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Evening Post MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1910. THE BEST SOLUTION?

Our objection to the attitude taken up by the Secular Education Defence League towards what is generally known as the Nelson system of religious teaching in the State schools called forth protests from the president and actingsecretary of the league, which we published on Saturday. Professor Mackenzie takes exception to our statement that the league had put an attack on the Nelson system in ,the very front of its programme, "ft would," he says, "as a matter 6i fact, be more correct to say that the attack on the Nelson system ancLthat on the New South Wales textbook are mere tags to our programme." We are glad that Professor Mackenzie should desire to minimise- the importance of the point, but quite fail to see that his attempt is successful. At the preliminary meeting held to consider the formation of the league, a platform of six clauses was provisionally approved, and one of these clauses declared, "That the Nelson system, even if it be within the letter of the Education Act, is an ingenious evasion of its real spirit and intent, and that the league will oppose this innovation." The whole or this platform . was adopted without amendment by the league immediately after its formation on Wednesday last. If in these- circumstances the league intended the condemnation of the Nelson system to bo "a mere tag upon its programme," it has, to say thfi least, taken a very unfortunate way of saying so. As a matter of fact, was not the publication of the resolution in advance of the meeting a plain intimation to tho friebds of the Nelson system that there was no room in the league for them? And even after the official gloss which the- acting- secretary has put upon the resolution, is it open to anybody who regards tire Nelson system as not merely a legitimate solution but the best sohitdon of the difficulty to join the league? We- think that the answer must clearly be in the negative, and that the result is to exclude a very large proportion of those who have consistently opposed the Bible-in-schools agitation, and who are still as determinedj.aa th^ srcmoier.ft.yjf jbfaa Ifiagufi Ut

maintain the existing protection of Stat* school-teachers and parents from any compulsion in the matter of religious teaching. Professor Mackenzie goes co far ac to object to the admission of the clergy into the State schools even at other than •ordinary school hours, but that is, of • course, going far beyond the resolution -of the league. The essence of the Nelson ejistem is that the time for opening the school is on one day of the week put half an hour later than usual, and that on this day the children are free to attend a half-hour's religious lesson given by voluntary teacheTs, and beginning at the hour to which the children are accustomed to regard as the | opening hour of the school. As long se the parents are fully | aware that the attendance of the children for the half-hour is perfectly optional, and the school-teachers are protected from the pressure which would be inevitable if any of them were allowed to volunteer for this teaching, we cannot I ccc that any of the objections which in our opinion are fatal to the inclusion of a religious text-book in the curriculum to be administered by the State school teachers can reasonably be held to apply to this arrangement. The immense advantage of the scheme is that it makes the attendance of the children at the religious lesson a very simple matter, if the parents desire it, since it involves no change of the actual time-table from that to which they are accustomed on other lays, while to keep any child away is -also easy for any parent who objects to the teaching. Professor Mackenzie raises the general objection that to admit any of the clergy — he should rather say, any religious teacher — to the State School is a breach, of neutrality on the part of the State. The neutrality of the State, as we understand it, should | be not an indiscriminate hostility to all religions, but a determination to give no more facilities to one religion than to another. So far as Nelson itself is concerned, we understand that all the or ganised sects except the Roman Catholics are co-operating in a single scheme of religious teaching, and that the Roman Catholics have not been excluded because they have made no application. In the absence of such co-operation, Professor Mackenzie's objection would be weighty and perhaps insuperable. A school committee could neither find special facilities of the Nelson' type for half-a-dozen rival claimants, nor would it be justified in showing any more favour to one than to another. It will be sufficient to consider that case when it arises. In the meantime let' us endeavour where there is no such contention to encourage the utmost extension of the facilities which the law allows without putting strain upon anybody's conscience, whether by compulsion or by preference. There is, however, no occasion to fear any too eager competition for the privilege of teaching the children whom the State cannot directly help in these particular subjects. It is easier for" the Rev. Dr. Gibb and his friends to denounce a godless system than to supply the defects to the full extent permitted by the law, and even after Nelson has shown that more than ninety per cent, of the children can be taught in this way 2 to condemn the system as "totally inadequate" is easier than trying to make the best of it while the law allows of nothing better. On the other hand, Mr. John Gammell sneers at the idea that children can get any benefit from a half-hour's religious teaching on a Monday morning "after they have just been dosed all day Sunday with similar teaching." Mr. Gammell should know perfectly well that the great majority of the children get no religious teaching at all on Sundays; but unfortunately those who think that the Nelson system teaches too much agree with those who think that it teaches too little, and the result in general is that nothing at all is done. "The hungry sheep look up and are not fed," for the disputants are too busy hammering one another to attend to such a detail.

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19101219.2.39

Bibliographic details

Evening Post MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1910. THE BEST SOLUTION?, Evening Post, Volume LXXX, Issue 147, 19 December 1910

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1,067

Evening Post MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1910. THE BEST SOLUTION? Evening Post, Volume LXXX, Issue 147, 19 December 1910

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