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CARDIFF IMPARTIAL SOCIETY.…

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CARDIFF IMPARTIAL SOCIETY. THE REV. C. J. THOMPSON ON FREE| EDUCATION. On Kondisy evening, at the Lecture Theatre Working-street, Cardiff, the Rev. C. J. Thompson, vicar of St. John's, gave a lecture on the subject of Free Education, following an address given the previous week by Mr. A. J. Williams, M.P., on the same subject. The chair was occupied by Mr. J. Pyke Thompson, and there was a numerous attendance. In opening the proceedings, the CHAIRMAN said it had been suggested that something of the nature of a library should be formed in connection with the society. Probably this would be done in time, but, meanwhile, a list of books relating to the sub- jects under discussion would from time to time be placed upon the notice boards. MR. THO!llPSOl"S ADD*EiS. The K&v. C. J. THOMPSON then addressed the ( meeting. He said:—In order to arrive at a sound conclusion upon any debatable subject, it is essential to keep it free of all side issues. For in- stance, discussion as to differing systems cr standards of education as to what is or is not an ideal schoo!; as to the school as a social nursery for a democratic community, and the like, is quite irrelevant to the question before us, which is whether Free Education would or wouid not be a greater benefit to the country than the system of education for payment which prevails at present. I We have to apply and confine our thoughts to I existing schools and to an existing condition of things. It is not a question of framing a new scheme of educational provision, but of revolu- tionising an old and established one. WHAT IS "FBEE EDUCATION*" ? But» first, let us be quite sure of our terms. What is meant by Free Education ? Is it educa- tion which, while exacting no tuitional fees, lays no additional burden upon the community, nor any section of it ? If it be this, so far as I am con- cerned controversy drops. I am prepared to give it trial. If it be not this, Free Education is a misnomer—it is a term misleading and in-exact. This is not what tHe advocates of the question mean, though it is clear that nothing short of this absolute immunity from burden on the part of every individual can satisfy the term. What, then, do its advocates mean by "Free Education." This only—The abolition of school fees in all public Elementary Schools. A legislative measure would probably deal only with Board Schools by I direct provision, but indirectly, and in the ultimate event, it would affect all Voluntary Schools as well. If the rule of free admission into Board Schools 1 were universally prevalent it would only be i question of time as to when the Voluntary Schools 'I would be compelled to comply with the same con- dition, so that we may fairly say that the cry for Free Education means the abolition of school fees in all the public Elementary Schools. My business to-night is to treat the subject from a different point of view to that of the abie lecturer (Mr. A. J. Williams, M.P.) of Monday last; or I may state it in this way, it is to see whether I can arrive at conclusions similar to his, and, if no^ then to I advance reasons why not. From what I have already said, you will understand that the question we are both dealing with is not properly Free Education, but the abolition of school fees. A GOOD OR AN EVIL ? Mr. Williams and those who agree with him, e.g., j Mr. Chamberlain and a large section of the advanced Liberal party, desire to efiect the aboli- tion, and, so far, to secure free schools. I am not convinced of the advantages that would result from this step, but think that the evil would j greatly outweigh the good, and, therefore, am opposed to the abolition of school fees under present conditions." I say under present con- j ditions," because the question is one very largely of expediency, and there is not, nor can b?, any finality in the social or political ordering cf affairs. COST OF ABOLISHING FEEb. 1. I ask you to consider the cost involved in freeing the Elmentary Schools from payment cf fees. That cost is of two kinds :-11 Certain, (2) probable. (1> As to the certain cost. The | total amount of school pence contributed annually as school fees is over £1.700,000; and Mr. Childers j (late Chancellor of the Exchequer) estimates that the discontinuance of this payment would mean a contribution from the Exchequer of £2,000,000. This £2.000,000, now obtained easily and willingly from one source, would have to ba obtained from > another, the Exchequer—i.e., would have to bs supplied by taxation. Some view this prospect with equanimity. Mr. Childers, on tha contrary, j sees a possibility, if this project be carried out, of our educational fiuance breaking down alto- gother." (2) The total amount of voluntary sub- scriptions for toa year ending August 31,135a, was £755,936. HOW VOLUNTARY SCHOOLS WOULD BE AFFECTED. But what has a measure for freeing schools from fees to do with subscriptions towards their support ? someone may ask, This-the need for j subscriptions will be greater than ever; but how long are they likely to bs given ? The subscriber J wil.' be more heavily rated than before for the j Board Schoolhe will be additionally taxed far the Voluntary School, and the effect must be that this source of income will universally enmesh, and perhaps fail altogether. Titus, to the £2,000,000 to be supplied in lieu of pence must be added the more than three-o.uarteis of a million pounds derivable from voluntary sources, making a sum of £2,756,000 to be ccrtairdy obtained from in. creased The parliamentary Education J Grant fay 13S4 was £ £ ,722,000. it shows a tendency to increase* every year. But, eup-1 posing it to remain stationary, to ask Parliament j for a grant of at least £5,478,OvO, in addition to more than £1,100,000 of rales locally levied, would b9 a bold demand on th8 part of any statesmen, to say the least of it. And I ask to-night, simply on the ground of its certain demonstrable cost, is it worth while to make the experiment Is it not better to leave well alone ? j SO FINALITY OF COST. But there is the probable cost in addition to that which is certain. At pressnt there are 3,420,616 school pl»ces in Voluntary Schools, and 1,640,887 in Board Schools—1> the former provide more than two-thirds of the whole school accom- moda.tion of England and Wales, the Board Schools less than one-third. The average attendance shows a corresponding result, though the propor- tionate advantage here is slightly in favour of the Board Schools. That it should be so is not remark- able if we remember that the country districts are almost wholly supplied by Voluntary Schools. Suppose these Voluntary Schools closed because of failure of revenue to carry them on, the School Boards would have to supply the accommodation that would be lacking, i.e., an additional number of new schools would have to be built equal in capacity to those withdrawn from school usef. The value of the Voluntary Schools of England and Wales is set down as £ 30.000,000. Tii^ School Boards have already piled up a debt of £15,000,000. In the event anticipated that debt would bwell up into one of some £45,OCO,Oao. It is, of course, possible that soma of the existing Voluntary Schools would be transferred to the boards, but it is absolutely certain that a. very .much larger number would not. The State has no claim upon them whatever. THE BCTLDIKG GRAFTS OF 1S70. What, say you, about the building grants made in 1870? (1) They were, relatively speaking, i very small. (2) They were of the nature of con- tributions by an interested party, and stand on the same footing as all other contributions. As to the smallness of the sums contributed by Govern- ment, these are the facts—I quote from the Blue Book of 1884-5:—" In the twelve years ending December 31, 1882, building grants to the amount I of £ 312,200 have been paid to meet local contri- butions to the amount of £ 1,348.169." In addi- tion to this 4,727 Voluntary Schools, the great majority of which have been erected, &c., without j Government aid, at a cost to the promoters of at least £5,000,000, have come under inspection since 1870. This refers only to the work of voluntary educational zeal for a period of twelve recent years, and I mention it mainly to show how absolutely erroneous it is to speak of tho school property now vested in the persons of trustees as in any soose the property of the State. I think there can be little doubt but that the cost of abolishing school fees would m. an additional national burden of taxation in the form of Parlia- mentary grant and local rate of at least 7-i millions I of pounds a year. In this sum I include the interest upon loans raised for building purposes, but not the re-payment of principal. A STRONG MORAL OBJECTION. I ask you to consider aa objection resting upon j moral grounds:—1.1 eafinot admit that a parent is less under an ebligation to provide education for his children than to provide food, clothing, and pro-j tectio.n. 1 am not going to repeat the pauperisa- tion argument, but I maintain this, t hat to remove the whole immediate cost of his children's school- ing from the family budget is to lessen his interest in their educational progress, and must be a serious invasion of the sphere of parental respon- sibility. Not only do we all value what we pay for more than what comes to us habitually for nothing, but, as the present chairman of the London School Board has well pointed out, it is good for the parent to pay. In some cases thj payment of school pence im- plies hardship, arid in many more it implies self- denial on the part of parents. But the very fabric of the family is built upon the foundations of denial and sacrifice. The bulwark of the English I realm is the English home, and no step can be re- garded as otherwise than serious which ten as, in however limited a degree, to lessen in English homes the sense of direct parental responsibility." HOW FKEE EDUCATION WOGLD AFFECT THRIFT. 2. Mr. Diggle also points out, in an admirable pamphlet, that this question of school fees has a direct bearing on the subject of thrift and tempe- rance. If parents are impressed with the idea. that they, rather than the community, are respon- sible for the education of their children, a power- ful motive to thrift and a restraint upon intempe- ranee are at once supplied. The late Professor Fawcctt went so far as to say, "I believe that the sacrifices involved in securing education for their < children have probably enabled more working men and working women to resist the temptations of intemperance than all the temperance societies joined together." EXPOSING A FALLACIOUS ARGUMENT. If a system works well. there may be reasons for trying to make it work better, there can be none for abolishing it. But does 1,he fee system work well ? Admirably. If a few people are unwilling to pay for what is money's worth is that an excep- tional state of things ? Is the butcher, the baker, the lawyer, the doctor, the landlord always paid? Do not large numbers of people plead inability to pay, and larger numbers still recaivo remission of ( debt? But no one yet has started the cry cf "free" bread and "free" meat, though we do seem to be nearing tiie'days of ,4,free" land. (Laughter.) The fact is that school fees present no hindrance whatever to school efficiency. I believe there is no item of family expenditure j which the average working man pays with more pleasure and willingness than his chifdrea'a school pence. Such, at least, is my experience. A CBCSKIXO ABGUilHNT. 00 this point I am abie to speak, not onlf from along ar.d exhaustive practical experienca of the Voluntary School system, but also from my more than ten years' experience ais a member of our Schoo! Board. I have for most, of these years been chairman of the Schoo! Attendance Com- mittee, one of whose speciai duties it is to receive applications from indigent parents, and to decide upon remission of the school fees. What is my experience ? This—The total amount of fees remitted for ten months to the 1st of the present month—a period of great trade depression—is £ 142 10s. 6d., or, to make it reprp. sent a year's account, if we add JE28 more. we shall have a total remission for the past year of JE170. Against that what is the amount of the fees paid by the children of oux Board Schools? e follow*: —For the vear ending September 29 last no less than jM.135 Os. 2d., to whLch must be added for books and other articles said to children a further sum of £203 13s. 8d. Thus, the income of our Cardiff Board Schools, from school pence alone, willingly and punctua'/y paid, amounts to £4.343 13s. 10J. From this it will be seen that the re- mitted payments, in 8, population largely composed of the labouring clasps, and during an exceptionally unprosperous time for wage-earners, amount to less than 4 per cent. of the sum paid in school fees. But I have something further to say. Those whe apply for remission are very largely the thriftless, the worthless, rmd the intemperate. HONEST LABOURING MEX PAT. Sometimes it is otherwise, and then almost íLo variably the parents ask to be helped over a time of difficulty, a.nd express their willingness and desire to pay. At a recent sitting of our com- mittee there were seven or eight intima- tions from poor parents that they wished once again to pay their children's fees themselves. One word more, since much stress is laid on tKs alleged objection. It is not the payment of a fee which prevents attendance at school; on the contrary, tlWJ children who pay attend the best, while those who have free schooling are the most irregular and unsatisfactory. What hurts school attendance is the selfishness of the parents, the weak- ness of parental control, and the value of the children's services at home. The giris are kept from school to nurse baby or attend to mother in her illness; both boys and girls to take father's dinner or go on remunerative errands; and in a community like ours there is the constant terop- tatioa to earn money by a bit of work. Whatever else the argument for abolition of school fees may be rested on, it cannot, with truth and reason, hp urged on the ground that they are a hindrance to tile emciencv of the schools. As to ";c teachers time being misspent in collecting the pence, it viU be time to considsr that plea when it is urged bj the teachers themseiver. INEVITABLE < i Then I object to this proposal on the ground t its almost inevitable consequences. What are they beyond what has been already stated? (1) The substitution of a statutory uniformity for the existing duality of our educational system. To some this may appear an advantage. 1 should r gard it as a result to be deeply deplored. rei- formity is as little fitted to educational as to religious institutions. Its tendency is to repress, to confine, to chili. It works, not by zeal c enthusiasm, but by rules. We have r_; this m::mer-T a school system co-extensive with the ration arc. capable of infinite expansion. That system res'? on two prime motives—one if religious zeal, the other civil fluty. It is well established: it has, on both sides, its traditions, it suits t'-2 genius of the English people. It links moderr ideas with the proved experiences of the past. It gives scops on the one hand for inaividuF.i enterprise and generosity, and compels cn the other hand the soiii^h to bscr their ui the burdens cf the Stata. B. A-; try to encourage a generous rivalry Ln.tweeu the two systems. Better far tc recognise that in our complex community each meets and satieties a need, and so foster and strengthen both. In my opinion, things being as they are, to take ar y step which would issue in the suppression cf one, and that far the larger side of the education^ system, would be a blunder of tun stamp which is worse than a crinid. Ei:UGIOUS TiACHINW. Eut (2) tha entis.ciionof Voluntary Schools noolJ mean the silencing of religious teaching as we understand and practise it now. Religious instruction would no longer form an integral part of the school syllabus. Eut a denominationai school has. as its impulse, religious belief. From that, as its inspiring source, the whole vast volun- tary fabric has arisen and it is because we regard no schem.' of education as complete and satis- factory from which the teaching of religious doctrine is excluded that we labour to maintain it in efficiency. Mr. Williams, last Monday even- ing, said much ou this point. I shaH say but little. He frankly told us that, as a Unitarian, he did not believe ia the necessity to salvation of any kind of fr.ith, and expressed his view of the wortiilessness of religious teach- ing as given in any school whatever. I dC:1't criticise this view: I only mention it tc eay that mine is very di Cerent. And I mention it for this reason. It is quite easy to understand that those who think thus should have no compunction whatever in working the destruction cf a system which is committed to what they consider a sub- let of tmproiitcble instruction and a daily misuse of valuaolc ti:ac. It is no less easy to understand to what a large extent tbev are bound to be out of sympathy with denominational schools. Before, therefore, we Can view with equanimity tbe secu- larisation of our schools, we must recant as error all our educational beliefs, and be ready to cancel the trust 0'-e0- (.r between 16,000 and 16,000 echooit- JOKEIGX UDCCATIOS. Eeiove closing I will allude Very briefly to what I thay call theforeisa argument. We ate poictad to Switzerland, to Germany, to America. If all the facts were before Us my impression is that "I should think twice before incorporating theic metiiods or school management into our own. From Switzerland, no argument can fairly be drawn as to average attendance, eeeing that in most districts the whole of '.he summer months are regarded as one long holiday, in the winter, when out-do# employment is scanty and imprac- ticable, the att6nua:.co at school is naturally good. The German system is that of the drill-sergeant- partakes of the iron rigidity and uniformity of th. German military method, and is utterly unsuited to our English character and habit. To America we may turn with more expectation of finding a condition of things more analogous to our own, and of receiving a satisfactory answer to our inquiry. What do; the States tell us of the condition; of education ? That, compared with our own, it ia deplorable in the extreme. EDUCATION IS AMKEICA, The Rev. T. C. D. Morse, of the London School Board,bas extracted from the report of the Commis- sioner of Education at Washington souie euggos live particulars. Here are the heads of them. g. takes tho twelve most influential and best educated States of the Union," and gives (1) tiie length of the school year, and ,2) the average attendance. Supposing the school year lasted fOL' a uniform period of 200 days. (1) There is & wide difference between the highest and lowest number oi days which make up the period of the school year. Tht longest school year is that of JCew .fersey— 192 daye the shortest that of New Hampshire— &627. Our school year consists of a uniform period of about 220 days. (2.) The attendance. supposing the school year to uniformly consist or 200 days, would be as follows :—The highest— Massachusetts—would show G5 ll per cent, i the lowest—Western Virginia—26 S3. I have only to add to this fact concerning the schoo! attendance nf the States, that there Elementary Education is entirely free. ENDOWMENT OF AlIKRICAN SCHOOLS. But this is not the whole of the case. Why is primary education free in America ? Because the Common Schools are endowed with land to the extent of one-eighteenth of tVie public domain, a territory amounting to 68.000,000 acres. This endowment prevents any great pressure upon the ratepayers. Tho difference between the two countries, therefore, in respect to this question is just this, that whereas in America the ratepayer is hardly taxed at all, in Bng'and the entire cost would have to be defrayed by an increased levy of taxes and rates. FICTION AND, MELODRAMA. My contention, thou, to sum UP. is briefly this (1) I contend, and U.mk I have shown, that as yet school foes are no barrier to educational efficiency. The pictures drawn for us last Monday evening of the distress, misery, and the iike caused by their exaction are pure lictions of a melo- dramatic type, a.nd may bs consigned to the limbo of phyect-out. imaginations. But (2) if Parliament should see ill. to abolish school fees, then I see two certain—and, to my thinking, most An injury to the sense of family and parental responsibility, and (b) a grievously-unequal incidence of taxation, from the fact that, Free Schools cannot be limited to those of the lowest grade; and two further results—I refrain from saying certain, but perilously probable —(a) the destruction of that splendid edifice oi educational enthusiasm and faith which repre- sents, perhaps, tile bestt the most unselfish side of our nineteenth century Christianity, and with it (fc) the secularisation of our schools. (Loud ap- plause.) In reply to some questions, the rev. gentlemar said he would have r;o objection to see the duty 4 of remitting fees placed with some such authority as the Scuool Board or other central b'dy. At the conclusion of the address a hearty vote of thanks was passed to th" Rev. C. J. Thompson on the motion of Mr. J. J. P. Burt, vice-president of the society, seconded by Mr. C. Thompson.

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