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often does remain-palpable and most injurious ignorance. The ability to read and write is but the evidence of a certain mechanical skill, without which even the means of education are wanting, but the possession of which does not of necessity imply the possession of knowledge, or even the desire for intellectual acquirements. That desire is at the foundation of nearly all that is of value in mental and moral culture; and how little it can be diffused, and of what small value is the instruction that is imparted to the industrious classes, may be learnt by adverting to the condition of the schools for the youthful poor in this country.
We concur in the statement made by the “ Manchester Statistical Society," in their report on the state of education in the city of York, that “ however imperfect the education received at Sunday-schools may be, when compared with a reasonable or a foreign standard, it affords, nevertheless, the most valuable training within the reach of the great mass of the population of England.” Perhaps a severer condemnation of other schools could scarcely be pronounced, for the education given in Sunday-schools is for the most part restricted to four or five hours in each week. Nor must we take as our model what is seen of education in our large towns, or among a small class of religionists whose principles allow them to give instructions on Sunday, in writing and other useful acquirements; for in small towns, in agricultural districts, and among the great mass of religionists, nor least where the influence of the clergy is chiefly felt, the instruction and the training scarcely deserve the name. Teaching to read, and that in a most imperfect manner—in a manner so imperfect, that frequently the ability is quickly lostis the amount of all that is professedly done in the great mass of Sunday-schools, exclusive of that instruction which is of a moral and religious character. Yet there are 750,000 children in England and Wales who have no other opportunity of education. And how insufficient the religious instruction is, may be learnt, not merely from the fact of the smallness of the time, and deficiency of the instrumentality employed, but also from actual knowledge of the results produced. We will give one or two instances. In a Sunday-school in Baldwin's-gardens, London, out of 120 children, the mistress stated that 80 were unable to read. A verse of a hymn, or a passage of Scripture, is read to the scholars until they are able to repeat it by heart; the meaning of a chapter in the New Testament is explained, and the teachers address the children on the subject of religion, and endeavour to impress their minds with a sense of its importance. The elder children who have learnt to read are expected to learn, during the week, a portion of the Church Catechism, or of some chapter in the Bible, and to repeat it by rote on the next Sunday. The majority of the children do not remain in the school for more than six months. The Rev. Daniel Wilson, now Bishop of Calcutta, thus describes the education given in another school in the Metropolis, with which he was connected :-“ We teach the children the catechism of the Church of England and the collects. We teach those that are old enough the epistles and the gospels. We require them to learn the texts of the sermons, and when they have time, we occasionally set them to learn the Articles of the Church of England. These several lessons are not taught them at the time, on the Sunday—they learn them during the week, and repeat them only on the Sunday.”
In many country villages the master of the school is frequently a person unable to write himself. The village of Stansted, in Kent, may be taken as an instance, where the schoolmaster was recently found to be an agricultural labourer, able to read sufficiently to teach the children their catechism, and to spell through a chapter in the New Testament, but who had never been taught to write. In this case “ there is no school-room, but the children sit on forms in one of the aisles of the church, the floor of which is considerably below the level of the surrounding graves. The walls are of stone; the church is cold and damp; no fire is lighted in the winter, and the children or teachers have to sit in motionless attitudes from a quarter before nine in the morning, when the school begins, till a quarter before one at noon, when divine service concludes.” 6 The fact,” adds our authority, “ deserves mention, because it is one instance among thousands, and because it marks the stinted measure of support which even Sundayschools receive under the present system.”*
Now can it be a matter of surprise, that on inquiry it has been found, that many who have gone through the Sundayschool have, in after life, retained little advantage from its discipline, having forgotten the religious instructions which they had learnt by heart, and outgrown the mere mechanical ability of reading; perhaps lost also, because not sufficiently impressed on the character, the moral tone and influence which is its best effect? The value of any school training must be trivial which does not create an interest in books, and how can such an interest be inspired under circumstances such as we have set forth? Besides, the Bible, which is in general the class-book, is not only desecrated by being so employed, but is eminently
* Second Publication of the Central Society of Education ; page 348.
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unfit for the purpose. And the leaders of Sunday-school education do not appear to have learnt the first principles of their science, for in the last “ Annual Report of the Sunday-School Union Society,' they assert, “ There is no such thing as a natural taste for religious reading."
We have already implied that attendance at a day-school is requisite for the attainment of a competent education, but it does not follow that every day-school is fitted to impart a competent education; and the day-schools in this country, accessible to the poor, are generally the reverse. The national and Lancasterian schools are the two great instruments of daily education for the youth of the working classes. They are not essentially dissimilar, though the Lancasterian is superior in its influence on the mind, and in the liberality of its spirit. Both labour under the serious defects which are inseparable from what is called the monitorial system, in which the instruction and discipline of the school are entrusted for the most part to pupils, who are generally but a little less ignorant, and often more wilful than those they teach; and in neither of them, while some hundreds or even a thousand boys are under one master, can there be any thing which deserves the name of mental or moral training. But the “ National School” though it has assumed a Catholic name, is exclusive and sectarian in its spirit, and if for no other reason than this, most unsuited to the office of a religious instructor of our peasantry. Its fundamental principle is, that every child should be instructed in the Catechism and the Liturgy, and should attend the Church service. Still, if rightly conducted, the National schools might do much for opening the mind and forming the character. In scarcely any other civilized country, however, would such an influence as they actually exert, be designated education. In many of them, nothing but reading is taught, writing being objected to on grounds which are worthy of a slave-holder. But reading in general is not taught effectually, and the time of the pupil is often not only wasted, but employed so listlessly, and in such drudgery, that the chief of what he learns is aversion, even at the sight of a book. The majority, however, of the “ National Schools” profess to teach writing and arithmetic, as well as reading ;-but such are the defects of the system-so insufficient the training of the teachers—and so short the period which the children remain—that few of the scholars derive any permanent good. And it is not a little curious, that arithmetic, instead of being so taught as to be serviceable in the business of actual life, is made the medium of communicating some knowledge of Scripture history, and the mysteries of subtraction, multiplication and division, are employed to set forth the marriage at Cana, in Galilee, or the miracle of feeding the five thousand. On the plea that the poor ought not to be over-educated, Geography is rarely permitted to be taught. No instruction is ever given in the useful arts, or general history. No attempt is made to cultivate a taste for reading. In short, with the exception of some scraps of the Biblical history, and a few religious formularies, the mind is left unfurnished. Indeed, there are National schools, whose influence is scarcely less exceptionable in respect of morals than most of them are in respect of the mind; and thus we find among other evidence the following :-“ I do not know how it is, but when the boys from this workhouse were sent to the National school in this neighbourhood, there was not one of them that turned out well; and even in reading, writing, and arithmetic, they made no progress while they remained.”
Such is an outline of the state of popular education in the kingdom; and in this outline is the condemnation of the national Clergy. They ought to have formed the character of the people by sound mental and moral discipline; instead of doing so, they have left the bulk of our population in almost unmitigated ignorance. And the educational resources which do exist are not wholly to be ascribed to them. A moiety of those resources may be claimed by Dissenters. And the impulse by which the education of the people has been carried forward within the last fifty years, has proceeded from the meetinghouse not the cathedral. Mr. Raikes, the benevolent father of Sunday-schools, found not the least effectual opposition he had to encounter, among dignitaries of the Establishment. It is to Joseph Lancaster we owe the institution of the National school, as well as the establishment of the Lancasterian, for it was a fear that Episcopacy would be weakened if popular education was left in the hands of Dissenters, which led the Clergy to patronise Dr. Bell, and employ his instrumentality in order to gather the youthful poor into the bosom of the Church. Throughout the whole of the educational movement, Dissent has had to drag the unwilling hierarchy along, who have, after all, consented to follow, rather in order to look after their own interests, than to further the interests of popular education. Nor is it any secret, that the influence which has prevented, and does prevent the establishment of a general and well-constructed system of education, comes exclusively from the Church of England. The conduct of the clergy would almost give one the idea that they regarded education as an evil. Where it exists they make the best they can of it for their own
purposes, keep down its influence as much as possible, strenuously oppose its extension, and when, in any case, their opposition proves ineffectual, they yield a tardy and ungracious acquiescence.
It is impossible not to conclude that the clergy feel their interests and influence endangered by the spread of education, and it is equally impossible not to be grieved that there should exist in this or any country, a great ecclesiastical corporation, whose weal is considered incompatible with the highest good of the mass of the population. And how detrimental to the real interests of religion must the existence of such a corporation prove! What wonder if the strong-minded, but indiscriminating should be led to condemn Christianity, in condemning the abuses of one of its outward forms.
What the clergy could allege in extenuation, which an enlightened and unprejudiced mind would admit, we are at a loss to conceive. Certainly the plea of want of funds cannot be taken up by them. The reports of the “ Charity Commissioners” have put the fact beyond a doubt, that ample pecuniary resources have not only been possessed, but abused, perverted and squandered, by the clergy; and at the present hour there is no less a sum than £1,500,000 a-year in endowments for education—“ many of them,” says a competent judge, G. Long, Esq., Editor of the Penny Cyclopædia, &c., “ either altogether useless, or much less useful than they might be made, if their constitutions and rules were adapted to our present wants."
J. R. B.