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· CHRISTIAN BROTHERS.”
Sir,—In the present experimental and inquiring state in which we find ourselves with regard to educational matters, you will, I feel sure, bestow your attention on any suggestion, however crude, which may seem likely in any way to promote the great object of your labours.
I am induced to write by some observations contained in a letter in your last number, signed “Droitwich,” and apparently written by one who has had experience in the business of a schoolmaster. He is most naturally and justly solicitous, as to the respect due to members of his profession—their emolument and station. Reasoning on general principles he argues, that if you desire good schoolmasters you must give them respectability and competence. It is not right that they should be made to wait in the squire's kitchen; their house should be at least a decent building-£30, £40, or even £60, is a very inadequate remuneration. Neither ought respectable masters to be subject to the interference or insults of the members of committees; they must be more worthily esteemed and better paid, or you cannot expect efficient and good men to undertake the office. “The highest duty of a nation” says your correspondent, “is to give to the people sound religious and moral instruction. This instruction can be imparted only by good and welltrained teachers; and these teachers should (the importance of their office demands it) be placed in a position equal to the high duties they perform, and be enabled to maintain it with comfort and credit to themselves, and advantage to society.”
Now, I am not about to dispute the justice of these observations. The schoolmaster's is an honourable and most important office, and deserves respect and emolument; nor, on the principles which at present influence society, can you expect to have good masters, unless you reward them as they deserve.
Nevertheless, the sentiments expressed by your correspondent remind me of some facts which I recently gathered from a friend. He told me that in Preston there is a society called, “Christian Brothers,” (men of the Roman Catholic persuasion), who have devoted themselves to the work of education. They live together in the humblest manner, with simply the necessaries of life, without either comfort or credit, and devote their whole time, day after day, to the wearisome task of teaching. My friend informed me, that in Belgium the system was general, and that most of the schools were instructed by these “ Christian Brothers.”
I confess, Sir, that I have been very much struck by the statement, which, from the character of my informant, I have no doubt is in the main correct. No one can deny that such laborious devotion to a work of charity, such carelessness of credit or comfort, such humble life-long exertion, is peculiarly worthy of the disciples of him who went about doing good. Yet does it not furnish a very remarkable contrast to the mercantile principles on which education in our own church is commonly conducted ? Respectability and emolument, are with us the VOL. I. no. 12. DECEMBER, 1843.
common incentive, but with these “Christian Brothers,” there seems no object in view but simple christian love.
I hope I may not be so misunderstood, as to be supposed to deny the justice of your correspondent's claims. Men of all professions are actuated by such motives—the clergy not less than others. Still, I confess, there is to me something very worthy of consideration in the conduct of these “ Christian Brothers ;” and it is highly deserving of our thoughts, and not least of yours, Sir, who occupy so important a part, both as Editor of this Journal, and also in other capacities, whether our own church may not, ere long, furnish a society of Christian Brothers, who may be induced to labour, not merely for the sake of credit and comfort, but with a view of training immortal souls in the path of religion, and assailing in its strong holds the heathenism which threatens to overwhelm us. It may, I think, be well questioned, whether any very great advance will be made in true religious education, until schoolmasters, and let me add, clergy too, shall be found who are willing to follow the example of these “ Christian Brothers.”
I am, Sir, your faithful Servant, November 20th, 1843.
ON THE PROPOSAL TO ORDAIN CERTAIN SCHOOL
SCHOOLMASTER. Rev. SIR, -Having read with much interest the communication, entitled “A Plea for the admission of certain Schoolmasters into Holy Orders,” I waited with no little anxiety for the succeeding Number, expecting to see one or more letters, expressive of gratitude for the proposal of a plan for raising the status of the church schoolmaster. My surprise was, therefore, great at finding that the only communication from the class most interested, was one of objection. And allow me to suggest, that your correspondent has at the very outset taken a false position, from inadvertently overlooking one little word. “Presbyter Oxoniensis” only proposes, that certain schoolmasters shall be admitted to holy orders. As to the objection, that the present race of teachers are not qualified to exercise the ministerial office, I not only agree to the truth of it with regard to them as a body, but moreover, that many—too many—are not even qualified for the office they do hold. But, surely this is only an argument to prove the necessity of providing a better race. of teachers. And this would be best accomplished, by holding out inducements to persons of better birth and education to enter the ranks. It is notorious, that in many cases, persons wholly unqualified are chosen for the office, and are sent to undergo a few months' “ training," as though they could be changed into perfect teachers by some magic process. These have not the most powerful inducement to make the best use of even that short time, as they do not feel that their appointment to a good or bad situation depends on their exertions. On the other hand, a young man of respectable connexions hears much said of the progress of education, and of the higher estimation in which church schoolmasters are held, compared with what they formerly were; and that they ought to be considered as “subordinate members of the body of the clergy.” He has probably for years been engaged in the work of a sunday-school teacher, his great and only recompense being the friendship of his minister, and the approval of his own conscience. It is time that he should settle on his course of life, and he is tempted to venture on the profession of a schoolmaster, because in that he would be still engaged in the work of the church. All goes on smoothly during his training; he experiences nothing but the kindness of those to whose care his preparation is entrusted, and his choice seems a good one. He is appointed to a rural situation, and finds himself, for the first time in his life, separated from his friends, and thrown amongst strangers. He now learns, in what estimation his class is really held. Having occasion to call at the rectory, and venturing on an unassuming knock at the front door, he is greeted by an iga norant domestic, “you're the schoolmaster, ben't you? then go round to the kitchen door, next time you come.” The farmers he finds in general as proud as they are unlearned; and in fact, that he is without any one he can company with. He sees some of his associates in early life now holding the rank of gentlemen, although they may only have curacies at little more than half the emolument he receives himself as a schoolmaster. The difference arises plainly from the fact, that the profession of the clergy obtains respect for this among other reasons--because its members may rise by gradations, from the lowest to the highest office. The schoolmaster, on the contrary, if most successful, can only hope to obtain a salary, less in amount than the earnings of many mechanics, without the prospect of ever raising himself in station or emolument. Now I think this would be remedied, by holding out the inducement of conferring deacons' orders on certain schoolmasters, i.e. those who have the qualifications that may be deemed requisite, with the understanding, that, if any were ever admitted to priests' orders, it would be the exception, not the rule ; by this means a superior class of schoolmasters would be created. And with regard to the fears of your correspondent, that this would prove an addition to the already too severe labours of the schoolmaster, I do not think there is so much to be dreaded on this account; besides, few would shrink from the imposition of extra duties, which would confer a new dignity on their office. On Sunday his services would be most valuable, to aid the clergyman in the arduous duties of the sanctuary. I am supposing, that he has (as he ought) the whole of Saturday as a day of rest, and that very little, if anything, is required of him on the Sunday in the school. The practice of having paid teachers for a Sunday school is wrong, as such services should be a voluntary offering, and therefore, if possible, on that day the children should be under the tuition of some one other than the schoolmaster, who should merely superintend the general order of the school. This is, of course, not always practicable ; but even supposing that he had to teach for an hour or two, and aid the parish priest in the celebration of divine service, it would not be more severe than an ordinary day's schooling. The benefit would be great to the clergyman, as it would leave him more energy to devote to the remainder of the service. In parishes where the minister from weakness is unable to deliver more than one exhortation from the pulpit, and by consequence, many of his parishioners who cannot come twice in the day, seldom, if ever, hear a sermon, he would be enabled to have two full services. And it must be borne in mind, that in most of these cases no additional aid could otherwise be procured, for want of funds to employ a regular curate. I could point to a neighbouring parish, where an incumbent with less than £150 per annum, has, unaided, celebrated three services each Sunday, besides a Wednesday evening lecture, till he was ordered by his medical attendant to relinquish one service on Sunday, and the week-day lecture. In multitudes of instances the aid of duly qualified assistants, in the shape of ordained schoolmasters, would be invaluable, if only on Sundays. This too would remove in some degree the necessity for the employment of “ lay agents” in aid of the clergy of overwhelming parishes ; which practice is held by many of our best churchmen to be highly objectionable.
Thus to raise a superior class of schoolmasters, would not only be to aid the clergy, but to encourage persons of better rank and education to engage in the work, because they would not fear being confounded with the half-educated schoolmaster. A person of respectability, engaging in any business or profession, in the acquirement of which he may have to endure much drudgery, is not thought the less respectable among his own class, because it is necessary for his future success; but let him become a national schoolmaster, and his lot is then cast there is no goal before him, and his friends regret that his abilities are devoted to a profession which holds out so little prospect of his ever rising, while his former acquaintance look coolly on him ; in other words, he loses caste.
It would be an evil day for the church when persons of uneducated minds were permitted to obtrude into the office of the ministry, and therefore “ Presbyter Oxoniensis” cannot be supposed to propose the introduction of illiterate persons. A perfect knowledge of the English language is indispensable, and, in order to this, some acquaintance with the classical languages. And, I believe, that were this proposal carried into effect, many of the new rank of “ inferior clergy” would not be behind, in propriety of reading at least, some of those who have been privileged to range the wide field of classic lore. Indeed, it is to be regretted, that much of the dignity of our church service, is, in many cases, lost at the hands of the officiating minister, simply because he reserves his energy for the pulpit.
With regard to preaching, it would be best not to require it often, if ever, and then it might be confined to a lecture, or the reading of a homily; because it cannot be supposed that they would have within their reach either the time, ability, or means, attainable by the higher order of clergy. This would be at once a distinctive mark.
In conclusion, while I, as an individual of the body whose interest “ Presbyter Oxoniensis” has at heart, would desire to tender him my
most grateful thanks for his valuable proposal, I beg to remark, that this is not the first time such an idea has been entertained ; I was told some time since, that one of our bishops had expressed a willingness to confer orders on qualified schoolmasters. And I humbly conceive, that, were the office of church schoolmaster thus exalted, many of the “ regularly ordained clergy,” of whom your correspondent speaks as unemployed, and yearning for the work of the ministry, would be tempted to undertake the office. Then, again, the endeavours to create a better class of schoolmasters by the higher education now given at the training establishment, will, I believe, be thrown away as to their direct object, unless the parties thus qualified experience greater encouragement than is at present given, to persevere in the profession ; for they will soon find, that they are fitted for employments not only more lucrative, but in which they may maintain a higher station in society.
With an apology for the loose manner in which these few remarks are strung together,
I am, Rev. Sir, yours respectfully, October 20th, 1843.
A FAIR STATEMENT OF THE POSITION OF SCHOOL
MASTERS, BY ONE OF THEMSELVES.
Rev. Sir,-I should feel greatly obliged by your inserting the following short remarks upon the letter, signed "Droitwich,” in the last number of your valuable Journal.
Your correspondent objects, that “ schoolmasters are overworked and underpaid.” That they generally have had enough of school at the end of the day, I think there is little doubt; but it by no means follows, that their energies are so exhausted that they would not be able (willing, I am certain, they would be) to assist the clergy, by visiting the sick and poor, performing part of the heavy duty on the Sabbath, &c., and endeavouring, as far as in them lies, to help make up for the "insufficiency of the present number of the clergy ;” and, to be assistants to the clergy should be the limit of our ambition. It should not be considered, that the elevation to the office of deacon should necessarily involve the licence to preach, or be regarded, as at present, merely as a steppingstone to a still higher office ; unless such elevation might in some very rare instances, and after a long probation, be deemed advisable. If the sum of £30 (which many incumbents would gladly pay in remuneration of such services as we might render) were added to the present income of the national schoolmaster, it would enable him to have many of the comforts, where he has now only the necessaries of life. I think that the adopting “ Presbyter's” plan would do much, very much, to raise the character and position of the national schoolmaster. What is it that damps the ardour and slackens the energies of the schoolmaster ? The knowing that he cannot hope to better his condition that he cannot expect to rise above what he now is. Give him something to look