صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

money may be wretchedly stingy; but he cannot get from the Committee of Council å single shilling beyond what he has collected within the prescribed boundaries. When the school is opened, his chances of obtaining annual grants diminish in the precise proportion that his need of them increases. We believe that the principle of the Revised Code, which pays according to results, is the only safe principle on which aid can be granted from the national exchequer;* but obviously, where the children are poorest they will, as a rule, be most likely to fail at the annual examination; the children of the most prosperous working people will be best looked after at home, will be most regular at school, will work when they are there most intelligently and successfully, and will be most certain to satisfy the inspector. Our present system seems to us to present a rather unnecessary illustration of a principle which is already sufficiently vindicated, 'To him that hath shall • be given.'

The only remedy for these serious evils is to provide for the establishment and maintenance of schools out of local rates; and should a general measure for rendering school attendance compulsory ever be carried, it is obvious that it will become impossible to leave the founding of new schools solely to voluntary benevolence.

The principles on which we believe that a Local Rating Act should be constructed may be stated very briefly.

1. Municipalities, parishes, or unions of parishes for school purposes, should receive power to levy a school-rate, and should be required to establish and provide for the maintenance of elementary schools in destitute districts.

2. The Committee of Privy Council should appoint educational 'surveyors,' to report from time to time on the provision existing for popular education in every part of the country; and the Committee should be enabled to compel local authorities, when negligent, to use their rating powers.

3. The proceeds of the school-rate should be supplemented by grants from the Privy Council, and the grants should amount to at least double the proceeds of the rate.

4. The schools sustained by the rate should be under the management of school committees appointed directly, or in cities and boroughs indirectly, by the ratepayers.

5. Every school committee should determine whether the Bible should be read in the schools under its government;

It is rumoured that the present Government intend to retreat from this principle; any proposals in that direction must be most carefully watched.

[blocks in formation]

but all denominational catechisms and formularies should be excluded.

6. School committees should be empowered to take charge of existing schools, when the present managers are willing to surrender them; and in this case, the surrendered schools must cease to be denominational, and must come wholly under the management of the school committees.*

The objections to the rating system are obvious. Rates press most unequally on the ratepayers. A merchant or broker with an income of £5,000 a year may occupy a small office in Manchester or Liverpool, and be rated at £50 or £60; a tradesman who is thankful to clear £1,500 a year is rated at £300 or

£400.. Another difficulty may be anticipated; one section of the ‘liberalparty—the section which consists of the apostles or evangelists of culture’—will perhaps protest against placing elementary schools under local management. It has become a habit to sneer at town councils, at boards of guardians, and at parochial vestries.

In reply to the second difficulty, we can only say, that if the ratepayers have not sufficient public spirit and administrative power to be safely entrusted with the management of their local affairs, the glory of the empire will very soon be extinguished. The necessity of having inspectors appointed by a central board no one disputes ; local school committees themselves will be eager to have the efficiency of their schools tested by independent examiners. But in choosing school sites, erecting buildings, appointing masters and mistresses, fixing the salaries of teachers and the fees of scholars, + determining the hours during which the school shall be open, arranging what special subjects shall be taught in addition to those which must be universally required, we believe that the knowledge of local circumstances which would be possessed by local committees would be of the highest value. It is generally understood that Mr. Lingen's office is already almost overwhelmed by the

* To remedy the evil referred to on page 425, it might be provided that on the representation of any number of the inhabitants of a parish that the introduction of special religious tenets in the hours appropriated to secular instruction rendered the school objectionable, the secretary of the Committee of Privy Council should give notice to the school managers of the dissatisfaction; and that on a second complaint the Committee of Privy Council, or any other board that may be hereafter entrusted with the superintendence of the parliamentary grants, shall have power, after inquiry, to withdraw aid from the school, and to require the parish to rate itself for educational purposes, or to become part of a school district, and establish a school under local management.

† It might be expedient and necessary that the central board should fix the minimum of salary and the maximum of the fees.

innumerable questions of detail which it is now required to decide. We would diminish rather than increase the work of the central board. French centralization is not to our taste. It is not only a great political evil; it impairs the efficiency of the French educational system, as every one is aware who has any acquaintance with its practical working. 'I 'know,' said M. Duruy, looking at his watch, "exactly what is

being done at this moment in every College and Lycée in • France.' Not a pane of glass,' said a French professor, in the epigrammatic style of his race, 'can be mended in any 'village school in the country, without the official permission of the Minister of Public Instruction.' This is not the kind of thing we desire to see in England.

The anticipated inefficiency of school committees may be altogether obviated, if the gentlemen' who have left local affairs in the hands of small publicans will only do their duty. We believe that in those boroughs which have suffered from the gross neglect of public affairs on the part of the wealthier and more educated classes of the burgesses, the additional importance with which the proposed measures would invest the local authorities would have a most beneficial result; it would recall the deserters to their duty.

The objection arising from the unequal pressure of the rate may be alleviated by providing that the national grant shall be always twice or thrice the amount provided by local taxation.*

On the question whether all elementary schools should be free, there is considerable difference of opinion among educational reformers. For ourselves, we have a very definite and firm conviction, that those who are contending for the immediate and universal abolition of school fees are making a most mischievous mistake.

Their proposal is unjust; a working man with five-and-thirty shillings a week is better able to pay threepence or fourpence a week for his child's education, than a professional man, with £600 or £700 a year, to pay £20 a quarter for his girl at boarding-school. Why should the professional man have to pay his school bills first, and then have to pay rates to give a free education to the children of other people who could pay school fees for themselves without any trouble? If it be said that there must be free schools for the middle classes, supported by public money, it may be replied, that when the necessity for establishing these schools is clearly demonstrated, and a measure proposed which would not be more injurious than beneficial to the cause of education, it will be quite time enough

Mr. Goschen's recent speech on the reform of the whole system of local taxation deserves the most serious consideration of the country.

Compulsory Attendance.


be given up.

to consider whether school fees in elementary schools shall

The proposal is inexpedient. It involves the necessity of paying school fees for children attending denominational schools, and will create a thousand perplexing and irritating difficulties, which may destroy all hope of educational reform. It would render necessary such an increase both in the rates and the annual parliamentary grants, that the country would shrink on economical grounds from the whole scheme.

Let school committees determine, according to the varying circumstances of every district, what fees shall be paid, and under what conditions free orders’ shall be given. There is no insuperable difficulty in the way of determining what families should receive parochial relief to save their children from starvation; there would be no insuperable difficulty in the way of determining what families should receive relief of another kind to save their children from ignorance. No doubt many persons perfectly able to pay school fees would obtain 'free orders;' no principle of discrimination could be applied with infallible accuracy; but practically, no serious injustice need be inflicted on the deserving poor, and no encouragement given to the reckless and improvident. We believe that the Education Societies of Manchester and Birmingham have carried out the principle for which we contend with a very fair amount of


But all other difficulties are insignificant compared with the great difficulty of inducing parents to send their children to school. Already in many districts there is a large amount of school accommodation which is not occupied ; and there are very many efficient masters and mistresses who could take twice as many scholars as are actually under their care. In a series of Acts, extending over more than a quarter of a century, Parliament has recognised the obligation of the State to protect and enforce the right of a child to receive elementary instruction. Last session the principle of the Factory Acts was extended to many trades which had been previously untouched. Mr. Fawcett is resolved that it shall be extended still further, so as to protect the intellectual rights of children engaged in agricultural labour; and although the squires who have always boasted that they were the true friends of the poor, on the ground that they carried the Factory Acts against the heartless cruelty of the manufacturers, are strenuously opposing the attempt to effect for the rural districts what they glory in having effected for the great towns, the attempt will be successful.

But what shadow of reason can be shown for compelling

children who are at work to go to school, and leaving children who are not at work altogether uncared for? The workshop is itself a kind of school; it not only teaches a child how to earn its bread; it disciplines him to habits of order, obedience, and industry. Children who are at work are actually receiving an education, though an imperfect one; children who are in the streets are receiving no education at all, except in vice and crime.

There are economical arguments, which at first sight have considerable force, against diminishing the supply of juvenile labour, by compelling all children employed in the principal manufactories of the country to spend three hours a day at school on five days in the week, and requiring that these hours should be between eight o'clock in the morning, and six in the evening-the best working hours in the day; to take the children away from the mill or the workshop altogether on every alternate day appears equally perilous. labour at the command of continental manufacturers, it appears extremely inexpedient to increase the cost of labour in England. The manufacturers protest that the first thing is to feed the country, and that while we are so eager to get the people taught, we appear to be perfectly indifferent to the possibility of their being starved. They protest, too, that the interference of inspectors, the perplexing and annoying regulations which the Factory Acts oblige them to observe-regulations almost as hard to master as a new language or a new science—must impede the improvement of manufacturing processes, and place them at a serious disadvantage in competing with foreign manufacturers. To allege that all these difficulties are the suggestions of the mere selfishness of the masters is a slander; to allege that they are the proofs of stupidity is an impertinence. Every one who has any practical knowledge of some of the trades affected by recent Acts is aware that there are grave economical objections to them, objections to which the only immediate and effective reply is, that if our manufacturing supremacy can be maintained only at the cost of permitting one generation of our people after another to grow up in a state of semi-barbarism, our manufacturing supremacy must be sacrificed. But to a law compelling children who are not at work to attend school, none of these economical objections apply.

There is another class of objections to our recent legislation. The wages of children are an important part of the income of innumerable families. To put the children on half-time, in order to secure their education, may, in very many cases, make all the difference between independence and pauperism; for

« السابقةمتابعة »