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WARNED IN TIME., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889
WARNED IN TIME.
We are neither prophets nor the sons of prophets, but we venture to prognosticate that unless the believers in and supporters of our national system of education are very watchful, and prepared for any emergency, the enemies of the State schools will assuredly steal a march on them. Coming events cast their shadows before. As we pointed out at the time, the division on Mr Pyke’s Private Schools Bill last session was significant. Not only were the numbers close—closer than most people were prepared for—but there were some notable changes of front on the part of leading members of Parliament that surprised, if they did not startle, even those who have resolutelydeclined to assisteducational reform, because they think the Act, as it stands, so perfect a measure that it is impregnable against assault by its declared foes. We yield to no one in maintaining, as we have always done and shall continue to do with all our ability, that the essentials of the Act—free, compulsory, and secular instruction by the : State—must bo preserved at all hazards. But outside of these there are certain necessary administrative reforms that can and ought to be adopted, in order to mould our educational scheme to the requirements of the times. Our opinions on this point are sufficiently knoyrn ; it is, therefore, quite unnecessary to enter on any consideration of them, as we believe that they are shared in and approved by the bulk of our readers, *
We have said that it behoves the supporters of our education system tOjbe-Jieenly watchful and on the alert, because we are satisfied that the members of the Roman Catholic communion, taking heart of grace from the division on Mr Pykk’s Rill, will obey the episcopal injunction to ‘.‘mark” the men who have hitherto opposed what they assume to be “ justice" being meted out to them. And when the time for action comes they will strain every nerve to replace them by others who wilt be favorably disposed towards their claims for a separate grant-in-aid. Then there,are indications that the Bible-in-sohools parity will muster their forces at the same time, and make the religions’ instruction question a test one at the ballot boxes.'’ 'And the Anglicans are evidently bent bn devising measures which, if carried into operation, must help—deny they the intention or effect never so loudly—to wreck the existing state of things, and to pave the way for a return to denominationalism. These are the,forces that will assuredly be brought info play some time next year. A combined assault on the educational citadel by the principal churches is manifestly contemplated. The attitude of the Roman Catholic Church on the education question has always been uncompromisingly hostile; and its hierarchy will take advantage of any opening that may be offered for attacking what they are pleased to term the “godless” system. In the Presbyterian Synods there have been open murtnurings against the non-recog-nition of the Bible by the State; and rather than that should be continued not a few members of that church 'are prepared to accept denominationalism. The Anglican Church has never been well disposed towards the Act, and her leaders have only been less aggressive than the others because they have deemed the occasion for action inopportune. But they no longer regard it so; and, judging by what took place in Wellington lately, they are prepared to enter into an offensive alliance against the Act with the two churches already'named. At the annual meeting of the Wellington Anglican Synod last month a motion approving of the principles of the Private Schools Bill was introduced by Mr C. Rous Marten, whose intimate knowledge of what transpires behind the political curtain warranted him in predicting a general election next year ; and in view of that contingency he urged the Synod to declare what their church really want. “ All churchmen,” he said, “should seek to “obtain a fair share of the State capitation—- “ an allowance for every school that com- “ plied with the requirements of theEdu- “ cation Act in respect to qualification of “teachers’ course of study, attendance, and “inspection by a Government inspector.” As Mr Marten may be accepted as an intelligent representative of the Anglican laity—though wo are not aware that he was ever concerned in the administration of the State system—his criticism of the latter may be worth giving He was not prepared to admit that New Zealand children generally were inferior in moral character to children in the Mother Country, but it did seem that there was among colonial children a certain impatience of discipline and control, and an occasional tendency to that sbrt of lawlessness and mischief which was commonly called “larrikinism.’,’ It was not proved that this was duo to the system of education; but it was evident that the present system failed to check the tendency, which, if left unchecked, would probably grow into a more serious evil in future generations. : - So far Mr Marten stated his case tcmpeia ately ; but he was guilty of “ exaggerated over-statement” —which he mildly reproved the advocates of religious education for too frequently indulging in—-when he affirmed that grants-in-aid, under the conditions named in Mr Fyke's Bill, would “tend to “the preservation of the system, of saying it “by its*own weight through.tho burden “ imposed on the taxpayer by its enormous “ costliness.” It should be apparent to any average mind that if grants-in-aid were given to Roman Catholics and. Anglicans other, communions would have a right to'demand* and'receive equal consideration, until the country was spotted over with separate” ■ schools. Although the attendance thereat must necessarily be largely drawn from the State schools, that, according to Mr Marten, would not bo “weakening ’’them. “Not a particle of proof ” was adduced by him to show that the national system is “ dropping to pieces of its own weight,” The facts are entirely the other way, and ye should like to hear his replies to sorhe Jjofi these questions : Do not the boys and girls who are able to go from the primary l to the secondary schools give good accounts, of themselves there ? is their education, elementary though it be, at all superficial ? JDq, the thousands of children who are unfortunately unable to go through the prescribed school course enter on the battle of life less equipped mentally than the children'in other countries circumstanced similarly to our own ? We know that there iare a good many people who take exception to the cost of our education scheme ; but most of them, like Mr Marten, do not trouble themselves to go into figures and compare the charge per capita of primary school instruction in this and other colonies. Were they to do so they must arrive at the conclusion that comparison is favorable to our own Colony, that the charge can and will be willingly ~ borne. True it is that during a recent' period, when a wave of retrenchment passed ovfer the country, education, in common with.,’every departmental the State, was subjected, , to the pruning knife, so that the ■ financial equilibrium might be restored. But the Legislature has never shown a disposition to act in a niggardly way in respect to the vote f0r.... primary education, which baa never been seriously challenged in the Representative . Chamber. It is worth noting, before leave Mr Marten, that heesohewedt ;any, sympathy with the Bible-in-schools party, and held that “ the mere, reading of the. > “Bible in public schoolawouldbe. useless, : “if not actually mischievous, as conducive “ to irreverence.” ”
Several reverend gentlemen addressed themselves to the question, but their re-
marks do not require more than passing notice. The Rev. Mr To woo on saw the breakdown of the State system in the fact of people being called on to subscribe for the repair of school buildings and like purEoses. He eulogised the self-sacrifice shown y the Roman Catholics, and urged his own people to imitate them. And ho wound up his speech with the sneering observation that “ many leading supporters of the ‘ ’ secular system evidently thought it good ‘‘enough for the masses, but not for their “own sons,” who were educated at church colleges. The burden of the remaining addresses was that the Anglicans must organise and exert political pressure in future.
But there was one speech which, coming as it did from the President of the Synod, and the highest functionary of the Anglican Church in this Colony—the Primate-clect—-deserves reproduction in its entirety, and should be pondered by every elector in the country— He agreed with all that Mr Rous Marten had said, especially as to the need of energetic action and organisation, He was examined on the education question by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, and told the Committee ho hoped a block vote would be given next election by churchmen for any member who would support a revision of the Education Act in favor of denominational educ ition. This seemed to cause rather a flutter in the Committee. No report was made by the Committee, who could not agree on any, and so merely printed and presented the evidence. But when he endeavored to organise concentrated action ho was mot with utter indifference, He was convinced, however, that the country was growing more and more ready for the proposed change. The present system, was really denominitional education, but it only endowed one sect, the Secularists. Great credit was duo to the Roman Catholics for what they bad done. They showed that they believed in their own principles, and English churchmen so far had not shown that. Ho maintained that the Government had no risrht to put their hands into the pockets of churchmen and extract money therefrom to pay for an educational system which was repugnant to their religions feelings. If he were a poor man ho would not allow his children to attend secular schools. Me was surprised that the public submitted to such « weak, miserable, system. It was absurd to sec a lot of little children about five years old taught geology and chemistry and other things they could not understand , and finally turned out unable to unite decently, while their spelling might represent any language but English.
The italics are ours. With the Roman Catholic hierarchy denouncing the system as “godless,” Bishop Nevill charging it with inducing immorality, and Bishop Hadfield characterising it as “ weak and miserable,” it is quite past praying for. Bat we know that the vast majoiity of the colonists credit none of these things. The fulminations of the Roman Catholic Bench of Bishops are comprehensible. Their church has declared against secular instruction in any form, and their people, regarding it as a supreme matter of conscience, have established and maintained their own schools. If the majority of the Anglicans abhor the State system, as their leaders assert they do, why have they not shown similar selfsacrifice to the Roman Catholics, instead of expecting the State to help them to found a system more to their tastes? When the broad question of State v. Denominational Education is submitted to the colonists, as it necessarily will be in a few months, we hope to find no inconsiderable number of Bishop Hadfikld’s people testifying their appreciation of a system that has accomplished so much during the eleven years it has been in operation. We have declared more than once our belief that the Anglicans only supported the agitation for Biblereading in schools as a means to an end, am’ that they secretly yearned for a return to denominationalism. Bishop Hadfield has now thrown off the mask, and states emphatically that he will use every constitutional means to overturn the system, as by law established. Some, we trust but few, of his episcopal colleagues will doubtless range themselves under his banner whenever the fight begins. It should be plain that these denominations, united for destruction of the State system, will, if victorious, be utterly unable to supply our national requirements, Victoria tried denominational education, and found that, as a necessary result, the country was studded with a number of small schools conducted by ill-paid, incompetent teachers ; while in some districts children ran wild, with no education at all. Were all the population of one religious creed there would be no difficulty; but since the duty of the State is to maintain oomph te religious liberty, it cannot consistently contribute to any sectarian propagandism, whether under the ferm of church or school. It behoves all friends of civil and religious liberty to unite, and firmly to support the piesent independent educational system.
WARNED IN TIME., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889
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