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the administrator of the Act, but he is its interpreter. I had imagined that on the occurrence of a dispute, not as regards a question of pure administration, but as to the meaning of a clause of the Act, a case might be taken and referred to a court of justice. But I am led to believe that the legislature has, in the present instance, deliberately taken this power out of the hands of the judges and lodged it in those of the Minister of Education, who, in accordance with our method of making ministers, will necessarily be a political partisan, and who may be a strong theological sectary into the bargain. And I am informed by members of Parliament who watched the progress of the Act, that the responsibility for this unusual state of things rests, not with the Government, but with the legislature, which exhibited a singular disposition to accumulate power in the hands of the future Minister of Education, and to evade the more troublesome difficulties of the education question by leaving them to be settled between that minister and the School Boards.
I express no opinion whether it is, or is not, desirable that such powers of controlling all the School Boards in the country should be possessed by a person who may be, like Mr. Forster, eminently likely to use these powers justly and wisely, but who also may be quite the reverse. I merely wish to draw attention to the fact that such powers are given to the minister, whether he be fit or unfit. The extent of these powers becomes apparent when the other sections of the Act referred to are considered. The fourth clause of the seventh section says:
- The school shall be conducted in accordance with the conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain an annual parliamentary grant.”
What these conditions are appears from the following clauses of the ninety-seventh section :
“ The conditions required to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain an annual parliamentary grant shall be those contained in the minutes of the Education Department in force for the time being .. Provided that no such minute of the Education Department, not in force at the time of the passing of this Act, shall be deemed to be in force until it has lain for not less than one month on the table of both Houses of Parliament."
Let us consider how this will work in practice. A school established by a School Board may receive support from three sources— from the rates, the school fees, and the Parliamentary grant. The latter may be as great as the two former taken together; and as it may be assumed, without much risk of error, that a constant pressure will be exerted by the ratepayers on the members who represent them, to get as much out of the Government, and as little out of the rates, as possible, the School Boards will have a very strong motive for shaping the education they give, as nearly as may be, on the model which the Education Minister offers for their imitation, and for the copying of which he is prepared to pay.
The Revised Code did not compel any schoolmaster to leave off teaching anything; but, by the very simple process of refusing to pay for many kinds of teaching, it has practically put an end to them. Mr. Forster is said to be engaged in revising the Revised Code; a successor of his
re-revise it—and there will be no sort of check upon these revisions and counter-revisions, except the possibility of a Parliamentary debate, when the revised, or added, minutes are laid upon the table. What chance is there that any such debate will take place on a matter of detail relating to elementary education--a subject with which members of the legislature, having been, for the most part, sent to our public schools thirty years ago, have not the least practical acquaintance, and for which they care nothing, unless it derives a political value from its connection with sectarian politics ?
I cannot but think, then, that the School Boards will have the appearance, but not the reality, of freedom of action, in regard to the subject-matter of what is commonly called “secular" education.
As respects what is commonly called “religious” education, the power of the Minister of Education is even more despotic. An interest, almost amounting to pathos, attaches itself, in my mind, to the frantic exertions which are at present going on in almost every school division, to elect certain candidates whose names have never before been heard of in connection with education, and who are either sectarian partisans, or nothing. In my own particular division, a body organized ad hoc is moving heaven and earth to get the seven seats filled by seven gentlemen, four of whom are good Churchmen, and three no less good Dissenters. But why should this seven times heated fiery furnace of theological zeal be so desirous to shed its genial warmth over the London School Board ? Can it be that these zealous sectaries mean to evade the solemn pledge given in the Act?
“No religious catechism or religious formulary which is distinctive of any particular denomination shall be taught in the school."
I confess I should have thought it my duty to reject any such suggestion, as dishonouring to a number of worthy persons, if it had not been for a leading article and some correspondence which appeared in the Guardian of November 9th, 1870.
The Guardian is, as everybody knows, one of the best of the “religious" newspapers; and, personally, I have every reason to speak highly of the fairness, and indeed kindness, with which the editor is good enough to deal with a writer who must, in many ways, be so objectionable to him as myself. I quote the following passages from a leading article on a letter of mine, therefore, with all respect, and with a genuine conviction that the course of conduct advocated by the writer must appear to him in a very different light from that under which I see it :
“ The first of these points is the interpretation which Professor Huxley
puts on the Cowper-Temple clause.' It is, in fact, that which we foretold some time ago as likely to be forced upon it by those who think with him. The clause itself was one of those compromises which it is very
difficult to define or to maintain logically. On the one side was the simple freedom to School Boards to establish what schools they pleased, which Mr. Forster originally gave, but against which the Nonconformists lifted up their voices, because they conceived it likely to give too much power to the Church. On the other side there was the proposition to make the schools secular-intelligible enough, but in the consideration of public opinion simply impossible—and there was the vague impracticable idea, which Mr. Gladstone thoroughly tore to pieces, of enacting that the teaching of all schoolmasters in the new schools should be strictly 'undenominational.' The Cowper-Temple clause was, we repeat, proposed simply to tide over the difficulty. It was to satisfy the Nonconformists and the
unsectarian,' as distinct from the secular party of the League, by forbidding all distinctive' catechisms and formularies,' which might have the effect of openly assigning the schools to this or that religious body. It refused, at the same time, to attempt the impossible task of defining what was undenominational ; and its author even contended, if we understood him correctly, that it would in no way, even indirectly, interfere with the substantial teaching of any master in any school. This assertion we always believed to be untenable; we could not see how, in the face of this clause, a distinctly denominational tone could be honestly given to schools nominally general. But beyond this mere suggestion of an attempt at a general tone of comprehensiveness in religious teaching it was not intended to go, and only because such was its limitation was it accepted by the Government and by the House.
“But now we are told that it is to be construed as doing precisely that which it refused to do. A ‘formulary,' it seems, is a collection of formulas, and formulas are simply propositions of whatever kind touching religious faith. All such propositions, if they cannot be accepted by all Christian denominations, are to be proscribed ; and it is added significantly that the Jews also are a denomination, and so that any teaching distinctively Christian is perhaps to be excluded, lest it should interfere with their freedom and rights. Are we then to fall back on the simple reading of the letter of the Bible ? No! this, it is granted, would be an unworthy pretence.' The teacher is to give · grammatical, geographical, or historical explanations ; but he is to keep clear of theology proper,' because, as Professor Huxley takes great pains to prove, there is no theological teaching which is not opposed by some sect or other, from Roman Catholicism on the one hand to Unitarianism on the other. It was not, perhaps, hard to see that this difficulty would be started ; and to those who, like Professor Huxley, look at it theoretically, without much practical experience of schools, it may appear serious or even unanswerable. But there is very little in it practically ; when it is faced determinately and handled firmly, it will soon shrink into its true dimensions. The class who are least frightened at it are the schoolteachers, simply because they know most about it. It is quite clear that the school-managers must be cautioned against allowing their schools to be made places of proselytism : but when this is done, the case is simple enough. Leave the masters under this general understanding to teach freely ; if there is ground of complaint, let it be made, but leave the onus probandi on the objectors. For extreme peculiarities of belief or unbelief there is the Conscience Clause ; as to the mass of parents, they will be more anxious to have religion taught than afraid of its assuming this or that particular shade. They will trust the school-managers and teachers till they have reason to distrust them, and experience has shown that they may trust them safely enough. Any attempt to throw the burden of making the
teaching undenominational upon the managers must be sternly resisted ; it is simply evading the intentions of the Act in an elaborate attempt to carry them out. We thank Professor Huxley for the warning. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
A good deal of light seems to me to be thrown on the practical significance of the opinions expressed in the foregoing extract by the following interesting letter, which appeared in the same paper
“Sir,—I venture to send to you the substance of a correspondence with the Education Department upon the question of the lawfulness of religious teaching in rate schools under section 14 (2) of the Act. I asked whether the words which is distinctive,' &c., taken grammatically as limiting the prohibition of any religious formulary, might be construed as allowing (subject, however, to the other provisions of the Act) any religious formulary common to any two denominations anywhere in England to be taught in such schools; and if practically the limit could not be so extended, but would have to be fixed according to the special circumstances of each district, then what degree of general acceptance in a district would exempt such a formulary from the prohibition ? The answer to this was as follows:• It was understood, when clause 14 of the Education Act was discussed in the House of Commons, that, according to a well-known rule of interpreting Acts of Parliament, “ denomination must be held to include “ denominations.” When any dispute is referred to the Education Department under the last paragraph of section 16, it will be dealt with according to the circumstances of the case.'
Upon my asking further if I might hence infer that the lawfulness of teaching any religious formulary in a rate school would thus' depend exclusively on local circumstances, and would accordingly be so decided by the Education Department in case of dispute, I was informed in explanation that their lordships’’ letter was intended to convey to me that no general rule, beyond that stated in the first paragraph of their letter, could at present be laid down by them; and that their decision in each particular case must depend on the special circumstances accompanying it.
“I think it would appear from this that it may yet be in many cases both lawful and expedient to teach religious formularies in rate schools. “ Steyming, November 5, 1870."
“H. I.” Of course I do not mean to suggest that the editor of the Guardian is bound by the opinions of his correspondent; but I cannot help thinking that I do not misrepresent him, when I say that he also thinks " that it may yet be, in many cases, both lawful and expedient to teach religious formularies in rate schools under these circumstances.'
It is not uncharitable, therefore, to assume that the express words of the Act of Parliament notwithstanding, all the sectaries who are toiling so hard for seats in the London School Board have the lively hope of the gentleman from Steyning, that it may be “both lawful and expedient to teach religious formularies in rate schools;" and that they mean to do their utmost to bring this happy consummation about.*
passage in an article on the “Working of the Education Act,” in the Saturday Review for Nov. 19, 1870, completely justifies this anticipation of the line of action which the sectaries mean to take. After commending the Liverpool compromise, the writer goes on to say:
“If this plan is fairly adopted in Liverpool, the fourteenth clause of the Act will in
Now the pathetic emotion to which I have referred, as accompanying my contemplations of the violent struggles of so many excellent persons, is caused by the circumstance that, so far as I can judge, their labour is in vain.
Suppose that the London School Board contains, as it probably will do, a majority of sectaries ; and that they carry over the heads of a minority, a resolution that certain theological formulas, about which they all happen to agree, -say, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity,—shall be taught in the schools. Do they fondly imagine that the minority will not at once dispute their interpretation of the Act, and appeal to the Education Department to settle that dispute ? And if so, do they suppose that any Minister of Education, who wants to keep his place, will tighten boundaries which the legislature has left loose ; and will give a "final decision” which shall be offensive to every Unitarian and to every Jew in the House of Commons, besides creating a precedent which will afterwards be used to the injury of every Nonconformist? The editor of the Guardian tells his friends sternly to resist every attempt to throw the burden of making the teaching undenominational on the managers, and thanks me for the warning I have given him. I return the thanks, with interest, for his warning, as to the course the party he represents intends to pursue, and for enabling me thus to draw public attention to a perfectly constitutional and effectual mode of checkmating them.
And, in truth, it is wonderful to note the surprising entanglement into which our able editor gets himself in the struggle between his native honesty and judgment and the necessities of his party. could not see," says he, “in the face of this clause how a distinct denominational tone could be honestly given to schools nominally general.” There speaks the honest and clear-headed man. attempt to throw the burden of making the teaching undenominational must be sternly resisted.” There speaks the advocate holding a brief for his party. “Verily," as Trinculo says, “the monster hath two mouths :” the one, the forward mouth, tells us very justly that the teaching cannot “honestly” be “distinctly denominational;" but the other, the backward mouth, asserts that it must by no manner of means be “undenominational.” Putting the two utterances together, I can only interpret them to mean that the teaching is to be “indistinctly denominational.” If the editor of the Guardian had not shown signs of anger at my use of the term “ theological effect be restored to its original form, and the majority of the ratepayers in each district be permitted to decide to what denomination the school shall belong."
In a previous paragraph the writer speaks of a possible “mistrust” of one another by the members of the Board, and seems to anticipate “accusations of dishonesty." If any of the members of the Board adopt his views, I think it highly probable that he may turn out to be a true prophet.