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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Favor in High Quarters

Favor in High Quarters.

But that is not the only quarter in which I find, or think I find, sympathy. Reading again more carefully the speech of the Inspector-General at the opening of the Conference in Wellington, I certainly think I find there a willingness to move in the direction page 10 of the scheme I am advocating. Thus at the close of his speech he says: "I have long thought it would be wise . . . to leave the mechanical work of standard examinations in Urge schools in the hands of the head-masters. . . . Two inspectors would examine the classes, and ascertain whether the weaker pupils in each class were fairly up to the work in which they were engaged." Well, what is that but the cardinal feature of my scheme—viz, that the inspector's examination should be in the standard last passed? That is the only way to tell whether a child is fit for the work he is attempting, to see if he can do the preliminary work readily. There is no other fitness, and hence I see no reason to anticipate any unwillingness on the part of the department to adopt the scheme I am proposing. Why, under these circumstances, some similar scheme was not adopted by the Conference I am utterly at a loss to guess, unless it be what I have hinted at before—that the inspectors, by long endurance, have become so moulded and indurated into the present system that, though recognising its viciousness, they shrink instinctively from any change in it. Like the lifelong prisoner released from the Bastile, they ask to be taken back to their cell.

But, after all, I need not go outside the Conference itself to find support for my scheme, my censures on that body applying only to the Conference acting as a whole, and to the majority only of its members. This becomes plain on reading carefully the official report of the proceedings of the Conference, from which document we learn that in committee of the whole the Conference actually adopted the very principle which lies at the basis of my own scheme this evening—viz., that the system of testing the efficiency of schools mainly by individual passes in standards should be abolished. Strangely enough, however, when the chairman of committee re-ported this fact to the Conference that body rejected its own finding in committee, and that in spite of the fact that the adoption of the report was moved and seconded by inspectors of the longest standing and largest experience in the colony—I mean Messrs Lee and Petrie. These things are difficult to account for. The Committee was prepared to trust its teachers, but the Conference was not; and yet Committee and Conference consisted of the same persons. I suppose the Committee expressed the opinion of the private individual in each case, and the Conference that of the board official. The private individuals were generous, but the public officials distrustful; the private individuals were courageous, but the hearts of the public officials failed them. Anyway, the official proceedings of the Conference show that there is nothing rash or imprudent in my scheme, since the fundamental principle of it only just escaped adoption by the Conference itself.

It would relieve my feelings a little if I could apologise to the Conference for the sharp criticism to which I am subjecting its action. For many of the individual members, as far as they are known to me, I have the greatest respect, and hold them in the highest honor; and I, knowing these as I do, I am all the more at a loss to understand both the smallness of the results arrived at an I the objectionable character of some things that were done. On two of these latter I will now touch by way of conclusion,