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shall be a Roman Catholic; and that in schools of which the Roman Catholic children form only a minority” (no matter how small,) “a Roman Catholic assistant shall be employed; and that each master and assistant shall be appointed upon the recommendation or with the express approval of the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese in which the school is situated."
And in the second place, they objected to any compilation from the scriptures taken exclusively from the Protestant version ; nor would they even consent to the use of such a compilation in the national schools, whatever modification it might assume. And finally, to cut the matter short, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Dublin recommended, that as the whole difficulty seemed to lie in the use of the scriptures in some form, it would be best to dispense with their use entirely, and leave it in the hands of the pastors of the respective parties; and to this opinion the commissioners themselves evidently leaned !
Notwithstanding this utter alienation of the Roman Catholics as a body, the Kildare-street Society continued to receive parliamentary aid at the rate of $100,000 per annum, and when these supplies were withheld (1832), they had 1500 schools, and about 130,000 pupils in their connexion. Now (1841) their schools are reduced about onethird in number and size. The latest report we have seen gives them 1097 schools and 81,178 scholars. Their model school in Dublin contained 465 boys and 436 girls; and had under training, last year, 18 school masters and 63 school mistresses. The annual contributions amounted to $125,000 including $90,000 paid by pupils in sums varying from twenty-seven cents to one dollar. Probably the number of scholars above stated is the number at one time. Of course the number in attendance during some portion of the year would be very much larger. The society still retains the fullest confidence in the correctness of its principles. They contend that entire harmony among different religious persuasions, is quite compatible with a full exposition of scriptural knowledge and truth, and their report of 1839 expresses a fixed determination to have the Bible read in their schools without limitation or control. 66 There can be no parley on this subject,” say they. “It is based on a principle too firm to be shaken. The desirable end of uniting children of different religious persuasions in the same school can only be obtained by the fullest and most unfettered
acknowledgment of this principle. By it a fusion of discordant sects can be, and in multiplied instances is, effected -without, no such fusion can take place.”
However sound this opinion may be, it is certainly antiRoman Catholic; and it was vain to expect that the followers of that faith would yield one of their strongest ecclesiastical positions, when their numerical strength in the country was, to that of Protestants, as five to one. And indeed it was preposterous to ask it of them. The mass of their children remained uneducated ; and in 1832, a board of national education for Ireland was established by Parliament; and of course, in organizing and administering its affairs, special reference was had to pre-existing difficulties.
1. As union schools were desirable where they would prosper, the most favoured applications were those in which both parties united; and when an application for aid came, from either Protestants or Roman Catholics exclusively, an inquiry was instituted into the causes of the anomaly.
2. A report of all applications, and the disposition made of them, with reasons, &c., were to be reported to Parliament.
3. An entire separation of the literary branches of instruction from the religious, was required; the latter to be conducted exclusively by the pastors or teachers of the denominations to which the parents of the children belong. For this purpose, one day of each week was reserved.
We have said that the separation of letters from religion was to be entire, and this is literally true; but there was a curious scheme devised to preserve the semblance of scriptural instruction. A small manual was prepared, containing passages inoffensive alike to Roman Catholics and Protestants, and extracted from their respective versions of the scriptures. The use of these extracts was not required, but simply recommended. The extracts are represented by the commissioners, “to comprise such passages as appear to be most level to the understanding of children and youth at school, and also best fitted to be read under the direction of teachers, not necessarily qualified, and certainly not recognized as teachers of religion.” They add the very singular declaration, that “no passage has been introduced or omitted under the influence of any particular view of Christianity, doctrinal or practical !"
In a short time this scheme was marvellously liberalized. The scriptures at large, or other works of a religious character, were permitted to be read any and every day at a stated
hour, provided only that those children whose parents desired it, might withdraw during that hour; and in order that the withdrawing party might not be incommoded, it was required that either the first or last hour of the school session should be appropriated to this exercise. But as this hour was as much a school-hour as any other, except to the voluntary absentees, it was boldly said, by the friends of the system, that the Bible was not excluded during school-hours ! Hence, in the investigation of the subject by a committee of parliament in 1837, a witness (Rev. Robert Bell) was asked a series of curious questions, all turning on the point whether that could be properly called a school-hour, during which a portion of the school is excluded by the offensive character of the exercises ?
The result of the inquiries and decisions on the subject amounted to this, that there were certain hours devoted to the instruction of the children in a body, during which all were expected and required to attend ; and from this portion of the day biblical and all other religious instruction was excluded. But if the local patrons of any school should specify a day or days, hour or hours, for the reading of the scriptures, or for other religious instruction, such reading and instruction would be perfectly admissible, inasmuch as the designation of the time would allow the objecting parents an opportunity to withdraw their children. These religious hours were regarded as properly school-hours, however, though distinguished from the hours of general attendance. This was called the combining, in distinction from the blending process !*
James Simpson, Esq., of Edinburgh, in a series of letters to the Marquis of Lansdowne, proposes a method of carrying out this distinction. He tells us that there are two revelations, one of nature and the other of scripture. No one, he thinks, will claim that doctrinal Christianity should be, or can be blended with lessons on material objects, as botany, chemistry, physiology, &c. “The Bible must be closed when we are busy with the retort and crucible!” Is this an epitome of the modern philosophy of education ?
In combination, secular and religious instruction may be given to each pupil by two teachers; the religious by a teacher of his own sect. When blended, there can be but one teacher, and he must be of a sect whose lessons offend the consciences of all the sects in the school, but his own. If it is said that this plan tends to exclude religion from education, by depriving the secular teacher of the use of Christian precepts and motives, (a very weighty argument by the way,) Mr. Simpson replies, that as the pupil has two teachers, what one lacks the other must supply !
He thinks the religious teacher will find a great advantage in the circumstance that the holy scriptures will be his especial book, which the child has never seen
As might have been anticipated, the organization and proceedings of the board proved unsatisfactory to both parties, and the causes of the failure afford our country very instructive lessons.
The leading facts upon which Protestants relied to sustain their objections to the National Board of 1832, were
1. That many of the schools aided by the government were under the eaves of Roman Catholic churches, and some of them under the superintendence of monks and nurs; all which was regarded as inconsistent with the professed neutrality of the system.
2. That the scriptural “Extracts" were partial to the Roman Catholic version. And
3. That the use of the “Extracts" displaced the holy scriptures, which should, in their entire, unmutilated form, occupy an essential place in all systems of popular education.
We will very briefly examine the grounds of these objections in their order.
(1.) One of the most formidable attacks on the principles and proceedings of the Irish Board, was made in the House of Lords, as early as March 1836, by the bishop of Exeter, in moving for a select committee "to inquire into the operation of the commission for national education in Ireland.”
His first allegation was, that in a plan they had published for the establishment of one or more normal schools to instruct five thousand teachers, no provision was made for their religious culture—a point which he thought should receive the most careful attention, as he concurred in the opinion of an eminent French statesman,* "that if the reality and the freedom of the religious instruction of the children ought to be secured in all schools and for all creeds, with still stronger reason ought the same care to be taken for the religious instruction of the teachers themselves, who are to
desecrated and degraded to the profane uses of a common-school reading book.
Rev. Baden Powell, in discussing this point, seems anxious to guard against a possible (may we not say highly probable) neglect of the religious, when thus separated from the secular department of instruction. “In any system of State education,” he says, “full, systematic and precise religious instruction for the children of each denomination at the hands of the ministers or other authorized instructors of such denomination, should be expressly recognized and EN FORCED, as an essential part of the system; thus securing its perfect incorporation into the body and scheme of education as one united whole, the sole distinction being a separation of time and place, where such a separation is unavoidable." State Education, p. 53.
* M. Guizot.
be placed at the head of these schools.” “ This position," the bishop affirmed, "disclosed a grand essential defect; and not a defect only, but a positive evil, inasmuch as without religion all other knowledge can only lead, as it always has led the corrupt nature of man to a more frightful excess of wickedness."
The board attempted to defend themselves upon this point by reference to sundry passages in their published documents, where the moral character of the teachers is insisted upon with much positiveness; but when we consider how easily that term may be and is moulded to suit the purpose in hand, we must regard the answer of the board as insufficient, if not evasive. *
A second ground taken by the bishop, and sustained by Protestants, embraced the practice of giving aid to schools connected with nunneries, monasteries, &c. The fact was admitted by the board and justified. In regard to a specific case, in which it was alleged that for more than two years the service of mass was performed during school hours, in one of the national schools, attended by Protestants as well as Catholics, the commissioners admit that there was an altar in the recess of the sch bol room, screened by a curtain from public view, at which mass was performed for such children as attended before school hours, and then the question turned wholly on the time of the celebration—which might be a very doubtful point to settle, especially where children were witnesses for or against their teacher! In farther support of the same objection, the bishop stated that a grant to a national school under the care of a monastic establishment, had been applied to aid in building a nunnery; and that in another case $500, granted for a school, had been applied to building a Roman Catholic chapel.
These statements were denied by the national board; but it was clearly in evidence before the committee of inquiry, that there were gross departures from the neutral principle allowed in some of the schools.' In one school, for example, where Wednesday was the day set apart, and published as
lax principle that prevailed on this subject is incidentally shown in the examination of the Rev. Mr. Carlisle, before the select committee of the House of Commons, Aug. 4, 1834. He stated that a candidate for employment as a teacher, would probably be rejected by the board, if he was known to be a professed Deist, (understanding by this phrase one who denies revelation,) but a Unitarian, (understanding by this phrase, that he believes in some revealed religion,) would be admitted.