Education: Experiment at 70

For several moments, Alexander Dunlop Lindsay of Oxford University stared at the departing figure of the young man with the coal scars on his face. The man, a Staffordshire miner named John Elkin, had left school at the age of ten; yet he had come a long way to hear Lindsay lecture on philosophy. "I heartily wish," sighed Lindsay, "that all my university students had a brain as good as his."

At the time, Lindsay was the Master of Oxford's self-consciously cerebral Balliol College. But his students numbered as many underprivileged John Elkins as...

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