« PreviousContinue »
ART. II.-INFLUENCE OF THE ESTABLISHED
CLERGY ON POPULAR EDUCATION.
The promulgation of the Christian religion was a movement in favour of popular education; for it was a disclosure of truth which was designed and fitted to enlighten the mind, move the heart, and direct the life of man, irrespectively of rank or condition. To associate the work of education with the design of Christianity may, indeed, appear to some to be a connecting together of incongruous things; but this false conception arises solely from the narrow and inadequate view which they hold both of the purposes of education, and the purposes of the religion of Christ. To educate is to train the human being; to develope, strengthen, and refine the several capabilities of his nature and Christianity is one of many concurring processes by which the universal parent has carried forward the education of the race, differing from the rest neither in the nature of its influences nor the nature of its effects, but in the efficacy of its operation, and the extent of its blessings. Christianity is in itself light and impulse, and in its results, mental and moral power. Education is the same; and correct and adequate conceptions of the two, would lead men to recognise the affinity of their nature, and the sameness of their objects. The only material point of difference of which we are aware is, that the religion of Christ has an aim-its chief aim, ulterior to the interests and issues of the present state of being. But even this is a difference rather of prominence than of kind; for, in as much as Education, by perfecting the character, prepares man for every stage of being through which he may have to pass, it must have a beneficial bearing on Eternity as well as on Time.
And if Christianity may be considered as a species of education, so, beyond a question, is all its influence in favour of popular education. Jesus himself, its founder, was one of the people. His associates were of the humblest rank; their ministrations, though not exclusively, were mainly directed to persons in their own condition; and among such it found its earliest, if not its best and most desirable triumphs; while, alike, in its great principles and particular precepts; in its spirit, its promises, and aims, it declared, with distinguished emphasis, that it came from the common Father as a common good to man. Every minister of Christ, therefore, is bound both by his
profession and his office to be a friend of education. To minister the religion of Christ is to carry forward the Education of the people; and whatever conduces to the furtherance of knowledge and goodness, in other words, whatever tends to form a virtuous character, tends also to carry out the purposes of Christ, and is friendly to the real interests of Christianity.
But if any class of Christian ministers is pledged rather than another, to the advancement of popular education, it is an Established Clergy. A Dissenting ministry, as it is local in its very nature, so is it designed to meet certain wants, and satisfy certain tastes, of a peculiar character and restricted extent; and, when the objects for which it is instituted are secured, no claim remains on its energies. Its obligations can be only co-extensive with the requirements of those who concur to support it; and though the nation may receive benefit from its labours, it has no title to their continuance or extension. But a religious Establishment is national both in its purposes and its support. By its very theory it is the national Educator, established by the supreme authority, which ought to be an index of the public will-sustained by resources drawn from every quarter of the land, and professing to carry out the influences of Christianity into every town and hamlet, it lies under the most solemn obligation—not the less solemn because voluntarily contracted, nor because its position is most strenuously maintained—to make due provision for the mental and moral wants of the whole country; and, if of
any with more care than others, for the mental and moral wants of the youthful poor.
Nor can the English Establishment claim, in its own case, any special exemption. It may never, even in theory, have carried the conception of its duty to the full extent; but, if this be the case, it is a fault for which it has to answer; not an excuse admissible in extenuation of neglect. But, so far as instruction in what it considers religion is concerned, its requirements are co-extensive with the population of the country; for the fifty-ninth canon enjoins "every parson, vicar, or curate, upon every Sunday and holiday, before evening prayer, to examine and instruct the youth and ignorant persons of his parish in the Ten Commandments, the Articles of the Belief, and in the Lord's Prayer, and diligently to hear, instruct, and teach them the Catechism set forth in the book of Common Prayer.” And, as if it had made suitable provision for the general Education of the country, it took every means in its power to prevent the work of Education from being entered on by any who were not members of its own communion. The 77th canon directs that “no man shall teach, either in public school or private house, but such as shall be allowed by the bishop of the diocese;" and several Acts of Parliament forbade, under severe penalties, to be inflicted both on the employer and the employed, all persons from engaging in the Education of youth who had not declared “their conformity to the liturgy of the Church of England as by law established.” It can scarcely therefore be considered as going beyond the facts of the case, if we assert that the Establishment of this country took the Education of the people into its own hands. Certainly, both by a regard to the genius of the Christian religion, and the theory of a religious Establishment, it was required to make adequate provision for the moral, and, if the moral, so, by consequence, the intellectual training of the mass of the English nation.
But it has had a legislative as well as an executive function. As one of the three great estates of the realm-one, in former times, of almost paramount influence, and still of no insignificant power-it not only had the opportunity, but lay under the obligation of securing a satisfactory Education for the people. And whatever force there is in its title to be represented among the rulers of the land, ensues from the office which it has to execute, of the national instructor; for it will not be put forth that the Crosier takes place by the side of the Coronet for any purposes of worldly aggrandizement.
What then has been the influence of this great Educational corporation on the mental and moral condition of the people ? We answer the question, not by referring to early periods either of the history of the Church of England, or of modern civilization in this country; we afford it full scope for developing its power in connexion with the advance of society at large, and will look on the condition of the people in respect of Education as we find it at the present hour. And here we must remark, that the information which is accessible on the subject is very far from being complete, and is not seldom most inaccurate. The efforts made by the Government of the country to procure correct information as to the state of education, are now known to have failed; and the statements which exist, deserving of confidence, are the result, for the most part, of individual exertion. Drawn up, however, after personal investigation, and with the utmost care, they possess a high claim to accuracy; and, if they are only partial in the knowledge they convey, they may safely be taken as fair samples of the general educational state of the industrious classes. And we may at once declare the painful fact, that the great conclusion to be drawn from the several reports on the subject, which societies and individuals have recently furnished, is that the actual condition of popular Education is much inferior to what was previously thought. Appearances have been taken for realities.
Vol. I. No. 2.-New Series.
An array of schools and scholars in large towns, on holiday occasions, have turned the eye away from their dark streets, lanes, and courts, where ignorance broods almost undisturbed and few have been the persons who could from any centre survey the whole circle of the country, so as to comprise its dark tracts as well as its sunny spots.
A few estimable individuals in the town of Manchester enjoy the distinction of having been the first to supply trustworthy information on the condition of popular Education. Among other efforts they have surveyed the four towns of Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, and Bury, and have published reports, from which we learn that one-third of the children of those places are destitute of any kind of education whatever. Of the 75,000 children who are under instruction, no fewer than 36,000 attend Sunday-schools only; that is, one-half of those who are instructed, are instructed only a few hours one day in the week; while out of about 120,000 children requiring education, not more than 39,000 are undergoing a daily training. But our estimate is too favourable if taken as a criterion of the state of popular Education; for, in these four boroughs, there are many large schools for the middle and upper classes, containing children not only of residents but of strangers. Now, among these classes, the proportion of educated to uneducated children is much larger than among the poor; and therefore the proportion of the uneducated to the educated among the poor will be larger than the statement we have given. And this remark is confirmed by the fact, that in an investigation, conducted by a friend of our own, and published in the Journal of the Statistical Society, No. 1,' in a district inhabited chiefly by weavers, namely, Miles Platting, in the parish of Manchester, it was recently found that, out of 505 children, only 288, little more than one-half, are at school, while of these, 208 attend Sundayschools only. The report on this district adds—“There are very few of the heads of families included within this inquiry who have formed the habit of reading, or are capable of understanding or enjoying a book. Many are either too illiterate, or too deeply sunk in indifference, or in animal gratifications, to be easily convinced of the importance of mental culture or religion.'
In Marylebone a district was lately visited; and, of the parents, 45 out of every 100 could neither read nor write; out of 450 children, 262 could neither read nor write; only 114, or about one-fourth of the whole, went to school; and, as if to show how even the strictly religious education of the people has been neglected, while 357 of the children could repeat the Lord's Prayer, 93 were unable to give even that slender evidence of having been instructed.
In another district of the Metropolis it was found that, among 797 adults, 366 could neither read nor write; 136 could read only; thus showing that no more than 295, or about onethird of the adult population, possessed the most ordinary acquirements. Of 825 children, 530 could not read, 609 were not frequenting school, 656 could not write, and 473 were unable to repeat the Lord's Prayer.
The Statistical Society of London has reported on a district which it has had visited, comprising nearly 50,000 souls, and it appears that, out of 14,145 children, there are not more than 4,654, not one-third, under Education.
In the city of York, the seat of an archbishop—the gathering place of churches and clergymen—where there are not fewer than sixteen charity-schools, where the population subsists mainly neither by mercantile nor manufacturing pursuits, and where the working classes bear a less proportion than is common to the middle and higher ranks of the community, we might warrantably expect to find the supply of Education nearly, at least, equal to the demand. But in this place, in which the influence of the clergy has had resources, time, and scope, to give it full effect, 2,300 children were found who received no instruction in schools; while, out of 150 schools, the total number in the city, 24 are merely Sunday-schools, 9 of which are supported by Dissenters, and 92 are day and evening schools, supported wholly by the parents of the scholars.*
While such is the mournful condition of the state of Education in our cities, we need not be surprised that the enlightened Superintendent Registrar of the Manchester District, Dr. Johns, has found that one-half of the persons who came before him for the purposes of the Registration Act are unable to write their names; and we have little doubt that similar praiseworthy attention on the part of other Registration functionaries would disclose equal if not greater inability.
If we turn to agricultural districts, we shall find there also lamentable deficiencies. In the Tendring Union, in the county of Essex, out of 706 children, but 88 can read and write; 198 can neither read nor write; 252 only attend school, of whom no more than 109 frequent a day-school. Thus, merely one-seventh of those who require education are in possession of suitable opportunities.
* Report of a Committee of the Manchester Statistical Society on the state of Education in the city of York.