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The supplying our schools with educational books of the highest character, and at the lowest prices, is no doubt a great national object, one which well merits, and will, it is to be hoped, meet with every attention from the Committee of Council; but whether this can be best effected by the Council endeavouring to put into effective operation the talent of the country, in writing books in all those departments of knowledge which it is desirable to introduce into our schools, and be their own publishers and the booksellers themselves, may be a matter of question. The prices at which the National Board in Ireland supply what are termed poor schools in this country, being a remunerating one, is encouraging to the former plan, and the increasing demand for books once well established, would enable the bookseller to do it at a small rate of profit; but, under all circumstances, what the country may reasonably expect from the Committee of Council is,-school-books good and cheap.
Whenever an important want has shewn itself in this country, and one by which society would be largely benefited, it is astonishing how much private individuals have done to supply it; and now that attention is so much turned towards education as an instrument of great public good, perhaps it may occur to some benevolent individual, blessed with the power to do it, and wishing to connect his name with the education of his country, to appropriate (as the late Earl of Bridgewater did for a high moral purpose) a sum of eight or ten thousand pounds, as prizes for the best educational books, on all useful subjects—appointing some discreet mode of carrying the object out the copyright to rest with the Committee of Council, in order to render the books as cheap as possible. Such a sum spent in this way, might largely benefit a whole nation, and would do more to promote the education of it, than any other conceivable application of the same amount of money.
The mode in which benevolent individuals have endeavoured to promote local education, has been by leaving property in the hands of trustees (in many cases the parish officers), and attaching some condition-such as that a certain number of children or the whole of the children of poor shall be sent free ; but, however well endowments may have operated in Scotland (and in many instances, also, in the north of England), where a strong feeling in favour of education pervades all classes of society, and where they mix and blend harmoniously together at school, yet in this country, where such endowments exist, they have become, in nine cases out of ten, a positive hindrance, rather than a benefit, to the object they were intended to promote.
In some counties in Scotland, such bequests have been so
large, that the salary of the master has been very considerably increased in almost every parochial school in the country, and this chiefly from the generosity of individuals who felt that their success in life was owing to an education received at the parish school, and who had a confidence that those intended to be benefited were sufficiently alive to the humanising effects of education upon their children, to see that bequests so left, would be properly administered.*
Mr. Mosely, in his Report of last year, calls the attention of schoolmasters to a most important subject-one, not less important to their own happiness and welfare, and to that of their families, than it is to the interests of education in general—“the consideration of means for providing for support in time of sickness and of old age, and of contributing towards the maintenance of a family in case of death”; he adds, " that a mutual assurance or benefit society, formed upon a secure basis, among persons of this class, and conducted under the auspices of the Council on Education, would be an inestimable benefit."
This is a question in which the public are deeply interested, as affording the only means of protection against a master continuing to hold his situation, when, from age and infirmity, he is unfit for the duties of it; and school-managers will find some plan of this kind the only security against incompetent teachers, who have become so from age or sickness, and whom it would be cruel and unjust to deprive of their situations, unless they had some provision to fall back upon.
It should be the object and fundamental principle of such a plan, that every schoolmaster should be his own insurer to secure a provision, for instance, of from 201. to 301. per annum, to commence at the age of fifty-five or sixty; there would be no reason whatever, when a master is competent to his duty, that he should give up his situation when he came into possession of his annuity ; but it would be in the power of the managers to prevail upon him to retire, when unfit for it. It would also be desirable in such a plan of assurance, that the insurer should be able, in case of death before coming into the enjoyment of the annuity, to dispose, by will, of the amounts of payments made : in this way, without being very complicated, it would be something of a provision for those dependent upon him.
In a well-digested plan of this kind, all the good schoolmasters would insure; this would have the effect of retaining
* The Dick Bequest for the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, and Moray, a Report of which, of twenty-one years' experience of it, has been published, appears to me a more useful educational charity than any I have read of; and affords a good example on which to remodel many of our useless ones in this country.
them in their employment: and, in many ways, the plan seems to be so important to the cause of education, and so necessary to its ultimate success, as to make it well deserving the consideration of those who have the power to carry it out. The public have so great an interest in it, that the Committee of Council may reasonably be expected to give some assistance towards doing so; and when grounded on the principle of every man being his own insurer, no Chancellor of the Exchequer could possibly object. This ought not to interfere with any consideration, by way of reward, to those who, from great success in their vocations, and from long service, might be thought worthy of them- but it might be a part of the plan, to make some addition to an annuity, in cases of merit of a high order, in this hard-working department of the public service.*
In a letter published some years ago, as an appendix to Mr. (now Archdeacon) Allen's Report, I alluded to Lord Howick, the present Earl Grey, having suggested in the House of Commons, “voluntary examination of the schools in a district," and his having pointed out to the minister “that further encouragement might be given by occasionally conferring, on the deserving, situations in the lower ranks of the public service.” Sir Robert Peel, in answer, expressed as "his only fear, that children did not remain at these schools to a sufficient age to be fit for them,” but otherwise seemed to receive the hint remarkably well.
It is rather singular, that the friends of education in the House of Commons, should have allowed this hint, thrown out by Lord Grey, so completely to drop, as it seems to have done, and I fear, since his lordship has been in office, and has had the power of acting upon it, that he also may have forgotten it—at least, one has never seen mention made since, of this kind of encouragement in the speeches of either House of Parliament; so that this may only have been one of those things thrown out when in opposition as having an appearance of good intention ; but where there was not sufficient earnestness of purpose on the part of the speaker to carry it out, and take the responsibility of doing so when in power. However, be this as it may, there can be no doubt that, if such encouragement be held out, and an educational test be established throughout what is termed “the lower ranks of the public service,” and any system be adopted of selecting
* The fact of its being alluded to by Mr. Mosely, in his Report, was the cause of a memorial being sent to the Committee of Council on the subject, signed by 84 schoolmasters in that part of the north which is under Mr. Watkin's inspection alone -- a strong proof of the importance which the masters themselves attach to such a plan.
from the schools in which this class of society are educated those best fitted by education and character for such situations, many boys would be found to remain longer at school than at present, and to be well qualified for them. Many belonging to this class, who now find their way into the very situations in question on easier terms, would remain longer at school; and thus a wholesome channel for supplying this part of the public service would be opened out. There is a class in our rural districts, just above the labourer, who would find great encouragement in it; but who from being, as it were, above daily labour, and finding nothing to do, are worse educated, and in every way worse brought up, than any other class in society: this would hold out to some a road to useful employment; and many of these youths, when educated in this way, might find most useful employment in our colonies. Why should not these sources be to them what India is to the classes above them ?* .
But although the subject of establishing an educational test, in the kind of offices above alluded to, does not seem to attract the attention of statesmen on the ground of the principle which it involves, or of its public importance, yet it has, I am happy to say, suggested itself in one quarter, when there is the power to act upon it, from a conviction of the good which it will do; at the same time being a means of finding for the public service, in such departments, those best qualified for the duties of it.
About a year ago,t the chairman of the now Inland Revenue Board, who is in no way connected with this part of the country, and to whom I was at that time an entire stranger, offered in the kindest way to place at my disposal, for the encouragement of education here, the first situation in the Excise which he had to give, wishing it to be given to the one who, all things considered, was the best qualified for it; and it is to be hoped so good an example may find others ready to follow it.
This mode of appointment, founded on merit, is based upon the highest and best principles, and would, if extensively acted upon, lead to a most important change, in what may be called the morale of the lower departments of the public service. I
The minister who would endeavour to introduce an educational test in all cases of this kind, and do his utmost to
* On this subject, see note I below. + Written in 1849. I
* In this great changes have been made, by Lord Palmerston's government; and a system of examination is now adopted in all branches of the Civil Service.
carry it out, would deserve well of his country; he would, at the same time that he was indirectly promoting the best interests of society, have the satisfaction of feeling that he was filling up such situations with those most competent for the duties of them.
It is now beginning to be generally felt, that the only way to make our national and similar schools efficient, and to have them remain so, is by making them places of education, not exclusively for the labouring classes, but by having the standard of acquirement and the means of carrying it out, such as are fitted for the wants of all the industrial part of the community located in a district. This, both from experience and from the nature of the case, is now becoming evident; and a strong evidence is given of it in the number of schools of this kind now rising up in different parts of the country, and taken up by influential individuals in a way which gives every promise of success.
So far from establishing mixed schools being a boon to the farmers and middle classes at the expense of the labouring classes, I believe they will have a decidedly contrary effect, and that the establishing separate ones for sons of farmers, etc., would be in every way detrimental in the end, and bring about such a state of things in the schools exclusively for the poor, that in a very short time the character of such schools would be in no way better than it has been, and that as places of education they would entirely fail.
The reception which former editions of this little work have met with, leads me to think they have been found useful for the purposes for which they were intended ; and I hope the present one, with the additions which have been made, will not be less so, and that the remarks on the effect of the kind of education I am advocating, and its success here, may interest those who are friends to an improved social condition of the middle and labouring classes, and are anxious to bind these two adjoining links of society together by stronger fastenings than hold them at present, although they may not be actually engaged in the business of teaching ; but, above all, should every friend to education feel, if he wishes to promote it, that the mass of society never can understand, or take an interest in it, from mere written theories, and can only be brought to do so step by step, by its being brought practically home to them ;- it is only in this way that the labouring classes can be made what they ought to be, and what we ought to endeavour to make them.