I am asked if Churchill ever said “the most important thing about education is appetite.” He did, but it isn’t easy to find. I checked his Complete Speeches under “education” and came up with an extract from a 1929 speech at Bristol University, where he was Chancellor:
“I never myself had the advantage of a university education. I was not thought clever enough to profit by it to the full. I was put to be trained in technical matters of a military college, and almost immediately afterwards things opened out very quickly into action and adventure. In those days England had a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples that we were endeavouring to help forward to higher things, and I found myself scurrying about the world from one exciting scene to another. During years appropriate to study and the accumulation of knowledge, I was a pack-horse that had to nibble and browse such grass as grew by the roadside in the brief halts of long and wearying marches.
“But see how very lucky you all are. You are a most fortunate crowd of quadrupeds, to use a neutral term. (Laughter.) You are admitted to a spacious paddock with the very best herbage growing in profusion. You are pressed to eat your fill. I hope you are going to take advantage of that.
“The most important thing about education is appetite. Education does not begin with the university, and it certainly ought not to end there. I have seen a lot of people who got cleverer until about 21 or 22 years of age, then seemed to shut down altogether and never made any further progress. Take full advantage of these years when the wisdom of the world is placed at your disposal, but do not spend too much time in buckling on your armour in the tent. The battle is going on in every walk and sphere of life.”