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COMPANION TO THE ALMANAC
GENERAL INFORMATION ON SUBJECTS OF MATHEMATICS, VAI NATURAL PHILOSOPHY, NATURAL HISTORY, CHRONOLOGY, GEOGRAPHY, FINE ARTS, PUBLIC ECONOMY, &c.
I. THE EDUCATIONAL CONFERENCE OF 1857, AND THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE PROMOTION OF SOCIAL SCIENCE.
THERE were two great meetings in 1857 which naturally attracted a large share of public attention. The Educational Conference was held in London, on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of June, under the Presidency of the Prince Consort. The Association for the Promotion of Social Science was inaugurated at Birmingham, by Lord Brougham, on the 13th of October, and its sittings were continued during four days. The Conference, as its name imports, was for a temporary deliberation upon one great public question. The Association, as its name also imports, is to be a permanent Institution, embracing the largest range of subjects in the most controverted department of human knowledge. The Conference even limited its discussions by the terms of its announcement—" A Conference of the Friends of the Education of the Working Classes on the Early Age at which Children are taken from School." The Association aspires eventually "to bear as wide a relation to social and political science as the British Association, which has now been in successful action for considerably more than a quarter of a century, does to mathematical and physical sciences." (Lord Brougham's Inaugural Address.) "At present, however," adds the President, "a more limited view is taken;" and it is proposed "that some of the most important branches of moral and political inquiry should be singled out,"―Jurisprudence and Amendment of the Law, Education, Public Health, Social Economy, Punishment and Reformation. It is good, no doubt, to arrive at broader views by a tentative process; and when these small matters have been fully digested, and have gone to supply the life-blood of the social system, it will be safe to proceed to the et cætera departments, which, like the et cætera oath of Laud, may go more to the root of the matter. The Prince Consort, as
might be expected, in his address to the meeting on the 22nd of June, rejoiced to find a neutral ground upon which the members of the Conference might bring their varied talents and abilities to bear in communion upon the common object; he having clearly set forth how that "common object has been contemplated from the most different points of view, and pursued upon often antagonistic principles." He adds, "If these differences were to have been discussed here to-day, I should not have been able to respond to your invitation to take the chair, as I should have thought it inconsistent with the position which I occupy, and with the duty which I owe to the Queen and the country at large." That position imposed upon the Prince Consort a defined course, out of which another President might have wandered had he not been restrained by the eminently practical question before the Conference. Lord Brougham, in his Association, proclaims the necessity "for a common, or united action, where a great variety of opinion is likely to exist upon many matters, possibly no universal concurrence upon all the particulars of any one. But with the certainty of no agreement upon many matters, the Association is to "be undaunted by the resistance of adversaries, undismayed by the obstructions which the bias of prejudice, or the conflicts of faction, or the strife of controversy, raise to impede or to retard social progress." The Prince Consort enforces the great truth, that in overcoming the obstructions of social progress in the field of education, it is the duty of those whom Providence has removed from the awful struggle between poverty and enlightenment "manfully, unceasingly, and untiringly, to aid by advice, assistance, and example, the great bulk of the people, who, without such aid, must almost inevitably succumb to the difficulty of their task." In the reported proceedings of the Association we see no suggestion of any labour to be done, or any good to be effected, in the educational and reformatory departments, in social economy and public health, beyond the reconcilement of differences upon abstract principles and special plans; no recognition of the mighty change that has come over the community during the last twenty years, and more especially of the vast influence of the religious principle amongst every denomination, in calling forth that solicitude for the well-being of the bulk of the people, which is the one unalloyed merit of our times. If the practical philanthropist in crowded towns, where the factory sends up its smoky clouds, and in remote villages, where the bright sun of heaven shines on pleasant fields, had not seized upon the obvious evil to mitigate or to removehad he waited till "social science" had reconciled its anomalies, silenced its disputants, and codified its schemes, he might have sat down in despair, lamenting the only inconvenience pointed out by the citizen of Lagado, "that none of these projects are yet brought to perfection, and, in the mean time, the whole country lies miserably waste." We have been saved from this apathy by the combined efforts of the preacher and the journalist, the legislator and the novelist. Political economy has extended its area, and has taught that there is something in its science beyond the wealth of nations. The educational projectors, whilst they have been demand
ing compulsory instruction by the State, or the Voluntary System without the slightest aid or direction by the State-some all for religious instruction and some all for secular-for a long time forgot, what the Prince Consort so truly pointed out, that "the working man's children are not only his offspring, to be reared for a future independent position, but they constitute part of his productive power, and work with him for the staff of life." It is thus that the question of national education is mixed up with the wider question of the Condition of the People; and thus, with the tardy knowledge of this fact, the man who is anxious to fulfil the duty prescribed to those who stand upon an elevation, however slight, of station or possessions, now strives to raise the standard of physical comfort amongst the poor before he prescribes education as a panacea for every ill. We have come to the conclusion that there is more doing in the immediate present than in the immediate past for extending the blessings of education, because there is a stronger conviction of the duty of improving the condition of the labourer by an unpatronizing individual desire to come nearer to him in brotherly love. Wherever the workmen can be acted upon in masses, as in factories, this desire has produced its fruits to some extent. Wherever the condition of a family is known in town or village, it is now felt to be an opprobrium, even to those of comparatively moderate means, to see distress and " pass by on the other side." Where there is most misery to be grappled with before we can talk of educating, is in the pestilent alleys of the enormous capital, where local sympathies are necessarily weak. But, even there, it has been shown what individual energy may accomplish. The Conference of 1857 made manifest a fact, little before heeded, which may be accepted, with slight qualification, in the words of the Bishop of Oxford, that "the difficulty was not to find schools for the children, but children for the schools."
The Committee of the Conference have issued "Essays upon Educational Subjects," read during the meetings. The volume is a truly valuable contribution to educational knowledge-more so than any publication which we have before seen-because of the definite purpose with which the Conference was undertaken. The Committee, in the first sentence of their Preface, say, "That the main defect in the present state of popular education in this country is not so much the lack of schools as the insufficient attendance of the children of the working classes (many never coming at all, and most others being withdrawn before they have had time to derive much benefit), is a truth which has been for some years impressing itself more and more upon those who are best informed on the subject." This truth is a real discovery. It is impossible for us to follow out the various opinions expressed in these Essays, as to the extent of the evil, its causes, and its remedies. The book itself deserves the careful study of those who are interested in the details of this remarkable feature of the education question. The first section of the Conference was appointed "to inquire into the facts of the alleged early removal of children from school in the agricultural, manufacturing, and mining districts of England, Scotland, and
Wales, and to inquire into the cause of such early removal and its results." The first paper read, in that section, that of the Rev. M. Mitchell, shows the result obtained from the summaries of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, which establishes the fact that the children of the working classes do leave school at too early an age?: “that in every hundred children of the poorer classes at present attending school, there are about thirty-three, or one-third, who are ten years of age; while only one-fiftieth remain at school to fourteen years. Thus, if we take twelve years to be the period of school life from the age of two to fourteen, the apprentice age, we shall find there are sixty-six children who remain, in every hundred, beyond their tenth year, and about six who stop the whole period up to fourteen."
Of the general statistics of education, we are inclined to think that the Essay of Mr. Baines presents the most comprehensive view. The number of children in this country entirely without education is very small; the real evil being that their education is too short, and terminates at too early an age. Although the total number of children in England and Wales, between the ages of three and fifteen years, is 4,908,696, and of that number only 2,046,848 were found in school at the Census of 1851, it does not follow that those who were not at school at that date never had attended or would attend school. It is right to add that there are at least two sources of defect in the educational returns-namely, first, that some schools were probably overlooked; and, second, that many children receiving education at home are not included in the returns. Further, the day-school education is supplemented in England by a most important agency very little known on the Continent, namely, by the Sunday-schools, 23,514 in number, taught by 318,135 teachers, and containing no less than 2,407,642 scholars. Our authentic statistics do not extend further back than the year 1818; but between that year and the year 1851, whilst the population increased 54 per cent., the number of day-scholars increased 218 per cent., and the number of Sunday-scholars 404 per cent. Nearly the whole of this extraordinary increase must have been in the children of the working classes, brought for the first time under education. The unendowed public schools, which have been created almost wholly by the zeal and benevolence of religious associations for the express benefit of the labouring classes, numbered only 861 in the returns of 1818, and numbered 11,390 in the Census of 1851.
The final resolution passed in that section of the Conference which especially considered the early removal of children from schools, was as follows:
"1. That in the opinion of the Conference, the greater number of the children of the working classes in the agricultural, manufacturing, and mining districts are removed from school when from nine to ten years old; and that their removal at so early an age, in great measure, destroys the effect of the education provided for them.
2. That this section having inquired into the causes of such carly removal, is of opinion that it is not commonly to be traced to
the poverty of parents, but in some instances to objections to the rules of the school, in others, to its unpractical character; in others, to an undervaluing of education by parents from the inefficiency of the education which they themselves received; and, as a general rule, to the state of the labour market, which imparts great value to the labour of children, and thus leads, 1st, to employers of the parents requiring the labour of the children; 2nd, to dissolute parents living upon the wages of children's labour; 3rd, to a premature and ruinous independence of life and action amongst the very young; all of which causes lead to the withdrawal of the children from school.
"3. That the section cannot express these conclusions without adding that, in its opinion, whilst some protection of children from too early labour may, in certain cases, become necessary, it is in the improvement of education by moral and religious influences, rather than by legislation, that the greatest remedy for these evils must be found."
We proceed, from this limited and practical labour of the Educational Conference, to the wider range and larger views of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science.
The living writer of the greatest fame said, thirty-four years ago, "This is the age of societies. There is scarcely one Englishman in ten who has not belonged to some association for distributing books, or for prosecuting them; for sending invalids to the hospital, or beggars to the tread-mill; for giving plate to the rich, or blankets to the poor." ."* Since this was written, societies have become more ambitious. A quarter of a century ago there were societies for affording medical and surgical relief; societies for the relief of indigence, whether general or professional; societies with very special objects of "social science," such as the Philanthropic Society, for the reformation of criminal poor children,-the Society for the Suppression of Mendicity,-the Guardian Society, for employing unhappy females, the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline,the Society for Encouraging Female Servants by Annual Rewards,the Society for Superseding Climbing Boys,-the Society for the Suppression of Vice. The religious societies were also for specific purposes for the distribution of bibles and tracts, for missionary objects, for building churches and chapels. For education: the Society for the Support of Sunday Schools was gradually finding its good works expanding in a larger field, occupied by the National Society for promoting the Education of the Poor, and the British and Foreign School Society. The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge had then arisen to supply a want. All these societies had a defined purpose. With the exception of the AntiSlavery Society, we do not find any of these societies-which, in their several walks, with a few exceptions, were accomplishing unalloyed public good attempting to control or direct the course of legislative action, or setting forth their own superiority over the labours of individual energy. The first inroad upon the atrocious criminal laws was made by Romilly, in 1808, when he carried his * Macaulay, in "Knight's Quarterly Magazine," 1823.