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Educa. tional endowments.
'In what way can the existing endowments for educational
purposes be most efficiently administered, regard being had both to the intentions of founders and to the altered circumstances of the country?' is a question which involves such multifarious considerations that I can here but glance at it, and pass on.
The mass of evidence on this subject obtained by the commissioners for enquiring into public charities, points inevitably to the conclusion, that some central authority must be provided for the purpose of assisting, directing, and superintending the local bodies intrusted with charitable funds, and especially those given for education. Such an authority Lord Brougham proposed to vest in his board of commissioners for general education.
In the mean time, a bill has been brought into parliament by Sir Eardley Wilmot, entitled, “a Bill for improving the condition and extending the benefits of Grammar Schools.” The objects of this bill are enable courts of equity to extend the systems of education in such schools beyond mere Greek and Latin; to provide a cheap and summary process by which parties connected with the schools, having framed new statutes, may submit them for the approval of the Court of Chancery; to promote visitation and to facilitate the removal of unfit masters.* All these would be most valuable ameliorations.
Grammar schools bill, Feb. il, 1810
• The following is an abstract of the main provisions of this important bill :
1. Power to Courts of Equity, as mentioned above.
2. New Statutes.--The governors, or in certain cases of incapacity or neglect, the visitors are empowered to draw up statutes for rendering the school more efficient, and for substantially fulfilling intentions of founders. To these statutes the governors are to endeavour to obtain the consent of the visitors, (or vice versa, if drawn up by the latter,) and then to submit them for approval of the court. Lord Chancellor is to select some one
It is evident that for the efficient discharge of the Necessity functions which have already actually devolved upon Cational government-whether respecting distribution of par- department
of governliamentary aids, or inspection of schools aided, or encouragement of improved master-schools, or legislative removal of obstacles to popular education; for any and all these there must be some central superintending authority.* This may be found either in a minister of public instruction, or in a board of commissioners, or in both.
The only approximation to such an authority which exists at present, consists in the Committee of the Privy Council, appointed on the 10th of April, 1839, “ to
master in chancery to revise such statutes, and is to appoint 'a secretary for grammar schools,'to whom governors or visitors are to transmit proposed statutes, with full detail of circumstances, from which, and from any other sources, he is to draw up a statement for the master, who is to report thereon, subject to the approval of the Chancellor on petition. Statutes, when confirmed, are to be advertised, and parties interested may petition for reviewal; or, if no new statutes be made, such parties may petition for them within a certain time after first vacancy in office of schoolmaster. New masters, on first vacancies, to be appointed subject to a revision of statutes within a year; and governors to bave power to make arrangements with existing masters to retire, subject to Chancellor's approval.
3. Visitation.— Visitors are empowered to visit once in every three years and to charge expenses :-if incapacitated, the Bishop to visit. If visitor neglect to visit, (or in certain cases, Bishop for him,) then Chancellor to appoint pro hâc vice.
4. Removal of Masters.- Visitors empowered to dismiss-subject to appeal to Chancery—and, with approval of Chancery, to allow in certain cases a retiring pension.
The bill is now in the House of Lords, and a petition against it bas been presented by the Bishop of Exeter.
• On this point the Bishop of London thus expressed himself, on the 5th July of last year: “I am not prepared to say that a plan may not be devised, by which the general object of promoting popular education might be intrusted to some public body, reserving to the church the exclusive direction and control of religious education in her own schools; but this must be done by an act of the legislature, after accurate enquiry and mature deliberation."
Speech, &c., p. 20.
superintend the application of any sums voted by parliament for the purpose of promoting public education.” The committee is composed of the Lord President, the Lord Privy Seal, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, and the Master of the Mint. It differs from the board proposed to be established by Lord Brougham’s Bill, in being wholly composed of members of the government.
Lord Brougham proposed that two cabinet ministers should be members of the board, ex officio, and that there should be three paid commissioners appointed by the crown, but only removeable by address of both houses of parliament. The concurrence of one of the commissioners ex officio was made indispensable to every important act of the board.
Both plans are open to the grave objection that every change of ministry might completely alter and derange the whole machinery. The duties of the commissioners would often be made secondary to the party questions of the day, and a vacillating and uncertain character would necessarily be impressed upon the general direction of education.
But the mere enumeration of the distinguished officers of state who at present wholly compose the committee of council is sufficient to show that this appointment can but be regarded as a temporary measure. It is, however,
step in the right direction; and it may well be hoped that the establishment of an efficient working boardin connexion with, but not wholly dependent upon, a minister of state-will ere long ensue.
At what point then have we really arrived in approximation towards an efficient and permanent system of State encouragement and superintendence for popular education ?
We have obtained increased funds and a most im
portant scheme of inspection, and the way has been prepared for centralized direction—not interfering, but cooperating harmoniously, with local and voluntary effort. In this there is much ground for rejoicing.
True, the funds are still lamentably incommensurate with the object, and the supply of the greatest want of all-good schools for schoolmasters—has yet to be begun. But the misapprehensions and the misrepresentations which have so embarrassed the efforts of government are already sensibly diminishing, the path is becoming clearer, and those efforts will doubtless be redoubled.
Probably in no way would all efforts for educational improvement be more importantly aided than by the well-considered preparation of a minimum scale of popular instruction, less than which no school receiving aid from State funds should, under any circumstances, be allowed to afford.
After all the discussions, both in and out of parliament, Religious
. which has taken place on the subject of religious in- instruction. struction in popular schools, I cannot find that any better plan for reconciling christian duty with the rights of conscience (with which, indeed, no christian duty, rightly understood, could possibly interfere,) than that contained in the proviso attached to Lord Brougham's Education Bill, “that in all schools under the act, the scriptures shall, as a part of the reading, be read; but children of Roman Catholic or Jewish parents shall not be obliged to be present at such reading, unless such parents are willing that they should attend."
This proviso appears to be in strict conformity with the spirit of the resolutions passed by the committee of the British and Foreign School Society, on the 2d of December, 1837. No one acquainted with the compo
sition, whether of the society or of the committee, will suspect either of indifference to religious truth.
The nature of the opposition to this proviso may be judged of, from the following expressions of the leading organ of its opponents—how constituted, I know notin the Quarterly Review. The plan is characterized by that writer, as “leading poor and ignorant people to imagine that religion is rather to be shown by entertaining pedantic niceties in a confession, than by keeping the commandments; and Ay-blowing the country with schismatical notions, instead of seasoning it with salt,” &c.*
And unhappily the strange pertinacity with which the directors of the National School Society—which ought surely to take higher ground-insist upon the introduction of the church catechism as the sine qua non of all efforts on their part to diminish the evils of popular ignorance, even in their most frightful form, lends but too much countenance to opposition such as this.
Within the last few weeks, a strong representation having been made to the committee of this society that their regulation with respect to the catechism was a serious obstacle to the education of the factory children, now rendered compulsory under the act of parliament, the question was considered, “Whether any relaxation of the terms of union with national schools should be made in order to meet this peculiar case ?' And the
• Quarterly Review, 1838, p. 458. I cannot resist the temptation to quote another sentence or two from this significant article:
“ At present the education of the poor is a voluntary and gracious act on the part of their superiors.”
By this bill, “the small rate-payers would be enabled by their numerical majority to control those who could buy them up a hundred times told ; vote the parish in ignorance, which, if they happened to be dissenters, they would inevitably do, and in their zeal for knowledge, generously to dip their hands in their neighbours' pockets for the means to dispense it." Ib. p. 459-60.