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had been allowed to prevail in the various School Boards. But, unhappily, it has not been so; under the names of Liberality and Unsectarianism, what we must call an illiberal and sectarian dislike of the denominational schools has shown itself, in a vehement and almost furious protest against carrying out the principle of the Act. In Birmingham, in Liverpool, and in London, this has been the one question which has split the Boards asunder; at Liverpool, the malcontents, defeated on the Board, assailed the Education Department, and received, as they deserved, a decided, although courteous, rebuff. Mr. Forster was not called upon to pronounce on the wisdom or folly of the decision of the Board; but it was really absurd to ask him to interfere with it, against the spirit of his own Act, not only in this section, but throughout its whole tenor. In the London Board, on a similar defeat, the minority, represented by Professor Huxley, seem to have lost their tempers, and, for the first time, to have threatened the factious opposition, which is too well known in the House of Commons, and to which every popular assembly is liable whenever an angry party chooses to abuse the forms, which are meant simply to ensure a fair debate, and so to weary out a majority. The Act is, we see, given up by these gentlemen; it was hard to conceive, even from the beginning, how any fair reading of it could be pressed into their service, and Mr. Forster's honest interpretation of it, in the name of the Department, renders their case quite hopeless in this quarter. They are reduced, therefore, to argue the question on its own merits. Evidently the Act suggests only, it cannot enforce any course of action in the matter. The School Boards are free to act as they will, and the real question is, what is the just and expedient course.
The true nucleus of the opposition is formed of the men who would have carried out the revolutionary policy of the League, who hate all denominational schools, and look with repugnance on the impartial attitude of the Education Act towards them. Their principle is intelligible enough; they would have no aid whatever given from any public source to any school connected with this or that denomination. If they could have a secular system they would choose it as the best ; if they cannot have this, they will at least have an unsectarian’ scheme. Whatever tends to keep up the existing schools they oppose at every step; beaten in respect of support from the Imperial exchequer, they renew the fight in respect of aid from local rates ; precisely the old arguments are brought out with a new face, and a renewal of the Church-rate agitation, with all the virulence which local party spirit can infuse into it, is loudly threatened. But if this section
stood stood alone, its inherent weakness would soon be shown, in the Boards as in the public generally; on this and other points of its programme it would be beaten by an overwhelming majority. In fact, however, it has drawn to itself a considerable amount of support from those who cannot see the real merits of the question, and are blinded by the mere dazzle of the word 'unsectarian.
There is a great confusion of ideas in this matter. In the first place, the word "denominational' is used with a convenient ambiguity. It really means on this question 'connected with a certain religious body ;' and those who talk of the denominations and the people, the denominational and the unsectarian parties,' and the like, should remember that, after all, the ' denoininations' in this sense actually include the large mass of all the education, wealth, and power of the country ; and the residuum, except where its numbers are swelled by mere ignorance or carelessness, comprehends a comparatively small party or sect—the sect of secularists or "unattached Christians. But the name is used as though it implied a really sectarian spirit of narrowness and an enthusiasm of proselytism in these scbools; and, so used, it is utterly inconsistent with facts testified to over and over again from all quarters, and still more inconsistent with the provisions laid down for the future. With a Time-table Conscience Clause, an ignoring of all religious instruction by the Inspectors, and a vigilant School Board, including that party which has as keen a nose for sectarianism as ever the Holy Office had for heresy, what intolerance or narrowness of action would be possible? Yet if it is not possible, why make all this ado? If a school is good, and if only secular instruction is enforced, what can it matter whether it be a Board school or a Denominational school? The fact is, although it can hardly be avowed, that the real jealousy is of the Church schools. The Church has worked in the cause, while the Nonconformists have been comparatively inactive, and content to use her schools; and therefore the mass of the existing schools belong to her. The natural results of her energy are now grudged to her; and if her schools cannot be taken away, they shall, it seems, at least not be fed. But this would not make a good cry; the vaguer denunciation of denominationalism serves the purpose better.
Then, again, there is a confusion between the different functions of the Board itself. It is, first of all, an educating body, providing and maintaining schools; and here the Act emphatically proclaims that it shall be "undenominational,' that is, that its schools shall be quite unconnected with any religious or irreligious body. On this point no difference of opinion exists. But then it has two other powers —the power to compel parents
to send their children to school, and the power to meet all cases in which poverty might rightly be pleaded as an excuse. These powers are correlative to and co-extensive with each other; and both are clearly far wider than the Board's educatory action. The Act in each case protects the freedom of the parents. If they are compelled to send their children to school, they may choose a Church school, or a Board school (which will generally be a school of Bible-teaching), or a secular school, where they can find one. This, again, is allowed on all hands. But if they cannot pay their fees, the Board is, after due inquiry, to supply the defect in some way or other. In this respect it is merely to do what the Guardians may do, and ought always to do, under Evelyn Denison's Act, by making the payment of school pence a part of out-door relief. The operation of the Board is here so simply that of relieving officers, that it is seen to have nothing whatever to do with education ; and, in fact, the best solution of the question may perhaps be to set aside the kindly desire of the Act to avoid inflicting the stigma of pauperism in this matter, and transfer all relieving functions whatever to the Guardians. Now the real question, stripped of all the rhetorical ornaments and collateral issues with which it has been encumbered, is simply this,-Shall the Board take advantage of a parent's poverty to interfere with his liberty, and not only compel him to send his children to school, but practically dictate the school to which he shall send them? It may be contended that paupers have no rights, and that, if they ask for relief, they must take it on any conditions assigned. But it is strange to hear this plea put forward by the friends of the masses, and the tried supporters of “liberality.'
And this brings us to another confusion of ideas on this subject. It is supposed that the proposal to pay the fees in existing schools is made in the interests of these schools exclusively. Certainly it is contended that they shall have fair play, and that the crime of orthodoxy—the one unpardonable crime in the eyes of 'advanced Liberals' shall not absolutely outlaw them. But as far as their interests are concerned, it will be a double-edged measure. In some cases it may do them good by aiding their finances and filling their benches; in other cases—thanks to the strong class-feeling which exists in the section of the people supplying scholars to the elementary schools, and the jealous tenacity with which social distinctions are cherished, wherever they are undefined by any visible mark of rank-it may do harm; and we hear that managers are anxiously inquiring whether they can be forced to receive children, whether they like it or not. The picture of a 'gigantic system of out-door
relief' which has been so vividly drawn and so skilfully displayed, is coloured mainly by imagination, and will be found to be very imperfectly correspondent with fact. The real interests involved are those of the rate-payers and those of the parents. The rate-payers will have a right to complain, if, where Board schools are not wanted, they are built to supply the needs of the poorest class, when these needs might be met far more economically by payment to existing schools. The parents will have a still greater right to complain, if the mere fact of poverty is made to disqualify them from exercising that freedom of choice and that direction of their children which are conceded to all others. The question to be answered is, What cause has been shown why these manifest rights should be calmly set aside? And in spite of all the eloquence which has been lavished on the subject, we have never seen any sufficient answer.*
Most of the Boards seem to have deferred action till they have schools of their own at work, and can see exactly to what extent their relieving or eleemosynary action is likely to go. This is probably wise. If the principle adopted in London prevails generally, and Board schools become really schools of religious teaching and tone, we fancy that the operation of the proposed payment will be very circumscribed. If secular schools be set up to any great extent by the Boards it will be otherwise; for the grievance of forcing children to them will be deeply and extensively felt. But in either case the merits of the question remain exactly the same, and sooner or later it must be settled.
Supposing, then, that both classes of schools receive strict impartiality from the Legislature, from the Department, and from the Guardians and School Boards, it still remains to ask—and the answer is one of great importance and difficulty-whether the existing schools will be able to maintain themselves in the face of the rivalry which they must undergo, and of the fact that their supporters will be doubly burdened, by the payment of the rate and the contribution of subscriptions. The answer must be, in some degree, conjectural, for there has been as yet no experience of such a state of things in England. But two things are quite certain : first, that their maintenance will require very considerable effort ; and next, that the effort is well worth making.
* We are sorry to see that prejudice has been introduced into the discussion in relation to the Roman Catholics, who are thought likely to be chiefly benefited by this payment of fees. Surely the question is simply one of justice: possibly, although we protest against the Roman Catholic practice of making their position exceptional, and this making use of its exceptionality, some little indulgence might be not unreasonably conceded to them, considering the great mass of poverty with which they have to deal.
As As to the first of these points, it is, we fear, no matter of theory, but already, by anticipation, a matter of experience, that the payment or expectation of a rate materially diminishes the subscription-list. No one can wonder at this who considers how that list has hitherto been filled. There are found in it (to take the instance of a Church school) the names first of those who look upon education as a spiritual work, and believe that the Church, as such, ought to work in it as one of her regular functions. These will, no doubt, in great measure, continue staunch; and, even under the additional burden, their support will probably not greatly diminish. But there are many who have supported the elementary schools simply as a public duty to the community, not caring much how they were supplied and looking chiefly to their secular results; these will certainly be likely to diminish, if not to withdraw, their subscriptions, unless it can be proved to them that the voluntary schools will still be needed as a valuable element in the new system. And the third class of persons, who give just because others give, will follow the other two; but if the examples set are discordant, they will be pretty sure to choose for imitation the one which excuses them from putting their hands into their pockets. Clearly, therefore, there will be increased difficulty : not so much in the rural districts—for there the fear of a rate may induce an effort to keep it out-but in the towns, and especially in London, where School Boards already exist and rule over large areas, each considered as a whole; so that a parish or locality which has provided itself abundantly with schools will, nevertheless, have to help in making up by rates for the neglect or the poverty of its neighbours. Therefore, even if the calls on existing schools in the future were likely to be no heavier than in the past, there would be difficulty. But they must be heavier. The Boards, we hear, have wisely resolved to arrange and officer their schools on a scale of completeness and liberality much above that average which elementary schools have hitherto attained. The effect of this will necessarily be to force other schools to do the same—at least wherever the rivalry of the two systems is an accomplished fact. This effect will be most valuable educationally: in fact, we believe it to be absolutely necessary. But it will make a serious call on the resources of voluntary schools, and increase the difficulty of their struggle for existence. Either they must increase their subscriptions, or increase their school-fees. The greater liberality of the New Code' will help them, but it will equally help their rivals; and it must be remembered that the grant can in no case exceed the revenue derived from the subscription and school-fees. We cannot, thereVol. 131.–No. 261.