Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

No one

Dr. Moorhouse goes on to confound education with primary schoolteaching. The confusion is to me a most astonishing one. would call that a complete education under which children grew up without habits of personal cleanliness or courteous speech, or without being taught to love and honour their parents, or without learning self-denial or temperance, or physical purity. Yet no one of these matters is taught thoroughly, or except indirectly, at any ordinary day-school. The master who sees that his pupil's face and hands are clean is not expected to inquire how often the child is totally immersed. The boy who is not trained to be mannerly at home is more likely to learn it in the play-ground than in the class-room. As for the other matters I have hinted at, which of us at an English public school was ever taught in any special lesson to deny himself, or to be moderate in food, or to be chaste, or to love his parents or his fellow-creatures; yet the least of these cannot be called an unimportant matter. St. John, in a well-known passage, asserts that we cannot love God unless we love man. Looking back at Rugby, which I went to when it was still fresh from Arnold's influence, I cannot remember that we ever had a word of religious instruction except on Sundays. No doubt, we had prayers morning and evening, but even of these the evening prayer was delivered in boarding-houses which were supposed to take the place of our homes. Of such moral discipline as I have hinted at, there was none. Our teachers wisely assumed that we had come informed on these points from our homes, or left us to the instruction of Sunday sermons. Practically, I suppose we owed all our moral notions to home training and the tone of the school. This latter supplied us with a good and manly, but not, I think, a very complete ethical system. To work hard, to play hard, to return a blow, and to be staunch to a comrade, were its chief commandments. Even of these, the first was not indispensable.

Now, if it is true of morality, that it cannot be, and is not taught in an ordinary English public school at all more fully than may be done in a Victorian State school, what chance is there that religion can be effectually taught in our primary schools. Dr. Moorhouse says that “the only effective text-book of such instruction is the Bible.” This may be his opinion, and that of most Protestants, but I do not think it is shared by the Roman Catholic Church. No doubt, the Council of Trent decreed that the Bible was to be taught in schools, but it provided at the same time for the compilation of a dogmatic catechism as an antidote to the numerous catechisms by which the

Reformers had propagated their views. So far as I know, Catholicism is taught to the young in catechisms, in prayers, such as the Lord's Prayer and the Hail Mary, and in expositions of the Bible; but very little, if at all, out of the Bible as a text-book. This has also been to a great extent the method of the English Church and of the Scotch Kirk in past centuries. Church of England children were trained in the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer, supplemented, not so much by the Bible, as by the catechism; and successive generations of Scotchmen owed the back-bone of their religious training to the Shorter Catechism, which was their school manual, and which gave consistency and form to the Scripture reading combined with it. There can be no doubt that this catechetical teaching has been successful in the objects it aimed at. It so shaped the minds and directed the thoughts of the scholars that few who were thoroughly subjected to it have ever emancipated themselves from its influence. They have grown up unable to think outside the logical boundaries fixed for them by their first teachers on such questions as the infallibility of the Church or the mysteries of election and grace. Had it not been for those intervals of apathy in which catechetical teaching was almost abandoned in parts of the world, new opinions would have had little chance against the faiths of the 16th century. I cannot wonder that the Church of Rome, with its profound knowledge of human nature and secular experience of teaching, declines to abandon a method which has worked so well for it. Besides, what could it gain by giving it up ? Every educated Catholic is as well able to give the catechetical teaching his diocesan approves, as to read Scripture lessons aloud out of a school manual so compiled as to contain nothing distinctive.

With Protestants, the case is different. Our real divisions are even more numerous than are apparent; and the Church of England alone covers at least three broad sections of thought. With very rare exceptions, the courts of law have always decided in England in favour of liberty, and I think it would be difficult to prove that an Anglican is bound to believe any article of faith outside the Nicene creed. On the other hand, Protestant dissent, which rejects the Church catechism, is winning converts every day from the fold of the old establishment. I suppose no catechism could be constructed that should teach any three tenets of faith in such a way as to command the assent of the different Protestant Churches. No doubt, we all feel a certain sense of unity, derived from the old unity of the days when our fathers protested in common against

Catholicism. But I have puzzled myself in vain to find any common link that binds us beyond this of a vague historical sympathy. The old watchword of "justification by faith” is obsolete. Protestants have forgotten the very meaning in which it was used by Luther; and a great many do not hold it in any sense. Belief in the Bible as the rule of faith is disclaimed by High Churchmen in England, and by Broad Churchmen all the world over, from Tübingen to Oxford and Boston. As for tolerance or free thought, they are possible inductions from Protestantism, but are not necessary parts of it anywhere. In fact, Sweden and Norway are much on a level with Spain for tolerance; and the most Conservative theologians who happen to think freely on a single point are certain to pay the penalty of their one delinquency: witness the fates of Cocquerel, F. D. Maurice, and Robertson Smith.

Now I do not in the least know whether Dr. Moorhouse would agree with this view of Protestant variations; but I infer from his present attitude that he does. He seems to me to renounce the idea of teaching any common principles of religion, and to aim only at communicating its spirit and perfume. I assume him to say that even a sceptic who disbelieves in the miracles of Gideon may wish his children to be animated by the example of Gideon's faith; that the Sermon on the Mount is worth teaching even to those who are not allowed to hear that He who preached it is worshipped as more than man; and generally that if we can store the child's mind with precepts and examples, we may leave him to work round in other ways as he best can to a creed. There is a sense in which we may all agree with this. No one can doubt that the first founders of Christianity taught in this way, and all of us would wish our children to learn the facts on which Christians are agreed rather than the conclusions about which they differ. The one difficulty, insurmountable as it seems to me in a national system, is to find the teachers. No doubt, we may make it part of our contract with teachers that they shall agree to teach selections from the Bible ; and I have no doubt that they will perform that condition of their covenant with the State as honourably as any other. But what we cannot stipulate is that they shall be interested in or even believe what they teach. Many of our present staff are Catholics, who will be placed in a rather anomalous position if they are expected to teach religion to Protestant children out of a Bible which, in their opinion, is inaccurately translated. A few more, we may fairly assume, are

sceptical like a great many of their neighbours. But a larger proportion still are men and women, religious enough in the ordinary sense of the word, but with no special interest in religious matters. We are apt in our secular teaching to set some store by conviction. We should not send our sons to learn history from a man who thought history an old almanac, or to study political economy at the feet of a teacher whose conscientious convictions were opposed to the subdivision of labour. The mere fact that the recognised programme was from Hallam or Adam Smith, would not reassure us. Yet of the two, it would, perhaps, be wiser to trust the young pupil to an earnest sceptic competent to teach him out of the text of the Wealth of Nations, than to a man who had no wrong opinions, but who thought political economy a bore, and rattled over, or droned out, the lessons as tasks to be got through and put aside.

The importance of these considerations will, I think, appear greater still, if we look at the class of scholars whom the denominationalist particularly desires to attract. Our national school system has been forced upon us by the wants of the children most likely to escape teaching altogether. Four parents in five will find means of educating their children, whether the State provides schools or not; four in five will teach their children religion as only parents can teach it. The State has been constrained to interfere for the sake of the small minority of children, who would grow up wild if education were not costless or compulsory; and it is precisely for these children that the churches are so deeply concerned. The sons and daughters of drunken fathers, or it may be, depraved mothers, are to get their whole notions of religion from Scripture lessons read aloud under the superintendence, in many cases, of indifferent, or reluctant, or unbelieving teachers. I think it certain that precisely these children will be the ones who get exempted, under a conscience clause, from lessons which they cannot understand, and which their parents do not value. But assume them all to attend, and to follow the regular course for six years. Is it probable, is it even possible, that the influence of the written word will be stronger than the personal influence of the teacher's word and example? Will Gallio commenting on St. Paul, make converts to Paul or to Gallio? Let an Arnold teach Thucydides, or a Maurice lecture on Burke, and the secular lesson may have a religious influence that shall endure to all time. But the converse! Have we all forgotten those wonderful articles of the Encyclopédie, in which the writers habitually profess to hold the views approved by the church,

and unctuously thank God for the light given them, while all the time they are artfully contrasting the feeblest orthodox view with the doubts of criticism or the cross-lights of science. The fashion of thought has changed, and we are not likely to have the spirit of Voltaire reproduced in any of our schools. But the more temperate doubt of our own days is almost universally diffused and speaks with authority. The pupil of Huxley and Colenso may teach poetic and didactic extracts from the Bible without much embarrassment. When he comes to history and science he cannot express, and he ought not to feign, belief. Speaking as a layman, I would add, that I feel quite unable to understand however the history of a life can have any value to one who does not appreciate its guiding principle. I should not expect the history of the English Commonwealth to be well taught by one who regarded Cromwell as a mere fanatic or a rogue, and his followers as fools. The effect on a generation of gutter children of the Gospel narrative, divested of all dogma and all miracle, and commented on in the tone of M. Renan or Dr. Matthew Arnold, is an experiment I should watch with great interest, but from which I should not expect important doctrinal results.

I hope I have now explained, and if I have not, I can never hope to explain, my own difficulty. I am a Secularist in education, because I think it supremely important that children should learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, in order that they may be better able to provide for themselves, and form intelligent members of the community. I find it easy to get teachers who believe that two and two make four and in a host of analogous propositions, who agree about grammar, and who are content to teach writing by certain accepted rules. I think the results of this secular teaching are indirectly conducive to morality, by opening the mind, and I see no more harm in our children learning elementary subjects by themselves than in older pupils taking music or drawing lessons without a prefatory prayer. I am quite prepared to believe that Catholicism can be taught in separate schools. That is a matter on which the opinion of Catholics is entitled to the highest weight. But believing, as I do, that nothing worth knowing can be taught to Protestant children under the plan Dr. Moorhouse proposes, I desire to pause before surrendering what we have. At least, if we are to make concessions, they will be made, on my side, with the idea that we are giving one denomination all it wants and allowing nothing in return to the others. I wish to be convinced that I cannot in justice deny the Catholic demand, or that some new plan may be

« AnteriorContinuar »