Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

THE POOR AND THEIR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: THE NEW MINUTE.

THERE is a series of Periodicals pub- all alike in a sort of workhouse lished at irregular intervals, which livery. They are known as the scarcely receive from the public the Blue Books. attention they deserve. Very little To one of the most recent addipains, indeed, are taken to recom- tions to this numerous family we mend them to a fastidious taste, or wish now to call our readers' attenforce them upon the notice of indo- tion. It consists of six volumes ; lent readers. There is nothing very which we may safely assume the piquant in their titles, and certainly majority of our readers are not liketheir exterior is the very reverse of ly to open. Yet we can assure them attractive. They are neither pla- they may easily find, and probably carded at railway stations, nor ad- will find, this Christmas, much worse vertised in large type in publishers' reading in every respect, in prettier circulars; they are not associated covers and under more taking titles, with the names of any popular au- than the Report and Evidence of the thors; and they are never on Mr Commissioners on Popular EducaMudie's list. They cannot be classed tion. amongst the light literature of the Usually, as we have observed, day; for until very recently they these Government serials come into appeared as heavy folios, and even the world very quietly—are, in fact, now, though considerably reduced, still-born so far as their public life they are not of that comfortable is concerned. Members of Parliacalibre which you can hold in your ment are supposed to read a good hand as you sit over the fire, or deal of this Blue literature as one lounge about the room ; they re- of the penalties of their exaltation : quire that steady sitting-down at under-secretaries, and other officials, the library table which does not are supposed to cram their chiefs suit the eager caprice of modern with this kind of food ; but ordiliterary appetite. Another secret nary mortals eschew it. This last of their lack of popularity is that batch, however, has caused a terrible there is an undefined association commotion ; amongst a class of the conveyed with them of income tax public, too, usually very quiet and and other unpleasant inquisitions. unexcitable, - long-suffering men Yet they are very interesting and whom income - tax assessors and even entertaining in their way. poor-rate valuers spoil with impuTheir contents are various, and nity-clergymen and schoolmasters. embrace a wide range of subjects; These Blue Reports have come upon they are more instructive than many them like a thunder-clap. Though, sermons which are preached and after all, the real cause of the prepublished, and much more amusing sent educational excitement is not than modern philosophical novels; a blue book, or even a book at alland wonderfully cheap, even in these a mere few sheets of paper, called a days of cheap serials. If they ap- New Minute. peared upon a bookseller's counter Here, perhaps, at the risk of setin a pretty dress, they might get a ting before many readers what they better introduction into society. know too well already, it may be as But they are the children of the well to state briefly what the matter State, ushered into the world with is. It is a money matter, as might very little circumstance, called by be concluded from the loudness of commonplace names, and dressed the dispute. The State has, for

Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the State of Popular Education in England, with Appendix, &c. 6 vols,

many years, granted an annual sum lar education, and to report the refor the education of the poor. This sult—"with the utmost fulness and sum has risen gradually from £20,000 accuracy, and without the slightest in 1832 to £800,000 in 1861. If the regard to its bearing, real or suppresent system of its distribution posed, upon any of the questions goes on, it will amount in the course relating to education which at of time to—nobody knows what; present occupy public attention.” two millions, three millions — Dr The Commission itself issued a Temple thinks possibly five millions. comprehensive circular of inquiry It is expended, partly in grants to “to persons of all shades of opinaid in building schools, partly in the ion practically conversant with erecting and maintaining training popular education " — whose ancolleges for teachers, and partly in swers form one of the six volumes. “ augmentation grants” in the way Another contains the viva voce eviof salary to trained and examined dence taken, in many cases from masters, mistresses, and pupil-teach- the highest and most practical auers-varying from £30 to £6,138.4d. thorities, from the Secretaries of per annum, according to the “class” the Privy Council as well as from of their certificates.

private schoolmasters of humble There had been complaints from rank but high intelligence, during time to time that this large sum of the winter sittings of the Commismoney was not doing its work satis- sioners in 1859 and 1860. Meanfactorily, in more respects than one: while Mr Pattison, the present head that its distribution was unequal, of Lincoln College, Oxford, and Mr its rapid increase formidable : and, Matthew Arnold, were investigating in consequence, this Commission the state of public education in was appointed on the motion of France, Germany, Holland, and Sir John Pakington in 1858. Its Switzerland ; and educational aumembers, though well known to thorities in the United States and differ on many points, were all men Canada also contributed their exof high position and character, of perience and information. This earnest and yet liberal views; the New Minute, put into your hands Duke of Newcastle, Sir John Cole- complete for twopence-halfpenny, ridge, and Mr Senior, are public has cost as much pains and travel names which on such a subject for its production as the Code of would carry with them the confi- Lycurgus or the Laws of the Twelve dence of all but extreme parties. Tables. The Universities are represented by The operations of the District Professor Goldwin Smith, Mr Lake, Commissioners, involving as they. and Mr Rogers ; and the Non- did minute investigation into the conformists by Mr Miall. They finances, numbers, and efficiency of appointed ten Assistant - Commis- private as well as public schools, sioners, to each of whom was assign- and in very many cases a personal ed a separate district of England, visit of inspection, had necessarily to serve as a “specimen ” of what very much of an inquisitorial char: was being done, and what was yet re- acter. It is pleasant to read the quired amongst the several types of unanimous testimony of these genpopulation classed as Agricultural, tlemen to the kindly spirit in which, Manufacturing, Mining, Maritime, almost without exception, their inand Metropolitan-in each of which quiries were received, even in cases the character and habits of the peo- where, from various motives, full ple might be supposed to present information was refused them in somewhat different features. They itself the best proof of the courtesy were to examine personally the state and forbearance with which a diffiof existing schools, public and pri- cult duty was discharged. The vate, and to collect from all reliable Roman Catholic school managers, witnesses the general state of popu- "acting under central orders," politely but uniformly declined either thus — “ Not understanding the to allow inspection or give informa- questing, I answer thus a view of tion of any kind. The Primitive reading the Bibble.” Some were Methodists, in some cases, took modest, and shrank from publithe same course. With these ex- city. Here is a letter which the ceptions, nearly all “public" schools, writer little thought was to be of whatever religious denomination, printed at the public cost, and freely admitted the Commissioner's enshrined amongst the national arvisits, or answered his circular of chives :inquiry. The private school inter

" 3rd March 1859. est, as may be supposed, was more “SIR,-I regret that I am not able to suspicious, and in some cases very attend to all the rules lade down in thee jealous of the Government's mo- in closed, as my school is of to humbel tives. As the inquiry was especial- a cast to meat eyes (of thee publick gaze) ly directed to the lower class of

at thee same time, Sir, I shall be moust these schools, an investigation of Parents, as kindly

favord me with thir

appy to refur you to my Childrn's their ways and means, financial or

children, for some Years any further ineducational, could hardly be other formation that you require Sir, I shall be wise than unpopular. “ It is but moust appey to give Pardone defects I little as they pays, but then, to be remain Your most Humbel Servant, sure, it is but little as I teaches

“ ELLEN D'em”-a reply given by one dame to her interrogator, might have Some, of rather higher grade, proserved in a good many cases as a

fessed themselves opposed to all comprehensive answer to a whole State interference as against the circular of queries. In the two me- liberty of the subject. Others, tropolitan - specimen " districts, again, were earnest advocates for where establishments of this class the application of a strict teachers' abound, the Assistant-Commission examination test — to the head of ers met with a good deal of opposi- the rival establishment in the next tion, active or passive. Dr Hodgson, street, who, they considered, was to whom the East London district quite unfit to be trusted with eduwas assigned, has reported some cation. Sometimes, in order to get amusing experiences. Some thought at some information refused to his he was the Income-tax in disguise. direct inquiries, the official has reSometimes, when his clerk had course to something like a "dodge.” taken down the name of some

Mr Cumin is evidently a man of some humble“ academy" in a street or tact in dealing with a reluctant court not remarkable for the sol- witness. One master of a private vency of the tenant, he himself, school in his district had decidedly upon visiting the locality, would declined to allow any kind of exfind that either the name had been amination, but politely offered to changed, or that school and teacher show the Commissioner his schoolhad vanished altogether to reap- room, if that would be any satisfacpear, perhaps, after his departure ;

tion. They went in together, and and “all questions as to the where after a few remarks, Mr Cumin abouts of the missing one were evad- observed ed with true neighbourly sympa- .

“Mr—, it is very singular that the thy;" for a gentleman so particular boys in the public schools really know and personal in his inquiries, only very little. I find very few can write one motive was conceivable in their down three hundred thousand and one.' society—the settlement of a "little He said, 'Indeed, sir !' and then adaccount.” One old lady was oppos- dressing himself to a tall boy of fourteen ed on principle to such furreting down three hundred thousand and one.'

-John, take your slate and write out.” Another, in reply to the The boy took his slate, and, after some printed query as to · Terms on hesitation, wrote down three millions which instruction is given," writes and one. The man looked very much

ance.

chagrined, and it was obvious to me that sound education is likely to prove he had thought his pupil was quite equal a more peaceful subject, and a more to solve the problem proposed.'

desirable member of society, than Occasionally there is reason to an ignorant savage,—these are profear that these scholastic inquisitors positions which it was perhaps the may have taken too stern and duty of the Commissioners to set prosaic a view of their duties. Mr forth formally, and to the illustraWilkinson's brief note upon

Mrs tion of which two or three of their P.'s” school, for instance, runs as

assistants have devoted some pages follows :-“ Thirty little children, of very nice writing ; but which mixed-eldest nine ; boy reading most of us who have had education Gulliver's Travels, and firmly be enough to read their Report have lieves them true : mistress not very already pretty well settled for ourcertain upon the matter." But selves. So again, when we are insurely he was a well-educated little formed that the 6897 schools which boy to be able to read Gulliver, are aided by State grants present a and a happy little boy to be able to marked superiority to the remainbelieve it all true ; perhaps it was ing 15,952 which are not so fortu. good nature, after ill, in Mrs P. nate, and that the teachers who not to undeceive him ; and we can have gone through a regular course not help hoping that the Assistant- of preparation for their work in Commissioner left him, as he found the training colleges (chiefly at the him, in that not illiterate ignor- expense of the State) are very much

more successful, in the great majoThese ten Assistant - Commis- rity of instances—for it amounts to sioners, then, went through their no more than this—than those who several districts, collected their evi- have not enjoyed such advantages, dence, and sent it in to their chiefs —these results, which the advocates with the report which they had for the now repealed Code point to founded upon it, drawn up each ac with exceeding satisfaction, will cording to his taste and ability; some not appear so remarkable as to rephilosophical, some statistical, some quire any elaborate statistical proof, graphic and picturesque ; some err or to prove much themselves as to ing, perhaps, on the side of diffuse- the working of the system. Few, ness, some on the other hand rather we imagine, even of the most sandry; but all, it must be generally al- guine old ladies whom the Governlowed, bearing tokens of patient and ment officials “furreted out,” could dispassionate inquiry. Upon these ever have hoped that the voluntary subordinate reports, and upon the system could run a race with the evidence, oral and written, taken Government and win, carrying by the Commissioners themselves— weight, as we may say, to the and partly also upon the previous amount of £800,000. The bitterest annual reports of the School In- opponent of the training colleges spectors, contained in twenty- could never have maintained that seven octavo volumes”—is founded these institutions, supported at the Report of the Education Com an annual cost to the public of mission, which forms Vol. I. of the £122,000, and turning out one thouBlue Books now before us.

sand trained masters and mistresses Some of the conclusions arrived per annum, were to be beaten out at by this careful process, however of the educational field by competisatisfactory, are neither novel nor tors who had no training to prepare surprising. That education is an them for their duties, no Governadmirable thing ; that it has made ment inspection to stimulate, and and is making considerable progress no Government salary to remunethroughout the country; that, on rate them. It is, no doubt, quite the whole, a man who has received true, as the Report states, that, even a very moderate amount of as a general rule, in every district

throughout England, the school A shrewd north - countryman, which has the best share of these whom another Commissioner found advantages is the most efficient building a house for himself in school. A military commission Teesdale, gives it as his opinion which should inform us that, on that, so popular was the schoolthe whole, the officers and men of a master becoming, “in thez Dal regularly trained artillery, though t'oonedicated wull soon be coonrather more expensive, were found saithered loonateeks.” Even the to make better practice than coast British farmer, if we may trust Mr volunteers, would not tell us much Fraser's experiences in the counties that we did not know before. It of Devon, Dorset, and Hereford, scarcely requires seven Commis- is fast forgetting his hereditary sioners, ten assistants, three years, traditions that reading and writing and six small folios, to establish spoils the ploughman. Twice only, conclusions like these.

in the course of his inquiry, he There are other general facts, heard expressed the old illiberal however, reported by the Commis- sentiment that“ uneducated laboursioners, which, though only corrobo- ers made the best slaves." In rative of the private observation of most neighbourhoods, not only was most sensible people, it is neverthe- this barbarous notion strongly reless satisfactory to meet with as the pudiated, but the employers of results of a careful and special field-labour were very anxious to inquiry. First, that education is have good “middle schools" estabbecoming more and more popular; lished for their own families. that even the most illiterate pa Upon this encouraging fact of a rents are beginning to feel that general and increasing desire for a ignorance is a dead weight in the sound education amongst all classes struggle of life, and on that lower of the population, the Commissionground, if on no other, are anxious ers found a conclusion which will that their children shall not inherit be generally satisfactory,--that any it. There are, no doubt, excep- scheme of compulsory education for tional districts, and exceptional fa- the poor, which some zealous promilies in every district; but nothing gressionists have suggested, is “neicomes out more distinctly, in the ther attainable nor desirable ; whole course of this inquiry, than a opposed to both our political, desire on the part of the lower social, and religious feelings;" and classes to have their children edu- that even the attempt to restrain cated, and a readiness to make per- by law the employment of children sonal sacrifices for this object, even under a certain age, without a cergreater than the inquirers had ex tificate of their having received a pected to find. It might even be certain amount of instruction, would doubted whether some, to whom be not only unpopular, but practieducation was a mystery, were not cally impossible, as being constantinclined rather to overrate its ly liable to evasion. worldly advantages. An Irishman, But if these general conclusions whom Mr Cumin met driving a had been all that the Commissioncart, summed up the case in favour ers arrived at, their Report would of education thus :

have been “presented to both

Houses of Parliament in due ". Do you think reading and writing course, and there would have been is of any use to people like yourself? an end of it.

Instead of being I inquired. * To be sure I do, sir,' the hashed up in all kind of shapes for man answered, with a strong brogue; public entertainment, and quarrelled

and do you think that if I could read and write, I would be shoved into every

over by peaceable people as surely dirty job as I am now ! No, sir ! in.

no Blue Books (except those of stead of driving this horse, I'd be riding the University Commissions) ever him.'”

were before, it would never have VOL. XCI.-NO. DLV.

F

« AnteriorContinuar »