The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1881. Squandering in the Education Department.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 430 p.m. j
At an election meeting in the Wellington district last week one of the candidates, Mr Stafford, was rather closely questioned about the education given in the State schools and its cost. It is somewhat curious that more frequent enquiry is not made into this matter. The annual cost of State school education now amounts to more than L 400,000, and is still steadily on the increase. it may be safely said that there is no other item of a similar amount in our State expenditure the details of which are so little criticised. State education may be an excellent thing now, and so perhaps was State religion a few hundred years .ago; but in the Middle Ages large bequests were made to religion, and spent in pandering to the sensual vices of lazy abbots and monks ; and in the same way now money voted for educational purposes is often squandered in increasing the salaries of teachers of very moderate capacity and energy, in making school inspectors comfortable for life, no matter what they do or leave undone, and in providing for the salaries and contingencies of the officers of numerous Education Boards, perhaps not required. The amount spent every year is so large that a hasty glance at two or three of the existing schbol arrangements, causing unnecessary expenditure, may not be out of place. And even such a hasty glance would at once reveal the fact that, in order to increase the salaries of the teachers and the importance of the inspectors, there is this unnecessary expenditure at what may be styled both ends of our State schools—in the lowest and in the highest classes. As regards the children under five years of age, what on earth can they learn at State schools, except to imbibe more or less poisonous air in close rooms, when they ought to be running about and playing in gardens and paddocks, strengthening their limbs, lungs, stomachs,'and brains, and so preparing for the teaching to come when they are fit to receive it. A child is not composed of nothing but a brain which need to be crammed, but to a far greater extent of animal faculties which are perhaps more used in alter life, and certainly are on the whole.in early years more important, and needing more to be J iui:
kept in i Healey state. To over-charge the brain before it is ready, and when J from the undeveloped state , of the i physical powers, it almost immediately ] becomes a weariness, is to force it into j premature activity at the expense of all , energy afterwards. We know very well what has been written respecting iso- i lated childhoods of eminent persons, i of Queen Elizabeth’s knowledge of Latin when she was only four years old, and of John Stuart Mills’ thorough acquaintance with the Greek language at the same age. But it is not at all certain that even, in these cases of premature mental developement life might not have been prolonged, and eccentricities prevented, if the body had in early years a better chance and the mind a worse one. At any rate in State Schools in the overwhelming majority of cases the teaching of these infants is a mere farce, and inspection of their attainments a transparent sham. Does any inspector profess even to give an analysis of the comparative merits of these children’s performances? Noj blit they all se: ve to swell up the number of children for whose teaching masters and mistresses are paid. And so also at the other end of the schools in the highest classes the profession of teaching is, for different reasons, little better than an expensive sham. In most of the schools in large towns, the masers h,aye twd of, three show Boys or girls, who are paraded on every possible occasion as proficients in the higher branches of learning, with which they have gained some extremely superficial acquaintance, and which the master and mistress themselves are usually quite unable to teach, and for teaching which they have never been examined. These two or three children are put forward as samples of what the schools can do, and in the effort to enable them to make a decent show annually the work of the classes at proper state School age is often quite neglected. We know of one State School in the South of New Zealand where out of four or five hundred children in attendance, two or three were annually trotted out as prodigies of learning, because they could solve problems in quadratic equations, and had acquired a mere smattering of Greek and Latin. In this instance the master was a qualified scholar but lazy, and the attainments of these two or three boys served to veil the neglect of work in most of the classes. And if the boys had been really sd far advanced as was pretended their proper place was not in the ordinary State Schools, but either in the High Schools or in private schools, where their patents could pay for the luxuries of the ornamental part of education. While these abuses of State School education continue it will be costly of necessity. A reform is needed. The infant classes and the highest classes in our State Schools have no business there; and if they were absent the annual expenditure in education would be largely reduced.