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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

The Mothers Are Degraded

The Mothers Are Degraded

and debased to a degree which makes them utterly incapable of impart page 18 ing religious instruction. And more than that there are hundreds of these whom we know to be decent and respectable women who are incapable of doing it. Therefore if we are to depend upon the religious instruction given at the mother's knee, I am afraid it will not reach a largo proportion of the class of children to which I have alluded. And then, Sir, with regard to those mothers themselves in the next generation we have to think of them and how they will grow up. If they grow up without any religious teaching, what sort of mothers will they make!"

The Member for Bruce, Mr Murray, (1877) held that, "it was improper to declare by statute that the future people of this colony should he brought up without religious knowledge. To exclude all religious training would tend to make education a curse rather than a blessing, and make lead to the creation of a class of educated scoundrels who would be more dangerous to society than the uneducated class could possibly be."

The member for Hokitika, Mr Bonar said, "I think that brought up as we all have beer, the ignoring of the Supreme Being is matter of deepest regret, and with the great majority of the people of New Zealand will be equally a matter of regret. Here we are in Parliament assembled, and we feel it to be our duty, and more than our duty, our privilege, to recognise the existence of the supreme Being and to invoke His blessing on all we do. Surely if such a recognition is thought fitting for Parliament, it is especially fitting in the training of young children. I would deprecate anything approaching to sectarian training, but I think that in a Christian country like this, we are doing wrong in not recognising, in some way which will not give offence to persons of any denomination, the existence of the Supreme Being. I do not know that we have any Atheists in the colony at all, but if we have I am sure they are very few, and I do not see how any one's feelings could be hurt by the simple reading of the Lord's Prayer or a chapter of the Bible,—not necessarily hurried or gabbled over, it can be done respectfully, and it would be optional to attend, but I would very much like to see some clause in the Bill that would recognise the existence of One whom we have all been taught to know and obey."

The Hon Dr Menzies, who protested against the decision arrived at in 1877, subsequently proposed that the Boards should have authority to permit the Bible to be read in schools where the Committee desired it. He argued for religion being made not only an essential, but the foundation of education, quoting from American writers on the low ground of expediency, and from Guizot, Lavaleye, Principal Shairp, and others, on the higher ground of the duty of the State to train the rising generation to a full recognition of the Divine authority and to familiarise them with the Word of God. After referring to the system in operation in Prussia, Sweden, and America, he went on to say,—"Sir, we find that many petitions have been presented to the Legislature on this subject, and the expressions which they contain show that over a very large extent of country, in many districts, the most cherished feelings of the community have been outraged by the banishment from the schools of that book, which, in the words of the petitioners, they regard as the Word of God, page 19 and the Supreme rule of conduct. Under the present arrangement, because a small minority of the community will not tolerate a plan which would satisfy the majority—a system which is working well elsewhere, and which could work well here if honesty administered,—is not allowed a trial. The action of the minority in pressing this forward shows that they endeavour to guard the rights of their conscience so vigilantly, that they appear to be ready to trample upon those of the majority. The minority say that the church and the parents should undertake the duty of giving religious instruction. I am afraid that the parents in too many cases are careless and neglectful, sometimes unable; but independently of all this, I contend that the State has a paramount right to see that the rising generation are educated in such a way, and grounded in such principles, that they shall grow up to be good citizens; and I say that the State cannot find any more effective mode of doing this than grounding them in Scripture."

Mr H. Hill, B.A., Inspector of Schools, Napier, regrets to find moral training ignored in the new system. In his opinion, it is an entirely vicious system that teaches children to imagine that the culture of the intelligence is the "be-all and end-all" in learning. Now that the Bible has been expunged from the list of school books as used by the department, practically there is no standand of morality to be recognised by the teachers. He sincerely hopes that the present educational machinery, good as it is in many points, may be perfected by permitting the introduction of the Bible as a reading book into public schools, subject to a conscience clause.

Mr W. Hammond, formerly Inspector of Schools for South Canterbury, stated in a report—"I cannot close my report without deploring the apparent necessity for ostracising religious and moral instruction from our schools. A child possesses religious instincts which are ever showing themselves and waiting for development; and, apart from the loss of a powerful means of religious and moral training, I am convinced that the simple fact of tacitly ignoring these instincts or principles must have a very injurious effect.

The objections that have been urged may be seen to he theoretical, groundless, and of no force. If it be sufficient to urge against it that there were objectionable portions in the Bible, or that there were ungodly teachers, or that it would stir up sectarian animosities, how is it, I ask, notwithstanding all these, the Bible is read in the schools of all the lands in Christendom, with the exception, unfortunately, of some Australasian colonies? If it be pleaded that ministers can do it, then it can be shown that the voluntary efforts have not been sustained in the past, and, in most cases, cannot be, in justice to their other duties. If it be said that parents can do it, then it must be remembered that many parents are incapable or negligent, so that, while some do their duty, many children are growing up without any religious instruction. Our national system of education is good, but the prohibition of the Bible renders it insufficient; it is unjust to the children, to the parents, and to the colony."

It is unjust to the children, for it recognises only their rational and page 20 intellectual faculties; it ignores their religious and moral instincts. It must be injurious to them to be brought up to look on the Bible as a book proscribed in School. Every child in an enlightened Christian country has a right to the superior benefits enjoyed by that country over heathen and idolatrous lands; they have a sacred right to be informed as to the diflerence between right and wrong, and as to the existence, authority, and law of the Supreme Being. From the important place the Bible occupies in literature, children have a right to know its contents. The effect of the exclusion of the Bible from the day schools in New Zealand is to bring them nearly to the level of our Government Schools in idolatrous India, and to deprive our children of one element of highest value enjoyed throughout Christendom.

It is unjust to the parents. It is in opposition to the enactments under which the great body of settlers built up their new homes in this land. It is contrary to the express intentions and desires of those who founded the New Zealand settlements. Parents are under a sacred obligation to see that the State to whom they have committed the education of their children, does not violate the divine prescriptions.

The prohibition of the Bible can only be defended on the plea that the rights of conscience are interfered with. On this ground the British Government might not feel at liberty to introduce it into their schools in a part of the Empire where the vast majority are Hindoos and Mahommedans, as in India. But this ground cannot be urged here. On the contrary, injury is done to the conscientious convictions of the vast majority of parents by its exclusion. It has been proved by elaborate returns that 80 or 90 per cent of the whole population desire to have it introduced.

It is unjust to the State itself. The real greatness of the British nation is traceable to the influence of the Bible. Its laws are founded on it; its noblest institutions are the outcome of it. The State having taken education out of the hands of the parents, it is compulsory, and having thereby taken it in hand, it is necessary, as in Great Britain, that God and the conscience should be recognised. As it would tend to preserve the unity of the Empire, confer equal advantages upon the rising generation here with those of other lands in Christendom, and secure the safety of the state, it is necessary to repeal the prohibition of the Bible. For the logical issue of the present state of matters is, that there should be no national recognition of God, no Bible or prayer in the Legislative Assembles, no oath and no Bible in the Courts of Justice, no punishment of blasphemy or Sabbath-breaking, no standard of moral rectitude for the people of the country, no reference to God or religion in any of the school books. The Freethinkers have already agitated for the repeal of the law against blasphemy. And what would be the effect of education that sharpens mental faculties and supplies no moral basis of character, that looks upon a child as made of brains without any religious instincts and feelings? If God and religion be utterly ignored, shall we have fewer educated scoundrels, fewer suicides, fewer murders, actually committed or skilfully planned? Shall w page 21 have more regard for the majesty of law, for the sanctities of family life, for parental authority; shall we have less crime, and more commercial soundness, fewer unemployed, and more colonial prosperity? Nay, it is vain to hope for it. And as in Birmingham the home of the secular system, they have been obliged to have the Bible read in the schools from which they had banished it, we have had warning enough during the last nine years of the necessity of having the Bible re-intrcduced into the schools in this land. As the Jew reveres his Old Testament Scriptures, and the Roman Catholic his Prayer Book, all of them must scorn a system that recognises no God at all.

Here is a last and grave consideration. It must be displeasing to God; that He, by whom kings reign and princes decree justice should be thus ignored in the State schools; that his book, recognised by every civilised Government as sacred, should alone be proscribed to the children; that his blessing should not be sought in the primary schools in the land, without which education may only prove a curse; for He is the protector of all that trust in Him, "without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy;" and the very pagans seek a blessing from their gods on the learning they acquire. I low long shall this blot remain on the escutcheon of our National Education? How long shall members of Parliament guided by expediency rather than by principle, listening to the clamor of a small section of the community, vote against the Bible? How long shall the Christian people of New Zealand submit to a compromise that has proved a failure?

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