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III. The tone of the existing system is unhealthy. It supplies incentives to corruption and induces pauperism. It is eleemosynary in spirit. It is a paternal government of the most offensive description which is coddling where it is not oppressive. It is patronising towards the poor, and offers them education as a favour and privilege for which they must appeal, and not as a right. It is a charity system, and the schools are widely regarded as charity schools. The partial remission and payment of fees is demoralising, and has a tendency to corrupt both parents and children. There is no difference in principle between remission and payment. The qualification of the candidates is the same in both cases. They must come cap in hand and prove their poverty. They must expose their empty cupboards, and submit to cross-examination by sleek gentlemen about their struggles and wants. They must repeat this at short intervals, and thus accustom themselves to make appeals for public relief. Remission is generally made tolerably easy, but it is very questionable whether, in point of public policy, and quite apart from the desirability of getting the children into school, it is wise that it should be so. Dr. R. W. Dale, when he was on the Birmingham School Board, said that he had sat on the Appeal Committee, and that the whole system was essentially pauperising. "He thought that a woman who had shrunk from appearing before a relieving officer, after she had been before the Appeal Committee, would be far more likely to go to the parish on the first pinch of poverty in order to get assistance." That the parents recognise the degradation is evident from the struggles they make to escape from it. It is frequently necessary for the teachers to write notes for them stating that they wish for free orders, but this often fails to induce them to apply. Their repugnance is in the highest degree honourable to them, and ought to be encouraged. The objection to go before the guardians is more insurmountable, and many parents prefer to suffer partial starvation. There is often a double investigation, first by the school board and then by the guardians. The earliest is preparatory. The poor are invited to familiarise themselves, by gradual steps, with the shifts and expedients of pauperism. And although the first plunge is difficult, rapid progress is soon made. Example is contagious; it is hard to see children suffer; the attendance officer is behind; and so in various ways, and by degrees, the spirit of independence is broken, and the victims are partly drawn, and partly driven into a situation from which they may easily drift into the permanent ranks of pauperism. The contagion passes from parents to children, and the seeds of life-long subjection and dependence are sown in many families. Experience has also demonstrated that the making of free orders is a great temptation to fraud and misrepresentation of circumstances. This danger is the greatest in
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the case of school boards, the members of which have not the relieving officer's instinct, practice, and acuteness in probing the private affairs of the poor. The custom of allowing the parents to get into debt, and then of wiping off their arrears, is also demoralising. The dunning of the children, the visits of the attendance officer, the summons before the magistrates, all harden a large proportion of the people against the school system, and make them regard education not as something to be pursued and embraced, but as a nuisance and infliction to be repelled and evaded in every way. All this want of sympathy and co-operation, which gives the teacher such an up-hill fight, would be remedied if the parents had full proprietary rights in the schools, if they were open without badge or ticket, and if they were in a larger degree under their own control and the management of their own class. Then the time would soon come when the schools would be regarded not as charitable institutions, with their absurd and mischievous distinctions between tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers, but as the people's schools, in which the whole community would join, on equal terms, in the pursuit of a great national object.
IV. The problem for solution, so far as it is financial, is not a formidable one. The school fees last year amounted to £1,585,928. This sum represents a general poor-rate of threepence, or an incometax of a little over a penny. The source from which it would have to be derived is a question for Government; but if it were divided between the local rates and the national revenue in the proportion of one-third to the former and two-thirds to the latter the proposition could not be described as an alarming one. But, unfortunately, the matter is not so simple as this. It is complicated by sectarian jealousies and political antipathies more vehement, perhaps, than surround any other public question, except that of Church disestablishment. We are brought face to face again with the old difficulty, which has been greatly intensified by the shortsighted policy of 1870. The denominational schools, entrenched behind their new subsidies, continue to be what they have always been in the past-the greatest obstruction to efficient national education. Two-thirds of the total amount of the fees are now paid to these schools. If in the process of freeing education this money has to be secured to their managers out of public funds, the policy of endowing these private and sectarian institutions may have to be rediscussed. grounds it would be deplorable that their position should be strengthened. There are strong educational reasons against such a We shall never get full value for our outlay until all schools are under public management. It is, moreover, opposed to all sound principles that large grants of public money, partly raised out of local taxation, should be made to institutions avowedly conducted for denominational purposes, and over which the ratepayers have no
control whatever. But we have to ask ourselves the serious question what alternatives there are, and how can free schools be made presently practical. There are but three ways open: (1.) To transfer all the primary education of the country to school boards, making the schools free. (2.) To abolish fees in the board schools only. (3.) To provide for the abolition of fees in all classes of schools under their existing management. The first course would involve a struggle which might last for many years, during which all the waste and injustice which has been faintly described in this paper would continue unchecked. In fact, the forcible transfer of the voluntary schools is not to be looked for until the Radical party is able to make its own terms. The second proposal could not be defended as a permanent arrangement. It would get rid of only one half the trouble, and its partiality and unfairness to the people would be apparent. It might be supported as a first step, with the avowed object of stimulating the transfer of the voluntary schools or of hastening their extinction, but in that case it would be resisted with quite as much energy as the former proposition.
It remains, therefore, to consider whether there is any way by which the objections of the voluntary managers to the abolition of fees might be removed, and which might be acquiesced in by Liberals as a tentative arrangement. I do not suppose the former would be wholly irreconcilable. They have never shown hostility to free schools on any strong grounds of principle. Their jealousy has been aroused by the evident financial trouble in which they might be involved. They have been perfectly willing at all times to receive school fees charged upon public funds. It was invariably at their instance that the 25th clause was put in operation. We should probably hear no more of the copy-book maxim, "That people do not value that which they do not pay for," which, by the way, is wholly inapplicable to free education, if the voluntary managers were well assured that they would not suffer a pecuniary penalty by the abolition of fees. It is reduced, therefore, to a question whether, for the sake of education, in the interests of the people.and children of England, and in order to remove an intolerable hardship and grievance, the Nonconformists would consent to such a readjustment of financial burdens as would allow the voluntary managers to carry on their schools without the exaction of school fees. No new principle would be involved. Already the denominational schools are receiving more and more public money every year. The Act of 1870 increase their grants by 50 per cent., and although a strong protest was then made against the new subsidy, it has never been renewed. When Lord Sandon succeeded at the Education Department. he took up Mr. Forster's pernicious policy, and put the schools in such a relation to the Exchequer that if they were well conducted they became
practically independent of subscriptions. The 25th clause was repealed to appease Nonconformists, but much larger payments of the same character and out of the same funds have been made under Lord Sandon's Act. It must also be considered that the fees now paid by parents are not actually in the nature of voluntary contributions. They are in reality as much a compulsory tax as any tax or rate which might be substituted for them. In the majority of cases there is no choice of school, attendance is compulsory, and payment is compulsory. It may be replied that because an evil is already flagrant that is no argument for prolonging or increasing it. But would such a change as has been suggested aggravate the present injustice or necessarily perpetuate the denominational system? Under any rearrangement that is likely to be made the supporters of the denominational schools would have to pay more than they do at present, since in addition to their subscriptions they would have to share the fees. Undoubtedly the abolition of fees would relieve them to a certain extent against the rivalry of board schools, but it is questionable whether it would permanently add to their security of tenure. They are doomed to extinction, painless or otherwise, sooner or later. Although it is impossible not to recognise their power as obstructives, the strong hold which they are said to have on the country, and which is eloquently set forth in the reports of the Committee of Council, may reasonably be doubted. The extent of the support they receive may be accurately measured. On the average they have less than twenty subscribers to a parish. The donations, too, are often given, not because of any attachment to the voluntary schools, but because a trifling contribution is supposed to save a larger rate. Moreover, both the number of subscribers and the amount of subscriptions are beginning to diminish, which shows that their grasp upon the country is, to say the least, not tightening. The board schools are becoming more popular. If all the schools were thrown open they would still have larger resources, and be able to provide better schools and a better education, which is the great attraction for the parents. The school boards will be obliged to follow the population and to provide the class of schools which the people demand. But it must be admitted that, under any conditions, the voluntary schools cannot be converted into free schools at the public cost without some sacrifice of cherished principles. It is for Liberals and Nonconformists to say whether the call is too heavy for them. If it is, they should feel bound in consistency to make some effort to get the real obstruction, the denominational system, removed. They can have no right to acquiesce in arrangements which are opposed to their convictions, and which prevent a great and urgent educational reform.
SOCIAL REFORMS FOR THE LONDON POOR.
I. THE NEED OF RECREATION.
By pleasure I mean recreation, and recreation is a new life. Pleasure, in the sense it is now generally admitted, needs legislating for and organising at least as much as work. A church, a school, and a reading-room do not supply all the needs of a human heart and brain. Worship is good, learning is good, and books are good; but pleasure must not be omitted from the category. The poor have little enough of this. The secret of pleasure seems to have been lost in the din of crowded cities and under the grey canopy of our cloudy skies. The people have forgotten the habit of enjoyment. The long-continued habit of endurance unfits them for pleasure. As an instance of this we may take the experience of a lady who, thinking to please some of the poorest children in the London slums, invited them to a dinner of roast beef and pudding. A few of the children, after gazing earnestly at the food on their plates, laid down their knives and forks. "What is it?" she said, somewhat disappointed at what she thought their perversity. "Don't you like roast beef?" "Oh, yes, ma'am, only we never have anything but bread for our dinner, and we can't eat it!" Endurance had deprived these little ones of the power of enjoyment.
Some people may say, Surely the working classes can have as much pleasure as they want. Of what kind? They can certainly make an excursion on a bank holiday to the seaside or to the country, packed closely, as in so many human cattle-pens, many of them half-drunk, returning weary, dazed, and unrefreshed, to drink away the results of the holiday on the morrow. They can certainly visit picture-galleries and museums, but not at the times when they could avail themselves of the opportunity, as in the evening or on Sunday. There are the theatres, but those to which the poor resort as cheap and convenient are not of a calibre likely to elevate or refine; there are the public-houses, the music-halls, or penny gaffs, and the streets. The parks, being ill-lighted and unfrequented in the evenings, are naturally given over to the roughs, who make it impossible for a respectable woman to walk through them. There are also reading-rooms and clubs, or coffee-houses, but these are on far too limited a scale for the average population, and are as a rule inaccessible to women and children. The playgrounds and bits of open space in the shape of gardens are few and far between, so that noisy children or mothers with babies are turned loose as a last resource among the statues and works of art in the British Museum, to dirty and deface the galleries, and leave trophies of their presence