LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
THE EDUCATION COMPROMISE.
• [To THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTATOR.'J
Sre,-01(1-standing ties of friendship and obligation towards the conductors, past and present, of the Spectator make me specially anxious that at this supreme crisis in the history of the education question in England the policy of the great body of Churchmen with and on behalf of whom it is my honour to act, if it must still be disapproved, should at least not be misrepresented in your widely read and justly influential columns.
In your leading article of last week you single out Lord Halifax's letter as illustrative of the temper of a number of "violent and injudicious men who endeavour to monopolise the name of Churchmen." I can safely assure you that throughout the controversy on the education question which has been waged with little intermission since the General Election of 1906, Lord Halifax on the one side and the Dean of Canterbury on the other have repeatedly given expression, very often on the same platform, to the prevailing sentiment and opinion of the great mass of those Churchmen, of whatever school of thought, who take an active interest in the work of elementary education; and they do so now. The views they have put forward are in essence identical with those which have been repeatedly expressed, and reiterated within the last few days, on the part of the Standing Committee of the National Society. That body, of which the Dean of Canter- bury is an honoured member, is, and always has been, in living and active connexion with what you justly describe as "the great network of Voluntary schools" which is now the Church's, and the sacrifice of which, as you frankly acknow- ledge, "may justly be called tremendous." But you think it a sacrifice which ought to be made on the terms which have been shadowed forth, though not yet by any means stated definitely, in the Press ; and of those who think otherwise you say :—" They, it is clear, would rather domineer in rural parishes and single-school districts than secure permanently the teaching of simple fundamental Christianity throughout the land."
Sir, it is not the desire to domineer anywhere which inspires those Churchmen who are in opposition to the settlement which is understood to be under consideration. What inspires them is the conviction—which, of course, you are entitled to think erroneous, but, I respectfully submit, not entitled to associate with unworthy motives—that the best development of Christian character is only to be secured by the training of children as Members of whatever Christian body their parents belong to, and that such training cannot be safely based on the founda- tion of undenominational teaching given by teachers of any belief or none.
Churchmen who hold this view would readily assent to the provision of religious teaching of the kind or kinds desired by Nonconformist 'parents in Church schools in single-school areas. Justice requires such provision. But, quite equally, justice requires that provision should be made for Church and other denominational teaching, in accordance with the faith of the parents of the children, in Provided schools wherever there are not denominational schools accessible in which the form or forms of religious teaching desired can be obtained. Plainly the policy of reciprocal concession thus outlined is the negation of "domineering" anywhere. If your space
would allow, I could easily prove that this policy is not only just, but perfectly practicable. The principle of the parent's right in respect of the religions education of his children is extensively in operation in the educational system of Prussia ; coming nearer home, in those of Scotland and Ireland; and nearest home of all, in our own reformatory, industrial, truant, and Poor Law schools, and on behalf of blind, deaf, and epileptic children. I claim, therefore, for the great body Of Churchmen who are opposed to the compromise now under discussion that at any rate they put forward a positive, a just, and a practical policy as an alternative.
You say, however, that by making the "tremendous" sacrifice of their country schools Churchmen would "secure permanently the teaching of simple fundamental Christianity throughout the land." That, I venture to say, is a vast assumption altogether incapable of proof. The teaching of simple funda- mental Christianity throughout the land can never be secured otherwise than by the employment for the instruction of all the children in all elementary schools of teachers who at least believe in those simple fundamental truths. There is no reason whatever to suppose that this condition forms a feature of the negotiations for a settlement now in progress. To give effect to this condition would involve a not less consider- able departure from the principle of "no tests for teachers," on which the Government have repeatedly insisted, than would be involved in a really sound system, under which the local authority would be required to see to it that all children received religions instruction in accordance with the faith of their parents.
The facilities for denominational teaching understood to be obtainable in the Provided schools could not possibly secure what we hold to be the indefeasible right of the parent. The spiritual welfare of a multitude of children would depend upon a variety of chances,—the chance that, if they were allowed to give denominational teaching, there were enough teachers on the staff in any particular school ready to give such teaching; the chance that, if not so provided for, there could be found for such children a sufficient local supply of competent outside teachers, and sufficient means to pay them. The difficulty of meeting the need would be greatest, and would prove of overwhelming magnitude, just where the need was greatest,—in poor and densely populated districts, mainly or entirely served by Council schools.
Disagree with us, then, Sir, if you must, though I earnestly hope it may be otherwise, and that you may yet recognise the justice of our case. But, at any rate, do not censure us for refusing to make a vast surrender in return for a guarantee which in our hearts and consciences we believe to be of a fatally speculative quality.—I am, Sir, Sm.,
National Society's Office, 19 Great Peter Street, Westminster, S.W.
[Assuredly we shall never censure any man or body of men for obeying their consciences, and we gladly acknowledge that Mr. Baines and those who agree with him are acting as con- scientiously as their opponents. But this acknowledgment must not blind us to the deep injury which is being done to the national Church by Lord Halifax and his friends. They view the Church as a sect and not as the nation in religion, and care more for maintaining what they believe to be the doctrinal interests of that sect than for maintaining the Church's prerogative right to speak and act as the trustee of the religious interests of the whole English people.—En. Spectator.]