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JANUARY 1, 1857.
PAPERS FOR THE SCHOOLMASTER.
As the Parliamentary vacation draws nearer to its close, the advocates of Popular Education show the more unmistakeable evidence that they are not disposed to be daunted by the difficulties which impede its further development. In our last number we examined the Resolutions arrived at by a meeting at Manchester presided over by Sir J. Pakington. We endeavoured to point out the injury which their adoption would inflict upon existing schools in the withdrawment of inspection from the religious department of school-instruction. The advocates of this measure have since become awakened to the mischief of this result and have at a subsequent meeting proposed and carried counter resolutions. Without discussing the nature of the alteration which we fear will be found to involve considerable practical difficulties, we will be content to say that as the whole scheme is expressly of a tentative character, and only to be applied to a given locality, there may be no great harm in the experiment, if the people of Manchester choose to make it. We have been favoured with the inspection of another scheme proposed by Mr. Jelinger Symons in a letter addressed to Lord John Russell, which he entitles "a practical plan for furthering education by enlarging the present system of grants." His avowed object is to postpone and, if possible, supersede the application of a local rate to the purposes of education. We altogether agree with the writer in the conviction that no co-ercive measure will be successful, until its necessity has been first proved, and this for two reasons, first, because of our national prejudice against compulsion, and secondly because of our jealousy lest a compulsion
scheme, professing to come in aid, should be found subversive, of existing denominational schools. We likewise agree with the writer in the belief that no permissive rate-scheme would meet the difficulties of the case. In Manchester and many of our large commercial towns where the advantages of popular education are felt, Public opinion might overrule the natural reluctance to increase local burdens, but we fear that we shall be far from ripe for the general adoption of a self-imposed school-rate for some time to
Meanwhile, how shall we develope the present system and render assistance to those localities which are too poor to help themselves? Mr. Symons answers the question by a complete revolution in the mode of apportioning grants. He suggests "that there be three scales of grants; that the poorest places receive three-fourths of the whole expenditure (whether in building or salaries); that the places of medium wealth should receive one-half; and the richest only one quarter." He then proceeds to explain his mode of ascertaining the comparative wealth of a district. The data he adopts are "the Population, the amount of poor rate paid, and the rateable value of property. The larger the ratio of the first two to the third of these items, the greater cæteris paribus, will be the poverty of the district and vice versa." The pamphlet is distinguished for good sense, temperate discussion and comprehensive view of the difficulty. of the subject, but we confess in limine a fear of practical objections to the ingenious scheme. The existing machinery can scarcely bear the pressure with which it is charged, and under any large increase of work which a rapid increase of schools, a more complicated mode of adjusting grants, and a mutiplication of inspectors would necessarily create, this machinery would actually break down. Such a result, however, would be the best proof of the excellence of the plan, and perhaps it will be time enough to provide a remedy for its evil when it is experienced. We wish to accord our admiration of the principles on which Mr. Symons' suggestion is founded, while at the same time we feel sure that when it shall be adopted and shall produce all the fruit of which it is capable, a large moral waste will still remain unredeemed.
The truth is we do not want schools so much as scholars. cannot accept Mr.Symons' statement that "what is most needed is the adaptation of the article to the wants of the purchaser." The parent wants unfortunately to turn his children into money; the farmer wants a labourer in the direct ratio of his ignorance. We all, however, believe with Mr. Symons that a boy will be no loser in head knowledge, by half the school time being devoted to manual industry. But who is to pay for the dozen workshops to be added to every town school, unless all the boys in a given parish are to be of one trade-carpenters, tailors, or smiths? There is, however, one way of overcoming this difficulty, and that is by making use of existing shops and places of trade. In other words, boys above ten years of age might be employed in a manner lucrative to themselves upon the half-time system without the least expense to the school. One obstacle only exists to this natural arrangement so productive of benefit to the school, to the employer, and to society at large, and that obstacle is this-that the employer will not adopt the half-time system, unless he is compelled either by law or by the progress of Public opinion.
The great want, we repeat, is that of scholars in neglected districts, rather than of schools. Offer the benefit of a national school gratuitiously; it will be despised because it has no pecuniary value. Adopt an industrial school; the benefit is too prospective unless you add the bribe of a dinner. But make it compulsory on employers of labour that every child, under 14, shall be a halfday attendant at school, unless he possess the school certificate of past attendance for so many years, and the difficulties vanish.
We hope that Mr. Symons' plan will have the attention given to it which it deserves. Meanwhile, we trust that our legislation will supply the defects of the present system by encouraging reformatories and industrial schools, and by enacting measures which shall place every child, who cannot give an account of himself in one of these institutions, which surely might be supported by grantsfrom the public purse, the guardians of the poor, and by the weekly contributions of the parent.