A Paper Read Before the Otago Schoolmasters' Association.
Mr President,—When, four weeks ago, I consented to introduce for discussion at this meeting, the subject of Free and Compulsory Education, I stated that I had not prepared any paper on the subject and that my other engagements would preclude me, from giving it that time, and consideration, which it deserved. I have found, the more I studied the subject, that I had underrated the difficulties I laboured under, in making remarks on a topic of such magnitude and importance. It appeared to me, however, that there lay at the root of Free and Compulsory Education, the broad question of the duty of the State to educate; and that until this question had been disposed of, there could be little hope of any debate, of much usefulness, for there would be a perpetual recurrence and reference to this question of State Education. I have, therefore, preferred to ask you to discuss this question of State Education, or the duty of the State to educate, before the details of the amount of the State Grant, or the right of compulsion he considered. I may grant at once, what cannot, I think, be denied, namely, if it'be the duty of the State to educate gratuitously, the youth it its domains, it is bound to compel attendance at its schools. It is, I know, urged, that it is the duty of the State to compel attendance at school, or as it has been put by Mr Mill, to require a certain proficiency in knowledge from the citizens, notwithstanding that the State does not educate; to this question, however, I shall allude towards the close of my paper.
Before I begin, let me once, and for all, state that I am greatly indebted to the writings of Mr Herbert Spencer for many of my arguments, and that I have consulted several works on Political Economy, History, &c. I make this statement, so that I may not be accused of borrowing other people's ideas without due recognition.
In determining whether it is the duty of the State to educate, the question arises—What is the duty of the State? What limit? ought to be set to Governmental interference? Humboldt, in his 'Sphere and Duties of Government,' has answered "security and protection;" while Spencer, echoing his ideas in his work 'Social Statics,' has earned this statement to its legitimate issue. I thoroughly believe in this definition of a State's function, and indeed, it theory, it is one that is generally granted to be rigid. In practice, however, the philosophers of expediency set right and justice aside, following Burke in his statement, that "politics ought to be adjusted, not to human reasoning, but to human nature; of which the reason is but a part, and by no means the greatest part," and as the same great orator said in his speech on American Taxation "I am not here going into the distinction of rights, nor attempting to mark their boundaries. I do not cuter into these metaphysical distinctions." But what is a page 2 State? Is it not a voluntary political association, for mutual protection? Of course individualism must to a certain extent be sacrificed, but sacrificed only to this extent, that the rights of all shall be respected. And the State, by assuming functions, which really are not necessary for the protection of the life and property of the citizens, ceases to be a protector, and becomes a tyrant; and the form of government, under which this wrong is committed, by whatever name it is called, is, so far, despotic and unjust. The surrender of the rights of the individual is often greatly exaggerated, and as has been remarked by an able writer, the more liberty an individual acquires in a State, so much the more is there liberty in that State. We must admit, and keep in remembrance during this discussion, that there is a moral law binding on the State to the individual, as much as one binding on the letter to the former. I speak then not of mere legal rights, of the social rules which at present guide us, but I base my assertion of State duties On what ought to be—on what is morally and theoretically just. I appeal to the higher law of justice and right.
But to come to the question to be discussed, and not forgetting the definition of a State's duty I Have adopted, I ask what is education? For the onus of proving that state education is proper—is right—lies not on the opponents of State education, but on its supporters. Suppose, as an opponent of State education 1 ask—What is if? Where is the line to be drawn—in age, in learning? How old should a person be before being relieved from the watchful eye of the State educator? How large should be his acquirement's? Where between a dame school, and the most comprehensive University curriculum, is the line to be drawn? At the three R's, answer you? Spencer, using the Socratic method, at once says—" What peculiar quality is there in reading, writing, and arithmetic which gives the embryo citizen a right to have them imparted to him, but which quality is not shared in geography, and history, and drawing, and the natural sciences? Must calculation be taught because it is useful? Why, so is geometry, as the carpenter and mason will tell you; so is chemistry, as we may gather from dyers and bleachers; so is physiology, as is abundantly proved by the ill-health written on so many faces. . . . Where is the unit of measure, by which we may determine the respective values of different kinds of knowledge?" The three R's are not education; nay, the sciences I have enumerated do not constitute a sound education. If the State were simply to teach even what is termed a [unclear: souud] English education (whatever that signifies) is its work accomplished? Mazzini states—"You know how to read. What avails this knowledge, if you are unfit to judge between the books containing error, and those containing truth? You have learned to communicate your thoughts to your fellow men in writing. What avails this knowledge if your thoughts are the mere reflex of your own egotism?" So for, then, it see as there is a difficulty, I had almost said an impossibility, in determining what is this education the State ought to provide. And the question of age will just be as difficult. At what age ought the State schoolmaster, to give up his charge? Suppose a man ignorant of political economy, and called upon, not only to exercise the franchise, but to fulfil the honorable duties of a legislator for this State, ought he not, at the expense of the State, to be made acquainted with his duties? nay, to be compelled to study what are the elements of his profession—what are the three R's of a political education? Where are you, I ask, to draw the line? Then again, we witness often in a community agitations arising, demanding laws founded on theories long ago exploded, is it not the duty of the State to step in here, and with judicious instruction, train its citizens in the way they should walk?
But granting that we have determined what this education is, which the State should furnish, and the class to whom it should be given, we may be met by this query: You State educators, who are carefully tending the minds of the embryotic citizens what about their bodies? Is physical health of such small importance that you pass it by as unworthy of notice? Here are citizens poorly clad, poorly fed; citizens who pay no attention Co regimen, who, careless of the change of the seasons, lay themselves open to attacks of many diseases, in spits of your physiological tuition. For instance, I read in a report by Dr Simon, the following:—"Let any person devote an hour to visiting some very poor neighborhood in the metropolis, or in almost any of our large towns. List him breathe its air, taste its water, eat its bread. Let him think of human life struggling there for years. Let him fancy what it would be to himself to live there in that beastly degradation of stink, fed with such bread, drinking such water. Let him enter some house there at hazard, and, heeding where he treads, follow the guidance of his outraged nose to the yard (if there be one) or the cellar. Let him talk to the inmates; let him hear what is thought of the bone boiler next door, or the slaughterhouse behind; what of the sewer grating page 3 before the door; what of the Irish basket-makers up-stairs, twelve in a room, who came in after the hopping, and got fever; what of the artisan's dead body, stretched on his widow's one bed beside her living children." And I might quote other dreadful details, but I forbear. I ask then, why are you to stop at education? Is the body not to be cared for? Ought the State not to physic its citizens at fitting; periods? nay, and when they are no more, prepare their bodies for the" city of the silent," and carry out the function laid down by an enthusiast, give every man a decent Christian burial.
But here I may be met by the assertion, education will right all these things. Knowledge is power, say some. It will fit all of us, for our duties to the State, and this is the proper sphere of State Education. Its aim is to make us fit for our social duties, and thus greater security will be given to liberty, and hence the State, by educating, is fulfilling its duty as protector of life and property. Well, what pray is a "good citizen," what is your ideal person fit for social duties and liberties? And who, pray, is to decide what a "good citizen" is? The State, say you. What? The Government to decide on a good citizen, and train all the embryos after this "golden calf"—using its own discretion first as to what a good citizen is, and also as to its method of training. This moulding must, I suppose, admit of no tampering, Ruthlessly must the State wield its power. Liberty of thought, or of action must be silenced. Private schools, except duly licensed, and inspected, will he unknown, us in Holland. Every teacher will be watched, and quis custodiet eustodias? Books, except up to the regulation standard, will be banished, and who the Commission are to be who are to frame the "index expurgatorius," I know not. Nay, we will have, as in China, the most, minute regulations. The rules of propriety will be rigidly enforced. The "good citizen" will be guided by rules of sitting, talking, walking, bowing, reading, eating, dressing, etc., as in the Celestial Empire. And what amusements will be permitted, will also have to be decided. I may, however, be charged with exaggeration. Some may still say, dare you deny that education does not fit us for our social duties? I reply not necessarily, Lieber, whom none can accuse of being an anti-State educationalist, says, in his work on Civil Liberty, "Education is not liberty itself, nor does it necessarily lead to it. Prussia is one of the best educated countries (written in 1853), but liberty has not yet found a dwelling place there. The Chinese Government is avowedly based upon general education, and democratic equality in the hierarchy of officers, but China has never made a step in the path of liberty. Education is almost like the alphabet it teaches—it depends upon what we use it for. Many despotic Governments have found it their interest to promote popular education, and the schoolmaster cannot establish or maintain liberty." Must it not be granted that there is an education of the faculties, which neither books nor schools can impart to a people, but which is necessary for the fulfilment of social duties? And then Mill, who is in favor of free and compulsory education, has to admit that this theory of a model citizen is utterly untenable. He says: "The objections which are urged with reason against State education do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State's taking upon itself to direct that education— mark that—which is a totally different thing. That the whole, or any large part, of the education of the people should be in the State's hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity of opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly tike one another; and, as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the (Government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body." So much for the good model citizen, trained to his social duties, such moulding being necessary for liberty.
It may, however, be said by some, as it has been said by Mill, "In the matter of education, the intervention of government is justifiable, because the case is one in which the interest and judgment of the consumer, are not sufficient security for the goodness of the commodity." Now, why should education be alone singled out as a subject in which "the interest and judgment of the consumer, independent of the State's interference, shall not be the proper test." If this assertion be sufficient to insure the State's interference, clearly the State will be bound in other matters to see that "the interest and judgment of the consumer" are sufficient guides to the citizen. What we exit, do our interest and judgment always lead us to a Bound decision? Do we always drink what is good for our health? Are there none in a community page 4 ruined by intemperance, and by want of using proper means of sustaining health? On such an assumption, Henry VIII's Statute declaring it penal to sell any pins but such as are "double-headed, and bate their head soldered fast to the shank, and well smoothed: the shank well shaven, the point well and round filed, and sharpened;" and the regulation of James I. fixing the quantity of ale to be sold for a penny, were perhaps justified by the lack of "interest and judgment" in the consumer, This argument, as is well known, is the stock one in favour of State Religion—the masses are not fit to distinguish true from false religion. Indeed, this theory carried out strictly in practice, would justify all the oppression, and all the governmental interference that has, disgraced our historic annals. For instance, a Mr Rugg, (M.R.C.S.) has published "a pamphlet to point out the injury inflicted upon poor ignorant householders by the adulteration of milk," and proposing as a remedy that there shall be government officers to test the milk, and confiscate it when not sound, inspect cow-sheds, &c., &c. And I read in a Melbourne paper, of the 16th of April, an article urging the Parliament of Victoria, to pass a statute to compel all householders to ventilate their buildings according to Mr Arnott's plan, vix., inserting near the ceiling, a valve to open in the chimney flue, when the fires are not lighted: also, see 'Lancet,' October 1868, p. 531, as so State medicine. As to its being said education is peculiar, it is something not so tangible as milk, medicine, &c., it may be answered that every meddling, by a government, has the same excuse to back it. And were I even to admit that the consumer is not a proper judge, government interference would not be justifiable for two reasons, 1st That the race is progressive, and that every gratuitous aid stops progress, e.g., There is a great amount of bad fanning in this Province, would the government be justified in superintending all the farms and dictating to the tillers of the soil, what crops to sow, and when? Can we not see we are gradually learning experience, and no forcing process will do us good. No pupil will ever learn to write if the teacher always holds his pen. No, the best teacher will allow the pupil to make mistakes, and blots innumerable, he well knowing that though at first the writing is not good, yet that his pupil will grow in knowledge. And so ought we to allow the masses, if they be incompetent to judge what is good education and what is not, to grow out of their imperfections and incompetency. But, 2nd. It is assumed that the government is a sufficient judge of the "goodness of the commodity." It is asserted that the interest and judgment of the government arc sufficient security. Is this so? To whose judgment must we bow? To an intellectual pristhood, the dream of the Positivists? Not so in a democracy, for there the mass govern. And who is the mass? Is it not for its guidance that this interference is deemed necessary? Some one may say, but when a Government is what it should be, then.—True; but this is just, the reason why interference is demanded, it is because people are not what they should he. No, as I said before, the world cannot be reformed in a day. We must allow for its growth—for the gradual evolution that often, despite our efforts to delay progress, is gradually raising humanity. Spencer has illustrated this idea very happily. "Did the reader ever watch a boy in the first heat of a gardening fit? The sight is an amusing, and not uninstructive one. Probably a slice of border—some couple of square yards or so—has been made over to him for his exclusive use. No small accession of dignity, and not a little pride of proprietorship, does he exhibit. So long as the enthusiasm lasts, he never tires of contemplating his territory; and every companion, and every visitor with whom the liberty can be taken, is pretty sure to be met with the request, 'Come and sec my garden.' Note chiefly, however, with what anxiety the growth of a few scrubby plants is regarded. Three or four times a day will the little urchin rush out to look at them. How prorokingly slow their progress seems to him. Each morning, on getting up, he hopes to find some marked change; and lo, every thing appears just as it did before. When will the blossoms come out? For nearly a week has some forward bud been flourishing with the triumph of a first flower, and still it remains closed. Surely there must be something wrong! Perhaps the leaves have stuck fast. Ah! that is the reason, no doubt. And so ten to one you shall some day catch our young florist very busily engaged in pulling open the calyx, and, it may be, trying to unfold a few of the petals." Somewhat like this childish impatience is the feeling exhibited by not a few State educationists.
The convenient assumption, that the Government, in education, as was once believed to be the case in religion, is an infallible judge, is the basis of their interference. But one quotation, and T am done on this head; it is to show that the interference does not lead to the results anticipated,—and from Buckle: He says, speaking of the influence of religion, literature, and government:— page 5 "The German intellect, stimulated by the French into a sudden growth, has been irregularly developed, and thus hurried into an activity greater than the average civilisation of the country requires. The consequence is, that there is no nation in Europe in which we find so wide an interval between the highest and the lowest minds. The German philosophers possess a learning, and a reach of thought, which places them at the head of the civilised world. The German people are more superstitious, more prejudiced, and, notwithstanding the care which the Government takes of their education, more really ignorant, and more unfit to guide themselves, than are the inhabitants of either France or England." And, in a note, he adds—two points I will refer to:—"1st. The notorious fact, that the German people, notwithstanding their so-called education, arc unfit to take any share in political matters, and have no aptitude for the practical and administrative parts of Government. 2nd. The fact, equally notorious to those who have studied the subject, that there are more popular superstitions in Prussia, the most educated part of Germany, than there are in England, and that the tenacity with which men cling to them is greater in Prussia than in England. For illustration of the practical working in individual cases of compulsory education, and of the hardship it causes, see a scandalous occurrence related is Laing's Notes of a Taveller; and as to the physical evils produced by German education, sec Phillips on Scrofula." So much for State efforts and the results.
One of the greatest—indeed, it has been termed the greatest—argument for State education is that it prevents crime. Now, I hold this has not been proved. Remember I am keeping to the basis of what is termed "a sound English education." If we were to confine Our attention solely to the statisties of the number of ignorant criminals to be found in the gaols, m comparison with the number of educated, and to this alone, it could not be proved; but even granting, which need not be granted, that the number of ignorant prisoner exceeds that of educated ones, docs that prove that education prevents, and ignorance causes crime? It is, surely, quite possible for ignorance and crime to coexist, and yet the one not be the cause of the other. There is no need that ignorance be the cause and crime the effect. Burke asks, in one of his speeches, "May not a man have enjoyed better health during the time that he walked with an oaken stick, than afterwards, when he changed it for a cane, without supposing like the Druids, that there are occult virtues in oak, and that the stick and health were cause and effect." I fear there has been a too great tendency to overlook the difference between coexistence and Cause and effect. Spencer, on this point, states, "Before any inference can be drawn, it must be shown that these instructed and uninstructed convicts come from the equal sections of society—alike in all other respects but that of knowledge; similar in rank, occupation, having similar advantages, laboring under similar temptations.* * * The many ignorant criminals belong to a class most unfavorably circumstanced; whilst the few educated ones are from a class comparatively favored." To attribute crime to ignorance is about as wise, and as near the truth, a to blame, as some doctors have done, bad ventilation and want of cleanliness as the cause of theft. I do not intend to quote statistics. I may refer to Mr [unclear: Semerville's] Physical Geography, in which it is stated that education prevents crime, and statistics are given to prove such an assertion; but they utterly fail to do so. I may mention, however, the testimony of the author of London Labor and London Poor, and that of Mr Fletcher, an Inspector of Schools. The latter sums up this experience thus:—" Down to this period, therefore, the comparison of the criminal and educational returns of this, any more than of any other country of Europe, has afforded no sound statistical evidence in favor, and as little against, the moral effects associated with instruction as actually disseminated among the people." To which may be added the evidence of Messrs Guirea and Dupin, who have shown that the most highly educated districts in France are the most criminal.
Coleridge has termed a knave, a fool with a circumbendibus. Well, education only widens the circumbendibus; it does not make the knave honest. If education prevented crime, then all educated men would be honest, and all uneducated dishonest Bacon and Napoleon would have been shining moral lights, while some of earth's greatest heroes would have, had they got their merits, ended their days in gaol. What is this education supposed to give us, that it will hinder from crime?—a knowledge of the consequences of crime? Why what drunkard does not know his doom? What convict—once imprisoned—knows not what he has to expect on a repetition of his offence? What dissolute physician knows not that he is hastening his ruin? And, to tread on what is considered more sacred ground, how is it that all those, who have become members of a page 6 Christian Chureh, do not follow the great injunction—Sin no more? Education alone prevents crime Why has not a priesthood, armed with the terrors of the Church, not; stamped out immorality? backed, as it was, with a superstitious regard, which has existed until the present day. No, crime must be cured, not by State interference alone; there must be an adaptability of the man to the social state: without this, crime will continue; and though among the educated it may assume a different phase—though forgery may take the place of robbery, yet it will exist.
But I shall now turn to some objections which may be urged against education by the State And 1st. I hold that the Stale is violating its functions by becoming the educator, I have stated that the sphere and duty of a State are security and protection. And, keeping to this definition, I shall again make a quotation from Spencer, to prove my contention, because he has illustrated the subject in a more forcible manner than I can do:—
"'Your taxes are heavier this year than last,' complains a citizen to the Government' 'How is it?'
'The sums for these new school-houses, and for the salaries of the masters and mistresses, have increased the draught upon our Exchequer,' replies the Government.
'School-houses, masters, and mistresses—what have I to do with these? You are not charging me with the cost of them, arc you?'
'Why I never authorised you to do so.'
'True; but Parliament, or in other words, the majority of the nation, has decided that the education of the young shall be entrusted to us, and has authorised us to raise such funds as may be necessary for fulfilling this trust.'
'But suppose I wish to superintend the education of my children myself?'
'You may do as you please [but this would not be granted by Mill, etc.,]; but you must pay for the privilege we offer, whether you avail yourself of it or not. Even if you have no children you must still pay.'
'And what if I refuse?'
'Why, were we to act up to old precedents, we should punish you; but as things now stand, we shall content ourselves with giving notice that you have outlawed yourself.'
'Now, I have no wish to do that. I cannot at present dispense with your protection.'
'Very well, then, you must agree to our terms, and pay your share of the new tax.'
'See, now, what a dilemma you place me in. As I dare not relinquish the protection I entered into political combination to obtain, I must either give you a part of my property for nothing, or, should 1 make a point of having some equivalent, I must cease to do that which my natural affections prompt. Will you answer me a few questions.'
'What is it that you, as a natural executive, have been appointed for? Is it not to maintain the rights of those she employ you; or, in other words, to guarantee to each the jullest freedom for the exercise of his faculties, compatible with the equal freedom of all others?'
"It has been so decided"
'And it has been also decided that yon are justified in diminishing this freedom, only to such extent, as may be needful for preserving the remainder, has it not?'
'That is evidently a corollary.'
'Exactly. And now, let me ask, what is this property, this money, of which, in the shape of taxes, you are demanding from me, an additional amount? Is it not that which enables me to get food clothing, and better recreation; or, to repeat the original expression, that on which I depend for the exercise of most of my faculties?'
'Therefore to decrease my property, is to decrease my freedom to exercise my faculties, is it not?'
'Then this new impost of yours will practically decrease my freedom to exercise my faculties?'
'Well, do you not now perceive the contradiction? Instead of acting the part of a protector, you are acting the part of an aggressor. What you were appointed to guarantee me and others, you are now taking away. To see that the liberty of each man to pursue the objects of his desires unrestricted, save of the like liberty of all, is your special function. To diminish this liberty by-means of taxes, or civil restraint, more than is absolutely needful for performing such function, is wrong, because adverse to the function itself. Now your new impost does so diminish this liberty more than is absolutely needful, and it is, consequently, unjustifiable."
I do not think I need say any more on this head.
The next objection I urge against State education is, that it tends to destroy parental influence and responsibility, and, therefore, uneducates as much, if not more, than it educates. Before, however, I oiler arguments in proof of this assertion, it will be necessary to page 7 take up what I promised to do at the commencement, namely, the argument that it may be the duty of the State to compel a certain acquirement in knowleege by each citizen. J. 8. Mill defends this in his Essay on Liberty. "Consider, for example," says Mill, "the case of Education. Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, the State should require and compel the education up to a certain standard [the model citizen which he himself condemns] of every human being who is horn its citizen? Yet who is there that is not afraid to recognise and assert this truth? Hardly anyone, indeed, will deny that it is one of the most sacred duties of the parents (or, as law and usage now stand, the father,) after summoning a human being into the world, to give to that being an education fitting him to perform his part well in life towards others and towards himself. But white this is unanimously declared to be the father's duty, scarcely anybody, in this country, will bear to hear of obliging him to perform it. Instead of his being required to make any exertion or sacrifice for securing this education to his child, it is left to his choice to accept it or not, when it is provided gratia! It stilt remains unrecognised, that to bring a child into existence, without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a moral crime, both against the unfortunate offering and against society; and that, if the parent docs not fulfill the obligation, the State ought to see it fulfilled at the charge, as far as possible, of the parent." Now, moat heartily as I agree with the spirit of benevolence in this argument of Mill's, I behave, that had he his idea carried out, it would be productive of far more evil than good. The doctrine at the root of Mill" argument is, that the rights of children are involved as well as the rights of the State. Now I deny that the rights of the child are violated by a denial of education. Education does not prevent the fullest exercise of faculties, it does not diminish liberty. The child is at liberty to do whatsoever it wills in the best way it can, and this is all that can be demanded. "Every aggression, be it remembered," to again quote, "every infraction of rights is necessarily active, whilst every neglect, carelessness, omission, is as necessarily passive. Consequently, however wrong the non-performance of a parental duty may be,—however much it is condemned by the morality of beneficence—it does not amount to a breach of the law of equal freedom, and cannot, therefore, be taken cognizance of by the State." And Mill's argument, if at all pushed, would lead the State into interference as absurd as that of States in days gone by, to guard, the citizens in all their dealings.
But I go farther and say, that even were it the duty of the State to interfere on behalf of children, Mill's theory would work more evil than good. It tends to destroy parental influence and responsibility, and hence uneducates. If any person is trained up in the belief, that the State is to have a fostering care of himself and offspring, he will lose that stimulus to self-restraint and self-denial, which he would otherwise acquire. And to this want of self-restraint is nine-tenths of the evil, that afflicts this world to be attributed. If there were no improvidence, there would be little poverty and less crime. And how is this self-restraint to be encouraged? Must not experience and pain alone work a cure. Nothing but knowing, and feeling, that a wrong done brings punishment—aye, and without State interference—will improve the man of improvident habits and desires. Why to some men to this day, notwithstanding the knowledge diffused abroad by Combe's Constitution of Man, and kindred works, pain seems an evil instead of a good-Some are so philanthropic that to save an improvident man from punishment, they will place him in artificial and false circumstances. What, I ask, is a greater incentive to self-restraint than parental responsibility,—'and if we diminish the one, we will assuredly diminish the other. If we train up men in the belief that a Government will feed and educate their children, and wilt, in old age, when they are unable to work, and, through their improvidence, they have no resources, give them a place of refuge—a workhouse for an asylum—Can we wonder at the carelessness and improvidence we see in the world? Is it not a fact that the more the State undertakes for the family, the greater becomes the temptation to marry? And hence the greater becomes the number of those moral crimes Mr-Mill so much deplores.
Therefore, I hold State Education is educating one class at the expense of another. It confers knowledge at the expense of character. "It retards the development of a quality universally needed—one, in the absence of which, poverty, and restlessness, and crime, must ever continue; and all that it may give a smattering of information." Nay, it makes men forget their duties; it deadens that parental feeling for progeny, which nature has implanted in the bosom. What are we? What is the State that we should improve on nature? Throughout the universe offspring is cared for and tended. How rarely do page 8 parents neglect to feed their children! and these instances do not happen were it not for social laws. Assuredly nature is a better judge than we, and the less we interfere with nature's processes the better.
But I mast not detain you longer. There is only one argument to which I shall yet allude. It is one that I know is sure to be used, and it is this—All nations find it expedient to aid education, or have some sort of a national system, and if this has been found necessary in the past, and in the present state of intellectual enlightenment, surely we are justified in following so many precedents. I do not think such a statement of much value were I to apply it in discussing "State Churches," it would, I presume, be equally valid; and I hardly know of any nation that, fifty years ago, held other than the most strong protectionist ideas. But who dare say that Turgot and Adam Smith were wrong? In like manner we may say of State Education that, granting that it may, as State Churches and protectionist theories are said to have done, sided progress in the state of society which has been in the past, it is no argument for its future continuance.
In conclusion, and to sum up my arguments, I started with showing the proper function of a State "security and protection to life and property. I then showed that before the State could be called on to educate, it was the duty of those in favour of State Education to tell me what it is, and when it is to begin and when to cease. This difficulty, nay impossibility, I have pointed out. I have asserted that once admit this doctrine of State care of minds, and State care of bodies must be enforced, and other absurdities will follow in their train. I stated that the argument that it was for the interest of the State to educate, so as to get good citizens, was utterly untenable. I have proved also that the State cannot interfere on the pretext that the people are not judges of what education is or ought to be, nor, on the other assumption that it makes crime cease. I have, I think, proved that State Education is a violation of the social compact, and unjust. 'I then showed that the State could not interfere on the plea of doing justice to the young. I have pointed out the evils of State Education by destroying parental responsibility, and uneducating those who need education most. Lastly, I have alluded to the fact, that the universality of a doctrine was no proof of its soundness. So far, my task accomplished. Let me only beseech you not to found your opposition to me on such a shallow ground as that of expediency. It is never expedient to be "unjust" and the assertion that it is so has caused many of the evils under which this world of ours has laboured and still labours. Might I also express a Hope that, independent of the results that may follow our ideas, we will fearlessly discuss this subject, and that that bogie which sometimes affects some amongst us "the fear of meddling with politics," will for once he kept out of sight. May we conceive it to be our duty to fearlessly utter the highest truths conceivable by us, and endeavour to get embodied in fact our purest idealisms, knowing that by these means, and by these only, are we playing our appointed part in this world.
Dunedin: Mills, Dick & Co., General Printers, Stafford Street, November 7, 1870.