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The method of teaching writing was at this time that of tracing · the letters of the alphabet in sand, and this, as well as syllabic spelling, was regarded as a most valuable discovery. Mr. Lancaster improved upon Dr. Bell's plan, and rejoiced over a system which afforded him as a result
2,000,000 total words spelt by 100 boys per annum !'* At the same time Mr. Lancaster invented a system of rewards and punishments; a nonsensical system of logs, and shackles, and yokes, and cages, and blankets, and dying speeches, and paper crowns, and boys and girls slapping each other's faces, from which we turn with relief to the almost perfect order, tone, and discipline of the better schools under certificated masters at present.
The Inspectors report the discipline to be excellent, good, or fair in 94 out of every 100 schools receiving annual grants, and in 75 per cent. of other schools visited by them. The Commissioners say,
"The moral effect produced by the schools is more important than the instruction given in them, although not so appreciable. The standards by which it can be measured are less definite. We believe it to be very great, and we should be astonished if it were not so. Wo have seen that the managers of the public schools are almost all of them men whom strong religious convictions and feelings have impelled to found and to maintain schools at a considerable, sometimes a very great expenditure of trouble and money. We have seen that the pupil-teachers and masters have generally been selected for their moral as well as their intellectual character, and have received an education more religious than any other that is given in England. Among the higher classes in society the teacher is not socially superior to his pupils ; often he is their inferior; often the difference in cultivation and refinement between the school and home is unfavourable to the school. But among the labouring classes the teacher is almost the only educated man with whom they daily come in contact. The school, when compared to the home, is a model of neatness and order. We might assume, therefore, even if we did not know it to be so, that the religious and therefore the moral influence of the public schools over the children must be very great, and we have also much evidence in support of that opinion.'-(Report, i. p. 266.)
If schools are increasing and well supplied with scholars, if teachers are efficient, if the subjects of instruction are suitable, and if discipline and tone are good, there is no doubt that education is in a prosperous state. With respect then to numbers
— With these exceptions (the children of out-door paupers and of parents viciously inclined), all the children in the country capable of going to school receive some instruction.' (Ib. i. p.
* • Improvements in Education,' p. 59.
84, see also pp. 88, 293.) Next as to teachers.
So late as 1846 the best teachers were ignorant and unskilful.' (Ib. p. 99.) Now the effect of the presence of pupil-teachers upon the condition of the schools is very beneficial' (Ib. p. 102); and trained teachers are in every respect but one positively good.” (Ib. p. 168.) This exception is, as we have seen, the now frequently alleged neglect of the junior classes for the higher, of elementary for more ambitious subjects. Supposing this to be general, or even universal, it is remediable, and does not imply a want of ability or of character on the part of the teacher. As to subjects of instruction, no alteration is proposed by the Commissioners. As to tone and discipline, they report that the religious and moral influence of the public schools appears to be very great; to be greater than even their intellectual influence. A set of good schools civilises a whole neighbourhood. The most important function of the schools is that which they perform best.' (16. p. 273.)
Nor do the Commissioners confine themselves to giving their approbation to the results which have been produced by the existing system. They not only pronounce it very successful’in respect to schools, training colleges, Government expenditure and local subscriptions, inspection, method (Ib. p. 309), but they proceed further to approve of its principles. No other system has been devised which the nation could be induced to adopt.' (Ib. p. 308.) • The merit and the success of the present system is that it supports the intelligent management and the religious character of schools. (Ib.) • It excites feelings on the part of the managers which have a most beneficial influence on the whole character of popular education. (Ib. p. 309.) “The existing plan is the only one by which it would be possible to secure the religious character of popular education.” (Ib. p. 310.) • The controversies which have occurred in the course of the last twenty years, the difficulties which they have thrown in the way of the establishment of any comprehensive system, and their practical result in the establishment of the denominational training colleges and elementary schools, appear to us to place beyond all doubt the conclusion that the great body of the population are determined that religion and education must be closely connected, and we do not think that any other principle than that which is the base of the present system would secure this result.' (Ib. p. 311.) While we are prepared to suggest means both for its modification and extension, we believe that the leading principles of the present system are sound, that they have shown themselves well adapted to the feelings of the country, and that they ought to be maintained.' (Ib. p. 312.) Vol. 111.–No. 221.
Had the Commissioners stopped here, there would be no doubt of the character of their verdict. They might have recommended a patient adherence to a system which had already wrought so much, adding a few suggestions with regard to details, and a general warning against over-ambitiousness in the training of masters and the teaching of children. But they proceed to recommend, and we find ourselves at once in a new country. An entire dissimilarity of sentiments is found in different parts of the Report—so that disputants on each side shelter themselves under the authority of the Commissioners. No doubt the personnel of the Commission made either compromise or discrepancy on many points necessary. What agreement could there have been when two clergymen of the Established Church sat side by side with a gentleman who declares the Establishment' to be a lifedestroying upas,' and pronounces the sacred mission of Protestant Dissenting ministers’ to be “to shatter this image (the Established Church), and give the dust of it to the four winds of heaven'?*
* «Nonconformist Sketch-book,' pp. 16 and 29. May we consider Mr. Miall to have abandoned some of his previously entertained views, or does he still hold them after his late researches ? 'Some years ago he published his opinion to the following effect :- The clergy are men who, of necessity, are inimical to all reform; abettors of every abuse; united, organised, and therefore formidable opponents of every progressive improvement.' ('Nonconformist Sketch-book,'
• The education of the people owes nothing to them.' (Ib. p. 75.) In what page of our national records are we to look for the disinterestedness, the liberality, or the gentleness of the clergy? When do we find them struggling with the people for freedom and independence, or displaying that magnanimity which would prefer their country's welfare to the preservation of their own paltry emoluments? We boldly answer NEVER!' (16. p. 74.). Fifteen thousand clergy dependent on the one hand and powerful on the other--to the aristocracy pledged servants, to their own flocks supreme dictators-stationed at convenient intervals over the length and breadth of the land, and thus coming into contact with society at all points. Could mechanism more fatal to religion, or more serviceable to the interests of the upper classes, be framed and put together ?' (Ib. p. 69.) But as Commissioner, by perverse fate and the vote of
the majority, or, we may charitably hope, by conviction, he was compelled to put his name to the following statement of facts : In rural districts . : the burden of supporting the schools falls principally on the parochial clergy, who are very ill able to support it.
The heaviness of the burden borne by the clergy is imperfectly indicated even by such figures as these. It frequently happens that the clergyman considers himself responsible for whatever is necessary to make the accounts of the school balance, and thus he places himself towards the school in the position of a banker who allows a customer habitually to overdraw his account." He is the man who most feels the mischief arising from want of education. Between him and the ignorant part of his adult parishioners there is a chasm. They will not come near him, and do not understand him if he forces himself upon them. He feels that the only means of improvement is the education of the young; and he knows that only a small part of the necessary expense can be extracted from the parents. He begs from his neighbours, he begs from the landowners; if he
* A calculation of Mr. Hedley, from which it appears that, in support of eighteen schools, 2561. were annually paid by landowners and occupiers, and 4711. by the clergy.
The Commissioners acknowledge differences' amongst themselves. • It must not be inferred that this (the voluntary system) is the only matter on which we differ. În a subject involving so many statements, so many inferences, so many general principles, and so many executive details, universal concurrence was not to be expected, and has not, in fact, been obtained.' (Rep. i. p. 299.) As if to make this quite certain, Mr. Senior, one of their number, has put out a volume of counter-proposals. But, making allowance for all this, we were quite at a loss for an adequate hypothesis on which to reconcile the facts which the Commissioners state with the conclusions which they draw from them, and the recommendations which they consequently promulgate, until we discovered from whence the plan which they propose really emanated. Its outline was, we thought, not unfamiliar to us; and, on turning to the Encyclopædia Britannica,' we found in its pages the scheme which the Commissioners have presented to Her Majesty as their own. It is not indeed in the same words, and there are a few modifications of detail ; but essentially it is the same. Surely this is the oddest expedient that Royal Commissioners were ever_driven to. Happily, as we have said, the valuable part of the Report, and what the country needed, is the information which it contains with regard to the present state of education. Otherwise the House of Commons might have well grudged the expense of the six thick volumes. The · Encyclopædia Britannica' is a dear book, but it does not cost so much as the thousands spent on the Report ; and it contains valuable and interesting articles on other subjects besides · National Education.'
To show the great similarity between the schemes of the Encyclopædia Britannica' and of the Commissioners, we will place them in parallel columns :Scheme of the Encyclopædia Britannica.'
Scheme of the Commissioners. ]. Educational districts must be 1. Each county and each borough of formed. (Vol. xv. p. 826.)
40,000 inhabitants is to be an educa
tional district. (Rep. i. pp. 330, 545.) 2. An investigation must be made by 2. 'An investigation must be made by Governmental authorities as to the edu- a special Government inspector as to the cational wants of the district. (16.) educational wants of the district,' says
Mr. Senior (Suggestions, p. 58). This proposal was rejected by the majority of Mr. Senior's colleagues, probably as
not needing to be specified. fails to persuade them to take their fair share of the burden, he begs from his friends, and even from strangers; and at last submits most meritoriously, and most generonsly, to bear not only his own proportion of the expense, but also that which ought to be borne by others.
These observations apply chiefly to schools connected with the Church of England, to which denomination almost all the schools in rural districts belong.' (Rep., vol. i. p. 78.)
3. Existing 3. Existing charitable endowments 3. Existing charitable endowments must be applied. (16.)
must be applied. (Ib., p. 547.) 4. A school-rate must be levied on 4. A school-rate must be levied on actual property in the district. (16.) the rateable property of the county or
borough. (16., pp. 515, 541.) 5. A committee of management must 5. In each county or borough a Board be appointed by the rate-payers in each of Education shall be appointed to make educational district to make payments payments to schools which fulfil certo schools which fulfil certain condi- tain conditions, according to the numtions, according to the number of ber of children in average attendance children in average attendance ; and to after they have passed an elementary erect new schools. (Ib.)
examination. (16., pp. 328, 544.) 6. This payment out of the rates 6. This payment out of the rates, should take the place of grants now together with an additional grant of made to teachers, pupil-teachers, and 28. od. per child from the State, is to managers, and also of voluntary sub- take the place of grants made to teachers, scriptions. (16.)
pupil-teachers, and managers. (16., pp. 328, 544.) It will not, we hope, super
sede parish subscriptions.' (Ib., p. 343.) 7. Inspectors should have power of 7. Inspectors are to have power of allowing or withdrawing grants to increasing or diminishing grants to schools. (16.)
schools. (Ib., pp. 329, 547.) 8. Local management should not be 8. Local management is not to be ininterfered with. (Ib.)
terfered with. (16., p. 340.) 9. A conscience-clause should be re- 9. A conscience-clause is not indequired ; religious instruction being fensible on the grounds of justice, and given, as in the Irish schools, at a it may become the duty of the Comspecified time, and parents having mittee of Council to enforce it. (Ib., power to withdraw any child from it.
p. 344.) (10.)
16. There should be no report by 10. In the opinion of the majority the inspector on religious knowledge. there should be no report by the in(Ib.)
spector on religious knowledge. (Th.,
p. 348.) It really appears to us that all that the Commissioners can call their own is an attempt to dovetail together the plan of the · Encyclopædia Britannica' and the existing system of the Committee of Council. But the attempt to combine the information of the “Encyclopædia’ with the Blue Books has not been successful. It has resulted in many inconsistencies.* But there is no inconsistency in the writer in the 'Encyclopædia. He utterly dislikes and repudiates the existing system. He thinks that the people should be educated through the people' (p. 815). He would "contemplate the wants of the people, not through the peculiarities of any particular religious system, but by the light of reason and common sense as expressed by the spirit of the times' (Ibid.). He applauds the ease' with which the religious question is settled in Prussia, where, if there is a sufficiently large school, two masters are appointed belonging to different religious persuasions, and in small schools a conscience-clause is allowed. He acknowledges, however, with great naïveté, that • whether this formal and governmental religious teaching has
* See · Remarks on some portions of the Report of the Royal Commissioners.'