10 MARCH 1906, Page 15


I To THE EDITOR Or THE " SPECTATOR."] SIB,—Your reference in last week's Spectator (p. 323) to Dr. W. H. Fitchett's article in the Tribune on Australian education points towards a solution of the problem now under discussion which may not be accepted immediately, but which is likely to come in the end. For years we clergy have been insisting on the paradox that "all education is religious," "all history is sacred," &c. Now from New South Wales we receive a corresponding paradox,—that "secular instruction includes general religious instruction "; and this paradox, carried into action, "secures the happiest results." But the State is under no obligation to teach religion, any more than the Church is under an obligation to teach grammar and arithmetic. The history of religion does, however, form part of a liberal education,. and thus viewed it legitimately comes into the curriculum of State secular educa- tion. Thus regarded, however, it cannot be taught by the State in accordance with the traditions of the Churches or of any particular Church. It must be taught, like other history, in accordance with the conclusions of "sound learning." Accordingly, Old Testament history would begin with the earliest important incident that can with fair accuracy be dated, say with Isaiah's vision "in the year that King Uzziah died," the vision which stamped holiness on Hebrew religion as its special characteristic. Those books which precede Isaiah in our Bibles would be dealt with in the history of Jewish literature, passages being cited to show how at various dates the earlier traditions of the Jews were thrown into poetical and ideal forms by writers whose names have not (for the most part) been recorded. And the history thus treated would be carried on through the period of the Exile and the Maccabean times, right clown to, say, the close of the second century of our era, the New Testament history being • dealt with in a similar fashion. There are plenty of competent scholars who could construct class-books on these lines for, at any rate, the higher standards; and what a sound basis would thus be provided on which the Churches could build the fabric of spiritual religion in its moral and emotional aspects. And this "secular instruction" in the history of religion would involve no need for unlearning at a later date so much that has been taught at school. That is the real danger to religion which both denominationalism and undenominationalism, as now understood, almost equally incur.-1 am, Sir, &c.,