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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79


page 20


Every attempt made to settle the education question in England and [unclear: Wales] has conspicuously failed. The reason of this failure is that partial [unclear: and] partisan lines have been followed. The Act of 1902 erred in one [unclear: direction;] the Hill of 1906 erred as badly in another direction. Everyone sees that [unclear: a] further attempt, to be successful, must proceed upon fresh lines [unclear: altogether;] and it is with a view to this new departure that the Secular [unclear: Education] League has come into being.

The Secular Education League aims at binding together in one [unclear: effective] organisation all who favour the "Secular Solution" of the Education [unclear: problem,] without reference to any other convictions—political, social, or religious—that they may entertain.

The fundamental principle of the League is expressed in the [unclear: resolution] that was carried at [unclear: the] crowded inaugural meeting, which took place at the "Tribune" Rendezvous on Monday evening, 4th February, under the [unclear: chairmanship] of Mr. George Greenwood, M.P.:—

"That this meeting, recognising that the sole responsibility [unclear: for] religious education rests with parents and Churches, expresses [unclear: its] conviction that there can be no final solution of the religious [unclear: difficulty] in National Education until the Education Act is amended so as [unclear: to] secure that there shall be no teaching of religion in St ate-[unclear: supported] Elementary Schools in school hours or at the public expense."

According to this resolution, religion must not be taught in the [unclear: National] Elementary Schools either at the [unclear: public] expense or by means of public machinery. Upon this basis a wise and just educational system could [unclear: be] established, which would necessarily prevent religious tests being [unclear: imposed] upon teachers, give absolute security to religious rights of parents, and [unclear: infue] serenity and efficiency into the intellectual and moral atmosphere of [unclear: the] schoolrooms.

The wisdom and equity of confining the teaching in public elemantry schools to secular subjects were admitted by the late Mr. Gladstone. They have also been admitted by various political leaders still living—such [unclear: as] Lord Rosebery, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and Mr. John Morley. But [unclear: may] who recognise that Secular Education is ideally right declare that it [unclear: is] impracticable. They assert that the nation will not have it. Yet they [unclear: offer] no proof of this extraordinary statement. The truth is that the people [unclear: have] never had a clear issue laid before them. Only at Trade Union [unclear: Congress] has a popular vote been taken, and on every occasion the skilled [unclear: workmen] through their official representatives, have registered overwhelming [unclear: majorities] in favour of Secular Education.

It cannot be questioned that the religious controversy has been a [unclear: serious] hindrance to national education. England will never take her proper [unclear: place] in the van of educational progress until the State hands religion over to [unclear: those] who should care for it, and organises education on a [unclear: scientific and] [unclear: civic] basis.

Certainly the religious controversy shows no sign of abating. [unclear: Passive] resistance, pursued by Nonconformists, is now being threatened by [unclear: Anglicas] and Catholics. Even if a majority were to agree upon a compromise, [unclear: is] would still excite the passionate resentment of the minority. There [unclear: is] indeed, but one way of peace—the way of Secular Education.

The Secular Education League neither professes nor entertains [unclear: any] hostility to religion. It simply regards religion as a personal and [unclear: private] matter, which all should be free to promote in voluntary associations, [unclear: but] which should never come under the control of the State. The League [unclear: takes] its stand on the principle of citizenship—with freedom and equality for [unclear: all] in matters that He beyond.

page 21

It is with confidence that the Secular Education League appeals for moral and financial support. A number of distinguished names are already included on its General Council, and more will assuredly be added in the immediate future. What is now sought is a great accession of members, who give the motive power to every organisation. The way into the League is easy. Only the essential points of principle and policy are insisted upon; and the members' contribution is purely voluntary, each being left to subscribe according to interest and opportunity.

With the issue of this first Manifesto the general work of the Secular Education League begins, and the battle opens for the victory of "the Secular Solution."