The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1
The Denominational, &c
The Denominational, &c.
It will be in the recollection, probably, of some who read this pamphlet, that at the commencement of the present year, (1850) during the public discussion of the Education question, I undertook to draw up and publish some reasons in proof of the Denominational system (so called, though I dislike the term, and accept it only with such meaning as I understand it to express) being the most equitable, the most effectual, and the one best adapted to the circumstances of this colony, for the administration of public funds for educational purposes.
I proceed, at what seems to me a favorable juncture in the progress of the question, to redeem my pledge.
The question divides itself into two distinct subjects of consideration:—I, one, relative to the nature of the funds for the establishment and maintenance of common schools; II, the other, as to the management of schools so established or supported.
I. Three measures have been suggested in the course of the late discussion, and have each their advocates, for the supply of public funds for Educational purposes, viz:—(1), a local rate, at the option of a majority of the inhabitants of certain districts; (2), grants in aid from the Provincial Revenue; and (3), the purely voluntary system.
1. With regard to a compulsory rate for Educational purposes, compulsory as regards perhaps a very large minority, it is open to precisely the same objections on religious and conscientious grounds, as in England have practically led to the abandonment of church rates I cannot perceive any material difference, moral or political, between the two cases, on principles of reason. There is no matter on which persons naturally are more sensitive than systems of education, except religion, which they include; for it is absurd page 6 to argue as if any system, whether prescribing or excluding distinct religious teaching, did not interfere with the religious education of the children at the school. No dissenter from the Established Church in England could more vehemently resent being compelled to pay his quota towards the maintenance of a form of religion to which in his conscience he objected, than one in this land of liberty or elsewhere would feel the intolerable grievance of being subsidized for the support of a system of education, which, rightly or wrongly, he entertained a deep conviction was highly injurious to the interests of religion. Surely such a measure is essentially at variance with religious liberty; and if it ever took effect, would prove a continual source of political ferment, party strife, and bitter personal acrimony. But I am persuaded that for all practical purposes it would remain inoperative; that if the extension of education depended on a local rate, a measure limited to this method would continue a dead letter—a mere theory and paper scheme;—it would almost nowhere be acted on. *
* I had written this, which is, in fact, merely a repetition of my argument at the beginning of the year, before reading Mr. Henley's admirable speech in opposition to Sir John Pakington's Bill, in May last,—a speech which the framer of the Bill allowed, "had created and deserved to have created a very great impression upon the House and country," which in short seems to have made the most able and experienced statesmen (not excepting Lord John Russell) converts to the Denominational system. Mr. Henley, on the question of a rate, observes, "He believed that it would just bring into existence a second—he was going to say curse, but he would not use that term—but a second evil of the same nature as that for which they all, for so many years, have been trying to find a remedy, viz the evil of the Church rates. It would indeed be unfortunate if they should create another such element of intolerable vexation and heartburning in every parish. Indeed he believed that this proposed burden would give rise to an aggravated feeling of dissatisfaction in consequence of its being a new burden. Many persons would bear a burden long established by usage, who would nevertheless resist it as unjust if it were newly put on. He thought he could show to the House that the working of this measure in places where there were to be found persons of different religious persuasions, must be to affect the conscience of people at least just as much as the question of Church-rates did at present; and if that were the case, the Bill would give rise to the same opposition and heart-burning, and even to more, on account of the newness of the imposition. He believed that the Bill would be either wholly inoperative—and he was inclined to think that that would be the result—or that it would operate unjustly.—Did they think that anyone living in a parish where a school under this Bill was set up, and being taxed for an establishment from which his children derived no benefit, would pay the tax with pleasure? He repeated, that in his opinion, this would be just as great a source of heartburning as the Church-rate now was."—(Guardian, May 9, 1855.)
Again, it would be intolerable, of course, in a community such as ours, to prescribe Roman Catholic or Church of England teaching, as a condition of Government aid. But it is surprizing that any one can see any difference from this, on principles of reasoning, in prescribing, for example, the British-and-Foreign, or the purely secular, or in short, any single uniform system. This were, in truth, to set up the Denominational system, limited to a single denomination from the benefit of which, all opposed to that favored denomination, however small, would be excluded; for the Secularists—those in favour of purely secular education—are a small denomination in themselves; and the British-and-Foreign system would exclude Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Jews, to say nothing of the Church of England. * It would save much false reasoning to remember that all negative teaching in religion, (such as that of the British-and-Foreign system) is positive and antagonistic in effect. Its tendency is to produce indifferentism and infidelity.
* Vide Debate in House of Commons on Education Grant, July 27, 1855—"Mr. Heywood said, that the British-and Foreign School Society had been formed and supported by Protestants of all denominations, including Unitarians; and he complained that Unitarians had gradually been excluded from the governing body, and that Unitarian doctrines were taught to all the scholars; so that Unitarians were prevented from sending their children to schools in the foundation of which members of that religious body had taken a leading part. Lord R. Cecil said the observation of the hon. member for North Lancashire (Mr. Heywood) with respect to the British-and-Foreign School Society proved the difficulty of establishing schools in which would be taught only those doctrines which all Christians were supposed to hold in common."—Guardian, August 1, 1855.
I, however, shall have occasion presently to revert to this view, and to answer some apparent objections to it: for this disregard of denominational differences in the allotment; of the public money for educational purposes, is what I understand by the Denominational system, which I presently mean to advocate.
3. I am inclined to agree with those who have ventured an opinion that, at this early stage of a newly settled colony, all the available funds were better administered, even for educational purposes, by appropriation to public works, such as means and facilities for colonial inter-communication, than directly, by the establishment and support of schools. Beyond this, I am honestly of opinion that the late Provincial measure on the subject, will tend rather to retard than promote the establishment of schools; for, so far as it operates at all, its tendency must be to discourage voluntary efforts, and it is inadequate to supply their work. The creation of an adequate educational establishment is beyond its present means. Even if the necessary funds were forthcoming, there still remain the real difficulties of (providing school-masters, and securing the attendance of children at the school. * It were far wiser, surely, to come in aid of the voluntary system, than to attempt as a rival to supersede it. It is a further question how to do so most consistently with sound principles of politics and morals.
This branch of the inquiry brings us to the second head of consideration; that relative to the management of common schools, conditional to their receiving grants in aid.
* Among other points cleared up by the late debates in England, is this, that it is not the badness of the present system, but the apathy of parents that affords the chief obstacle to the progress of education in that country, though, after all, it was clearly shown by Mr. Henley, "that the compulsory and free school system (of Austria and other countries) had not succeeded in bringing as large a number of the population into elementary schools, as the voluntary system adopted in England." From an abundance of evidence on the subject, I quote the following from the letter of "a Country Curate," in the Guardian newspaper of June 6th last:—"Our parish in Lancashire contains 4 000 souls. There are three schools in it—two belonging to the Church, one to the Independents—yet jointly, only 300 children are taught in them, It is not the system, nor the masters, nor the expense, nor anything of that, sort, which produces this thinness of attendance, but the parents' apathy. This is the point on which legislation should be directed, if indeed it be practicable. Why not establish an educational test for all trades and professions? in many cases it might easily be established, and the parents would soon find education for their children. The will, not the way, is the thing at fault."—In spite of this obstacle, it is very remarkable that in Austria, the proportion of the whole population educated under the compulsory system, is one in ten and a fraction; in England, under the voluntary and denominational system, one in eight and a fraction!
II. Four systems have been suggested for the purpose, and partially discussed; 1. The Irish; 2. The British and Foreign; 3. The Secular; and 4. The Denominational.
1. The Irish was the only one brought under immediate prominent notice at the public discussion of the Provincial measure, and was almost unanimously exploded. The exposure of its demerits and impracticability was still more completely carried out at a meeting since held in Auckland for a similar purpose, in an able speech of one well qualified by personal knowledge and experience of the working of the National system in Ireland, to give authentic information on the subject,—the Rev. J. Lloyd, one of the resident clergy. * But as this system, so far as we in this Province are concerned, has been absolutely abandoned, it is not necessary for me now to go into it afresh.
2. By the British and Foreign, I understand, without being exact, any system which allows the free use of the Bible as a class book, but prohibits other religious formularies, and the teaching of distinctive doctrines in the school.
I believe the system to be impossible in fact, because under it the Scriptural instruction will take its specific tone, as it ought to do, from the particular religious persuasion of the school-master, who, with perfect honesty, and unconsciously, will add a running commentary to the text, by his very selection of the passages to be read, and in his exposition, if he be allowed to make any. A Roman Catholic, a Church of England, or an ultra-Protestant schoolmaster, would necessarily give a distinctive colouring to the Scripture readings. But even if it were a possibility, there are religious bodies which believe the Bible to have a single and specific meaning, declarative of the Revealed Word of God, which must be One only; and that if this single meaning is missed, its use is not only valueless, but conducive to error. It is of course only the Bible rightly interpreted that is of real value as a class book. And since there are religious sects (the Church of England is one such) which believe that they possess in their distinctive doctrine the right interpretation and that all discordant doctrine must be erroneous, to them Scripture otherwise interpreted would cease to be the Word of God. Therefore, the distinctive teaching which is excluded by this system, is really that which gives Scriptural instruction its real value.
* Reported in the New Zealand Spectator, of September 22, 1855.
I will add my own sincere conviction, grounded on experience and observation, that these comprehensive systems, intended to amalgamate and neutralize religious differences in a community, do practically issue for the most part in the aggravation of sectarian suspicion, jealousy and strife. Comparisons are always odious; a maxim especially applicable to the odium theologicum. The attempt to bring together in the same school-room, and under the same system of education, the children of parents who differ in religious creed, only serves to draw out the differences into broader contrast, and necessarily introducing distinctions and restrictions in the religious teaching of the several children, gives to the very idea of religion in their minds a controversial air. It is far wiser, surely, to recognize the differences which unhappily exist, and provide for their separate and harmonious action by an impartial distribution of the public grants in proportion to the claim of each religious body or each separate school, irrespectively of religious differences, upon the common fund.
* The census lately taken in this Province unfortunately omits the usual specification of religious differences in the population, which is a useful return on many accounts, and would enable one to form a calculation, more or less exact, of the proportionate number of the several denominations.
I repeat, the argument that children can be taught religion at home, or by ministers of religion elsewhere, always appears to me to betray a singular ignorance of the real need to be supplied. It is chiefly because there is so little religion at home, and such a total lack of religious ministrations almost universally in the country districts, that religious schools ought to be established, if only as a method of police, to counteract the influence of vicious parents and elders, and, if possible, to carry through the children into families some partial religious restraint.
I have said that the Church of England in particular never would rest satisfied with any measure which precluded the use of her own religious formularies in the education of her children. The school has become an essential and integral part of her system. "To instruct the youth in the catechism" is a special charge imposed upon her clergy at the time of their ordination; and her practise has long been established of using the school for this purpose in preference to the church, as better enabling the continual inculcation of her received truths and principles, in combination with other subjects—"line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." Under any system, she would have her schools as she has her churches and clergy—where she can. The only difference would be that under the Denominational System she would come in for her share—that is to say, the members of the community belonging to her would come in for their share, which surely they have a perfect right to—in the distribution of public money for educational purposes, and her schools might be proportionably more efficient; under the Secular, or British-and-Foreign system, her schools must be in direct rivalry to those established by Government, which would stand in the way of voluntary efforts, and divert her resources; and thus again, a fresh element of discord and hostility would be introduced into the State, the avoidance of which, I repeat, is one professed benefit in the theory of these comprehensive systems.
4. The Denominational System is not a popular description of the plan I advocate, and but ill expresses its real meaning. I have already pointed out a common fallacy on the meaning of the term. The prescription of any uniform plan of religious teaching is really the selection of a particular denomination, and invests it with privileges as a State religion; the plan I advocate provides equally for all reli- page 12 gious denominations, irrespective of denominational differences. Its excellence consists in its Jack of uniformity, and therefore its congruity with the religious character of the people. It covers the whole platform of society, which unhappily is broken up into numerous religious sects. Religious predilections and prejudices are hereditary. Parents naturally and properly wish their children to be indoctrinated into those particular religions truths which they themselves have been taught to believe the exponent of Divine Revelation. I advocate the only system which provides for this natural and proper feeling on the part of individual citizens. Some portion or other of the community would be excluded by the adoption of any other system that I know of; in this, every citizen would have his fair and just proportion of the public funds for educational purposes. Why should he not have? I cannot find any good reason for the establishment of an Act of Uniformity in regard to schools, more than in regard to public worship or other religious ministrations.
It is sometimes objected that by granting in aid of all religious denominations, since all cannot be true, the State lends its countenance to religious error. This plausible objection is a mere fallacy. Who or what is the State? Surely it is the collective will of the people; and the people will that all possible religious differences should exist without detriment to the equal civil rights of individuals. What authority has the State to decide which is right and which is wrong among the different religious denominations? If it has such authority, let it boldly choose out the right one and discard all the wrong! If it has not, the objection has no force on principles of reasoning. The State is not a person, that it can have any moral responsibility on the subject. It is simply the voice and executive of the people; and the people are some of one religious denomination, and some of another; therefore let each have its share! otherwise it will be the voice of a section, and not of the whole people. The responsibility of choice between the several denominations rests, not with the State, but with individual citizens, each for himself. The State is bound to provide for all alike, irrespectively of religious differences. I see no reason why any denominational school should, as such, be debarred from its share of an Educational grant more than an individual citizen from any other civil privilege or right. The State has nothing whatever to do with its religion; that is a matter of private judgment.
The truth is, when it is said that the State mokes grants page 13 for Educational purposes, it is simply meant that the people agree to divide their own money among themselves. It is not the gift of any other party to them; it is their own. And if it is to be applied to education on religious principles, since some are of one form of religion, and some of another, the only plan on which it can be fairly and equitably so applied, is by apportionment to the several Denominations.
This is equally the case, whether the revenue so divided accrue from internal or external sources; from taxation or custom duties, or reserves of public lands. If all the people are taxed, they are only taking back their own money, and have a right to apply it, each to his own Denomination. If it accrue from external sources, each has a right to his own share.
I mean, for instance, if so many Roman Catholics were taxed, they would get their share in proportion; if so many of the Church of England, they would get theirs; so many Protestant Dissenting bodies, they would, either collectively or separately each get its share; they would be supporting, not each other, but themselves.
If it be objected that under this system, some one predominant sect would come in for the largest share; this would only be the case, supposing that it included the greater number of the population, or were more forward and zealous in the work of education, and then it would be op-time merit us de republican deserve best of the State. I cannot see upon any sound political principle, that the State has anything to do with the matter beyond considering the educational merits of the particular school, as regards its work in civilizing the people. This work is not affected by peculiarity of religious creed.
I am not saying in what proportion public grants should be appropriated to the different denominations. I am only arguing for the general principle. I sincerely believe it to be the only just one on political and moral grounds. The proportion would in some measure be determined by a periodical census, describing the religion of individual citizens. Or, as was just now argued, grants might be made in aid simply with regard to the merit, irrespective of the religious character, of the school. Such a system would lead to a wholesome rivalry among the sects, with a view to educational pre-eminence, and thus great practical benefit would redound to the State in the improvement of the common schools.
An objection has curiously been made to the Denominational system, that it multiplies inferior schools. It appears page 14 to me one strong argument in its favor. * The only practiceble way of educating a newly settled district is multiplying little schools. Our object is to educate the people; our complaint, at present, that we can get no schools of any sort. Surely, any system which would tend to multiply however interior schools, is a vast improvement in that respect. I should rather urge, as a serious objection to the establishment of large central schools, under any system, that they would discourage and swallow up the little private denominational schools distributed through the country districts, and at the same time, owing to their distance from the homes of a scattered population, would fail in the contemplated purpose.
Once introduce the Denominational system, schools would spring up in every neighbourhood. The ministers of religion would become agitators in the cause of education. They would be forward in the collection of voluntary contributions, would beat up children, and remonstrate with neglectful parents. Wherever any particular form of religion should prevail, a school in connection with it would be started. This would probably lead to the establishment of others. If not, the particular school in question would be doing its scholastic work, and would deserve support and encouragement as such.
Under any other system, the ministers of religion, speaking generally, are rendered indifferent and inactive, or antagonistic to general education. They will have no special motive to interest them in the progress of a work which would afford no co-operative assistance in their field of religious teaching; or, regarding it as directly prejudicial and injurious to the success of their own religious teaching, they would exert all their personal influence in active opposition.
Where only one school in connection with any religious body were established in a neighbourhood, it might fairly be made a condition of a public grant in aid, that children attending the school, at the option of their parents, be exempted from the necessity of special religious teaching.
* "Instead of one large and good State school in each district, you have probably at least six small and indifferent ones. In 1840, in the districts of Sydney and Paramatta, with a population of not more than from fifty to sixty thousand, there were 200 schools, many of them not numbering more than 10 or 12 pupils."—(Report of Commissioners in this Province.) Surely a number of these little schools is the only practicable remedy for our present need! Of what possible use would "one large and good State school" be, in such districts e. g., as Rangitikei or Wairarapa, with settlers' stations four or five miles apart? The idea of "concentrating the young in sufficient numbers in such school, particularly in the country," (Ibid) is most unpractical.
Experience has proved, what common sense and an ordinary knowledge of human nature would have led one to anticipate, that whatever general system of education be established, the particular schools in operation under it, acquire in fact, a Denominational character. In Ireland the National schools are either Protestant or Roman Catholic, aecording to the accidental circumstances of each locality. The British-and-Foreign schools in England, though in theory unsectarian and comprehensive, universally possess a distinct Dissenting character. The mixed and comprehensive systems adopted in some of the Australian settlements, have practically lapsed into the purely Denominational. It is far wiser and juster to recognize this practical necessity, and to deal with it on liberal and equitable grounds.
Nothing is more conspicuous and remarkable in the many interesting Parliamentary debates on Educational measures in England during the present year than the increasing conviction on the part of able and experienced statesmen, that the Denominational, after all, is the most popular and successful system. It is a very significant circumstance in the history of this question, that the pet scheme and intended fountain-head of the comprehensive and latitudinarian system, Kneller Hall, has been abandoned as a failure! Nay, Lord John Russell, whose name (with the exception of Lord Brougham's—himself a convert to religious education) has been, as long as most of us can remember, more than others identified with the mixed and comprehensive system, is reported to have said in the late debate on Sir J. Pakington's Education Bill, "he considered the education given in this country (England) as superior in its quality to that given in most of the Continental States of Europe; what he proposed therefore was, to diffuse and render universal their present system of education, rather than to adopt a wholly new system"*
* Home News, July 4, 1855. In the Guardian of the same date, I find a fuller version: "When the Right hon. gentleman compared the extent of education given in this country with that on the Continent, he (Lord John Russell) was apt to think that there was a greater value in the education given in this country than that given on the Continent. Let us, at all events, preserve that religious liberty which we at present observe. He thought that a system of education without such excessive care, would be far better than one in which the Government laid down these rules (as to the exact method and subject-matter of religious teaching). What he would wish, therefore, was rather to extend and make universal that system of education which at present existed, than to go entirely in a new direction, and attempt a new kind of education. He was convinced likewise, that the common schools which were suited to the social state of the United States, were not suited to this country. He therefore thought that they must conform to the disposition of our own people, and not imitate the system of America, His view was to extend and improve education rather than to attempt a new system." According to the same report, "Mr. Wigram expressed his gratification at the statement made by the noble Lord. The value of the existing system (the Denominational) could not be overrated. Mr. Mann said that within five or six years from the present time, there would be, according to the past progress of the existing system, full one in every six of the population receiving all the advantages of it." Mr. Henley's admirable speech in the same debate, is full of arguments and statistics, illustrative of the superiority of the system, as proved by practical moral results, over those of Continental countries, not excepting Austria, which had been said to be the best educated State in Europe, where the returns showed, e. g., a remarkable disproportionate number of illegitimate children compared with England. He concludes on this point, "Humble as might have been the means by which they had endeavoured to obtain this end, he believed that among the people of England compared with the population of any other country, a state of things had been brought about, which, if it might not be all that could be desired, showed at all events, in comparison with other places, that the system which had existed could not be so very faulty (cheers). A very large proportion of the favorable result that had been brought about, must necessarily be attributed to this school system—(the Denominational)."—Guardian, May 9.
I sincerely wish that any statement of facts or argument adduced in this brief and necessarily hurried pamphlet, may avail to lead others to the same conclusion. I believe from the bottom of my heart, that, while anxious of course to protect Church-of-England Education from the indirect injurious consequences of ill-adapted and partially working legislation on this subject, I am quite as ready as any conscientious dissenter from her communion, to deny (as I now emphatically disclaim) her light to any exclusive or exceptional prerogative or privilege in the distribution of the public revenue. I am confident that I am standing up for the common civil and religious rights of individual citizens of every possible political and denominational persuasion, in advocating a system which adapts itself to the manifold developments of private judgment and national character, and to the existing agencies for popular education, irrespective of religious creed. I am convinced,—and I think all thoughtful and candid persons who fairly and fully investigate the matter in all its bearings, political and moral, with unprejudiced minds, will inevitably arrive at the conviction—that no other system would operate so impartially and effectively in the society of this colony, as that which I have advocated under the term Denominational. "I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say."