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RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN THE…

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RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN THE DIOCESE OF ST. DAVID'S. Our readers will have followed, perchance with deep interest, the correspondence which has been carried on for some weeks past in our columns. The subject is one of para- mount importance. In these days, when every effort is being made by many to make the education of the nation's children abso- lutely and exclusively secular, there are some of us who still cling to the belief of our fore- fathers, that Gab Ditio is, after all, yureu, dysjt, To all such the columns of THE JOURNAL have probably offered nothing more interesting than the correspondence on the above subject. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to recapitulate that correspondence at any length. On the one hand, many schoolmasters, no I doubt, of various degrees of professional excellence agree on the whole in two points. In the first place they complain of the sylla- bus for the diocese as excessive. In the second plnce, many of them refer to the ex- aminations as not only excessive in scope, but also as unnecessarily unsympathetic in spirit. To the first of these, the Diocesan Inspector has replied by showing that the syllaSg is jegg advanced than that in use in the Di,ses of Llandaff and St. Asaph. To the secon .eom- plaint he answers nothing. Perhaps t, is as it should be. And yet we cannot t.i.. thinking that the charges made by several « the correspondents are too grave to be left unanswered. The Diocesan Inspector's com- parison of syllabuses is of value and of interest. Yet we hardly deem its ruling satis- factory. Nobody, in these days, would give us credit for the judgment we are supposed to possess, if we tried to justify a twelve hours' day for the labourers of Carmarthenshire, on the ground that men work thirteen hours a day elsewhere. And it is obvious that if the syllabus of St. David's is to be justified at all, it must be by other means than by reference to more ambitious syllabuses in neighbouring dioceses. We maintain that the question, like most others, should be decided on its merits. We may be told that it has already been decided by the Diocesan Board of Education. At the risk of being misinterpreted, we cannot accept even that answer as settling the question. We honestly have great respect for the Diocesan Board of Education. It is made up of members, every individual of whom we admire. But admir- able as those gentlemen are individually, and excellent as they are in many ways in their corporate capacity, we still think that as a Board of Education, they are eapable of im- provement. We have, in this very Board, excellent scholars, excellent thinkers, excel- lent preachers; but not one who has made the child his life study, not one who has had any 0 lengthened experience in elementary teaching. We have not the least hesitation in saying that our National schoolmasters should be represented on the Board of Education, and that they should be consulted when the syl- labus for Religious Instruction is being framed. That, it seems to us, is the only way in which we can secure a thoroughly sound workable syllabus. Indeed, we feel inclined to go still further, and to urge on the St. David's, and on all other Diocesan Boards of Education, the advisability of appointing inspectors from the ranks of those who have been systemat- ically trained, and who have acquired consider- able experience in the truly noble, and truly fine, art of teaching and training the young. We make bold to say this, not with the wish of advancing the selfish interest of schoolmasters, but because we consider that the examiner's work requires a kind of care- fully-trained skill, which is already possessed by the experienced and successful teacher. A child's timidity, a child's peculiar difficul- ties, a child's undeveloped modes of expression, to counteract, to solve, to understand these and to make proper allowance for them is a task beyond most people who have not devoted much time, and much loving care, to the study of humanity in the bud. We have already realised the vast importance of suit- ably training our elementary teachers hence the national effort in that direction. And we confidently predict that the time will soon come when we shall see with equal clearness the vital importance of such a training in the case of those whose task it is to elicit facts from young children. In the meantime com- plaints will be frequently made of the seem- ing lack of sympathy in examiners, and of their apparently harsh administration of codes and of syllabuses. It is neither our policy nor our desire to prejudice the public against either party to the controversy which has been conducted in our columns. For the Diocesan Inspector, in the conscientious performance of his arduous duties, we have the greatest sym- pathy. For a National Schoolmaster, too, we have profound sympathy. We know, and we assure them, we feel, how very much we owe them. We know how searching the Govern- ment examinations have become, and we know how doubly hard it must be to work on patiently under trying and insurmountable difficulties, preparing young pupils for the extra visit by the Diocesan Inspector. It is due to them, it is also due to our children, to make that work as pleasant as is compatible with a fair degree of efficiency. The contro- versy has arrived at an unsatisfactory stage. It has either gone too far, or it has not gone far enough. If the complaints of the school- masters are well grounded, then the sooner a remedy is found, the better for all. If, on the other hand, those complaints are frivolous and groundless, no time should be lost in proving to the public that they are unworthy of their consideration. In any case, steps should be at once taken to restore that sym- pathy and confidence which should exist between inspector and teachers. We would, therefore, suggest that both parties should join in asking the Bishop of the Diocese to convene a special meeting of the Diocesan Board of Education for the purpose of making a thorough enquiry into the whole matter. Such a course, we think, would be the likeliest to effectually and satisfactorily stop the leakage of energy which is illustated in this controversy—a leakage which Churchmen in j Wales at the present time can ill afford. I

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