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Hence the comparative failure, hitherto, of our recently established schools of design.
What, indeed, can be the chances of real success for schools of design so long as general education in the great mass of our common schools for the middle and lower classes, shall remain in its present deplorable state of inefficiency? If important branches of our manufactures depend for their continued prosperity upon an improved taste extending throughout the community, (and nothing less than this will make improvement permanently progressive,) where is the wisdom of attempting to carry on the superstructure without regard to the quality of the foundations?
And if it be also true that all enduring eminence in the highest departments of art must be founded upon a wide basis of popular sympathy, what can be more important in treating of those points in which the progress of the arts of design is involved in the administrative policy of the State, than to arrive at some clear opinion on the question. What can the State do to promote general education ?
That The STATE, as such, has some office to fulfil, and some duty to discharge in respect of national education is now a very general opinion. It is held in common by those who maintain the most diverse opinions as to the extent of the powers which this office requires or confers, and as to the means by which this duty can best be discharged. And the opinion is one thoroughly reconcileable with the highest appreciation of the value of that great principle of voluntary associative exertion which so peculiarly characterizes our country, and by which, in various ways, such magnificent results have been attained.
Wherever, indeed, the spirit of commercial enterprise can be called into operation, the more freely and unin
terruptedly it is allowed to take its own course, the more certain is its success. And wherever any object of philanthropy is to be achieved by one powerful effort, no matter how costly, there, too, voluntary exertion may be safely left to do its work without aid or interruption. Or even where a more lengthened course of labour is required, so that the machinery to be employed be such as will stimulate and gratify the passion for display, and the results be plain and unmistakeable, voluntary exertion may still be equal to the task.
But in the work of education, especially in a country characterized by so artificial and material a civilization luntary efas is our own, the case is quite otherwise. Here, the forts to prospirit of commercial enterprise will but foster the very cation. dispositions which it is the great object of education to counterbalance. Sudden and ostentatious efforts to accomplish at once what can only be effected by longcontinued, patient, and unobtrusive labour, will but produce a reaction of disgust and indifference. And the attempt to arouse and keep up attention by highlywrought machinery, and by a display of dazzling results, will but convert education from a quiet and solid preparation for the labour and probation of a life, into a scenic display of mental dexterity, transforming responsible beings into curiously contrived machines.
The primary question then is this:-Seeing that a large portion of the population of this country is growing up wholly without education, and that any effort to supply the want, must be made from without, can this be done efficiently by voluntary benevolence? And if not, can the powers of government be usefully called in ?
The second question is:-Seeing that general education is not less, but—more deficient in quality than in quantity, can this defect be supplied by voluntary exertion? And if not, can the powers of government in this respect also afford a remedy?
All experience proves that education, though the most universal of all wants, is least of all to be left to ordinary impulses. In every country the noblest minds have felt it to be a duty to make large provision for the educational necessities of coming generations: and in such minds no country has been richer than our
We possess and have possessed for ages educational endowments, exceeding in the aggregate half a million sterling. Our educational societies are almost innumerable. Yet the mass of our population must rank amongst the least educated in Europe.
There is unhappily no longer occasion to adduce multitudinous figures in proof of the assertion. It is borne out, well nigh daily, by the most appalling facts. A great-hearted writer has said with somewhat of quaint expression, but with deep earnestness :
“Are these millions taught? Are these millions guided? We have a church, the venerable embodyment of an idea which may well call itself divine: which our fathers for long ages, feeling it to be divine, have been embodying as we see: it is a church well furnished with equipments and appurtenances; educated in universities; rich in money; set in high places that it may be conspicuous to all, honoured of all. We have an aristocracy of landed wealth and commercial wealth, in whose hands lie the law-making and the lawadministering; an aristocracy rich, powerful; long secure in its place; an aristocracy with more faculty put free into its hands than was ever before, in any country or time, put into the hands of any class of men. This church answers : Yes, the people are taught. This aristocracy, astonishment in every feature, answers : Yes, surely the people are guided! Do we not pass what Acts of Parliament are needful; (as many as thirty-nine for the shooting of the partridges alone) ? Are there not treadmills, gibbets, even hospitals, poorrates, new poor-laws? So answers Church; so answers Aristocracy ... Fact, in the mean time, takes his lucifer-box, sets fire to wheat-stacks; sheds an all too dismal light on several things. Fact searches for his third-rate potatoe six and thirty weeks each year, and does not find it. Fact passionately joins Messiah Thom of Canterbury, and has himself shot for a new fifty monarchy brought in by Bedlam. Fact holds his fustian-jacket Femgericht in Glasgow city. Fact carts his petition over London streets, begging that you would simply have the goodness to grant him universal suffrage, and the 'five points,' by way of remedy.—These are not symptoms of teaching and guiding.”
Experience has shown the insufficiency of the efforts of merely voluntary societies to overtake the want of education, precisely in the way which might have been anticipated from reasoning a priori. Those efforts have been found to be subject to great fluctuation; to be least powerful where most wanted;t to be unable to cope
• Chartism, by Thomas Carlyle. Lond. 1840.
† Several years ago a writer in a well-known periodical connected with the establisbed church — the British Critic— thus expressed himself: “ The education which they (charity schools] impart, must always be in a state of greater or less fluctuation; they can never embrace the most remote, and on that account, the most destitute objects; and whatever can be done by charity-schools in town parishes of a moderate size, or in country parishes where the proprietors reside, and the farmers are opulent, they will never suffice to educate all the poor in a dense population, or be universally maintained in the less favoured districts of a large empire.', B. C. No. 24.
A familiar illustration of one of these defects has been instanced by a recent and well-informed writer, (Westminster Review, No. 66, June, 1840,) in comparing the collection after a sermon for a charity-school, in a parish at the west end of London, with a similar collection in such a parish as Spitalfields. Ten pounds would be easily obtained in the former for every pound in the latter case.
with special difficulties existing in particular localities, such, for example, as arise from the nature of the prevalent employment and, under many circumstances, to give rise to very gross misapprehensions respecting education, both in its objects and in its means;
For although of late attention has been, for the most part, fixed less upon the deficient quality than upon the deficient quantity of education, enquiry abundantly proves that it is far more important to improve the schools that exist, even than to provide new ones.* And happily improvement is sure to bring extension in its train.
If then it be true that the benevolent efforts of merely voluntary societies are insufficient, because in general they are least strongly put forth precisely in those localities where the want is greatest; because they are uncertain and fluctuating as to their duration; because they are unable to cope with special difficulties, obviously requiring legislative interference—as in the case of factory children ;-and because they have too often fostered very narrow views as to the nature and extent of the education which is desirable;—then it would
* If any one lack proof of this statement, and have not the means of personal investigation, I would refer him to the evidence taken before committees of the House of Commons during the last three sessions; to a Report made to the Statistical Society of London on the state of education in Westminster; to similar Reports respecting Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol, made to local societies in those towns; and to the Reports of the two leading educational societies themselves.
But what indeed, (looking, for a moment, at the society schools only), could be expected from plans which often place from 200 to 500 children under one person-himself, perhaps, prepared for bis work by a three months' training - and leave those children to learn nothing but what he can teach indirectly, through a number of children-monitors ? And this is system which at this moment hundreds of our own clergy not only sanction, but enthusiastically admire.