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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

The Hokitika High School

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The Hokitika High School.

Sir—I feel that it is imperative something should be said by way of elucidation of the long deferred project to establish a High School here, and as I see no one undertaking the duty, I have made up my mind to do it myself. I therefore ask you to allow me, perhaps an undue portion of your space, to enter as fully into the subject as is necessary to meet the circumstances of the case.

First of all, I would try to deal with a popular delusion, or fallacy, concerning High Schools in this country generally. It is said—it is believed by persona whom you would expect to know better—that a High School is an institution for the education of the children of the upper classes. There are scores of persons in Westland who believe this to be the case. I will not say the very reverse is the actual fact, but the strict truth is, that a High School is an establishment of some benefit to the rich, but of infinite and immeasurable benefit to the poor and struggling parent. For a sum of 16s 8d per month a parent in humble circumstances can get his boy or girl educated in the higher branches of education at the local High School, and the want of such a school in a district may consign some "poor scholar" to oblivion and obscurity, who otherwise might have attained a high pinnacle of eminence, not only in his district, but in the world. There was no High School in that country village pictured in Gray's "Elegy ":—

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;

Chill penury repressed their noble rage And froze the genial current of the soul.

I remember a lad here who, through some mismanagement or something worse was prevented from competing for a scholarship What happened at that time altered the whole course of that lad's life, and his brilliant abilities are lost forever. Opportunity is what youth requires—opportunity to acquire knowledge when the mind is young and impressive; and in the most ample sense this opportunity will be given to the youth of Westland by the establishment of a High School in Hokitika. It will be given to all classes, but especially to the classes of moderate means; and almost the poorest parent amongst us will be able to advance his boy or girl to a profession, or to a high standard in technical Science, through its agency. I introduce the word "girls" into the previous sentence advisedly. In countless ages the abilities of girls have been misunderstood by the world, and have not had free scope or fair play. But in these later times we find the barriers erected to keep women out of the sphere of professional, scientific, and technical knowledge, are being rapidly broken down. I consider that a High School education would be of infinite benefit to every woman, even in domestic life, who in youth can avail herself of it, and supposing it to be her fortune to be simply the wife of an ordinary working man. One of the chief causes of domestic disagreements and unhappiness is the fact that woman is a mortal who generally does not try to reason, and who cannot very well reason when she does try. As a rule, too, she learns and reads much about very little and small things, and very little about the vast things of the universe. In a High School the reasoning faculty of girls would be cultivated, and the mind would become expanded and refined and (I may add) subdued by knowledge of infinite variety. For one thing, I do not think it possible for a reasoning and educated woman to be a "nagging" wife, or a virago, or an unmethodical and slovenly person in house hold matters; or altogether unimpressed with the more serious considerations of life. Had Mrs Caudle known that the volume of the sun was 1,250 000 times greater than that of the earth, and bad she been able even to approximately realise the stupendousness of such appalling figures, she would never have tormented poor Caudle with her interminable twang and twaddle about trifles!

This is not taking high ground, but the high ground is there, to be taken, nevertheless! Education of a high class is a benefit to the most humble wife; but what an incalculable benefit it is to the boy or girl to whom Providence has given uncommon gifts of intellect! Now we have here on this West Coast many such. Our standard of education in the primary schools is higher here than elsewhere in New Zealand, and the general percentages of result of a higher examination than other schools undergo, is higher also. We want a High School to complete the education of many of these well grounded scholars A very little effort will give us what we require. Indeed we have now an opportunity of establishing a High School, at a lower cost than such a school has ever been established, anywhere, before. Why page break not take advantage of this golden opportunity? At smaller places than Hokitika, High Schools have been long since established. At Akaroa they have one with only 25 scholars; At the Thames the number of scholars is 26, Rangiora 20, Timaru 45 and Whangarei 16. These schools cost some thousands of pounds each to establish; here we can get as good a school for a few hundred pound?. The annual cost of maintaining High Schools at the places named, as well as at Napier and other places not, greatly larger than Hokitika, ranges from £300 to £500. We propose to get 30 scholars here, to commence with, at £10 10s per annum. But I think we might go farther than that. How many residents of Westland are there who are prepared to guarantee a certain sum per annum for the support of such an institution, even although they may not be in a position at present to send children to it? And how many, who have children to sent, are able to guarantee more than £10 10s per annum for a year or two, until the school is thoroughly established? I think there are sufficient of both classes of persons to ensure the success of the school, and I feel confident that if an appeal has to be made to them, they will respond to it. In the meantime let all who have scholars to send, send in their names; for a High School shall be one of the institutions of Hokitika within six months.

I am, &c.,

Richardson Rae.