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“ Men's minds seem more prepared than I ever remember beforenay, even anxious—for some great development of the present meagre and tantalizing state of popular education. It is felt that very much effort is made for small result. The clergy make great sacrifices of money and time; and, what is more, enact the harassing and humiliating part of mendicant friars,' to use the expression of the vicar of a large parish in Lancashire, in order to keep schools alive ; and the higher and middle classes are annoyed by constant demands upon their purse in aid of schools about whose efficiency and permanency they entertain doubts. In short, school managers and other promoters of education begin to feel that theirs is a strenua inertia—much work and little result. They regard the present system as a stop-gap. All this has, I think, led in some places to a temporary lull in the active promotion of the present machinery of education; while men's eyes are cast about to discover a system of maintaining schools which shall be at once efficient and sound, vigorous and permanent. Everything seems to point to a rate for education "—(Minutes, 1850-51, vol. ii. p. 433).
Now, Archdeacon Denison, in his “Outline of a Plan for Combining State Assistance with Safety of Church Educatisn," altogether ignores the idea of a rate, which, in a letter addressed from East Brent to the editor of the Manchester Guardian, on the 29th of September last, he in no measured terms condemns. He adopts the principle of a Parliamentary grant, distributed, except in special exceptional cases, as at present, in proportion to the amount of local contributions. He leaves all other denominations to take care of themselves. He does not at all take into consideration that Dissent is the offspring of the neglect of the Church in time past; that had the Church done the duty of a spiritual mother to a rapidly increasing population, and provided church-room and schoolroom at all in proportion to her multiplied family, she would at this moment, in all probability, have been folding in her bosom the great majority of those who are now separated from her; that it is, therefore, clearly the duty of the Church, instead of leaving to their fate those who have become outcasts by her own neglect, to endeavour again to win them to her arms by assisting in imparting to them that education which, by enabling them to discern between truth and error, with God's blessing, is the most likely instrument for bringing wandering children to a parent whose whole claim upon their affection is that she holds the truth-Mr. Denison, in short, has evidently no “bowels," for any except those who agree with him; and his “Outline” has little if any thing to do with National Education, properly so called, and affords little if any prospect of satisfying the desire which we have
before observed is so generally felt for some scheme by which the whole mass of the population may be brought, not theoretically, but practically, within the range of sound education.
Nor, as far as we can see, is Mr. Denison's “ Plan likely to conduce to the advantage of the Church than to that of the country at large. It altogether ignores one of the most useful portions of the machinery established by the Committee of Council---we mean that of inspection of schools by officers selected by the State and the two Archbishops conjointly-on all accounts more likely than if chosen in
any other manner to be the best men who can be found for the work, and to come to the work without local partiality or preconceived prejudice. For this machinery which has worked so well—which has already borne such good and abundant fruits—which has won such almost universal
approbation. He proposes to substitute a system of diocesan inspection, which is subject to all the objections from which, as has been already observed, State inspection is so happily free; and which, in almost every instance in which it has been tried, has turned out a complete failure. We dissent altogether from Mr. Denison's position, that “the annual certificate of the diocesan inspector, as to the efficiency of each school, would be the guarantee for the due application of the public money.” Another feature in this “ Plan centrating all powers in the hands of diocesan boards. Now, diocesan boards make a great figure on paper. In annual reports they wear the appearance of very ample and very satisfactory machinery. But, if we may judge from that with which we happen ourselves to be best acquainted, there never were such men in buckram as these are. A portentous array of members, both lay and clerical, annually elected from local boards, which hold quarterly meetings in order to report and recommend to the central or diocesan board-an exquisitely beautiful theory-dwindles down into the naked fact of some five or six, or at most a dozen, permanent members chiefly clerical; for the local boards seldom if ever meet, and hence there is no change in their representatives. This is a nice little snug management, just such as is eminently suited to throw every possible impediment in the way of a real practical extension of sound education, and to carry out those principles, which the venerable author of this “ Plan” is so zealous in promoting-principles which, as the Manchester Guardian, in commenting upon Mr. Denison's “ Letter” already referred
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to, happily describes them, are “deleterious to his order and obstructive to the most important interests of humanity.” Except that it recognises the right of the State to apply the Parliamentary grant for the benefit of all denominationsma concession which some of Mr. Denison's party are still too bigoted to make, and which he himself, unless we are mistaken, has only lately avowed-Mr. Denison's “Outline of a Plan” is just such an one as might have been expected from a champion whom even the National Society has happily at length disavowed-an “ Outline” which is never likely to receive the approbation of the country or even of the Church, and which, thank God, there is not the most remote probability will ever be filled up.
We pass on from Mr. Denison's " Outline” to the “ Plan for the Establishment of a General System of Secular Instruction in England and Wales adopted by the General Council of the National Public School Association.” This “Plan” has in substance been already before the Legislature; and, though introduced in the session of 1850 by Mr. Fox in a speech remarkable for moderation and ability, was rejected by a majority of 229'in a House in which 349 members were present. The machinery by which it is intended that this “ Plan” should be worked consists of “local rates” for all educational purposes, and entirely superseding both public grants or voluntary societies and private munificence, to be administered by“ Commissioners of the Crown," and under them county boards with almost Austrian powers, and local “ School Committees,” with a staff of inspectors appointed by the county boards. Such is the machinery contemplated by the National Public School Association. It will be seen, then, that the whole machinery at present in existence is to be entirely swept away. That which has been tried to a certain extent, and, as far as it has been tried, accompanied with great success, is to be summarily dispensed with ; and, in place of it, substituted a mechanism entirely untried and new. The Committee of Council, in the short time that they have been at work, only eleven years, have achieved a greater progress, both as regards amount and quality of education, than was compassed during the whole of the preceding century. The benefits which they have conferred
upon the cause of education are almost innumerable ; and every day the value of these benefits is by experience becoming better known, and both more generally and rightly appreciated. The roisy clamour, which was for some time successfully raised against their policy, has been proved in black and white to be entirely void of foundation. Even the
Management Clauses themselves have been vindicated by the approbation of a majority of those who have tried them-by three hundred and forty-seven out of six hundred and fifty-eight. The condemnation, which at the last annual meeting of the National Society it was sought to pass upon the Committee of Council, was negatived by an immense majority. In the House of Lords, the enquiry which last year was so triumphantly threatened as a final extinguisher of the Committee, was this year never heard of at all; and in the House of Commons the vote for education was passed without any opposition, and the grant again placed without restriction in the same hands as before. From every part of England and Wales we have the proof of our assertion lying in a large mass of correspondence before us. Clergymen who once were active opponents of the Committee of Council are now hearty in their support. In short, a once rather formidable body of opponents has, before the unfailing test of experiment and plain matter of fact, dwindled down to a very small and contemptible party, more remarkable for prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance, than any thing else. Nor, when we contemplate the results of the labours of the Committee of Council, is there any room for wonder at that decided change of feeling. Rather it would have been wonderful if such a change had not taken place. For, by the judicious and impar. tial liberality with which they have administered the building grants, they have not only stimulated the outlay of a vast amount of private contributions--no less than 397,7521, in about ten years—but have secured the erection of spacious, lofty, well-lighted, ventilated, and furnished school-rooms, such as were before unknown; and have created a taste for providing for the teachers a sort of residence before unheard of, but eminently fitted to aid in compassing the very desirable object of raising the schoolmaster, as he ought to be raised, in the scale of society, and making him both respectable and respected. Whether we look to the improvements in the qualification of teachers, or the assistance in the annual maintenance of schools, or the larger amount of knowledge communicated by the employment of many bona fide teachers, such as the pupil teachers are-in the place of a single master assisted by monitors little better taught than those whom they were set to teach—the whole system of examinations, and certificates, and augmentation of salaries of masters and mistresses, of pupil teachers, and Queen's scholars, has, though as yet only in its infancy, communicated to the business of education a stimulus such as was never before applied, and deserves, and has obtained, the most grateful acknowledgment of the majority of those really experienced in the work of education, who have found their labour so wonderfully lessened and their position so wonderfully improved. Meanwhile, the success of the system of inspection has been so great, and the value of the inspectors' reports so deeply felt, that it has made the cry for an increased staff of inspectors almost universal. For, putting out of the question the various improvements which these have by their recommendations caused to be substituted, had they done nothing more than explode, as they have exploded, the old, dull, dry, learn-nothing, drill-serjeant system of Bell and Lancaster, they would have laid the whole country under an incalculable obligation. The supply of books likewise, on reduced terms, has been of great service, especially in poor neighbourhoods; ; and, above all
, the providing a safe form of trust for the management of schools, such as by securing to the laity, without intruding on the peculiar province of the clergy, a fair share in the administration of school funds, has excited amongst the laity just such a corresponding amount of interest in the work of education as might be expected, has already led, and is sure still further to lead, to the most important results. Such is a very rough sketch of the important fruits of the as-yet short-lived labours of the Committee of Council on Education.
Now, to sweep away at once and for ever all this machinery and substitute that which is altogether new and untried--to cut away summarily a tree which, though not very long planted, has at least taken root and borne, and continues to bear, a daily-increasing abundance of very valuable fruit, in order to make room for an entirely new plant without any root at all-is, in our opinion, of itself, a fatal objection to the plan of the National Public School Association, and a sort of childish freak of snatching at a new game almost before that already in hand has been opened for which the people of England are by no means prepared. Great as this objection, however, undoubtedly is, it is, after all, as nothing compared with that which has now to come under our notice. The machinery of the National Public School Association might with comparative ease be allowed of, if it were not for the work which is appointed for it to do. The “basis of the association” is that "it shall impart secular instruction only; leaving to parents, guardians, and religious teachers, the inculcation of doctrinal religion.” “Nothing shall be taught (Sect. vi, rule 10) in any of the schools which favours the