OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Social Progress (continued) page 3

Pages: 1 2 <3> 4

The Roman Catholics stand forth among the denominations of England in the number of day-schools which they more or less support, having 339, containing 41,000 scholars. By virtue of a special minute in their favour, they received aid from the parliamentary grant, and they had a government inspector of their own, appointed with the sanction of their "poor school committee." In 1821 they had only thirty-four schools in England; in 1841 they had added about 100 more; and in the next ten years, 166.

The Baptists were found to have 131 schools of their own, containing 9,000 scholars. They are, however, generally adverse to denominational action in the matter of day-school education; hence the resources of the body are in a great degree applied to the support of purely British schools. Their teachers were usually trained at the Borough Road Institution, until that society accepted government aid, since which event they are generally obtained from the training establishment of the Voluntary School Society. In connection with this subject, the Baptist Union passed a resolution that a decided preference is due to the system of co-operation with the friends of Scriptural education at large over that of forming denominational schools, thus differing in opinion from Sir J. K. Shuttleworth, who maintained that public education is the work of the religious communions.

This review of the progress of popular education in England and Wales must not be regarded as a complete view of what has been done up to the present time, which must be reserved for future consideration. But in order, to show what had been accomplished up to the beginning of the present reign, it was necessary to anticipate a little while drawing upon the only complete source of information - the educational census of 1851. In order to meet the case of children employed during the day, evening schools were established by benevolent persons. With regard to the extent and operation of these schools, the information is scanty. But with regard to evening schools for adults, and mechanics' institutions, which are classed under the head of secondary education, the returns are most satisfactory. There were about 1,500 evening schools for grown-up persons, containing about 40,000 students, of whom 12,000 were females, the amount of the payments varying from one penny to two shillings per week. It is interesting to notice the classes of persons who most freely avail themselves of their advantages. There were 386 soldiers, 1,300 domestic servants, 200 clerks, 6,000 agricultural labourers, 180 knitters, 4,600 factory hands, 14,000 artisans, and 274 miners. The course of instruction comprised the usual branches of a good English education, with modern languages, classics, drawing, music, singing, and elocution. Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire greatly exceeded all other counties in England in the number of these evening schools. There were, besides, many mutual improvement societies established in connection with Sunday-schools. The establishment of literary, scientific, and mechanics' institutions was a distinguishing characteristic of the era of progress now under review. The census commissioners received intelligence of more than 1,000 of these institutions, of which no less than 155 were in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and 97 in Lancaster. The large number of these valuable institutions in Yorkshire was ascribed, in a great degree, to the operations of the Yorkshire Union and Mechanics' Institute, of which Mr. Edward Baines, its founder, was the president. This union, by its meetings, reports, lectures, itinerating village libraries, and other operations for increasing the number and improving the management of these institutions, was exceedingly useful.

With reference to the social influence of Sunday-schools, Mr. Horace Mann makes some remarks, which deserve special attention. He thinks that, notwithstanding the defects of Sunday-school instruction, its social results are but ill appreciated. " We perceive, indeed, the great improvement which has taken place within the last half-century in the manners of the people, their growing attachment to the cause of order and sobriety; and the contrast of our land in this respect with other countries often furnishes theme for gratulation; but the share which Sunday- schools have taken in effecting this desirable result is probably to a great extent unrecognised. And yet the constant action on the minds of the youthful population of more than 250,000 of religious teachers, not removed in general by age or sex from sympathy with their companions - each, too, having such a limited number of scholars as to make the influence direct and personal - must needs be working silently a great result. Intelligent familiarity with scriptural facts and doctrines must be gradually extending through the masses of society, and though, if tested merely by attendance on religious ordinances, much of this instruction may appear to be in vain, yet doubtless in a thousand other ways, though imperceptible, the influence exerted in the Sunday-school is more or less prolonged throughout the subsequent career, and mainly helps to bring about that increase of morality and deference to law on which from time to time our public writers dwell with much complacency. Indeed, it may be very fairly questioned whether Sunday-school instructors do not exercise an influence in moulding the religious mind of the community considerably more extensive and more potent than proceeds from all the pulpits in the land. But this extensive influence does not result exclusively from the mere instruction which is given. The position and the character of the teachers - members of the middle class - the evident disinterestedness of their gratuitous exertions, the personal attachment which not seldom binds a teacher to his pupils, and the friendly interest with which he often aids them in their secular career - all these, and many more collateral advantages of Sunday-schools, combine to give the system its extensive and benignant power. Much more, it is true, might be accomplished in this way than k effected, for the capabilities of Sunday-schools in this respect are almost boundless, but the actual and present efforts are of striking value. Visits from the teachers to the scholars in their homes are frequent, and not rare are visits from the scholars to the teachers. Many schools sustain week evening classes, where the scholars are instructed in some secular art or knowledge; many have libraries for the scholars' use, and some have originated for the senior scholars mutual improvement societies, where lectures are delivered, and other means of intellectual progress are provided. Nor are the physical wants of Sunday-scholars and their parents without some alleviation. Sick clubs, and provident clubs, and penny banks are frequently established in connection with Sunday- schools. Excursions, too, and festivals in which the children and their teachers join in recreation, are now universal. Thus there is in some degree (although too small) a constant kindly intercourse between the different classes of society; and thus, perhaps, have been gradually fostered in the minds of the working people juster sentiments than hitherto have been received of the disposition of the class by fortune placed above them. But in this department of its usefulness the Sunday-school is yet but in its infancy, awaiting, probably, the time when ministers and influential members of the church shall recognise its undeveloped power for good. Their zealous aid appears to be the only thing required in order that the great advantages, direct and incidental, of the system may be fully realised, the youthful population get a sound religious education, and the sad estrangement now too visible between the different sections of society be gradually healed. It is doubtless much to be desired that more attention should be paid by the higher classes of the church to the working of what now has every appearance of a permanent institution; for no expectation, probably, can be indulged that the natural instructors of their children in religious knowledge - viz., parents - will be ever generally able and disposed to undertake and prosecute this duty; and it seems to be quite clear that the ordinary services of church and chapel are entirely inappropriate and unproductive to ihe juvenile community. Both, therefore, as a necessary and effective institution for the spiritual culture of the young, and as a most important means of binding up in harmony the various orders of the people, Sunday-schools appear to their supporters to be worthy of the countenance and active aid of the highest intelligence of the Christian church."

The progress of education in Scotland may be briefly stated. The total number of scholars and day-schools respecting which information had been obtained was 368,517; the population of Scotland was then 2,888,742; so that there was 1 scholar to every 7.84 inhabitants. Making allowance for deficient returns, it was estimated that 14 per cent., or 1 in 7, of the people of Scotland were at school. The number who, in answer to the question as to occupation on the householder's schedule were returned as " scholars," was 426,566. This is a curious and suggestive fact, as it represents the number engaged in study as about one-sixth of the whole population. In the department of Sunday or Sabbath-schools, however, there was not so much activity in Scotland as in England. In the latter country Sunday-scholars amounted to 13 per cent, of the population, while in the former it was only 10 per cent. The number of scholars was thus distributed between the different denominations - Established Church, 76,000; Free Church, 91,000; United Presbyterian Church, 54,000; Roman Catholics, 13,000; Independents, 12,000. Evening schools for adults were numerous in Scotland, and formed an interesting department of popular education. Returns were received from 438 of them, containing 15,000 scholars. They were attended by 500 agricultural labourers, 250 lead-miners, 136 coal-miners, 343 coal and iron operatives, 4,300 artisans, 2,300 factory operatives, 350 weavers, 280 warehousemen, and 500 domestic servants. There were in Scotland 221 literary, scientific, and mechanics' institutions, conducted like those in England, and contributing largely to the diffusion of useful knowledge among the people.

The following sketch of educational progress in Ireland is founded chiefly upon parliamentary blue books and other authentic reports. The Association for Discountenancing Vice, and Promoting the Knowledge of the Christian Religion, was founded in 1792, and originated in a dread of French democracy and infidelity. Its members first devoted themselves to the circulation of Bibles, prayer-books, and catechisms, but afterwards schools for the poor were embraced within the sphere of their operations. This was from the beginning strictly a church society; the masters and mistresses must be members of the Establishment, appointed by the incumbent; the Bible must be read by all who had attained sufficient proficiency, and the catechism learned as part of the school business by the children of the church. The schools were supported partly by subscriptions and partly by public grants. The report of 1828 states that the total amount voted by parliament from 1800 to 1827 (when the grant was withdrawn), was 101,991 18s. 6d. It is true that, owing to the influence of landlords, the great want of tolerable schools, and other circumstances, a considerable number of Roman Catholic children crept stealthily to some of these schools. But this was in many, perhaps most cases, the effect of a compromise made privately by the master, and unknown to the inspectors and visitors, or winked at by them, though violating one of the rules. The schools of the association amounted in 1824 to 226, and the number of children to 12,607, of which it was stated that 7,803 were Protestants, and 4,804 Roman Catholics. This was a small number for a population of 6,000,000. But the Rev. Mr. Lee, who had inspected 104 of these schools in 1819 and 1820, stated before the commissioners in 1824 that he had found the catechism of the Church of Rome in many of them. This fact accounts for the attendance of even the small number of Roman Catholics reported. As another proof of the immoral tendencies of exclusiveness, it may be mentioned that fifty-two masters were dismissed from these schools in the course of five years.

Next in the order of time comes the London Hibernian Society, founded in 1806 on the catholic principle by Christian men of great benevolence, and with the best feelings towards the people of Ireland; but many of them were ignorant of the circumstances and history of the country, and as their object, though disavowed in words, was the destruction of the Church of Rome in Ireland, and as this object was pursued with a certain kind of secrecy, and by holding out various inducements to the cupidity of the unprincipled, they were obliged to work with agencies that were not always trustworthy. The reading of the Bible was enforced, but all catechisms and works of controversy were excluded. The parish clergyman was an ex- officio visitor, but other ministers were not excluded. The school-books were ill-adapted for their purpose, from the absurd rule to insert in them no words not found in the Bible. The very object sought by this was completely defeated, for in every difficult word in the Bible the reader recognized an old enemy which had tortured him in the perplexing and ill-arranged columns of his spelling-book. The Scriptures were committed to memory, and as the progress of the children was estimated and rewarded according to the number of verses they could repeat, the memory was worked to excess at the expense of the judgment and the conscience. The master being paid according to the number of the pupils, led to great frauds. Roman Catholic children were charitably lent in scores to " enter an appearance " on the day of inspection; and to those who attended constantly, their catechism was taught, contrary to a fundamental rule. This society became by degrees more episcopal and conservative, till at length it found it advantageous to separate itself from dissenters altogether. It is now merged in the Church Education Society.

It is absurd to suppose that educational societies like these, coming in the train of the tainted charter school system, with similar principles and purposes, though guided by a far more Christian spirit, were competent to educate the Catholic poor of Ireland. It is not credible that the people would freely allow their children to be trained up by strangers in hatred of the religion for which their fathers had suffered the loss of all things, and in the principles of a church in whose name so much social injustice had been inflicted. The vast majority preferred paying for education, such as it was, in the hedge-schools which abounded in the country. It may be said, and in many cases truly said, that they would receive a Protestant education for their children, if not prevented by their clergy. But so long as it is a principle of their faith to obey those clergy, and of our law to tolerate them, what do we gain by treating Catholic subjects as slaves without conscience? Is it not far better, by a good general education and free institutions, to prepare the people themselves to assert a manly independence? Why keep meanly and tortuously hankering after a principle of government which is utterly impracticable, and has been for ever abandoned by the legislature? We can no longer subvert Popery by a tax on Papists. Neither can we do it by voluntary or charity schools, which tamper with conscience, and generate a mean and pauper spirit. Education is the subject's birthright, and not a thing to be sold on the condition of religious conformity or political time-serving. This fact was strongly felt by the commissioners who issued their last report in 1812. Then two archbishops, one bishop, and the provost of the university joined in announcing the great principle, that the government should establish a general plan of education for the lower classes, keeping clear o f all interference with the religious tenets of any, and thereby inducing the whole to receive education as one body under one and the same system, and in the same establishment. This they regard as of essential importance, and add: - "We venture to express our unanimous opinion that no such plan, however wisely and unexceptionably continued in other respects, can be carried into effectual execution in this country, unless it be explicitly avowed and clearly understood as its leading principle that no attempt shall be made to influence or disturb the peculiar religious tenets of any sect or description of Christians." The government having found some difficulty in establishing a system upon the liberal principle thus emphatically recommended so early as 1812, determined on making an experiment of it by giving a sum of money to a voluntary society then existing in the Liberty, Dublin, and afterwards, from the locality of its offices and model schools, called the Kildare Place Society. It was founded in 1811, and received its first grant - 6,980 - in 1814. Its objects were to assist schools with grants, to establish model schools, to publish useful books, to supply school requisites At cost prices, to keep up an annual inspection, and to encourage masters by gratuities. All religious teaching was utterly excluded, but the Bible, without note or comment, was required to be read as a school-book by the upper classes. This society accomplished much good. It was the first practical step towards a sound and useful education in Ireland. Its school-books alone should entitle it to the lasting gratitude of the country. Several causes combined to produce the opposition which proved fatal to it as a national institution, nearly all, however, being brought into operation by departures from its own principle of religious neutrality. The general committee or ruling body was rather exclusive in its composition. In 1825 it consisted of twenty-one Episcopalians, four Quakers, two Presbyterians, and only two Roman Catholics. It was rendered obnoxious by its aiding the schools of the two proselyting societies we have referred to, which Roman Catholics considered a misapplication of funds to which they were themselves contributors. In many cases local patrons indiscreetly violated their rules by controversial expositions of the Bible in the presence of the Roman Catholic children. Add to these causes the great political excitement which preceded the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill. The opponents of that measure appealed to the success of the Kildare Place schools in protestantising the country, adducing the Catholic Bible readers as a proof that no change was necessary. This brought against the society a torrent of political agitation. The schools were denounced from the altars, and those who did not withdraw their children were, in some instances, refused the sacraments.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 <3> 4

Pictures for Social Progress (continued) page 3

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About