[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR:]
SIR,—Your " Liberal " correspondent complains that the clergy- man of the parish, or some small knot of self-elected gentlemen, get up schools and obtain all the advantages which the law gives to elementary education, and so dictate to a whole parish the character of the education to be given to the children ; and he asks, is this system any way defensible ? I say it is. Who are the clergymen, and the two or three, or less, self-elected gentlemen who get up schools in our parishes ? Why, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred they are the only people who have the slightest wish that the people should be educated at all ; certainly they are the only people who would stir or take any trouble to get up schools.
Of course "A Liberal "has a right to his own opinions ; he may hold that the teaching of the clergy is properly characterised as "the grossest puerilities of ecclesiastical superstition." But it may be a question who are the right-minded men, and it also may be a question whether a School Board, excluding the clergy- man and the small knot of gentlemen willing and anxious to get up schools, is the best judge of the sort of education it is expedient to give the people.
A man who, I should say, is singularly free from ecclesiastical prejudices, makes this remarkable statement :—" A general view of the theological system, above all, in its most perfect catholic form, has convinced us that, contrary to the common opinion, the clergy are really superior to the reli- gion they teach, and that modern science presents a picture com- pletely the reverse, for here the doctors are, generally speaking, very inferior to the doctrine" (" Philosophie Positive," by A. Comte, c. 28, vol. 6, p. 454, edition 1842). Of course, many of the clergy are not men of high scientific cultivation, but there are among them individuals fully alive to all the difficulties of theology, perfectly well acquainted with the most advanced results of modern science.
It may be safely asserted that in most of our country parishes the clergyman is the most liberal and enlightened person in the neighbourhood, the most willing that all his parishioners should have the benefit of a sound education, and the most fitting person to have the management of the schools.—I am, Sir, &c.,
P. 'I'. OUVRY, Vicar of Wing, near Leighton-Buzzard.