Imatges de pÓgina

is that, as all pay the rates, all should share, and that those who conscientiously object to the common undenominational school should have a portion of the rate applied to their private schools.

We have never recognised the right of a citizen to secede from the community, and withdraw himself from the obligation to pay rates or taxes because he dislikes their application. Every minority dislikes the way in which the majority manages public affairs. But the public schools are the schools of citizens and Churchmen, Roman Catholics, Nonconformists, and all have taken their share in voting, in sitting on School Boards, in managing schools; they have all had their equal share, and where they are in a majority they control the management. . They get full consideration for the money they pay in the management of the public institutions supported by that money, and none have a right, as active or passive resisters, to mutiny against the obligations of citizenship. One who supports an orphanage or who gives large relief in charity might as well claim to be exempt from poor rate, or to bave part of the poor rate given to the orphanage he manages, as the citizen who claims that after voting for School Boards and County Councils, after sitting on School Boards and County Councils, and spending public money as a member of those bodies, he may either refuse to pay his rate or ask to have some of it applied to his own private institution.

As to the statement that the Catholic conscience forbids any use of the Council school, all that can be said is that the Catholic conscience accommodates itself to circumstances. In the United States I am informed, in a report published by the Education Bureau at Washington, that there are about 2,000,000 Roman Catholic scholars in that country; of these about a million are in ' Parochial' or denominational schools, the other million are in the common schools. To say that a Roman Catholic prefers a denominational school is not identical with saying that his conscience does not permit him to go to any other. In Ireland the Roman Catholic bishops succeed in preventing nearly all Roman Catholics from going to Trinity College, Dublin. In England Catholics go freely to Oxford and Cambridge.

Even in Belgium I have been informed that many Roman Catholics go to the ' Liberal' University of Brussels rather than to the Catholic University at Louvain. In short, the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans, and many others will naturally try for all they can get, and if they do not get what they want, proclaim loudly their resentment and sense of wrong, and yet we do not find that the frequenting places of instruction not under the influence of their Church is treated like offering incense to Jupiter or eating meat offered to idols.

But after all the Roman Catholics are a small portion of the people concerned. There are probably less than 300,000 Roman Catholics, or, at any rate, scholars in average attendance in Roman Catholic schools, and a very large number of these, if the Bill becomes law, will be continued in State-aided schools, subsidised much more liberally than the Roman Catholic schools of Scotland. But no one supposes that there is a strong preference for Anglican teaching among the mass of the parents who send their children to Anglican schools. Did anyone ever hear in Lancashire,the stronghold of militant Church of Englandism, that when a Church school was transferred to a Public Authority there was a great exodus of scholars to some neighbouring Church school? Have the new Council schools remained empty ? Have they not rather filled, while Church schools in their neighbourhood have plenty of empty places? I should consider it an exaggerated estimate if 5 per cent. of the scholars in Church schools would wish to leave, if all the Church schools were transferred to the County or Borough Authorities.

As to the rural schools, can any fair man deny that the reasonable thing, apart from advocating a universal public system in town and country, is that the one school which on account of local situation all must attend, should be under the management of the community with an assurance of fair play for the opinions of all, and not a school under the management of one Church, and largely under the influence of the clergyman?

No doubt the substitution of the county for a smaller area of administration has diminished the local tie between the school and the parents. I think the attacks on village school boards have been unfair and exaggerated, and that in many places they were a stimulus to public spirit and to interest in the schools. I should wish to see a very substantial concession made to local interest in the management of our rural schools, and though this Bill is not the place to introduce such administrative changes, I hope to see them come in a few years.

I would now wish to sum up my impression of the Bill, and of the points which, I think, need clearing up, or where true modification is desirable.

The aim of the Bill to secure a public national system in every part of the country, with opportunities for those who strongly dissent from that national system to make separate provisions for themselves, seems to me most desirable.

But to give effect to this object some elucidations are needed :

(1) The areas in which compulsory transference and no recognition of private schools should be allowed should be defined more liberally.

(2) The presumption should be in favour of the public school, and special application should be made for admission to a private denominational school.

(3) The absolute freedom from fees of the public school, and the ages three to fifteen between which free education is the parent's right, should be safeguarded by the Statute.

(4) Those desiring to open private schools should make application at an early date, forwarding the names of those who propose to

use them, and making known to the parents the fee, if any, which will be charged in the school before they invite them to apply,

(5) After the petitions have been examined, steps should be taken to secure promptly public school accommodation for all not asking for separate treatment.

(6) In granting State-aid to private schools regard should be had to the probable cost, taking into consideration the various conditions ; a scheme should be submitted dealing with the endowment, if any, and the grant, while equal in total amount to 478. a head, should be graduated according to the needs of the district and the means of the school.

(7) No rent should be charged for the buildings of State-aided schools, and the whole income should be applied to the school. The accounts should be audited in the same way as Public Elementary schools, and should be published and filed for public inspection at the office of the Local Education Authority.

(8) Teachers in State-aided schools should be entitled to superannuation ; scholars should be entitled to compete for scholarships for admission to higher elementary schools, and should be admitted to special classes-e.g. woodwork, cookery.

(9) Ten per cent. of the cost of maintenance should be provided outside the parliamentary grant; fees and endowment to be credited to this 10 per cent.

(10) The parliamentary grant should be absolutely guaranteed in the Act.

(11) In Public Elementary schools 21. a head should be guaranteed in the Act.

(12) Some, or all, of the additional grant beyond 21. should be earmarked in the Act for loans, and failure to use due despatch in building, or compliance with other directions, of the Board of Education should involve forfeiture of this special additional grant.

(13) The use of all Public Elementary school buildings should, out of school hours, be placed as far as practicable at the disposal of persons desiring to organise independent religious teaching by teachers other than the school staff, selected and paid by them, to such children as may attend by the direction of their parents.

(14) If necessary, a clause should be inserted in the Bill declaring that the Local Education Authority has power to let its school buildings for such public purposes as it sees fit so as not to interfere with the primary use of the school buildings.


VOL. LXIII-No, 374




The controversy as to the place (if any) which shall be given to the teaching of religion in the State schools has been described as “squalid, and also as 'vital.' It is both; the one in its prevailing method, the other in its far-reaching importance. The squalor' arises from the discrepancy which manifestly parts the arguments most passionately urged from the facts which they appear to assume, and sometimes also from the well-known motives of those who use them. The violence of language employed on both sides has notoriously no adequate, often indeed no apparent, relation to actual circumstances. When the Bishop of Manchester speaks of racks and thumbscrews, or Dr. Clifford finds in Mr. McKenna's Bill the emancipation of the rural districts, the man of sense curls his lip with irrepressible contempt, and the man of religion bows his head in shame. Arguments are generated in the conflict which are properly contradictory of the very positions which those who use them are defending. That the zealots for denominational rights and ‘atmospheres' should urge the absolute title of the individual parent to claim from the State the religious teaching which he himself prefers is sufficiently ridiculous. It is matched on the other side by the passionate refusal by the zealots of Liberalism to grant to the teachers in elementary schools liberty to volunteer to give religious instruction according to their own beliefs if they are invited to do so. All these violences of phrase, irrelevancies of argument, self-contradictions of attitude, invest the controversy with a “squalor' which its intrinsic importance might seem to render sufficiently inappropriate. The full gravity of the issue at stake is obscured by the short-sighted fervour of the combatants. It is nothing so petty as the exact modicum of unexceptionable dogma which can be insinuated into a Bible lesson to little children, which is in debate, or the precise effect on Church children's' minds of sitting during the religious hour side by side with the same little heretics who are their comrades at work and play during the rest of the day. There is a larger question eminently deserving a patriot's study, and demanding a statesman's most careful thought

. Can the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

educational system of a free modern democracy be kept in any organic relation to the Christian religion ? Is it inevitable that the establishment of a truly national system of education should bring with it the repudiation of religion as an integral element of the teaching ? The worst results of 'secularism' will be indirect. Once degrade the teaching office by stripping it of its highest function, and you lower the whole standard of the teaching profession. Your demands will determine the manner of man who joins the profession, and the method of his professional training. Moreover, when once this powerful and numerous teaching class has severed its connexion with the Christian religion, and left the representation of morality in its true sense to the clergy of the Christian Churches, there are other consequences equally probable and melancholy to be reckoned with. The secu. larised teachers will inevitably tend to belittle what they have been compelled to repudiate. There will be a conflict of the old and the new conceptions of education, and the conflict will be injurious to both. The tone and discipline of the schools will reflect the moral quality of the teachers, and that cannot but degenerate with the steady withdrawal from their ranks of seriously religious persons. On the children the effect cannot be wholesome. Those of them who belong to religious households may be supposed to receive from home and church that moral and religious teaching which their school ignores; but it is notorious that such children by no means constitute the whole of the scholars in our elementary schools. There are thousands of children, now receiving religious instruction in the schools with the good will of their parents, who, if the schools were secularised, would receive no such instruction at all, because their parents, decent and hard-working artisans, feel themselves unable to

teach religion.' There are great multitudes of morally derelict children who must find in the schools, to which they are mercifully compelled to resort, all the higher teaching which normally they should receive from home and Church. The Churches cannot deal with these children, for they may not use the indispensable instru. ment of coercion to bring them in to the Sunday-schools ; and even if it were otherwise, and they could command the attendance, it is certain that there are no effective means for dealing with them, no teachers trained in the difficult art of handling such rough material, no volunteers numerous enough even to attempt the task. It is not sufficiently remembered that these necessitous children have the clear right to first consideration in this discussion. It is solely on their account that the system exists, or at least that it is free and compulsory. Self-respecting parents—and such religious parents are without exception-do not need the coercion of the State to make them send their children to school, any more than they need that coercion to make them feed and clothe them. It is the mass of irreligious parents, who have no self-respect, who regard their children

« AnteriorContinua »