MEDDLE AND MUDDLE IN EDUCATION AGAIN.
IN spite of the triumphant majority obtained on the 5th of 1. April by the Tory ex-Minister of Education, Mr. Corry, it is impossible not to believe that he has made a mess of his new Minute. A majority in the House of Commons is no real test of the merits of any Educational question ; and the debate on the new Minute was unusually devoid of intelli- gence. Even Mr. Lowe, who, to do him justice, does make a rule of grasping intellectually the subject on which he speaks, and, however much he may play the Tory game, has at heart a liberal abhorrence of buncombe, was very weak in his attack on Mr. Corry ; failed to appreciate the real strength of his position, and did not make the most of the really con- siderable knowledge of the Educational question which he possesses. The truth is, this new Minute is a very sorry piece of patchwork, and one of which its author will probably yet live to be ashamed. It seems likely that it was produced in a great hurry, and was not the result of much real study of the subject. Mr. Corry's own account of the origin of the Minute is that it was suggested to him by a conversation with a little boy, who lived in a place where there are a Protestant and a Roman Catholic school, and who had never heard of such a place as London. We may hope, for his own credit and that of a Ministry of which he is confessedly one of the ablest members, that he was not moved to the con- coction of this Minute solely by this conversation with a little boy. It would be fairer perhaps to suppose that this story is a joke ; a specimen only of the easy after-dinner style in which the Education of the people is treated by Tories in an unreformed House of Commons ; or at most, if we attach any credit to the story, we may suppose that ideas, long lying dormant in Mr. Corry's mind while he was engaged in adminis- tering or watching the administration of a very different branch of the public service, received a vivifying creative impulse from the little boy, and burst into life in his new Minute. More probably, however, the real truth is that Mr. Corry, novice in the whole subject of Education, and hardly serious, as his speech abundantly shows, on the matter, could not resist the opportunity of gaining a little easily earned popularity by an atleck on the most unpopular system of a most unpopular man, and puffed out this Minute as his little contribution to swell the sails of the Ministerial bark.
Seriously, however, the Minute is a blunder. Its objects, as stated by both advocates and opponents, are threefold, viz., in the first place, to extend the aid of annual grants to small.
schools not at present reached by the Committee of Council on Education. Secondly, to prevent a too exclusive attention in elementary schools to the subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic ; and to encourage the study of history, geography, or grammar, that is to say, of some one other subject besides the elements. Thirdly, to increase the number of male candidates for certificates, and thereby of male teachers throughout the country. Now, how does the Minute of February 20 propose to effect these objects ? The following is the text of the Minute :-
Their Lordships, having considered,—
1. The present ratio of teachers to scholars in the elementary day schools under inspection, and the state of instruction in such schools, as shown by the result of the examinations under Article 48 of the Code, and by the reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors; also,- 2. The present supply of candidates qualified for admission into the Normal Schools for training masters,—Resolved,
L To provide in the estimate for public education in England and Wales, during the financial year March 31, 1867-8, for an additional grant of Is. 441. per pass in reading, writing, or arithmetic, up to a sum not exceeding £8 for any one school (department) upon the following conditions beyond those now specified in the Articles 38-633 of the Code, viz. :—
(a.) The number of teachers must have allowed, throughout the past year (Article 17), at least one eertifioated or one assistant towbar,
fulfilling respectively the conditions of Articles 67 and 91-3 for every 80 scholars, or one pupil-teacher fulfilling the conditions or Articles 81-9 for every 40 scholars, after the first 25 of the aver-- age number of scholars in attendance.
The number of passes in reading, writing, and arithmetic must- 1. exceed 200 per cont, of the annual average number of scholars in attendance who are over six years of ago. In schools where the calculation of average attendance is made indiscriminately upon scholars above and scholars under six years of age, the school registers of age are to determine in what ratio the average number in attendance is to be divided.
2. fall under Standards IV.—VI. to the extent of at least ono- fifth part of the whole number of passes. The time tables of the school, in use throughout the past year (Article 17), must have provided for one or more specific subjects of secular Instruction beyond Article 48. The Inspector must name the specific subject or subjects in his Report, and must state that at least one-fifth part of the average number of scholars over six years of age have passed a satisfactory examination therein.
IL To exempt, for one year, from the operation of Article 46, children who have already passed in Standard VI., provided they pass a satis- factory examination in the subjects professed in their school beyond Article 48 conformably to section (c) in paragraph I. of this Minute.
ra To provide in the same estimate for certain new grants to ele- mentary schools wherein it should appear from the Inspector's last Report that the number of teachers throughout the year (Article 17) • had been sufficient to satisfy section (a) in paragraph L of this Minute ; such grants to be at the rate of 101. for every male pupil-teacher ad- mitted (Articles 105-110) from the said elementary schools into any Normal school under inspection from candidates placed by examination in the first class, and 5/. for every male pupil-teacher so admitted from candidates in the second class.
IV. To offer certain further new grants to the same elementary schools for every male pupil-teacher who, having been admitted from them into a Normal school under inspection at the examination (Article 103) held in December, 1867, or at any later examination, should at the end of his first year's residence be placed in the first or second division (Articles 119, 121, 1023); such grants to be at the rate of 81. for every student placed in the first division, and Si. for every student placed in the second division. No grants of this kind can become payable before December, 1860, and therefore, although offered now, they have no place in the estimate. for the financial year March, 1867-8.
V. To pay, in the financial year 31st March, 1867-8, only so many twelfth parts of the additional grants offered by this Minute as, in the case of grants under paragragh I., equal the number of months from 1 April to the end of the school year (Article 17), and, in the case of grants under paragraph ILI., equal the number (nine) of months from • 1st April to 31st December (Article 81, f, 2).
The first object proposed by theoMinute, viz., that of ex- tending the operation of the annual grants of the Committee -
of Council on Education to small schools not at present aided,. will probably be acknowledged -to be the most important of: the three. The two latter objects only concern the details of.. education, the mode in which it shall be handled ; this first concerns the very existence of any education worthy of the name. But it is not too much to say that the Minute will probably fail altogether in inducing any number of the schools in small isolated parishes to come in under the Government system. Those educational outlaws will remain pretty much. as they are, outside the pale of recognition, unless something can be devised much more applicable to their case than Mr. Corry's Minute. No schools not likely before to have come under the Privy Council will be rendered more likely to do so now. It is true that small schools are offered more money under this Minute than they previously were, but the offer is burdened with such conditions that it may be more than questioned whether most such schools (say, for example, schools in Devonian, Cumbrian, or East Anglian parishes of less than 800 population) will not decline to avail themselves of it, and prefer to remain under the previous re'giine, with a less expensive staff, and minus the chance of a grant on a. Seventh Standard. As for the schools in parishes under 600,. which form the bulk of the nonconformists to the Downing Street system, the Minute is a dead letter for them. Their main difficulty does not lie in an inability to pay a sufficiently large staff to satisfy the inspector's requirements, but is much more radical and fundamental than this. It consists in the inability to raise enough local and voluntary effort even to start a school with adequate buildings, or to pay the ordinary current expenses of maintenance, or to guarantee two-thirds of a trained teacher's salary. The difficulty is one which in- fallibly results from conducting education on the voluntary system, viz., that in some localities there are no volunteers. Where the landlords are non-resident, indifferent, or antago- nistic, and where the parson is single-handed, and has not perhaps even an occasional and errant Dissenting preacher to stir him up, like a gad-fly, at certain seasons to superhuman exertions, voluntary effort must be ineffectual. The truth is, Mr. Corry has quite failed to realize what is the real want of the country in this respect, and Mr. Lowe's cynicism has hit
the right nail on the head. What is wanted is, if the present system must continue, to supplement it by some scheme for local rating in places where voluntary effort is inadequate.
The second object of the Minute is to obtain more attention in elementary schools to some one subject besides reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most small schools, as has been already said, will probably not take any notice of the Minute ; but, unless by some "instructions to the Inspectors" or some "supplementary rules," it be made incumbent on them to be inspected under the new minute, will prefer being examined under the old. But let us suppose that the minute be generally accepted. Even with this concession it will appear that Mr. Corry has acted unadvisedly. We quite agree with him that by creating a Seventh Standard he will probably induce more children to be presented in the fifth and sixth ; may we go farther, and maintain that in any system of education it is essential to have a high, and indeed an unattainable standard placed before teachers and scholars, because otherwise they will not strain every nerve ? The only way to cause men or children to strain every nerve is to place before them an ideal. Hence, we think, as we have always thought, that the addition of a seventh, and even an eighth standard to the existing standards of examination would be a great improvement. But we cannot think that the choice of the subject-matter of this seventh standard has been wisely made. As far as we understand the minute (which may yet be considerably modi- fied by the instructions to be issued by the Department, more silo, to the Inspectors), the additional examination originated by the minute consists in a re-examination in the present sixth standard (i.e., in reading difficult printed matter, writing the same from dictation, and working sums in practice and bills of parcels), plus an examination in some one other subject. In most schools this will probably be geography, as that is one which gives the greatest amount of show with the least amount of trouble. Now, is Mr. Corry right in thinking that this is the tinkering which the scholastic pot requires? He quotes the opinion of the "most intelligent of the Inspectors." Who told him who were the most intel- ligent of these officers How does he know ? Has he had a hint from some Tory ex-Lord-President on the subject or has he during his very brief term of office studied the voluminous reports of the officers for some years, in order to find out which of them were the most reliable in the matter of intelligence ? or was this also suggested by the little boy? It is a great mystery ; and it is with much diffidence that the Spectator ventures to differ from the authority of even the "most intelligent" of the Inspectors. But we hold that what is wanted in the way of raising the standard of our elementary education is a further development of the present subjects of examination, which really at present stop short of that point at which any firm grasp can be obtained of rudimentary prin- ciples such as shall secure to the scholar the retention of what he has learnt in his memory. Take, for example, the all- important subject of arithmetic (a study which Tories do not encourage in the poor, and which does not tend to breed Con- servative habits of mind). We hold that the Education Department is wholly wrong in the order in which it requires arithmetic to be taught. The system of teaching the weights and measures, practice, and bills of parcels, before any know- ledge of fractions be conveyed to the scholar is unquestionably wrong, and this order has been abandoned by the best modern text-books. As regards the theory and principles of the science, it is certain that no tolerable grasp of elementary arithmetic can be secured until something has been learnt of fractions, while the practical inconvenience of this antiquated practice appears in the long, roundabout method in which children work, in their utter confusion regarding remainders, and in their positive disability to handle calculations, such as those in long and square measure, where fractions occur. It may be urged that, children leaving school very young, it is essential to give them a knowledge of common weights and measures, and of the form of a shop bill. But at any rate, when making a seventh standard, Mr. Corry might have thought of this. The truth is, probably,—" Take care of the higher arithmetic and composition, and the geography will take care of itself." It is a subject which children like, and if it has dropped out of use, which we rather doubt, and which we know not to be the case in some districts, it is the fault of the Inspectors, because they are too lazy or too hostile to the new Code to demand it. Where the inspector demands it, and will take the trouble to examine in it, it is sure to be taught. Or, if difficulty still remains, he has powers enough under the Revised Code to compel attention to the subject, as
much as to compel a proper supply of materials or good discipline.
Having found so much fault with Mr. Cony's Seventh Standard, it would perhaps be only fair that we should suggest a better one. The following would probably be much more efficient, and would certainly meet with more favour from experienced teachers :— Reading—Manuscript, written in a clerk-like hand.
Writing—The substance of a short narrative slowly read through twice.
Arithmetic—Vulgar and decimal fractions.
It is notorious that _many boys can read a book fairly, who, when they go into offices are completely puzzled by a letter. There would be-no difficulty in providing the Inspectors with official letters written in a clerk-like hand, such as would be perfectly fair for examination, and might be kept private. It is also notorious that many boys can write fairly to dictation, but cannot compose a sentence. The exercise proposed is the legitimate development and proof of a good course of training in dictation. Respecting arithmetic we have already spoken. And we think there can be no doubt that a seventh standard like, or somewhat like, the above would produce a real educational progress, and be less liable to abuse and humbug than that devised by Mr. Corry.
A very few words on the third object proposed by the new Minute. Mr. Lowe attacked it as a violation of the laws of political economy. To this charge Mr. Corry thought it quite sufficient to reply, "I do not care what the principles of poli- tical economy may be. I do not care whether I violated the rules of political economy or not ; my object was to increase the number of pupil-teachers." Well, as Mr. Corry "doesn't care," we suppose it is of no use to beg him to consider any suggestion which is based upon political economy. But as the readers of the Spectator no doubt are of a different persuasion from the Tory Minister, and do care for the laws of political economy as well as for the pupil-teachers, we may just call their attention to the fact that this is an attempt to increase the supply of male (not of female) teachers, by paying small grants to schools which produce them in an embryo condition. If Mr. Corry thinks, in the present state of this country, to in- duce men to enter or stick to the teacher's profession by such contrivances as this, he is greatly mistaken. There is no talk of stimulating the supply of female teachers by such a cordial ; and why Because the laws of the market already encourage them, and their numbere have consequently suffered no diminution under the Revised Code. So long as. the pro- fession of a teacher has no prizes in the background,; so long as his social position is so inferior ; so long as the prospects of other trades or businesses are so superior, men.of ability cannot be peddled into teaching. It may indeed be a grave question whether we must not abandon the prejudice that men ought to do all the principal work of teaching, and leave a great part, as the Americans do, to be the function and sphere of women. This is one of the social problems of the day. But if we must have men as teachers, far other means must be taken to secure them than the setting of a pupil-teacher trap.