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ONCE more the cry for compromise on the education question is strong. People are tired of the controversy. It is squalid,'' degrading,' a pitiful contrast with the common-sense treatment of labour questions,' a disgrace to religion.' A menacing alternative is held out, the alternative of secularism. Without questioning for a moment the sincerity of those who thus labour for peace, we may legitimately question the methods by which attempts are being made to secure it. Roughly speaking, the principle (if it can be so called) of those attempts seems to consist in trying to find out what all the different parties to the conflict desire, and in giving to each part of what he has demanded. The Roman Catholic is to have his schools, but he is not to have the rates. The high Anglican is to be allowed entry into Council schools, but he is to give up his Church schools. The Nonconformist is to have undenominational teaching at the cost of the rates, but he must allow school teachers to volunteer for religious teaching. The combatants are treated like silly children quarrelling over their toys. One is to bave the rocking-horse, another the spur, and another the whip, but whether one is right or another wrong is a question not 697
VOL. LXIII-No. 375
worth considering. Statesmanship of this kind, will not really produce a truce, far less a lasting peace.
The first point to be determined is whether the laudable desire that there shall be some kind of religious instruction in State schools at the State expense is compatible with that impartiality to all religious denominations, which is the very essence of all religious toleration. The characteristic reply of the modern opportunist is that practically a kind of religious instruction can be given which ought not to offend anyone. But since it is quite clear that this kind of instruction, rightly or wrongly, is offensive to more than one religious denomination, the attempt to find a common Christianity is a confessed failure. The fact that it is acceptable to the majority of the country, if it be a fact, gives that majority no claim to establish it at the common cost. Otherwise, any chance majority of Roman Catholics, or of Anglicans, would be equally entitled to give like exclusive preference to their own faith in the schools of the country, should their turn ever come. This is the primary vicious compromise, the attempt to teach Christianity by compromise, and so to give effect to the very praiseworthy desire that children in the State schools shall not grow up to be heathen. That object is well worth securing, but it will not be secured by severing the teaching in School from the Churches with which confessedly all further religious instruction must rest. The truth is that real religion is not a set of facts, nor a set of opinions, but a life which is as truly social as political life itself. For the avoidance of heathenism, association with a Christian circle, membership of a spiritual society, is far more vital than any imparted information. But Christianity by compromise is the direct negation of this essential and fundamental Christian truth. It is not wonderful that there are those who feel that they are fighting for the very life of Christianity in opposing the exclusive endowment of undenominationalism.
To soothe the feelings of these malcontents it is suggested that they should have opportunities of detaching the children of their communion on certain days in the week from the rest of the school for purposes of dogmatic instruction. It is hard to imagine any device by which children could be more effectively impressed with the idea that churches are abnormal outgrowths of faddism. For it is not really imagined that large use will be made of this concession. If it were so the suggestion would meet with resolute opposition from the whole scholastic body. There could be no continuity of religious teaching in a school which for two days in the week was grouped for religious instruction according to the number of teachers who volunteered for this service, and for other three days according to the number of denominations that happened to be represented in the school. In a well-disciplined school every child has his well-known place in a class or standard, and each class is a unit with a character and
life of its own. Age and capacity form the basis of the arrangement, order and regularity secure economy of time and efficiency of instruction. The teaching has a definite aim: every absence is an interruption to the progress of the class. But 'facilities,' as they are called, if they were at all freely used, would render all attempts at continuous undenominational teaching nugatory. The regular school classes would be broken up; the incursion of the Churches would carry off scholars from each classroom, and with the fatal tendency of voluntary teachers to irregularity and unpunctuality the denominational teaching would be as haphazard and unprogressive as the undenominational. It is hard to bring these facts home to the minds of some really zealous clergy, who, having no schools of their own, are attracted by the bait of facilities in Council schools. But the experience of the Birmingham School Board gained by a test prolonged over many years was that, in spite of the pains and zeal of several of the voluntary teachers, the system of voluntary teaching in the day schools twice a week could not be depended upon to provide regular or systematic teaching except in one or two favoured localities. The irregularity and inefficiency of the bulk of the amateurs was not to be denied, even though their attendance was only permitted on two days of the week, sometimes even on one day only. The weeding out of amateurs from use of facilities, on the ground of their irregularity, would be a mere question of time, and this is perfectly understood by those who are making the concession.
It is suggested, of course, that the rent paid by the Local Authorities for the use of Voluntary schools would secure the assistance of professionals, at all events in those schools. So far as large towns are concerned the suggestion may be entertained. Churchmen would then retain facilities for Church teaching in such Church schools as the Local Authority was willing to take over, and, if they could find the teachers, would have right of entry for those teachers on three days in the week. But that right would be subject to the invitation of the parent, and the scheme has yet to be devised which would secure parents from pressure on the part of an unfriendly head teacher to make no demand or to withdraw one already made. For the sake of right of entry into Council schools, which could not fail to be precarious, Churchmen are to submit to the imposition of two barriers to Church teaching in Church schools, the parents' demand and payment of the cost of teaching, and to possible exclusion should an unfriendly head teacher regard the presence of their teachers with disfavour.
It would be tedious to anticipate all the difficult problems that might arise from such arrangements. It is enough that unquestionably, constituted as human nature is, there would be friction, and that the days would be gone in which it could be said with truth, as it can now be said, that the religious difficulty is outside the schools. And this
much is quite certain, that when once the religious difficulty enters the school walls, the days of religion in the schools will be numbered. It cannot be too often repeated that a school works upon its scholars by the tone or esprit de corps which the unity of its life and administration supplies. It is hard to believe that the destruction of that unity, at the most vital point, namely, the religious life, could really advance either religion or education. Apart from the desire to effect a compromise, suggestions for religious facilities would not be seriously entertained by any educationist.
The case of those who refuse facilities, if they are Jews or Roman Catholics, is to be met by 'contracting out,' that is by removing the schools of these denominations from the category of public elementary schools, and offering the managers the smallest bribe, in the shape of Exchequer grants, that they are willing to accept. This device sins so glaringly against the one axiom accepted by all parties, that all children should have a fair and equal start so far as the State can give it, that it cannot possibly outlive the moment when the working classes come to understand what it means. It is an outrage on the cardinal principles of democracy. No part of Mr. Balfour's Act of 1902 is so popular with a working-class constituency as the equal wage for all teachers doing the same class of work, and the equal opportunity for all children, afforded by that Act. It is an educational advance from which there can be no turning back. It is useless to say that the proposal contains no hardship, since it is a return to the Act of 1870. This is not true to begin with. Under that Act it was possible to keep School Boards at bay, and to escape all imposition of school rates. Now the education rate is universal, and the demand to share in it on equal terms must be irresistible. But even if nothing more was suggested than a return to the conditions of 1870, the question arises whether educational progress is to be attained by retrogression.
The whole scheme at present before the public offends against every axiom of true educational progress. It destroys the unity of school life at its most vital point, it severs religious teaching from the life of religious communions, it imposes the cost of religious teaching which is acceptable only to a majority upon all religious communions, it breaks up the unity of the national system of education, destroys at several points the co-ordination of elementary with secondary education, and it imposes disabilities upon children and upon teachers because of the conscientious convictions of the parents. To religious instruction it cannot fail to do harm, interrupting the undenominational teaching in some schools, while it makes denominational teaching insecure, and gives it the appearance of a religious fad in all schools. Last, but not least, it brings the religious difficulty into the schools themselves, and thereby imperils the whole future of religious instruction in the schools. These are facts which may be concealed
from the less thoughtful of the public by perfectly sincere but wholly irrelevant encomiums upon the merits of moderation, or on the unfitness of the puerile mind to receive dogmatic truth. In the suggestions which follow all such irrelevant issues will be avoided. An attempt will be made to indicate the outlines of a settlement which shall not sin against the first principles of religious toleration and of educational progress, religious as well as secular.
In the first place it will be assumed that as a matter of religious toleration and equality no attempt will be made to give preference to any form of religious instruction. It must be assumed that Nonconformists will resist the endowment of all forms of religious teaching. It is to be most devoutly wished that this assumption is a mistake. Most of our difficulties would disappear with concurrent endowment. But there is no sign that any large section of Nonconformists would hear of it. This being so, the only alternative is that the provisions of the Act of 1870, that no religious instruction shall receive any Parliamentary grant, must be extended also to support from the rates, and that the whole cost of any religious instruction given in the schools must be borne by denominations or groups of denominations voluntarily subscribing for the same. This principle is in accordance with elementary justice, and there will be no security for religious teaching which does not rest upon justice, but only upon the preference of a majority for some particular kind of teaching.
Secondly, it will be assumed that no children are to be placed outside the pale of the public elementary system and of its co-ordination with secondary teaching for the sins, or even for the virtues, of their parents. But since there are parents, Roman Catholics and others, who will not allow their children to receive any part of their education from those who are not members of their own communion, such parents may fairly be called upon to provide their own school buildings for their own children and for no others. By so doing they relieve the ratepayers of a part of their burthen, and are entitled to some compensation. It seems reasonable that this compensation should take the form of being allowed to appoint their own head teacher. The assistant teachers might reasonably be appointed by the Local Authority subject to the veto of the managers on teachers whose appointment was hostile to the religious atmosphere of the school. The Local Authority should be entitled to make all reasonable requirements as to the character of the building, and to object to unnecessary multiplication of such schools.
This liberty to provide schools for children of one communion only should not be confined to Roman Catholics. It should be open to all denominations on the same terms, but in all cases the permission should only apply to areas in which such schools can be maintained without unduly burthening the rates, and in which there is a clear