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towns and in some less thickly inhabited places. So little were their efforts appreciated by those whom they were anxious to benefit, that the schools had not only to be free, but clothing had to be given to the children attending them, in order to induce their parents to send them. But the effort was deemed worth the cost, as immorality and unbelief were making great advances, and it was recognised that only by educating the children aright could improvement be hoped for.
The wars in which the country was engaged during a large part of last century, the absence of commercial or manufacturing enterprise and the consequent distress of the people, prevented the extension of educational efforts, and, in fact, at the end of the century education was at a lower level than at the commencement.
With the discovery of steam power and its application to manufactures the demand for more educated labour began to be seriously felt, and partly owing to this, and partly to the promptings of religious motive, early in the present century, there was a great revival of educational zeal. This was quickened by what must seem to us a very unnecessary anxiety to claim the invention of what has long been condemned as a most unsatisfactory mode of teaching children. At the same time, or nearly so, Dr. Bell had introduced into Church schools, and Dr. Lancaster into Nonconformist schools, the plan of teaching children in large classes, They read and repeated their lessons simultaneously, and it was thought that in this way the cost of teaching could be reduced to a minimum, whilst the education given would be valuable. The former object was achieved, not the latter. At that time it was proposed that Churchmen and Nonconformists should unite to promote one general scheme of education for the whole nation, but the religious difficulty was found to make this impossible. Churchmen held that schools ought to form the moral and religious character of the children, and they believed that this could only be effected by a true foundation being laid. That foundation they held to be the Christian religion: and as they believed their own Church to incalculate what the Divine Master had taught, they desired that the children, for whose education they were responsible, should be brought up in Church principles, and that the Church Catechism should be taught in all their schools, and should describe the character of the religious instruction to be given. The underlying principle of this teaching was that the children had been brought into covenant relations with their Saviour ; that it was essential for them to understand those relations and their responsibility with respect to them, and the consequent weal or woe dependent upon their fulfilment of them. It was thought that in no other way could they be expected to grow up good Christian people.
On the other hand, the Nonconformists of the day had a different idea of the nature of the religious teaching that ought to be imparted. With the exception of the different bodies of Methodists, most of the Nonconformists were strongly imbued with the principles of Calvinism, the fundamental doctrine of which is that some have been predestined for salvation, others for damnation. To teach all children that they were in a covenant of grace seemed to them untrue; they therefore held that the right system of religious instruction was the imparting of a general knowledge of what is taught in Holy Scripture, that so the elect might be prepared for the sensible conversion which they were certain to experience as years advanced, whilst those not so favoured were not taught to expect blessings which never could be theirs. Since then the Calvinistic bias has largely diminished, but the character of the religious instruction which it advocated has been persevered in, though from a different motive.
a To further the Church's system of education, work that had previously been committed to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge was entrusted to a new society, the National Society, called into existence for the purpose; about the same time the various sects of Nonconformists united in founding the British and Foreign School Society, to which were attracted not only those religious bodies which held the Calvinistic doctrine, but also others, like the Unitarians, to whom the absence of definite religious teaching approved itself ; but from this society the great body of Wesleyan Methodists held aloof.
Both societies were desirous of furthering popular education and were ready to accept improvements in their buildings and manner of teaching when suggested. For many years they had to struggle on in the face of opposition ; a portion of the upper classes denying that their poorer neighbours would be benefited by education, whilst the great majority of the poorer classes were apathetic and indifferent, and could only be persuaded to send their children to school by the advantage of the clothing offered them, by having nothing to pay, and by clergy and others interested in their welfare urging them to do so.
During this period there were no Government grants, no popular favour, no political advantage to be gained by furthering elementary schools. Church people expended some millions of money on what they regarded as a religious and philanthropic object. The growth of manufacturing industries, the great increase of wealth, the frequent acquisition of riches by men of the labouring classes tended to remove prejudices against popular education that had previously existed ; so that when the first Reform Bill was passed there was a rapidly-growing feeling that something ought to be done to secure education for the great mass of the nation.
This feeling was greatly deepened and called into active and sympathetic action by the discovery that a considerable portion of the people in the manufacturing districts were growing up in absolute ignorance of all religion. Population had greatly increased; not so the number of churches and clergymen. Until 1819 no church could be built without an Act of Parliament authorising it, consequently very little church building went forward. Towards the close of the fourth decade of this century there were serious riots in many of the manufacturing districts, and it was found that the prisoners who were concerned in them had for the most part received no religious instruction. Many of them had never been taught that there was a God ; still fewer had learned to believe in the Saviour of the world, or in the account they would one day have to give for the deeds done in the body, and the consequent blessing or woe that would ensue. When this was brought to light at the trial of the prisoners, it stirred the religious conscience of the nation. Churchmen became more anxious than ever to provide schools in which the children might be taught the truths of Christianity as well as secular learning. Immense sums were subscribed for the
purpose, and national schools sprang up in most parishes in the country.
When so much was being done by private religious effort it cannot be a matter for surprise that the Government of the country became anxious to take part in what promised to be popular. At first it made sinall grants towards building schoolrooms, entrusting to the National Society and to the British and Foreign School Society the task of distributing the money voted, according to prescribed conditions, amongst the Church and Nonconformist schools which they represented. Then followed the formation of the Education Dep ent, which did much to further the progress of clementary education and to improve its quality. With tolerably equal hand it dealt out the benefits which it conferred, and until 1870 it recognised that religion ought to form the basis of any system of popular education, and so required that the schools which it assisted should be in connection with some religious body.
By the Education Act of 1870 the State for the first time professed to disclaim all connection between the education it assisted and religion. The millions that the Church and other religious communities had expended in erecting and supporting schools, and colleges for the training of teachers; the covenants into which the Education Department had practically entered with the various religious bodies by assenting to their trust deeds and voting grants to enable those deeds to be fulfilled, made it impossible, without the grossest breach of public faith and inflicting a serious blow on the rights and inviolability of property, to interfere with the status of existing schools and educational corporations. Parliament was content, therefore, to impose certain restrictive conditions on the religious teaching given in denominational schools, and to withdraw the oversight of such teaching from its inspectors: this whilst continuing its assistance towards the maintenance of the schools. At the same time it withdrew, after an interval of grace extending over a few months, the help it had previously afforded towards the increase of such schools. Moreover, those who were responsible for the Act were profuse in their assurances that they regarded the existing schools as the basis of the elementary educational system of the country, and that the schools they proposed to supply in a different fashion were only to make good deficiencies : they were to supplement, not to supplant, the schools and the educational system that were then in possession of the field.
It was thus that the Board school system sprang into existence; but the Act which created it reversed the principle of equity between the various religious bodies on which the State had hitherto acted, and whilst professing to dissociate the help it gave to schools from all connection with religion, it did so in a manner hostile to one of the existing systems, whilst practically adopting and establishing the other as a national educational religion. In reality it endowed with the educational rates of the country the Nonconformists, with whom the Liberal party, which was then in power, was allied, and so made it impossible for Churchmen and some other religious bodies to acquiesce in the system then inaugurated as the national one. I have already pointed out the difference between the character of the religious teaching which Church people and Nonconformists thought essential for the moral and religious cducation of the children for whom they are responsible. The Act of 1870 accepted the Nonconformist system, with this only difference, that the schools might be taught on the principles of the pure Secularists if the people so desired ; but such teaching as Church people insisted upon as absolutely necessary they did their best to make impossible. Practically, therefore, there were thus made two established religions in the country: the one apparently designed for adults, or at all events for those capable of being instructed from the pulpit, and endowed by tithes given in past ages by individuals; the other designed for the children of the labouring people, and endowed with the school rates of the country, levied compulsorily under the authority of an Act of Parliament. It is only twenty years since this last endowment was given, and its amount increases annually. Already it greatly exceeds what all the parochial clergy receive from tithes; the commuted annual value of these is £2,412,103, which by the system of averages is worth only £1,883,500 this year ; whilst the education rate last year amounted to £2,718,891. There is also this further difference between the two endowments, that from the tithes has to be deducted the cost