Imatges de pÓgina

denominational instruction. How ought they to be dealt with ? Certainly no self-respecting State could recognise such a right of the individual parent as that which has recently been urged. The parent as such has no place in a democratic system of government. As citizen he has his opportunity of determining the course of legislation, and he must accept the consequences of being unable to persuade his fellowcitizens to share his views. To this disadvantage there should in any righteously governed State be one limitation, namely, that imposed by the inalienable rights of the individual conscience. This limitation is expressed and satisfied, so far as is humanly possible, by the conscience clause. It was precisely to save the right of the dissentient parent that the conscience clause was devised, for the child cannot be supposed to have any conscience, and must be wholly represented by its parent. The notion that every parent may demand from the State such religious education for his child as he personally prefers is preposterous. It would involve the school in anarchy, and reduce popular government to an absurdity. It may pair in unreasonableness with the kindred claim to pay no rates of which the individual ratepayer does not approve the object. Passive resistance and the right of the parent are two fallacies, coined in the educational controversy, which reflect little credit on the common-sense of those who coined them. In the mouth of denominationalists the demand for this parental right is utterly absurd, for the denomination' is quite other than the parent,' and the denominational schools represent the charity of the wealthy, or the economy of the thrifty, or the ardour of the zealot, hardly ever the free choice of the humble parent. Had such a parental right been recognised in the past, or were it seriously exercised in the present, there would be no denominational monopoly in the rural districts, and probably no denominational schools at all. Putting aside as absurd the right of the individual parent to anything more than what as citizen he can secure, there is to be considered the equitable claim to relief of those parents who are attached to a system which the State, after accepting for many years, has decided for reasons of its own to alter. Saving always the requirements of educational efficiency and school discipline, can any relief be given ? It is not easy to discover any valid reason for returning a negative answer to this question. Some facilities for denominational instruction, to be given by representatives of the denomination during school hours in lieu of the undenominational teaching provided by the school curriculum, would appear to be an obvious and easy satisfaction for a demand, the substantial justice of which cannot be disputed.


The competence of the new Education Bill to secure general acceptance appears to depend on two points. In the single-school

districts there must be provision made for the case of parents who desire denominational instruction for their children, and the con. tracting out conditions in the urban areas must be such as neither to endanger educational efficiency nor to press unduly on the poorer parents. With these additions, neither of which violates its main principles, the Bill provides a basis on which men of good will might reach agreement. It can inflict no injury on any Nonconformist, that during the religious instruction the children withdrawn under the conscience clause should be taught the Catechism instead of being set down to some secular subject, always provided that the Catechism be taught by the representative and at the cost of the Church of England. The less friction involved in the change of system the more chance there is of its easy acceptance by all parties concerned. No democratic principle would be violated by the granting of facilities, and, as has already been shown, equity demands that they should be granted. It is easy to imagine reluctance to concede to the teachers in the rural schools the right to act as the paid representatives of the Church for the purpose of giving denominational instruction, and it is not a matter which ought to be insisted upon to the point of preventing

settlement, yet there are reasons why it might well be worth the while of the Liberal party to concede this liberty. In the first place limitations on the liberty of individuals are undesirable in themselves, and peculiarly repugnant to the genius of Liberalism rightly so called. Next, the employment of the teachers would avoid the risk to discipline which the introduction of untrained volunteers into the schools necessarily involves, and the remuneration which the volunteers would receive would be a welcome addition to stipends which are even now by no means lavish. More than this, however, is the effect on the comfort of the teachers in the villages and small country towns. Anything which tends to drive a wedge between them and the society with which they are connected is unfortunate in itself, and tends to diminish the happiness of their lives. Apart from the miserable suspicions of controversy, who can doubt that the more genial and intimate the relationship in which the village teacher stands towards the leading factors of village life, the more pleasant and serviceable will be his or her lot, and for a hundred most valid reasons the resident clergy will always be a leading, perhaps the leading, influence in rural life. Why drive a wedge between the teachers and the clergy? Since the latter will in the future cease to be the official superiors of the former, why should not another kind of association be encouraged between them, freer and kindlier than before ? Life is dull and lonely for the teachers in the rural districts. An ill service is done them by any legislation, however well intended, which tends to isolate them more than is inevitable. Who stands to gain by these churlish prohibitions ? Not the parents, for they will have to put up with less competent teachers ; not the children, for they will be the worse instructed ; not the Nonconformists, for the teaching will be outside the school control, and paid for by denominational funds to which they do not contribute ; not, as we have seen, the teachers themselves, for they will be limited invidiously in their personal liberty, and perhaps reduced to an embarrassing idleness while the majority of the children are handed over to untrained and perhaps inefficient volun. teers. Common-sense and good feeling seem to combine in the con. clusion that, if the teachers desire to give the denominational teaching, they should be free to do so as the agents of the denomination to which they themselves belong. When the Church of England is called upon to submit to a great sacrifice of prestige and sentiment, it might well seem the course of prudence to make the transition as easy as possible, for upon the good will of the Church of England the efficient management of the rural schools must always in great measure depend. Nor do I think that the Church has deserved so ill of the nation as to merit less than large consideration in this matter.

The proposed treatment of the urban problem is beset with much difficulty, and presents a more serious embarrassment to those who are seeking an equitable and lasting educational concordat.

Theoretically there is no objection to contracting out, and it is not to be denied that its appearance in the Government Bill reflects the insistence of the denominationalists themselves at an earlier stage of the controversy. Nevertheless, the practical objections are so formidable that it may be doubted whether that part of the scheme can be maintained. There is an unanimity of opposition from the representatives of education. · We should be returning, they say, to that bad stage of 'intolerable strain ’ from which the Act of 1902 released us. A whole crowd of difficult questions affecting the position of the teachers relatively to the profession as a whole, the rights of the children to share in the general provision of educational advantages, the capacity of the parents in the poorest districts to pay the requisite fees, the competence of the managers to guarantee the permanence of the schools, and so forth, are raised by the proposal. It is pointed out that in some parts of the country, as in Lancashire, the majority of the schools would contract out of the national system, with the result that a minority of schools would have a monopoly of access to the rates. It is certain that, unless the proposed grant were greatly increased, none but a few schools in well-to-do neighbourhoods would be able to maintain themselves. Finally, it is urged that there is nothing to set against these formidable disadvantages. No grievance will have been removed, for no grievance exists in the urban areas, where there is a choice of schools. The one educational advantage offered by contracting out'is the preservation of a variety of school types, but this advantage is illusory when it becomes evident that most part of the denominational schools could not afford to contract out' on the Government te

The suggestion has been made in


some quarters, and gains strength the more it is considered, that the Government might wisely drop the contracting out' clauses, and limit the Bill to the single-school areas, where admittedly a grievance exists. If, however, the passive resister '—that calamitous figure in politics, which draws the homage of all partisans alike-should make such a solution of the problem impossible, then it would seem better to follow some such course as that indicated by the Bishop of St. Asaph, and by a liberal provision of facilities make it worth while for the saner denominationalists to come into the national system.

Here, however, an obstacle emerges in the Roman Catholics and in the Jews-small minorities, largely alien in race, as well as sharply marked off from the generality of English folk in creed. How can they be dealt with except by some arrangement of contracting out'? and if their case necessitates the adoption of this educationally unsound arrangement, how can its extension to the whole body of denominational schools be avoided ? Is it beyond the resources of statesmansbip to recognise the unique character of these non-national minorities, and to provide for them apart from the local system altogether? It seems absurd that the Roman Catholics and Jews should call the tune for the English people.

The case of the elementary schools cannot be severed from that of the training colleges. If the latter remain effectively denominational, the former might safely become undenominational. Here, perhaps, the Government might find the basis of an arrangement with the Church of England. On the one side, that of the Church, the great renunciation of a privileged position in the schools might be made frankly, if, on the other side, that of the Government, the security for the Christian training of the teachers, which can only be provided by the definitely Christian character of the training colleges, were as frankly conceded. Mr. McKenna has taken a long step towards a concordat in the provisions of his Bill which define · Cowper-Temple teaching,' and give it ‘fixity of tenure' within the schools which may be given up by the Church. If to these provisions could be added the security for the quality of the Bible teaching which the Christian training of the teachers implies, there would be removed from many minds the most serious argument against accepting a settlement on the lines of the Bill.

Two years ago the present writer addressed a letter to Mr. McKenna's predecessor, which is here reproduced as exactly expressing what he would now wish to urge on Mr. McKenna himself.


March 13th, 1906. DEAR MR. BIRRELL,– I am confident that you will not resent my taking so much advantage of your kindness as to address you on one point which appears to me to have very considerable importance. Vol. LXII-No. 374



The difficulty of meeting the argument against a common religious instruction in the State schools, which is based on the possibility of the irreligious or non-religious character of Teachers, from whom the State, for reasons of its own, declines to take any securities as to the existence and quality of religious belief, will be allowed to be one of the most embarrassing elements in a very difficult problem. In the event (which I suppose to be not improbable) that no other security can be offered than that provided by the conscience of the individual Teacher, it appears that exceptional importance attaches to the indirect security for religious efficiency which may be found in the system under which the Teachers have been trained. If under the new Act it will still be possible to show that the most part of the Teachers have been trained in Denominational Colleges, a considerable step will have been taken towards reconciling serious Churchmen to that absence of tests,' which at first view seems to them extremely alarming.

I venture, therefore, to submit to you a few considerations which do appear to me weighty in this connexion, and to express my personal desire that you may find it possible to preserve such advantages as the State gives now to the Denominational Training Colleges.

1. The argument for simple Biblical Instruction as properly adapted to young children does not apply to the Students in the Training Colleges. They are at the very age when personal convictions are formed, and when those convictions express themselves most imperatively in religious acts. The Religion of Adolescence must be denominational, and cannot without grave injury be deprived of denominational fellowship and enthusiasm,

II. The best interests of effective collegiate life will be served by retaining the Denominational Character of the Training Colleges. I would remind you that the ranks of the Elementary School Teachers are very largely recruited from the Artisan Class, and that in consequence those Teachers are more than commonly dependent on the Training College for the shaping of character and the acquirement of sound principles. In these respects there is no adequate substitute for the discipline and worship of a Denominational College.

III. The moral quality of the Training which the Teachers receive in the Training Colleges depends mainly on the tone of the College-life, and this is almost entirely determined by personal influence of the Staff of the College. Experience demonstrates, I think, that the best kind of man, with the morally: richest influence on others, is far more likely to be a man of strong and earnest denominational convictions than not. The pastoral spirit—if I may adopt a conventional phrase—which is intimately connected with an earnest piety, commonly attaches itself to the closer fellowship and more intimate religious association of a distinct Church. The State will be well advised if in this respect it accepts a gift from Denominational Christianity, which is most valuable in itself, and most necessary to the sound working of a common system of Education, but which from its own resources the State cannot secure.

IV. I believe that you will find among educational authorities & very emphatic assertion of the superior efficiency of Denominational Colleges. There is more enthusiasm, a happier and richer moral tone, a keenness, and an esprit de corps which has nothing at all corresponding to it in the chill and artificial atmosphere of an undenominational Training College. I repeat, that-in Fier of the social type mainly represented by the students—these qualities are of special importance.

The idea has more than once crossed my mind that something might be gained by connecting the sacrifice of Denominationalism in the Schools with a better security for Denominationalism in the Training Colleges, by allocating the money paid for the fabrics to the provision of such Colleges. I do feel very strongly that it is really worth while surrendering something of what is called

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