Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

5 articles on this Page

THE EDUCATION CRISIS.

News
Cite
Share

THE EDUCATION CRISIS. There are indications that the present Liberal Government, in spite of its mighty majority, are not going to provide a satisfactory settlement of the Education question. In 1870 Mr. W. E. Forster was called a trimmer," and at the critical moment shirked a logical and national solution. Instead he enacted a sectarian com- promise, which for thirty-six years has- been a constant torture to the country and has gravely retarded the progress of national education. For many years it hindered the boon of free education, because of the difficulty of com- pensating sectarian schools for the loss of fees. Poor parents were thus subjected to an unnecessary tax, and school teachers had to spend a large portion of invaluable time in collecting pence, and arrears of pence, and in keeping elaborate accounts. At last Scotland led the way, under the guidance of the lamented Dr. Hunter, M.P., and once more took a start upon England and Wales in the matter of education. This enabled the goad to be applied, and free education was attained, but only at the price of bolstering up afresh the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and other sectarian schools. It is greatly to be hoped that in the new crisis which has arisen Mr. Birrell will not fail again, as Mr. Forster failed, and keep open the sore of sectarian strife. His utterances have, however, been sometimes weak, and it would seem as if he had set himself to try and please everybody instead of simply endeavouring to establish a just, settlement. It may be difficult to do justice to all, but it is impossible to please everybody all round by special treatment, and the man or statesman who attempts it, is lost. The chief difficulty, of course, is centred in the question of religious teaching; and, unfor- tunately, Wales has not given a strong lead in favour of a national and unsectarian settlement, such as might have been expected from a Non- conformist country, which has suffered so much from the intervention of the State in religious matters. Some of the Welsh religious bodies have passed resolutions in support of a form of religious teaching which would amount to a State establishment, regulation, and endowment of religion. This is opposed to equality, inimi- cal: to justice, and contrary to the fundamentals of the Nonconformist position. It may be hoped that it is not too late for the Welsh religious organisations to reconsider their views, and see whether they cannot exert their influence in favour of a solution which will keep religion clear of the State, and so prevent those mischiefs and that bitterness which always result from State patronage. It may be taken for granted that the distinc- tion between two present classes of provided and "non-provided" schools will be obliterated, and one unified system of common schools established. There will be complete and direct public control and management, and no sort or kind of religious test for teachers of any degree, from the pupil teacher up to the head master or mistress. This is all excellent; it is just and equal to every class it will promote educational efficiency and if only secular instruction were concerned all would go as merrily as marriage bells. But just at this point the "religious difficulty" intrudes itself to spoil the harmony. It might have been taken for granted that as a corollary of the abolition of religious tests for teachers, the teaching of religion, as such, in the schools must also cease. How can we con- sistently refuse to exact any doctrinal standard from the teachers, and at the same time impose upon them the duty of teaching religious doctrines? The position would seem to be not merely illogical and unreasonable, but also impracticable. The teachers, under freedom from religious tests, would belong to all creeds and none; and they can only teach honestly and effectually their own personal beliefs. Nevertheless, many religious and Nonconformist bodies, especially in Wales, cling to the idea of orthodox religious teaching, even when they give up all security for getting orthodox teachers. On the other hand, Anglicans and Roman Catholics object strongly to the undenomina- tional religious teaching favoured by those Nonconformists. They repudiate such teach- ing as repugnant to themselves, and avow emphatically that they would prefer the exclusion of all religious teaching to what may be called the teaching of the State residuum of religion. These considerations seem to point inevitably to purely secular education in the State schools as the only alternative to the intolerable sectarian system. It is true that Anglican and Roman try to use this as a lever to maintain the present arrangement; and their chief contention is that parents have a right that children shall be taught the religion of the parents in the State schools. This is an obvious fallacy. Such a right has never existed. The Anglican Church claims credit for services rendered in the past to national education; but the truth is that the Church has not served, but hindered education. For the sake of promoting Church interests, it claimed from the first to control the education of the young, instead of leaving it in the impartial hands of the State. The Church has always had a sectarian, and not a national, object in taking part in public education. What they claim as a title of gratitude, Nonconformists advance as a matter of grievance. We say that Anglican and Roman parents have no more right that the State shall maintain schools and teachers in which their religion is taught, than that the State should provide churches and priests for the performance of their religious services. It is important in this crisis, when pernicious compromise may be once more enacted, that Welsh Nonconformity shall declare in favour of a solution which would keep the State clear of all religious preferences, even the preference of our own "undenominational" religion. Let us exclude religious dogma of every kind from the schools, but let us have systematic moral instruction to prepare the children to become good parents, kindly neighbours, and capable citizens. Incidentally it will also tend to make the children better Christians, to whatever denomination they are destined to belong. This does not mean driving the Bible from the schools, as Dr. Clifford clearly shows in one more of his masterly con- tributions to this question, in the Daily News, of Monday last. The Bible may still be kept in the schools, but not as a means of teaching dogma, or supporting any particular religious rites and ceremonies or form of Church govern- ment. It would be used to inculcate the moral virtues, and the children would still be made familiar with all those portions of the Bible within the compass of their minds. Secular education, therefore, need not exclude the Bible, though it can, and will, put an end to the perpetual strife and bitterness which the inter- vention of the State in matters of religion has always caused. PHILIP THOMAS.

[No title]

MARWOLAETH MR. R. S. WILLAMS,…

[No title]

Y LLOFFT FACH;