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" Where There is No Vision"

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Where There is No Vision" AN OPEN LETTER TO THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF CARMARTHENSHIRE. lBy S. O. DAVIES, B.A., Tumble.] My Dear Fellow-Workmen, Having taken much interest during the last few years in the Elementary Schools of Carmarthenshire, and espe- cially after reading a recent article on Elementary Education in Carmar- thenshire by Mr. E. R. R. Lewis, secretary of the County Association of the National Union of Teachers, I am constrained to address this Open Letter to you. My intention in writing you is to draw your attention to the deplorable conditions obtaining in our Elementary Schools, as revealed in the continued exposures made by the teachers, to awaken your conscious- ness to the fact that class teaching in Carmarthenshire is now in every sense a sweated occupation, to solicit your hearty support of the teachers who have made, and are making, such a splendid fight on behalf of an educa- tional ideal now so painfully debased by the Education Authority of the county; and, lastly, to bring home to you the fact that Elementary Educa- tion is our birthright, the heritage of the workers'children. Just pondei1 for one moment a few facts conss^'ng the state of Elemen- tary Education in this county, and while pondering, don't forget that such facts have reference to the only means of a, systematized education open to nxjt of our class:-(a) That out of 495 class teachers in this county, 419 are uncertificated; that is, four out of every five of your children' s teachers have no pretensions to being educated themselves. A very large number of these unqualified •teachers have not the education of a sharp boy of 12 years of age. Many of them have adopted the teaching pro- fession advanced in years, leaving the;r .dome-stic duties, presumably, to en- large the minds and mould the charac- ters of your children for a matter of 12s. 6d. per week. » The proper study of mankind is man," says the poet; yes, and the profoundest study of mankind is the child. Consider vs^fe-t a delicate piece of mechanism is (/ ■"liW-. Try and imagine the signifi- fcst!arid importance of the inter- att'iGii- of mind and body; how a physical defect in the child's body may" retard the growth of the mind, or how an abnormally active mind may undermine the health of the body; and all these could be detected, controlled, or, where necessary, removed, were the child placed in the care of an edu- cated teacher. Imagine what a tragedy it must be to place in. the hands of an illiterate teacher, whose service is valued at !2s. 6d. per wek, the most delicate and sensitive -f all things, a child, ,lTH ITS ETERNAL POSSIBILITIES- I physical, intellectual, moral, and spiritual. And, mark you, there are 4 19 such teachers out of a total of A95 class teachers in this county. No wonder Carmarthen County is con- sidered to be about the worst staffed in England and Wales. But they are your schools, and you-you staunch Trade Unionists—who, in many cases, have secured your minimum wages, and a considerable amount of control over the conditions of your employ- ment, send your children, ostensibly to be educated by people most of whom really know nothing about education, but all of whom, with a few excep- tions, are sweated and exploited as you industrial workers were 30 or 40 years ago. (b) Consider further that there are actually 12 so-called head- masters or headmistresses in the county who are unqualified! The very heads of schools, presumably organising, supervising, and, of course, respon- sible for the education carried on in the school, not even possessing the certificate whereby they could lay some claim to being educated them- selves. 1 could go on multiplying the dis- abilities existing iin the Elementary Schools of this county. Have you heard that 14 schools in the county ihave lost grants on account of their dis- graceful conditions? That Glamorgan spends about 2h times more per child in its education than Carmarthenshire does? That owing to the lack of school requisites, three children are often obliged to read from one book? Surely an admirable way of spoiling the children's eyesight! That a large number of the teachers, who are trained partly at the expense of this county, migrate as soon as they are qualified -to other districts, where they are paid a living wage for their services? That there are many schools unhealthily overcrowded, where you have ten stan- dards packed into two rooms? Think of the child and teacher under such INHUMAN CONDITIONS! What enthusiasm do you expect to animate a teacher when such dis- couraging conditions exist? And would you be surprised to find every child, within an hour after entering such a school, listless, apathetic, and sleepy as the result of inhaling the atmosphere poisoned by so many breaths? You Trade Unionists may now feel like asking: Why do the teachers stq-,4 "II this? Why don't theYigo on strike I stated above that the teachers were carrying on a splendid fight in their efforts to improve Elemen- tary Education in this county. By the teachers I mean the certificated teachers, members of the National Union of Teachers. No unqualified teacher is accepted as a member of the Teachers' Union. They rightly maintain that no person can honestly be considered capable of teaching un- less that person at least has passed his certificate." This, says the Teachers' Union, is the minimum amount of knowledge a school teacher should possess. This rule should win the hearty approval of all interested in the children's education, and we must thank the National Union of Teachers for their attempt to safeguard our chil- dren, and to guarantee them teachers who shall know something of the meaning of education. But though this is morally the strength of the teachers' organisation, it is also in another sense its weakness. You miners know that the constitution of our Union, and the nature of our industry, are conducive to the growth of an organisation that can easily be proof against the blackleg and the non-Unionist. It is not so among the teachers, especially when they work under such a reactionary body of men as the Carmarthenshire Educaton Committee. I told you above that out of 495 class teachers in this county, 419 are unqualified, i.e., 419 are not, and cannot be, members of the National Union of Teachers. This, you now see, is the weakness of the teachers' organisation, and the fatuous strength of the Education Com- mittee. The Teachers' Union is weakened by the Education Commit- tee when it floods the profession with its 419 dressmakers, domestic servants, &c., admirable women, by the way, but emphatically not the people to pre- pare your children for the grim and dangerous battle of life. Let this fur- ther fact sink into your minds, and don't forget it IF YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN. I The Education Committee of Carmar- thenshire has not yet treated your chil- dren s education seriously, and cer- tainly riot enthusiastically. To the Committee, education is a most un- pleasant commodity to administer. A healthy system of Elementary Educa- tion would, of course, cost money, rates would increase, and the only factor consistently considered by the Committee is the one of rates. Some time ago I described them as police- men of rates and taxes," and I have had no reason so far to alter my opinion. Don't forget that these people take absolutely no pride at all in Carmarthenshire. The only pride they ever feel is that in their own measured selves. They are utterly im- pervious to every instructive ideal, and will continue to strut to and from Edu- cation Committees, fully conscious of their own importance, until, as far as in them lies, they have reduced the county intellectually to a state of benightedness unequalled in the king- dom. And this by a Committee whose notepaper sports such a laudable motto as Rhyddid Gwerin, Ffyniant Gwlad and in the county of Griffith Jones, Llanddowror; Vicar Pritchard, David Davies, D.D., Pro- fessor William Morgan, Evan Davies, M.A., LL.D., Dan Isaac Davies, B.Sc., Gwilym Marles, Sir Lewis Morris, &c., &c. Heavens! the spirit of progress, of light, has fallen on dark days in Carmarthenshire! Where there is no vision, the people perish," has been THE PROPHET'S WARNING I along the ages. Surely you, the workers, require no further proof of the fact that no vision inspires the Carmar- thenshire Education Commttee to noble and lofty aims. The conditions of your children' s schools, and the callous treatment meted out to their teachers, are the expression of a spirit that dis- heartens the visionary and destroys all idealism. When I think of the energy, enthusiasm and faith of the above- mentioned pioneers of Carmarthenshire, of the splendid efforts made in other parts of the kingdom to guarantee to the children, through the Elementary Schools, a foundation for the construct- ing of their moral and intellectual fabric in their struggle along life' s journey, when I watch the heroic fight that a few teachers (sorre of them most intimate friends of mine) are waging in order to make Education a living, inspiring ideal in our Elemen- tary Schools, I am impressed with the conviction that our Education Com- mittee is hopelessly out of touch with modern life and its ideals, that it belongs to an age long preceding the days of Griffith Jones and those who had caught his spirit; that its faculties are in a state of suspended animation, an anachronism, out of centre with the spirit of the 19th and 20th cen- turies. Such is the Committee that you, workmen, have appointed to ad- minister Education to your children! Why, the true Educationist is an idealist, a visionary; one who not only has faith in life s i,Illimitable possibm- tes, but who also believes that the grandest service on earth is work done in facilitating life's upward urge to- wards the Good. The true Educa- tionist is the Prophet! Arouse, then, yoursel ves, you industrial workers Don't you know that it is knowledge, ideals, visions, that will remove the drabness from your lives, eliiminate your present drudgery? Would you have labour become a pleasure to you? Then realise that the source of true pleasure is in the spirit, and that it will shed its warm life-giving light through an enlightened mind. Make it clear, unmistakably clear, to the Car- marthenshire Education Committee that to you life is more than meat," your body more than raiment. In betraying your confidence, this Com- mittee has made your life more diffi- cult, and increased the perils that will threaten your children in the future, who are being deprived of the pro- tective influence of knowledge.

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