Abbildungen der Seite

and, consequently, placed on a better footing. Or it may be, that some additional inducement to put themselves out of the way to procure learning for their children is required by the parents---such an inducement, for instance, as would be supplied in the rumoured plan for making education one condition of the extension of the franchise. Or it may be, that the indisposition arises from ignorance on the part of the parents themselves, and a consequent inability to form a right estimate of the value of education. This admits of no other remedy

, that we can discover but time; which, as a matter of course, will gradually replace the ignorant parents by a generation, if not well, yet at least better and more generally educated than themselves. Or it may be--and this, perhaps, is the most prevailing reason of any—that the parents really cannot afford to pay the school wages. For, though these are in themselves in most cases small, yet, especially where more than one, perhaps several children, in a family require to be educated at one time, are large in comparison of the weekly earnings of the father, the only one, perhaps, who is capable of earning anything at all, Be it traceable to one or more of these causes severally, or to all combined, the impediment above noted without doubt exists, and that to a very considerable extent, The restriction of the age and hours of infant labour has done something to diminish it. But still, most assuredly, if the labouring population of this country are to be generally educated, and that without resorting, as on the continent, to compulsion, some mode, such as an improved quality of instruction, greater civil advantages attached to its attainment, or a radical change in the manner of payment, or a combination of all these things, must be devised for encouraging parents to seek, and enabling them to acquire for their children, that education of which so many are at the present time either unwilling or unable to avail themselves.

Great, however, as the two impediments above mentioned are, in the way of a general diffusion of education amongst the labouring classes, they are absolutely nothing in comparison of that which still remains to be considered--that, namely, whịch arises from a difference in religious creed and persuasion, Were all of one mind-would that they were !-in this the most important of all important matters, it would be a comparatively easy task to raise a sufficient fund and provide adequate encouragement. But hitherto, whenever any attempt has been made to effect either of these objects on a comprehensive scale, the third impediment has stood, and so far still continues to stand, stoutly in the way of the removal of the other two; and the perplexing problem, so ably stated last session by the Prime Minister when moving the education estimates, still remains to be solved—how to frame a scheme of National Education, such as shall comprehend Churchmen, Roman Catholics, Independents, Baptists, and all the other various religious denominations into which society is split, without on the one hand violating the rights of conscience, or on the other sacrificing religious principle. In solving this problem, and removing this difficulty, the Church of England certainly, as the party by whom the difficulty has been created, ought to take the lead. For, however much we may as Churchmen congratulate ourselves upon the revival of activity amongst us, and thank God for rousing us from a long continued torpor-however greatly we may rejoice in the churchbuilding, school-building, and generally improving spirit which is at the present time manifested in so many and important and widely-spread results—we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that it is to our supineness and neglect, during the last century, that the existence of so many contending sects is mainly owing. Had the Church of England done, during the last century, what she is doing now—had she then, as now, really and in good earnest put forth her strength—had she, as the multitude of her children increased, gradually enlarged her tabernacle and spread out a wider wing in order to gather in a multiplied brood, instead of being, as by her own neglect she is now, one amongst many mothers of divided and scattered families, she might have remained—would God she had ! —what she once was, the only parent of an undivided household. The question of National Education would then have been the simplest possible question to solve, a mere matter of pounds, shillings, and pence; and, instead of many millions of immortal souls living and dying in heathen ignorance, disturbing the order of society, filling our gaols, overstocking our penal colonies, exhausting our exchequer by charges either for preventing crime or punishing it when committed, while their superiors are quarrelling about unimportant details of doctrine, and are better satisfied that the masses should not be educated at all than that they should be educated in any way not according to their various views strictly orthodox, we should have been at this moment in the enjoyment of the unspeakable satisfaction of seeing every one, no matter how poor, reaping from a sound scriptural and secular education benefits inestimable to himself and all around. The Church of England therefore, having been the prime agent in creating the difficulty, ought to be the first to take the most decided steps for its removal—the last to allow illiberal prejudice, or indeed anything short of some still more paramount duty than that of educating the poor, to stand in the way of a general diffusion of so great and invaluable a blessing.

We have noticed the three great impediments in the way of a general diffusion of education. We will next direct our attention to two points on which the great majority of those who take any interest at all in the subject are for the most part agreed. The first of these is, that the matter now admits of no further delay. As the representative of the ultra High or Romanizing party in the Church, Mr. Denison, finding himself outvoted in the National Society, has put forth a “ Plan” of his own, and is setting to work in good earnest with his own peculiar Training and Middle School at East Brent, to be opened, as he himself announces, if only for ten students and twenty boys, not later than the very commencement of the new year. In Manchester, the great focus of population, two bills, as appears at the head of our paper, are in a state of active preparation—the one a general, the other a local measure.

The National Society also never mustered in such strength as at its last annual meeting. Every one, in short, is on the alert: on all sides there are indications which cannot be mistaken that the evil has at length, by long years of neglect and indecision, reached such a pass that it cannot be permitted to go on any longer. It is even rumoured that, in some shape or other, education is to be made a qualification for the exercise of the franchise in the new Reform Bill which is likely to be submitted to Parliament~so convinced, it would seem, are our rulers that the time is come when every possible encouragement and facility must be given for the better instruction of the labouring classes. In truth, if this be not done, and done at once, it is fearful to contemplate what, setting aside the dreadful consequences both in this world and the next to themselves as individuals, must in the end be to the country at large the fatal results of a rapidly increasing population growing up in total ignorance of their duty to God and man, capable of deriving no pleasure except froin the most gross and selfish bodily gratifications, “ earthly, sensual, devilish.” Nothing short of seeing such a sight as this daily before their eyes, and knowing by actual experience the end to which it must inevitably lead, could, we believe, by the blessing of God, have brought it to pass that, in a town containing no less than 83 clergymen, and 111 dissenting ministers of various denominations—all, with the sole exception of the Roman priestsshould have concurred in laying aside those prejudices

[ocr errors]

which have hitherto so divided High Churchmen from Low Churchmen, Churchmen of all sorts from Dissenters, and the various denominations of Dissenters from each other, as to make it impossible for them on any other occasion to act together, and in giving an unanimous and hearty support to one and the same measure for redeeming their town from the disgrace and danger of an uneducated population. A month spent in such a town as Manchester would do a good deal, we believe, to open the eyes of those who, in the retirement of their own studies, argue themselves into a persuasion that it is better not educate the people at all than to give them an education deficient in one, even the least iota, of formulary and creed. In short, almost all practical men are fully convinced that something decisive and comprehensive must be done at once. Had it not been that the Exhibition, as was likely and right, absorbed all other interests in one overwhelming and irresistible attraction, this important subject would scarcely have been deferred to the coming session. If however, on the one hand, the Exhibition has interposed some little delay in the consideration of a subject which certainly could ill admit of any delay at all, on the other hand it has enabled us to come to the consideration of that subject with a knowledge such as nothing but the daily experienoe of the Crystal Palace could have supplied of the strength and richness of the material with which we have to deal, shown forth, as well in the almost countless and matchless results of skill and industry which the heads and hands of the labouring classes of this country contributed to the vast collection of the works of all nations, as in the spirit and energy, and thirst for knowledge and improvement, which prompted them, not without much previous self-denial, to travel, at to them a great cost, from the most distant provinces, in order to profit by a comparison of their own work with that of all the civilized world.

The second point on which, if all are not so entirely agreed as on that just noticed, men's minds are at any rate every day becoming more settled and made up, is that the voluntary system, in which so far trust has been almost exclusively placed, has signally failed and must be trusted no longer. It is in vain that the National Society parades every year in its Report a list of schools which it has assisted in building. It is in vain that Diocesan Boards of Education publish such congratulatory annual statements as would lead any one who looked no further to believe that the cause of education was in a most satisfactory state of progress. The important fact

already noticed still remains uncontradicted, that, if with the aid of Government it is not quite so difficult a matter as it was, though even now no easy one, to raise by voluntary efforts, either in the shape of grants from charitable societies, diocesan boards, or local subscription, a sufficient sum to build a school, and somewhat more possible than heretofore to obtain a well-trained teacher, yet the annual maintenance of a school on such a scale as to ensure a really first-rate education and on such terms as to enable even the poorest to avail themselves of it, is, except in districts peculiarly favoured by circumstances, almost as difficult as ever; and that the practical result is that few of the labouring classes are well educated-large numbers receive no education at all. The consequence is that there is a pretty general conviction abroad that, if the people are really to have within their reach such an education as can alone avert the danger with which we are at present threatened, either the voluntary system must be entirely superseded, or some very powerful auxiliary brought to its rescue. Mr. Denison repudiates altogether the idea of a local assessment for the purposes of education. But, in the scheme which he has lately published in the appendix to two sermons preached at Derby, he proposes that, “where the locality is very poor," the condition of Government grants, being made “in proportion to the amount of local contributions," should be dispensed with or modi

“ fied according to circumstances." The National Public School Association, on the other hand, in their “ Plan for the Establishment of a General System of Secular Instruction,” appear prepared to ignore both State assistance and voluntary efforts altogether, and to have recourse to a rate alone. Differing from both of these “ Plans," the local measure for promoting education in the municipal boroughs of Manchester and Salford adopts a combination of all three sources of income-viz., State assistance, a local rate, and voluntary contribution.

The comparative merits of these several schemes, as well in other respects as in that of the source of income, we shall consider by and bye. We only make this general reference at present, to the views of these several parties on this particular subject, in order to afford proof of our statement that, in the matter of education, most practical men are beginning to look upon the voluntary system, unassisted, as wholly inefficient for the attainment of the object in view. As is well stated by her Majesty's Inspector of Schools for the County of Lancaster, the Rev. W. J. Kennedy, in his General Report for the year 1850:

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »