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17th October 1918
Page 20
Page 20, 17th October 1918 — TEACHING WOMEN DRIVERS.
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

By "The Inspector."

ISUPPOSE the specially established school at which many women, boys and girls may be taught to drive motor vehicles is quite a legitimate com. mercial development of the motor trade as a whole. Such schools, if properly conducted, presumably, also fill some kind of want, and if it is desirable to turn out pupils who can legitimately boast of something more than the purely elementary knowledge required to hold a steering wheel, a carefully conceived syllabus may be quite rightly assumed to offer useful opportunities to those who.are prepared to pay for them.

Driving, as such, is surely in these days a thing which requires very little teaching. Were it not so, it would not have proved possible for tens of thousands of not necessarily adaptable pupils to haqe learned with comparative facility. As a matter of fact, the question of driving an ordinary Car with reasonable confidence and fair skill should be possible after only a few hours tuition. Practice would, of course, bringswith it improvement. There is nothing very difficult in the whole thing, and in my humble opinion it is certainly not worth several guineas to learn. I learnt to ride a bicycle for nothing, and I do not recall that I found the task of mastering the balancing and steering problem of a bicycle any more difficult than I did the problem of steering an ordinary motorcar.

Whether it is necessary for the ordinary woman driver, for instance, and of such candidates there seems to be no end, to know more of a motor vehicle than will enable her to steer and use the clutch, change-speed mechanism and brakes with confidence and normal intelligence I am not convinced. Certain I am that only the very smallest proportion of the weaker sex are born with the slightest mechanical instinct, and only an extremely small proportion of the remainder are capable of acquiring any observable ability in that direction. It may be of some use to learn the names of the parts, but I am not sanguine of the amount of success that is likely to he achieved when it is desirable to instil into the feminine mind, shall I say, the principles of four-cycle revolution, the functions of the magneto, or the reasons far the differential.

Many a mere male, I imagine, could work that clever example of machinery, the sewing machine, without having the Faintest idea as to how the cotton insinuates itself from the needle and from the shuttle alike to ensure a lock stitch. It used to be said that the hest of locomotive driVers were men who knew as little as possible of the actual first principles upon which the locomotive's mechanism depended. .Similarly it was always claimed, with exactly what , amount of truth I do not know, that the fitter made the worst possible driver of a railway engine. On the whole, therefore; it will be gathered that I do not regard the increased activities of a number of so-called schools of driving with any great amount of enthusiasm. I fear that not a few of them have seized the psychological moment to entice learners to part with good guineas to learn something of an na0 occupation that 'on the face of it appears to be mostly beer and skittles, an occupation which at least ensures those that follow it, not an inconsiderable amount of publicity and in addition fresh air, and very often the almost complete absence of hourly, supervision.

There are one or two schools, particularly the older established ones, who have done all they knew how to render their courses of instruction as thoroughly useful as possible for all comers, but there are others who, under the cloak of training people for work of so-called "national importance," have wrung guineas from learners for services which were obviously not rendered in such a way as really to be worth the money. A considerable recent demand by the authorities for women drivers as substitutes for men has prompted exploitation of the situation by the astute temptation that any attractive " national" occupation can be ensured at the price of a few guineas for preliminary training.

I am therefore pleased to notice that the authorities have at last taken in hand, on a fairly considerable scale, the training of women for work of this class, so that, to-day, we may see large numbers of women, presumably under the auspices of the Woman's Legion, supported by male members of His Majesty's Forces, being instructed in the driving of various kinds of cars and motor vehicles. That, of course was the proper thing to have done some while ago. Whether the scramble to teach large numbers of women how to drive a motor vehicle ia necessarily wise is open to question. Would it not have beeh much -better to have employed them in other if less picturesque directions, and to have turned most of the driving jobs, for which women are said to be required, over to discharged soldiers to whom the fresh air and lack of physical exertion would indeed have been a veritable godsend!

A great many of the women who are taking up motor driving as a career in war time are unquestionably locking for continuous employment of the same kind when normal conditions again prevail, and certain schools are not beyond fostering that idea. I think that numbers of them will be disillusioned, and that this particular choice of the way to help to witi the war and at the same time to secure not altogether inadequate remuneration is leading a great number of wofnen into a blind alley occupation, whereas they would have been much better turned to account in other directions better suited to their capabilities and talents. But the question -of the allocation of man power—and of woman power, too— is quite beyond my ordinary intelligence. Government departments as well as the various arms of the .fighting forces are notoriously wasteful in matters of personnel, and it is probably too late in the war and (let ,us hope) too near the end for any other cons:deration now to be beneficial. It is, however, a good sign that the authorities have, even at this late date, decided that such training as is necessary for newly enlisted drivers could quite well be done at the expense of the State to the advantage of the public purse, as well as of that belonging to the would-be candidate for work of this kind. '


Organisations: Woman's Legion

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