved to Rugby in the English Midlands, where he spent hisadolescence in an atmosphere entirely different from that of the Winchester school. Hismasters were enthusiastic upholders of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan Revolution. Theyoung Sadler soon found himself in critical revolt against the Cavalier and Anglicantraditions.

He went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1880. There he soon came under the spell of leading historians such as T.H. Green and Arnold Toynbee. But it was John Ruskin who completely overwhelmed the undergraduate. Sadler has left on record how, in his secondyear at Trinity, a short course of lectures was announced, to be given in theUniversity Museum by Ruskin. Tickets were difficult to get because of the popularity of thespeaker. After a warm description of Ruskin’s picturesque appearance, Sadler articulates afavourite conviction when he writes:

Nominally these lectures of Ruskin’s were upon Art. Really they dealt with the economic and spiritual problems of English national life. He believed, and he made us believe, that every lasting influence in an educational system requires an economic structure of society in harmony with its ethical ideal.

That belief persisted to the end of Sadler’s life and is recurrent in his many analyses offoreign systems of education.When, in July 1882, the examinations lists were issued, Sadler had gained a first-classdegree. A month earlier he had become President Elect of the Oxford Union, a field of public debating experience that has produced many an English politician.


In 1885 he was elected Secretary of Oxford's Extensions Lectures Sub-Committee, providing outreach lectures. In 1895 he was appointed to a government post as Director of the Office of Special Inquiries and Reports, resigning from the Board of Education in 1903. A special professorship in 'History and Administration of Education' was created for him at the University of Manchester.

He became Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds in 1911 returning to Oxford in 1923 as master of University College, Oxford where he continued to influence national educational policy, and promote the work of various modernist artists.

The Sadler Commission

In 1917 to 1919, he led the Sadler Commission which looked at the state of Indian Education. [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9064695/Sir-Michael-Ernest-Sadler Sir Michael Ernest Sadler at Britannica.com] J. H. Higginson accessed July 2007]

Towards the end of the First World War, the Secretary of State for India, AustenChamberlain, invited Sadler to accept the chairmanship of a commission the governmentproposed to appoint to inquire into the affairs of Calcutta University. Chamberlain wrote:’
Lord Chelmsford [the Viceroy] informs me that they hope for the solution of the big politicalproblems of India through the solution of the educational problems’.After some hesitation Sadler accepted the invitation. Under his direction theCommission far exceeded its initial terms of reference. [The report was meant to be about "the affairs of Calcutta University" .... amongst other things it created Lucknow University] The result was thirteen volumes issuedin 1919,cite encyclopedia
url = http://banglapedia.search.com.bd/HT/C_0026.htm
title = Sadler Commission
publisher = Asiatic Society of Bangladesh
encyclopedia = Banglapedia
year = 2003
accessdate = 2006-07-14
] providing a comprehensive sociological account of the context in which MahatmaGandhi was campaigning for the end of the British Raj and the independence of India. Fromthe lines of inquiry pursued it is possible to deduce a conception of expanding highereducation that goes far beyond the traditional university image in its search to relate highereducation to the twentieth century, with its increasing availability of educational opportunitiesto women.Prior to the publication of the Calcutta University Report, Sadler delivered a privateaddress to the Senate of Bombay University. He put forward his personal conclusions as hesurveyed The Educational Movement in India and Britain. It was a far-sighted address,characteristic of Sadler’s belief in the inter-relationship of all the various levels of educationand the importance of teacher training. He warned his listeners about producing an academicproletariat with job expectations that could not be fulfilled. And finally he told the membersof the Senate:

And in India you stand on the verge of the most hazardous and inevitable of adventures—the planning of primary education for the unlettered millions of a hundred various races. I doubt whether the European model will fit Indian conditions. If you want social dynamite, modern elementary education of the customary kind will give it to you. It is the agency that will put the masses in motion. But to what end or issue no one can foretell.


External links

The text above calls freely on the text published by UNESCO below which "may be reproduced free of charge as long as acknowledgement is made of the source."
* [http://www.ibe.unesco.org/publications/ThinkersPdf/sadlere.pdf A detailed biography from UNESCO]

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