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Detailed Lists, Results and Guides

CHILDREN LEAVING SCHOOL. ADDRESS BY MR. C. H. JAMES, J.P. On Saturday evening Mr. C. H. James, J.P., pre- sided over a prize distribution meeting at the Peny- darren Schools, a report of which will be found in another column. He delivered the following address on the occasion The 8th triennial report of our School Board just issued may give me some material for a few remarks to you on education in Merthyr. I do not purpose to enter into any controversial matters this evening, but to call your attention more particu- larly to the education of our young people after they have left our elementary schools. And I note here that Mr. Stephens, who has so carefully told the story of our work for the last three years in his report, has found, as an appropriate motto for it, the following extract from Addison I consider a human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the sur- face shine, and discovers every ornamental cloud, spot, and vein that runs through the body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection which, without "uch help, are never able to make their appearance." I may, however, venture to say that Addison'a words require to be qualified. We are not all formed of marble, and I fear in many cases no polishing will bring out all the beauties of which Addison speaks. But if not made of marble, we may have some granite, some sandstone or limestone, or even clay in our composition, and education, if it does its work aright, will reveal beauties and develop qualities even in these baser substances that otherwise would lie dor- mant, and that might be used perhaps to lower the man rather than raise him to a better and higher position. I note from the above report that in October last we had 10,000 children in our Board schools in Merthyr, and it is from these 10,000 children that wo may expect in a few years to get our future attendants at our evening schools and art and science classes, if such exist. Now you will find on page 9 the ages of these 10,000 children, and I think the figures are worth not- ing :â Number under 4 N-cars of age 447 5 856 6 1058 7 â 1166 3 â 1064 0 â 1005 10 â 1049 11 â 929 12 â 892 13 â 538 14 â 18.4 15 â 86 Total 9241 You will note that from six to eleven we have practically 1,000 children in each year of age, but after twenty the attendance falls off very rapidly indeed. Thus between twelve and thirteen we have only 538 from thirteen to fourteen only 184; and over fourteen only eighty-six. This certainly seems to me a very undesirable state of things, and surely someone is to blame when we find so great a falling off in attendance as is shown in the table. In'the first place I.cannot but blame the parents who, in so many cases, anxious to see their children earning wages, altogether overlook the fact that it is only when their boys and girls reach the age of from .twelve to thirteen that they begin to realize what education is,$nd what it can do for them. Poverty is constantly urged as a plea, and generally with success, as a reason why the children should leave school at such an early age; but parents scarcely realize that every child tnus sent to work only tends to lower the general wage rate, and thus to reduce their own wages. Then, too, I think blame must be borne by our School Board members themselves (including myself). I have, I think, attended the School Attendance Committee with fair regularity, and I know how difficult it is to resist the appeals made by parents on the score of poverty and illness; but I still think we, too often, err on the side of leniency, and that while we think we are doing a true kindness to the parents, we may, at the same time, be really punishing the child. To me it seems impossible that a boy or girl can ever hope to receive anything worthy of the name of education, who is content 3imply to have gone through the necessary standards at an elementary school, unless he has had implanted in him a noble discontent, a feeling that the little he has already learnt is but a stepping stone to something far beyond, unless he or she has learnt to learn and begun to realise how little progress they have as yet made on the road to some- thing higher and better. And yet, how many leave our elementary schools lacking altogether any such feeling] Indeed I feat ninety per (ient. at least do so, for if it were otherwise we should have a much larger attendance at these classes. Our evenin~ schools, instead of lieing a comparative failure, would be a success, and the future citizens of our town aud country would be a far in on* educated clasi than I fear they will be. Between the age of thirteen and twenty we ou"-ht to have, say, 7,000 young people in our School Board District, and if vye strike off say half as engaged in household dutiesâyoung girlsâwe have, say, 3,500 left from whom we might fairly expect to till our evemngclasse-i, &c.; andiftheyhadleft our elementary schools with the feelings I have just spoken of a large proportion of them would be there. But I regret to say that, in 1893-94, although we opened Evenin<T Continuation Schools at Dowlais, Gellifaelo-* pen\" .darren, Twynyrodyn, Abermorlais, Abei'canaid, lioedyrlpw, Merthyr ale, and Treharris, the total number on tlio register was only 1,142 and even they only gave an average attendance of 360. This winter, I am sorry to say, the figures are less. A^ain ill the Art and Science Classes 1893 and 1394° the total number registered was 550 with an erygo'attendance of 33C. rJ'he;« are, pvr|iaps, nut insults to be piyud of, nud one naturally asks, how can they be mended ? Are the Board and the teachers to blame ? Do they fail to properly meet the wants of the young people ? Are the subjects taught euch as they require ? I fancy this is not where we are to find tne true cause but it is rather to he found in the fact that such a large proportion of our children leave our schools practi- cally uneducated, and with no taste or desire for any further education. As long as this is the case, how can we expect to fill our evening classes, our inter- mediate schools, and our colleges ? I am inclined at times to think we have made too much haste, and that we have so far failed to understand that the truest wisdom is often to make haste slowly. I am inclined to doubt whether it wr uld not have been wiser, before we started our colleges and intermediate schools in Wales, assuming that the one is simply a step in the ladder to the next, that we took care, as far as it could be done, that the education in our elementary schools should be carried further than it is. I do not mean in number of subjects, for I rather fear myself that there is a tendency to overdo them, but rather in the time the children should be in school. What really good results can you expect in nine cases out of ten when the child leaves school at such an early age, and further, when the home surroundings of so many of them are such as they are ? I would suggest that the first step is for the State to step in, and say that all its children shall, for the future, have such a period of school-life as will enable our teachers to turn them out into the world, if not educated, at any rate imbued with a desire to educate themselves, and thus raise themselves higher on the ladder they have began to mount. It is, I know, the custom for preachers with small congregations to blame those present for the sins of those who are absent. I am afraid I am doing this, this evening. You who have won prizes, and those who have tried to win them and failed, are not thus to be blamed. You have, I believe, learnt and are still, I hope, learning how little you know and how much there is still for you to learn. You have doubt- less learnt the old truth that the wise man's education never ends. What you have done and are doing I should like to see more young people doing, and if this were so, what a different Merthyr we should have in a very few years It is my fortune to see something of what I may call the seamy side of life in this town, and it is a very very sad one. I will not be bold enough to say that education of itself is an absolute preventative of drunkenness, crime and poverty but I think I may safely say that if I wanted to trace out and find what has become of the old members of our arts and science classes and evening schools I should not look for them in the police-court. One word to our teachers and our Board. At times, when we look back at work done antl efforts and sacrifices made, we are apt to he disheartened and cast down but we must remember that we see but little of the harvest. God's mill grinds slowly but very surely, and we may be confident that, if good work is done, and efforts made, the harvest will surely follow.