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A Plea for a Seculo-Moral…
A Plea for a Seculo-Moral System of Education in State-Aided Schools. To the Editor of tiJw Prestatyn Weekly." DEAR SIR,-In the controversy that is -disturbing the minds of the ratepayers of the :'Llanasa Parish at the present time, one pos- sible—and as it appears to us the only just, practicable and logical—solution of the educa- tional difficulty has hitherto been overlooked. It is to be feared that public opinion (or at least public sentiment) is not sufficiently ripe on the subject to justify Mr Birrell in pro- pounding drastic legislation on the following lines, but let us hope that the coming Measure will contain at least the nucleus or promise of this system and, if so, we may confidently look forward to the complete ful- filment of the same, at no distant date. In any case, as optimists—as believers that the world is advancing—we believe implicitly that matters must come to this, sooner or later. Now let us consider how the adoption of this system would affect the Education Question in the Gwespyr neighbourhood. I.-First of all as regards the MANAGE- MENT or CONTROL. All the Managers (perhaps 6 in number) would be elected publicly, that is, by the ratepayers. Probably they would be ap- pointed by the ratepayers in part INDIRECTLY through the County Council and the Parish Council, but the majority should certainly be elected by the ratepayers DIRECTLY and by BALLOT and not as at present even in Council Schools. And by the way, we, for our own part, fail to see why Clerics, whether Priests, Clergy- men, or Nonconformist Ministers should be considered indispensable or, as in some cases, be the preponderant element on the Board of Managers. They are not generally regarded as authorities on temporal affairs, and, of course, one 1: of the main objects of Day Schools is to qualify children for worldly pursuits, so that they may become ultimately able to earn their living. But, of course, the personnel of the Management will be a matter for the ratepayers to decide, when they get the power into their hands. 2.—Secondly as regard SCHOOL ACCOMMO- DATION. The County Council with, the assistance of the Managers would like steps to secure proper School Accommodation. Holding Economy as a principle, they would look could to see whether some existing building were available. They would naturally think of the Talacre School Buildings as being an excellent structure for the purpose. They would approach Sir Pyers Mostyn as representing the Trustees, Possibly Sir Pyers Mostyn would kindly offer the use of the buildings at a nominal rent, or account of the traditional interest of the family in edu- cation, or at least at a fair, equitable rent. Sir Pyers would not ask nor would the County Council consent to an exhorbitant rent. Bather than consent to a stiff rent, the Council would set about building a new school, the annual charge for which, spread over 30 years or more, would, apart from the probability of receiving a substantial sum from the Government, be very little between several hundreds of ratepayers. 3.—Thirdly, as regards INSTRUCTION or TEACHING. The real object of an elementary Day School is to help children to grow up into efficient and moral citizens. To become this they must be taught the usual secular subjects, such as Reading, Writing, Arithmetic History, Geography, Cooking and Sewing (for the girls), and. not only the English, but the Welsh language. Also, if time_ permits, Music, Drawing, etc. Every child ought also to be taught the Elementary Laws of Health; also the Principles of Morality (such as Honesty, Truthfulness, Industry, Purity, Temperance, Humanity, etc.), and the Application of these principles in the Laws of the land. If the Law be transgressed the offender is punished. It is of no use for him to plead ignorance of the law. Every person is supposed to have good knowledge of the law although he may never have been taught even the principles underlying them 0 4.-Fourthly, as regards the TEACHING STAFF. With respect to obtaining Teachers, the Public Director of Education would advertise and guide the Management in their selection. The selected candidates would have to re- ceive the sanction of the County Council. The most capable teachers would be chosen, and, of course, they would have to produce unexceptionable testimonials as to moral character. Such teachers could not be called clever devils." In other words, as the ob- ject of the schools is to help in producing efficient citizens, so efficiency would be the standard by which to judge of teachers. No question would be asked as to their Religious Tenets—or whether they held any—for the simple reason that they were the servants of the State, and in that respect in the same position as soldiers, naval men, members of the Civil Service, Post Office Officials, Excise- men, Policemen, etc. The public has no right to inquire into a person's political faith, and why should it pry into that sacred region, the Holy of Holies of their Spiritual affairs ? This plan would be highly acceptable to the Teachers as a pro- fession. Teachers would not have laid upon them the necessity of teaching a subject con- trary to their belief, and would thus not be tempted to act the hypocrite. Neither would they be debarred from obtaining appointments becaused they refused to play the organ, or to become Sabbath School Teachers in a certain Church or Chapel. Being employed by the State, their primary duty would be towards the State. Without neglecting this duty, and out of school hours (and hours of preparation for school), they would be free to attend and to assist at the services in any place of worship they desired. Members of certain Ecclesiastical Orders, however, as Priests, Ordained Clergymen and Ordained Nonconformist Ministers, Sisters of Roman Catholic and other Orders, etc., would naturally be excluded, as their duty is jirirnariiy. to the Church or Order they belong to, and only in a secondary sense to the State. 5.-Fifthly, as regards SCHOOL INSPECTION and EXAMINATION. His Majesty's Inspectors would of course see to this, and would insist upon efficiency being attained. Higher grants might probably be accorded for superior results, that is, the facilities for teaching being equal. This would be an incentive to the teachers to do their best and they themselves might justly claim commis- sion upon the proper results, over and above their salary proper. Secular or temporal knowledge may rightly be insisted upon by the State, as one of the duties of the State is to produce citizens according to its own ideals. There are other considerations which might be discussed, such as Feeding the School children, Medical Inspection of Schools, etc., but space will not permit our entering into these. 6.—Sixthly as regards SCHOOL ATTENDANCE. This is the province of the School Attend- ance Officer. He also might receive commis- sion if successful beyond the average in securing good attendance. Attendance, of course, should be compulsory. In this matter the State has a right to overrule the Parents. C, Finally, a word about the EXCLUSION OF RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION from the schools. Of course we have no right to blame the parents belonging to any religious body, for objecting to send their children except to schools where their religion is taught, but we have a right to expect those parents, or that religious body, to maintain those schools entirely at their own expense. Our standpoint is that no religious instruction or religious exercises, be allowed in State-maintained or State-aided schools. Let us not be thought irreverent when we say that the Bible (both Protestant and Catholic Versions) as a whole, and individual passages from it; also Hymns, Catechisms, and Creeds, etc., should be rigidly excluded from such schools. Let us for a moment consider the great diversity of opinion among us, as citizens, in spiritual matters, yet all of us having equal rights as tax and ratepayers. Some, of course, do not prefer any religion whatever, others hold the Jewish religion the majority, however, are Christians of a sort. Among Christians, however, we have Catholics, Anglicans, and Nonconformists. Among the Nonconformists, again, there are numerous Denominations. How is it possible to invent a system of Religion that will satisfy all ? It therefore seems to us the only just, practicable, and logical way to confine these schools to Secular and Moral Instruction. Are the children to be allowed to grow up Godless ? God forbid, say we from the bottom of out hearts. But we hold that the essence of religion is Voluntaryism. Support to religion should be voluntary and that is one reason why we look forward to Disestablishment-to the separation of the Church from the State. Moreover the State has no right to force religion upon any individual. Religious feelings cannot be forced upon anyone and religious knowledge should not be forced upon a child except by its parent. Secular and Moral knowledge, as we stated before, may rightly be forced upon children apart from consulting the parents, but parents are the custodians of the child's spiritual welfare until it has attained years of personal responsibility. Parents, of course, may prevent their chil- dren growing up Godless, by holding Family Worship and teaching them verses, hymns, and prayers. Parents further are usually adherents of some Church or Chapel, and hence their children come under the influence and instruction of the Priests, Clergymen, or Ministers, as the case may be, also of Church Leaders and Teachers at Preaching Services, Prayer Meetings, Church Meetings, Bible Classes, and lastly, but not least, at the Sabbath School. Even if the parents do not themselves fre- quent a place of worship, they may be quite willing for their children to attend. When the child has attained years of responsibility, Clergymen, etc., may approach him, without consulting his parents. There is a danger of Parents and Ministers divesting themselves of their responsibilities, and trusting to Day School Teachers to do their proper work. If there are any children in our land—and undoubtedly there ar £ —;who do not come under the influence of Religion, except in the Day Schools, then it is time our ministers, and all of us, should become Missionaries in our native land. Why cannot every Church work quietly in its own sphere, and even try to extend that sphere by all fair means, and if'the Churches cannot co-operate, then let them at least not. come into public collision and wrangle with each other over Day Schools, and other questions, that do not concern them specially, and thus give an opportunity to the "World" to scoff at Religion in every form. JUSTICE, EFFICIENCY, ECONOMY. P.S.-By the words the nucleus or pro- mise of this system," used at the beginning of this letter, we mean something to the following effect :—The inclusion in the Measure of a clause embodying the principle of Local Option, that is, or even recommend- ing Boards of Managers by a majority to decide in favour of excluding Religious Instruction, and replacing Moral Instruction. The election of Managers would consequently be fought in part on this question, and if the Government found there was a growing feel- ing in favour of purely Seculo-moral training, they might venture to ultimately exclude Religious Instruction from state-aided schools by statute. A Letter from, Rev. Meurig Jones has for want of space been held over until next week. Printed and Published by J. T. Burrows, Prestatyn, in the County of Flint.