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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53



In other words that it is not the Legislature that creates or formulates the system of State education, nor is it Boards, School Committees, or teachers who control, conduct, or are responsible for it; but we, solely, the people, directly and immediately, ourselves. They being all merely instruments or conduit pipes, i.e., we being the heads that counsel [and as the Greeks proverbially said, "Counsel is a Divine thine" they, merely the arms that strike, carrying out our will.

And that therefore it is idle for us to complain of legislative or administrative grievances in the system, because that is merely complaining of our own conduct—the prevention of and the remedy for which are held by us in our own hands. Thus, if such grievances exist—it is not merely Prudence, which only directs what is to come, but Wisdom —which directs all matters present and to come—alone can rectify them, as we —and we only, the people of this colony, in respect of this colony—and Minerva in our own sole keeping and, the fore, we and we only are responsible if the goddess does not control our counsels and govern our conduct. Thus the learned Bishop Stilling fleet wrote: "Two things speak much the wisdom of a nation; good laws, and a prudent management of them." But in order to thoroughly understand what, this means we must more lucidly (and our great want according to Mr. Matthew Arnold is lucidity) page 19 and persistently recognise than we now do, the all-important ego factor in our educational life; that is the keen realisation of personal advantage to each of us in its efficient conduct. In other words, that we individually and directly are substantially and proportionately benefitted or injured in our persons and property—as I have fully detailed in my last article—by well or ill-conducted State education. Thus the non-exercise of wisdom in the election of representatives for the House of Representatives and therefore for the Legislative Council, for it is virtually an elected body depending for new members on the House of Representatives) and for Education Boards, and School Committees,

(1) Directly injures us each in our persons and property, by fostering or allowing the growth of physical weakness and disease (for as the Latin epigrammist, Martial, says "Life is not to live, but to be well"), mental error, and selfishness, and

(2) Indirectly harms us

(a) By destroying confidence in our qualifications to govern; (because a prerequisite to obtain or retain the power to rule is to inspire confidence of competence to rule), and therefore, by acting as a precursor of, at least a temporary, loss or curtailment of our governing powers. Thus, that distinguished statesman and political writer, Viscount Bolingbroke, writes in his celebrated letters, "We do not read, I think, of more than one nation who refused liberty when it was offered to them; but we read of many, and have almost seen some, who lost it through their own fault, by the plain and necessary consequences of their own conduct, when they were in full possession of it, and had the means of securing it effectually in their power."

(b) By dealing a blow at, and thereby retarding, the great principle of the government of ourselves by ourselves: which principle should, in the interests of humanity generally, be dear to, and protected by, all of us; and which—although it must ultimately prevail (magna est Veritas et praevalebit) is thus temporarily retarded by human frailty. For we should be especially on Our guard not to afford to the enemies of liberty any practical illustration of the sentiments to which De Tocque ville gives expression in his celebrated work on Democracy, where he says—Aristocracies are infinitely more expert in the science of legislation than democracies can ever be."

Thus, indiscretion in the choice of representatives means not only the individual and direct injury to us personally, that I have pointed out, but also indirect damage to us and others by playing into the hands of centralism—the vice-regent of autocracy here, and therefore—the pronounced foe to that most-to-be-cherished of political birthrights—self government, i.e., the sovereignty of the people. And it is quite irrelevant —in view of the constitutional powers vested in us—to reply that such powers are nominal rather than real.

Because it is not so. Their exercise, just as we may from time to time wish, being merely a question of will—the wondrous influence of which appears to me almost universally unrecognised, but the real and overwhelming potency of which is truly and grandly expressed by Ella Wheeler as follows:—

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate
Can circumvent, or hinder, or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul;
Gifts count for nothing—Will alone is great;
All things bow down before it soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force
Of the sea-seeking river in its course,
Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait?
Each well-born soul can win what it deserves.
Let the fool prate of luck; the fortunate
Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves—
Whose slightest action or inaction serves
The one great aim. Why, even Death stands still,
And waits an hour sometimes for such a will.

With these premisses—and with the warning of Sir George Grey, as expressed last year in our General Assembly, ringing in Our ears at elections of Educational representatives "That it requires some hard fighting to win a real battle," and moreover remembering as Whyte-Melville says "Opportunity is the harvest of the Gods"—let us enquire what are our individual and direct interests, and therefore what are our duties in electing Educational Boards and School Committees to control and conduct—what I have endeavoured to demonstrate in my preceding articles to be, and what Montaigne, amongst many others, designates (as I have already quoted) as—"the most difficult and the most important of all the arts." And the most important page 20 not only for the reasons I have already given in my preceding articles but also for this reason, as I think—although I have no space to dilate on it—that education as contrasted with many other arts, such as that of the clergyman, the physician, or the advocate, is essentially preventive rather than remedial; and is, therefore, as superior in importance to them as to prevent a catastrophe is to remedying it. Moreover, the exact status ante quo can never he regained.