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CONTENTS OF VOLUME XVI.
WHAT THEY CAN DO, AND WHAT THEY MAY DO.
AN N electioneering manifesto would be out of place in the pages
of this Review ; but any suspicion that may arise in the mind of the reader that the following pages partake of that nature, will be dispelled, if he reflect that they cannot be published * until after the day on which the ratepayers of the metropolis will have decided which candidates for seats upon the Metropolitan School Board they will take, and which they will leave.
As one of those candidates, I may be permitted to say, that I feel much in the frame of mind of the Irish bricklayer's labourer, who bet another that he could not carry him to the top of the ladder in his hod. The challenged hodman won his wager, but as the stakes were handed over, the challenger wistfully remarked, “I'd great hopes of falling at the third round from the top.” And, in view of the work and the worry which awaits the members of the School Boards, I must confess to an occasional ungrateful hope that the friends who are toiling upwards with me in their hod, may, when they reach “ the third round from the top,” let me fall back into peace and quietness.
* Notwithstanding Mr. Huxley's intentions, the Editor took upon himself, in what seemed to him to be the public interest, to send an extract from this article to the news papers—before the day of the election of the School Board. -Ed. Con. Rev.
But. whether fortune befriend me in this rough method, or not, :I. should like to submit to those of whom I am a potential, but of whom I may not be an actual, colleague, and to others who
be interested in this most important problem-how to get the Education Act to work efficiently—some considerations as to what are the duties of the members of the School Boards, and what are the limits of their power.
I suppose that no one will be disposed to dispute the proposition, that the prime duty of every member of such a Board is to endeavour to administer the Act honestly; or in accordance, not only with its letter, but with its spirit. And if so, it would seem that the first step towards this very desirable end is, to obtain a clear notion of what that letter signifies, and what that spirit implies; or, in other words, what the clauses of the Act are intended to enjoin and to forbid. So that it is really not admissible, except for factious and abusive purposes, to assume that any one who endeavours to get at this clear meaning is desirous only of raising quibbles and making difficulties.
Reading the Act with this desire to understand it, I find that its provisions may be classified, as might naturally be expected, under two heads : the one set relating to the subject matter of education; the other to the establishment, maintenance, and administration of the schools in which that education is to be conducted.
Now it is a most important circumstance, that all the sections of the Act, except four, belong to the latter division; that is, they refer to mere matters of administration. The four sections in question are the seventh, the fourteenth, the sixteenth, and the ninety-seventh. Of these, the seventh, the fourteenth, and the ninety-seventh deal with the subject matter of education, while the sixteenth defines the nature of the relations w are to exist between the “Education Department” (an euphemism for the future Minister of Education) and the School Boards. It is this sixteenth clause which is the most important, and, in some respects, the most remarkable of all. It runs thus :
" If the School Board do, or permit, any act in contravention of, or fail to comply with, the regulations, according to which a school provided by them is required by this Act to be conducted, the Education Department may declare the School Board to be, and such Board shall accordingly be deemed to be, a Board in default, and the Education Department may proceed accordingly; and every act, or omission, of any member of the School Board, or manager appointed by them, or any person under the control of the Board, shall be deemed to be permitted by the Board, unless the contrary be proved.
“If any dispute arises as to whether the School Board have done, or permitted, any act in contravention of, or have failed to comply with, the said regulations, the matter shall be referred to the Education Department, whose decision thereon shall be final.”
It will be observed that this clause gives the Minister of Education absolute power over the doings of the School Boards. He is not only