صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Secular and Religious Teaching.

421

a

to discharging these, he holds a prayer-meeting among

his men, the principle of Nonconformity does not require that his pay should be withheld.

But it may be replied, that unless the Bible is read in a school, the Government will make no grants for secular instruction, and that this is an interference with the religious freedom of the nation. Conceded; and we should do our best to remove the injustice. And if the Government should grant a colonel's commission only to religious men, on the ground that religious men made the best colonels, this would be a gross injustice too; but with the enemy's army in Kent, it would not be the part of a good patriot to refuse a commission because of a regulation which excluded other men from defending the State who had as good a right to do it as himself; and we cannot see that the injustice involved in the exclusion of purely secular schools from the benefit of Government grants and Government inspection is an adequate reason against our taking our fair share, under the circumstances most likely to secure success, in the great struggle with the ignorance of the people.

It is no man's duty to refuse his own rights because the rights of other men are not conceded. We never heard of tradesman who refused to receive payment of his own bill because his next-door neighbour was unable to get his account settled. If some eccentric gentleman said to his butcher, I will pay you because you have family prayers every day; but I

shall put off the baker as long as I can, because I know that • the miserable fellow never opens a Bible,' the butcher would probably make sure of his own money first, and then remonstrate with his customer for his injustice to his neighbour. Or to take a graver illustration : the Toleration Act granted a slight measure of religious liberty, under rigid conditions, to all who were willing to subscribe to the doctrinal articles of the Church of England; it was an atrocious crime to refuse the same freedom to men whose creed rendered subscription impossible; but the Nonconformists of those days do not appear to have thought that they were bound to refuse the partial concession of their own rights, because the benefits of the Act were sternly denied to Unitarians and Romanists.

There are some who say that they should have no scruple about receiving aid for religious schools, if the religious'clause in the Revised Code were cancelled. They do not object to Government aiding schools in which the Bible is read; but while the reading of the Bible is made indispensable they will have no aid. This seems to us a most unfortunate refinement. It is said that there were cabs which carried lamps up to the very night that Sir Richard Mayne's order was issued making lamps imperative, and that then the lamps were unanimously extinguished. Our friends do not merely put out their lamps on the ground that they are required to carry them; they take their cabs off the stand altogether.

Our last illustration may be regarded as unfortunate, since the cab-strike secured the repeal of the obnoxious regulation. But the school strike' of Nonconformists against the religious conditions on which the Privy Council makes its grants has had no effect. It is very probable that that condition may soon disappear; perhaps it will have vanished before these pages are in the hands of our readers ; but its removal will not be owing to the general refusal of Nonconformists for twenty years to touch Government money, but to other and far mightier forces. Many of the clergy of the English Church have discovered that to secure their own schools against a 'conscience clause' which they hate, it is their best policy to protest against any interference on the part of the Privy Council with the religious creed of school managers. It is their policy, not ours-or rather it is the strength of the new electors who are believed to be unfriendly to the denominational system altogether-which makes the change imminent.

If we had to construct a scheme of national education for the country, assuredly we should not dream of proposing a plan having the slightest resemblance to that at present administered by the Committee of Privy Council. Heart and soul, we should prefer a system of secular education administered by local boards and maintained by local rates, supplemented by grants from the national exchequer, and under the inspection of a National Board. But we must start from where we are; and from what we have said it will be inferred that, in our judg. ment, the first duty of Nonconformists is to re-consider their relations to the present Government system. The principle of granting aid to denominational schools will not be abandoned for many years to come, unless the Church of Engl: nd obstinately refuses to accept some slight but necessary changes in the terms on which the aid is granted. The House of Commons, as some one said a year or two ago—we think it was Mr. Lowe—is a public meeting of school managers; and the day is as yet remote when any minister of the Crown will have the courage to ask them to consent to the virtual abolition of the schools of which they are the patrons. Nor will any practical statesman desire that these schools should disappear. No doubt, the present system involves some grave evils; but it also secures

Shall the Denominational System be Abolished ?

423

many great and obvious advantages. The schools it has created exist; they are educating a million children; as a rule, they are far more efficient, whatever their imperfections, than other schools of the same class. Very many of them are zealously supported and energetically worked. In thousands of parishes, the parochial school is the clergyman's 'hobby'; it is a point of honour with him to get a good report from the inspector; his school occupies his time; he spends more money upon it than upon his greenhouse ; it gives useful and pleasant employment to his wife and daughters; the squire and the squire's lady patronise it; it is the duty of the visitors at the Hall to admire the school-building, and to examine with interest the needlework of the girls and the copy-books of the boys; the schoolmistress plays the harmonium at church; the schoolmaster sings bass in the choir. A statesman will argue that no such interest is likely to be felt about a school under the management of a parochial board and supported by parochial rates; that it is a very great matter to make the parson and the parson's wife, the lord of the manor and his lady, the allies of the teacher; that their personal influence will do more to get the children to school than anything else short of a compulsory law; and that their frequent presence in the school-room must sustain the authority of the master and mistress, and improve the habits of the scholars.

It will also be felt by all those who have no particular theory of national education to maintain-and we feel it very strongly ourselves—that the sacrifices and exertions of the clergy, especially during the last twenty years, on behalf of their schools, deserve to be remembered and acknowledged. In the rural districts, though the Hall may patronise the school, the Rectory supports it. Mr. Fraser, one of the assistant commissioners in 1858, collected the financial statistics of 168 schools in Herefordshire and Dorsetshire, and his report is singularly instructive. Out of a total of 1,028 subscribers-less than seven on an average to each school he found that

£ £
169 clergymen contributed 1,782 or 10 10 0 each.
399 landowners

2,127 or 5 6 0
217 occupiers

200 or

0 18 6 102 householders

181 or

1 15 6 141 other persons

228 or

1 12 4 "The rental of the 399 landowners is estimated at .£650,000 a year.'

[ocr errors]

Similar statements came from other parts of the country. 'I visited,' says Mr. Cumin, 'oue country parish in which tlie

resident owners of land subscribe £2 to the school, and four 'non-residents ['11 5s., whilst the clergyman gave £23 in one year. In this parish the rattable value of the land was 3,500.

It would be unjust to ignore this generosity, and the service which it has rendered to the country. To destroy the schools of the clergy, by suddenly withdrawing from them the State grants which alone makes it possible to keep them in existence, would be to inflict cruel pain and disappointment on those who have deserved well of the State.

But the present system ought not to remain just as it is.

(1). The eighth clause of the Revised Code should be altogether cancelled. We very much doubt whether the can. celling of this clause would lead to the establishment by voluntary contributions of a dozen schools throughout the country, whose managers would object to the reading of the Scriptures; but the change would remove the scruples of those who will not receive Government assistance while the reading of the Bible remains obligatory; and it is only just to offer the grant to those persons, however few they may be, who are willing to assist in the secular instruction of the poor, but conscientiously object to give any religious teaching.

(2.) School inspectors should examine only in secular subjects, and the grants should not be dependent upon the religious knowledge of the scholars. Why should national servants, paid out of the national taxes, spend an hour and a half or two hours of their working-time every day in seeing that certain formularies of the English Church have been well taught, and that the clergy man's instructions have been remembered ? Why should the State stimulate religious zeal by diminishing its grants to schools if the religious instruction has not been satisfactory? Let these matters be left to the conscience and zeal of the school managers,

(3.) No school should henceforth receive any assistance from public money except on condition of accepting an efficient conscience clause.' The form of the present clause for Church of England schools is said to be objectionable to many of the clergy who honestly desire to carry out its spirit; if so, it ought to be amended. We are inclined, however, to think that the most effective regulation would be one requiring that, in assisted schools, of whatever denomination, all religious instruction should be

Every school aided from the grant must be either: (a.) A school in connection with some recognised religious denominaChanges necessary in the Minutes.'

* (b.) A school in which, besides secular instruction, the Scriptures are ' 'read daily from the authorised version.'

* tion; or,

6

425

given during the first half-hour after the opening of the school, either morning or afternoon, or during the half-hour immediately before closing ;* and that no children should be compelled to be present whose parents objected. Of course, a proselytising schoolmaster or clergyman would be able to exert a powerful influence over the minds of the children at other times. This is one of the obvious inconveniencies of the denominational system; if it were found to be intolerable, some remedy would have to be devised. +

(4.) The clauses should be cancelled under which the grant is withheld altogether, if the principal teacher be not duly certificated,' and by which it is reduced, unless there be either one pupil teacher for every forty scholars after the first fifty of the average number in attendance, or one certificated or assistant teacher for every eighty scholars after the first fifty. The regulation requiring the school building to be healthy, properly lighted, drained, and ventilated, supplied with offices, and to have eighty cubical feet of internal space for every child in average attendance, is reasonable ; but the success of a teacher is a better guarantee of his efficiency than his possession of the highest possible certificate. There is reason, too, to apprehend, that if there is any considerable increase in the number of schools during the next ten years, there will not be a sufficient number of certificated masters to supply them.

But apart from the religious injustice which it is almost certain to inflict in rural districts, the great weakness of the present system is, that the aid of the State is least effective where the most aid is required. The grant for building a new school is never to exceed the total amount • voluntarily contributed by proprietors, residents, or employers of labour in the parish where the school is situated, or within a

radius of four miles from the school.' The clergyman or dissenting minister—and under the present Minutes, the responsibility almost always falls practically upon one or the otherwho wants to open a school, has first to arrange for the site, plans, estimates, specifications, title and trust-deeds, and to make them all perfectly satisfactory to the Committee of Council. He has then to beg money for the cost of the building within the limits defined by the clause we have just quoted. The district may be miserably poor; the people who have

It is an obvious objection to this suggestion that it might be difficult for a clergyman to arrange to be at the school every day at the particular time required by the 'conscience clause' in this form ; but in this matter there is only a choice of evils, and we must take the least. The suggestion is most honestly made in the interest of the clergy themselves.

+ See p. 427.

No. XCIV.

FF

« السابقةمتابعة »