§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. EMMOTT (Oldham) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:—
Another Amendment proposed—
In page 1, line 10, at the end, to add the words 'and unless provision is made that religious instruction shall not be given therein during school hours, nor at the public expense.'"—(Mr. Maddison.)
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
To leave out the words 'during school hours, nor.'"—(Mr Chamberlain.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD (Leicester)
said that when progress was reported the previous night a very interesting and important Amendment was before the Committee. It would be for the convenience of the Committee if the statement were now made by the right hon. Gentleman who proposed the Amendment 1305 to the Amendment, whether, in the event of his proposition being taken into the lobbies, he was going to carry his Party along with him. A great deal of the importance which ought to attach to the second Amendment would depend, for instance, upon the fact whether the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City was going to follow the right hon. Member for West "Birmingham on the present occasion [Cries of "Order."], and whether the Amendment was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the representative for the Oxford University, who had been taking such an important part in the discussions upon the Bill. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would indicate to the Committee how the matter stood in that respect; whether he had moved it with the due concurrence of these with whom he acted, and whether he really held out that as an olive branch on behalf of the official Opposition to these who were trying to establish peace upon a secular basis. Were they or were they not to take it that the Amendment was a genuine attempt to get the Committee to declare that a Bill, drafted upon a secular basis with some important provisions modifying that basis, was acceptable to the Unionist Party in this House; that it was to be amended only in detail, and would be taken from this House and held up to the country and to the responsible leaders of the Church as a Bill which ought to be accepted as a satisfactory solution of the religious question 1 The Committee ought to know how it stood in that respect, and he would venture to say that al though they had an objection— indeed, it might be a serious objection—to the Amendment which, perhaps, for convenience sake, he might refer to as the Amendment itself, yet if they felt that that Amendment came with the weight and authority he had got in his mind, many of them would be willing seriously to consider whether they ought not to waive these objections in order to give a guarantee to the religious organisations of the country who were opposing the Bill that they were anxious to meet them. In consideration of the important issue involved, the Committee ought, at the earliest possible opportunity, to receive an official statement from the Opposition as to what their attitude was with regard to the Amendment. "What he had to say upon the Amendment 1306 would no doubt be modified if the statement to be made by the Opposition were-satisfactory. At the present time, however, he did not see that the Amendment carried them very far. It raised some very serious difficulties. Let them see how it would apply to the Bill before them. Under the Bill there were three kinds of schools established, or at all events recognised. The first was the ordinary public school as they now knew it—the school where religious instruction was given in accordance with the Cowper-Temple clause—Cowper-Temple religion, as it had been called. The second which Clause 3 recognised was what was known as the "ordinary facilities" school. Three days in the week that school would be conducted as an ordinary public school, two days as an ordinary voluntary school. Then there was the third kind of school created by Clause 4—the "special facilities" school—where Cowper-Temple religion disappeared and where ordinary denominational instruction was given from Monday until Friday inclusive. The question, they had to decide was what the effect upon these three classes of schools would be, supposing the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment was carried. It would not affect the schools created under Clause 4, because, as it was, the religious instruction given in them was not to be paid from the rates. Neither would it affect the schools created under Clause 3 on the days in the week when they were conducted as voluntary schools, because the education must be given from voluntary sources. But it would affect these schools on three days in the week when they were subject to the Cowper-Temple clause, and also the "provided" schools every day in the week. The effect of the Amendment would be to knock out religious instruction altogether from the Cowper-Temple schools, unless it were promoted by voluntary religious organisations, by church or chapel, or by organisations neither church nor chapel, organisations such as the right hon. Gentleman and his Birmingham friends were connected with in the early days of the board school experiment, organisations which he might call ad hocorganisations, which were created for the special purpose of providing facilities for religious, education to children attending board schools. That solution was not likely to be accepted by anyone. In fact, it meant 1307 a general application of the right of entry. If he might say so with the due humility of a new Member, he thought that, after the attack the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made upon that idea, they need not waste any time at present in discussing it. Undoubtedly the proposal before them did meet very largely the demand assumed to be made by the people of the country, and he thought perhaps the Committee would agree with him when he said that that view had been voiced with the roughness and absoluteness by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education on the previous evening. The only remark he would make on the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary was that while he agreed with it in large measure he could not see how it could be fitted in within the four corners of this Bill. He found such expressions in it as—The teachers in the national schools were becoming more skilled every day ";and the hon. Gentleman put special emphasis on "skilled "— though it did not appear in the printed letter of the speech—And they knew the way to the child's mind Letter than anyone else.Then why limit the teachers in imparting religious knowledge. Skilled teachers! Skilled in what? How was the skill of a teacher in this respect to be tested? That was dangerous doctrine for a member of the Ministry to preach. He ventured to say that before these discussions were over and this Bill left the Committee stage, the hon. Member would have that phrase quoted very often, not by hon. Members behind him, but by hon. Members above the gangway on the Opposition side. Again the hon. Gentleman said—No child was properly equipped for the battle of life who did not get somewhere simple religious instruction.But the hon. Gentleman went on to say that—Simple Bible teaching would not do.
§ THE PAELIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. LOUGH, Islington, W.)
said that while not denying that he had used the words "simple Bible teaching," what he intended to say was "simple Bible reading."
§ MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said his hon. friend did not get himself out of the difficulty by that remark. He did not think that simple Bible reading would do. Then there was a difference between simple Bible reading and simple religious instruction? If that difference existed the case put up by the hon. and learned Member for North Louth and the noble Lord the Member for Marylebone was absolutely unassailable. The idea of the Government was to impart simple religious instruction by Bible reading or Bible teaching. They were met by the argument that that was not religion. They could only rebut that argument by claiming that it was the foundation of religion and all that was necessary to be given in a State school. And how the hon. Gentleman could say that in a State school they could give simple religious instruction which was more then mere Bible reading, and then defend the inclusive religious character of the Bill surpassed his comprehension. The speech with which he had said he was very much in agreement, and which raised the whole question they were now discussing, seemed to him to have been delivered in a vacuum. If they had been beginning with their religious difficulties to-day then his vote would have been probably put at the disposal of the hon. Gentleman. If they had had no experience, no history, no past, then he thought that these considerations presented by the hon. Gentleman would nave been simply overwhelming in their influence on the Committee. But this question had a past, and it was no good talking about simple Bible reading or simple religious instruction, as though that could be made the basis of peace, because it became absolutely impossible to keep denominationalism out of the schools under such circumstances. They either taught the Bible with or without comment—if without comment they treated the Bible as a secular textbook. Surely at the beginning of the 20th century nobody would rise in the Committee and tell them that the mere reading of the Old or New Testament begun at a certain hour and continued for a certain number of minutes was a religious exercise. He denied that it was. The mere reading of the Bible without comment was a secular exercise 1309 and there was no religious value attached to it unless one had some superstitious regard for the Book. But he ventured to say that that regard came at a very much later period in their lives than the school period. The moment they taught it with comment they introduced creeds and catechisms and denominational points of view, and it was absolutely unfair to say that their standard of undenominationalism must be thrust down the throats of these who had conscientious objections to it. Any one who had read the history of educational controversies during the last 100 years would acknowledge that what he was saying was absolutely true. Then it was slid that Cowper-Temple teaching had been a success. What did they mean by its being a success? Within the limits of their meaning could it have been a failure? He supposed success meant that there had been no great body of opinion among parents opposed to it. But how could the parents show their opposition?
§ MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
said that that was no fair test at all. The only practicable way open to parents to object was to withdraw their children from religious instruction. [MINISTERIAL Cries of "No; the school board election."] As the right hon. the secretary for India had said, and said truly, an adult could afford to be a Nonconformist because his conscience made up for what he had to sacrifice for it; but a child could not possibly be a Nonconformist, because the cruelty of asking a child to stand out among its fellows was so great that no wise parent; would eve ask it of his child. At the present moment he had a child at a Council school. He objected to Cowper-Templeism because it did not satisfy his ideas of what religious education should be. But was he going to withdraw his child from the Cowper-Temple teaching and expose him to be the butt of his fellows in the school? Yet the hon. Member for North Camberwell might class him amongst the great crowd of people 1310 who were perfectly satisfied with Cowper-Temple teaching! A great body of people outside had objected to the Act of 1902, but that Act was not merely a logical result of Cowper-Templeism, but a biological result of Cowper-Templeism. It flowed from it naturally, and if they were denied the opportunity of making this a secular Bill they were obliged to take the consequences and settle the status of religious education by making Clause 4 compulsory, and making it much wider in its scope. He was not however going to labour the point about religious instruction, though he was bound to say that it was the point that affected him most of all. It was all very well for hon. Members to talk about Secularists and secularism, and he was rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham used that expression the day before, because it was exceedingly misleading to talk about the endowment of secularism as the result of their proceedings, and in all good part he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he did not use that expression when he was associated with the Birmingham Association, which practically took up the same position in 1870 and onwards, as he and his friends were taking up at the present time. He begged the Committee, however, not to miss what was after all the kernel of their position. They objected to simple Bible teaching, as it was called, not because they were secularists, but because they were in favour of genuine religious instruction throughout the country. When he referred to the matter before, there was a good deal of objection taken, because he suggested that the teaching of the people under the Cowper-Temple system had not been quite the success from the religious point of view that had been claimed. He held in his hand a statement made by a London County Council inspector on this very point. The inspector was a man, whose knowledge of the schools was very extensive and a man whose study of moral and religious teaching had been equally extensive. Mr. Hayward said—No man who really reverences the Bible can tolerate, if he once opens his eyes, the state of degradation it eccupies in most schools. Even Shakespeare used for the purposes of parsing and analysis is not degraded so low as 1311 the Bible read in one school 'without note or comment,' in another enforced by cane and detention, in all schools devoid of plates and illustrations, badly printed and without external signs of distinction between prose and poetry.He would like to draw the attention of hon. Members for Scottish constituencies who also objected to certain extracts he read from a Scottish inspector's report, to the fact that Mr. Hay ward went on to quote Dr. Kerr, and those Members who had any experience of Scottish education knew the supreme importance of Dr. Kerr's opinion. Mr. Hayward said—Is it any wonder that Dr. Kerr has expressed the doubt whether the use of the Bible as a reading book in Scottish schools has conduced to reverence for its pages?Therefore if he erred, he erred in the company of learned and expert gentlemen who knew what they were writing about. He would also remind the Committee of what the late Bishop of London, writing to Bishop Mitchinson on May 20th, 1895, said in regard to diocesan inspection. Bishop Creighton said—My own opinion is that it aims at the wrong end. It formalises and secularises what ought to be free and religious ……Men say Scripture knowledge is best taught by the master, but I want them to teach religion.That was the criticism of the late Bishop of London, not upon board schools but upon voluntary schools, for which the Church, of which he was such a distinguished ornament, was herself responsible. Finally when the right hon. Gentleman dealt with Dr. Dale's opinion he would remind him of the title of one of Dr. Dale's most powerful pamphlets, which, with another sister pamphlet he wrote, was issued under the auspices of the Birmingham Liberal Two thousand of that day. He thought the title of that pamphlet indicated the position taken up in Birmingham. It was "Religious Teaching by Board Schools perilous to the Life and Faith of the Nation." He was not foolish enough to imagine for a single moment that the secular solution would be unanimously accepted. He was not even concerned at the present moment to suggest how the superstructure should be built upon the secular basis. That was not their 1312 business. He should like very much, if he could, to put that responsibility upon the shoulders of his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Education; but what they were concerned about now by means of this Amendment was simply urgently to ask the Committee not to declare for a particular superstructure, but to declare what was the best foundation upon which it could be erected. That was what the; Committee was asked to do in voting for against this Amendment, whether it was to be amended as the right hon. Gentleman proposed or not. All that the Committee was asked to do was simply to lay down the fundamental principle of State education. Was or was not the State going to make itself responsible for religious instruction? these who occupied the middle line of Nonconformist advance said "No." these who did not occupy that line must say "Yes," and there was no half-way house. This Bill was simply built upon an incline. It could not stand, because it hid no stable foundation. It proposed to meet the Liberationist without accepting his principles; it proposed to meet both the English Catholic; and the Roman Catholic without accepting their principles; it endeavoured to build a house to accommodate all styles of religious architecture and all degrees of religious and conscientious objection. It could not be done. Not even this Government could do such a thing. But he believed that a satisfactory Bill based upon a secular foundation could be drafted. Provided the basis of the Bill were secular, modifications of Clauses like 2, 3, and 4 could be grafted upon it. If they applied the facilities idea to the secular basis their task was not so difficult. He merely threw out as a suggestion that if that were done the details were not so exceedingly difficult as might be imagined at the first blush. In regard to supporters, first of all, there was the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who, in 1870 or thereabouts, voted for this Amendment couched in words which expressed the position of the time. But he was very glad that they had not to go so far back as that period, because only three or four years ago, at the Alexandra Palace, the right hon. Gentleman declared that he was still in favour 1313 of keeping religious instruction out of the schools altogether, and he went further and said that not only was that his idea, but that it was the position of nine-tenths of the Party which they were all glad to see him leading. Taking the Premier's own estimate, therefore, nine-tenths of hon. Members opposite were coming into the lobby with them upon this Amendment. Might he for the purposes of this debate and for the purposes of this division join with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who had always been a consistent advocate of the secular basis? They might have cause to disagree with the fabric which the right hon. Gentleman erected upon it, but, nevertheless, from the earliest school board days up to now the right hon. Gentleman's position had always been consistent upon that point. There were therefore two great forces united in the lobby with them, Their Nonconformist friends of the Liberation Society could not refuse to support the Amendment if they were at all consistent. It remained to be seen whether they were consistent, but if the life of that venerable and venerated organisation had not gone out of it, its friends must be sent into the lobby with the supporters of the Amendment. The British Weekly declared week after week that it would prefer a secular solution to any other because it knew there could be obtainable no solution short of this that would be satisfactory to these who were not in favour of denominational education in our public schools. There was one great difficulty. He did not propose to deal with it, but simply proposed to state it to the House. If he felt that there was any soundness in the objection that the secular solution would leave tens of thousands of children to grow up without the knowledge of anything higher than the gutter, his position would be difficult. The objection would be a paramount consideration in determining his action. He did not think the objection was sound. From inside knowledge of schools and acquaintance with some of the worst districts of the metropolis he was convinced that so long as they went about in a happy-go-lucky sort of way regarding either 1314 voluntary or board school religion as an adequate or satisfactory substitute for parental religion, they would simply be living in a fool's paradise. They were putting 710 pressure upon these parents to do their duty, and were allowing themselves to be deceived into thinking that by their rates and taxes they could take the place of the parent who acted conscientiously in a religious state of mind. The argument, however, was insignificant in its force if that assumption of his was inaccurate, and if behind their minds hon. Members had not an idea that the parent could be supplanted by the State in his religious aspects. Hon. Members might interrupt and deny. He was afraid their ideas were very confused. The argument to which he was alluding was powerful only on the assumption that they could to a satisfactory degree by their rates and taxes take the place of the parent in religious teaching. He did not believe they could. It was said, too, that the churches would not do their duty. He was glad that accusation would not come from him. He could not understand how anybody who had any faith or belief in the power of our churches, free and established, could rise in their place and make such an accusation. For his part he would be slow to believe that the churches were going to allow the teeming millions of the towns and cities to pass their lives in darkness. The truth was that the more they stood by the Cowper-Temple system, the more they attempted to draft education Bills upon a supposed compromise between expressions of conscience that were absolutely opposed and could not possibly be made the subject of compromise, the more they invited the neglectful parent to go on with his neglect, and the more they assisted the churches, which failed in their duty, to remain faithless to their trust.
said that technically the question before the Committee was the Amendment to the Amendment, and strictly speaking the discussion ought to be confined to the Amendment to the Amendment. But obviously it would spoil the discussion to confine it strictly to that point, and he had therefore allowed the hon. Member 1315 to go on with a speech which dealt considerably more with the Amendment than with the proposed Amendment. He proposed to continue to allow it to proceed on the original Amendment, as well as on the Amendment to the Amendment, if the Committee agreed; but if he did that, he did not think there should be two discussions on the two separate points.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said that everybody who had heard the last three hours of the discussion yesterday, and who had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester to-day must have recognised that the Committee had now come to one of these points in the discussion of the Bill which rendered necessary the consideration of the underlying principles which ought to regulate legislation with respect to elementary religious instruction. He did not know that on a strict interpretation of the Amendment or the Amendment to the Amendment, these principles could be raised. But they had been raised; and if he might say so without impertinence, he thought the Committee would do well to follow the ruling and advice of the Chairman as to the course the discussion should take. With respect to the Amendment to the Amendment he would say that he thought it an improvement on the original Amendment, and he should certainly support his right hon. friend in the lobby. But the main stress of the debate fell upon the original Amendment, and it was to that he would address, in the main, such observations as he had to make to the Committee. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had told them truly that they could not consider the question of religious education in the abstract, as if the question had no historical basis, as if they were beginning with a new state of things, without the prejudices or prepossessions that had come to them from the past. The question had a past, and, whether they liked it or not, it was upon that past that they had to build. The hon. Gentleman had done no more than justice to the Education Act of 1902 when he pointed out that in the great majority of its proposals it was an Act for the re-organisation of secular education. The late Government dealt with 1316 religious instruction on the basis which they found in existence. In other words, they accepted the system of the voluntary schools on the one side and the Cowper-Temple system on the other, attempting to abolish neither the one nor the other. What the present Government had failed to see was that, at the worst, the edifice erected by their predecessors had the faults necessarily inherent in an edifice erected on an old historic foundation, as well as its merits. They proposed to abolish, almost entirely, the voluntary system, and to leave wholly untouched the Cowper-Temple system; and it was because they had failed to see that this way of treating this historic problem could not but be considered, rightly or wrongly, as grossly unjust by a large portion of the population that he could find no satisfactory solution on the lines which they had developed. If that was true, it inevitably followed that there should be attempts to build up a new system, not by pulling down half the old system and leaving the other half untouched, but to build it upon some new, systematic, and logical basis. He had listened with intense interest to the speech made by the hon. Member for North West Ham, last night, and the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Leicester. Both hon. Gentlemen conceived themselves to have found that clear, logical, and consistent plan upon which to build the future education of the country, a system which should not be open to the attack—as he believed, the irresistible attack—which would be directed against the system of this Bill as it stood, but which contained within itself a solution that would be generally acceptable. But he could not help thinking that both these hon. Gentlemen had failed to understand the full difficulties of the position. Both of them had spoken from the religious education point of view. As he understood them, they desired that the children should be brought up—either by the schools or by the parents, but preferably by the parents—in religious beliefs which were not limited by the arbitrary and wholly illogical limitations of the Cowper-Temple clause, but should enjoy that unhampered freedom which religious teaching, if it was to be of the smallest 1317 value, must have. They called themselves secularists.
§ MR. J.RAMSAY MACDONALD
What I want is education on a secular foundation, not on a secularist foundation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said the phraseology of the hon. Gentleman did make the matter clearer. They proposed to build on a secular foundation. On that foundation they expected to secure an adequate system of secular education, and to have in addition, by the agencies of the churches and the co-operation of the parents, the religious instruction which they desired for the children. He could not help thinking that they both undervalued the objections to such a system which were so powerfully stated last night by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Education Board. Neither of the hon. Gentlemen, though they followed the Parliamentary Secretary, attempted to meet his arguments. The Parliamentary Secretary had pointed out that as a matter of fact a large number of the parents were not qualified by knowledge or by opportunity to give adequate religious instruction from the point of view of any denomination. The hon. Gentleman had pointed out further that, however urgent might be the zeal of the churches, it was difficult or impossible for them to rival the trained teacher in giving religious instruction, and c might have added that if that were to be done in the school at all, it must be done in school hours. Did the hon. Members for North West Ham and Leicester seriously think that this religious instruction could be given out of school hours elsewhere than in school by the parents? The hon. Member for Leicester had paid a deserved tribute to the churches. H ad the churches ever fully succeeded in doing this even with their system of Sunday schools? The Parliamentary Secretary had given a perfectly clear negative to that suggestion, and he agreed with the Parliamentary Secretary. He did not believe it ever had been done adequately in Sunday schools, and he did not believe it was being done adequately at this moment either here, or in America, or in the 1318 Colonies. And if they wore going to keep the children on weekdays in the secular schools, and to reserve Sunday, and Sunday alone, and the Sunday schools, and the Sunday schools alone, as machinery for religious education, he was as certain as he was of any practical proposition that, however ardent might be the zeal of the Churches in favour of the religious education of the young, they would fail in their object. The education would not be given; it would fall into disrepute because it was outside that to which the State gave the imprimaturand the authority of its encouragement. And they would discover that, however unsatisfactory might be the religious education of the children at the present time —and he was not here to say it was satisfactory either in Board or voluntary schools—a generation would not have passed over their heads before they found that the religious teaching of the children of this country was a thing of the past, a thing which might have an historic interest and influence, but had no present effect and would carry with it no future benefit. If he were right in saying that, the secular basis which the hon. Member for North West Ham and the hon. Member for Leicester recommended would inevitably degenerate into that which they least of all desired, a secularist result, and they would be the unwilling and unconscious instruments of some of the most dangerous forces, as he thought, affecting the thoughts of the rising generation, and would, as a matter of fact, without really desiring that result, destroy the religious teaching in the schools and homes of this country. If that were so, he could not possibly vote for an Amendment which he believed would be fatal to the objects which both the hon. Members to whom be was referring were in favour of. They and he, and he believed everybody, were in favour of religious education. He did not believe that a secular basis, as they described secular basis, would produce the results which they expected. They knew perfectly well that the scheme they had proposed was entirely different from that proposed by his right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham. His right hon. friend might, if he thought fit, describe his scheme as based on a secular foundation, but his scheme was wholly different. He desired that there should be, within the compulsory school hours, an opportunity for the 1319 Churches and for the teachers to teach religion in the schools. Whatever might be said of that, it was not a system which, as far as he could see, was a secular system, and would not lead to secularism. It was, on the contrary, a scheme involving religious, and denominational religious, education as its very essence. It abolished the Cowper-Temple clause, of course, as he thought the Cowper-Temple clause ought to be and must be abolished, if they were ever to have a coherent and clear system of education in this country. His right hon. friend proposed to abolish the Cowper-Temple clause and to erect upon the vacant space thereby created a scheme for religious instruction which might well satisfy, and did satisfy, a very large number of the most earnest thinkers on all sides of politics and among all religious denominations. He erected a religious structure upon the ground thus cleared by the abolition of the Cowper-Temple clause. That was not true of the authors of the present Amendment. They did away with the Cowper-Temple clause and put nothing religious in its place, and that was their deliberate and avowed intention. They did not conceal it, and, indeed, it was on the very face of the Amendment. The Cowper-Temple clause had no stronger opponent than he, if they were to consider it as the sole mechanism and me the d by which religious instruction was to be given to the children. To say that Cowper-Temple religion, as it was called, and Cowper-Temple religion alone, should be taught in our public elementary schools seemed to him not only grossly absurd, but grossly unfair. But he confessed that he was not prepared to do away even with that gross unfairness and gross inequality if, in doing that, they destroyed all religions teaching in the schools. That was a deeper thing than any of their other quarrels. He quite agreed that under the Cowper-Temple clause they had a variety of teaching which was almost infinite in its character—teaching which varied from the mere reading of the Bible as a collection of literary works produced at different stages of human development to teaching as dogmatic as the Council of Trent, which was not regarded by the courts of law as dogmatic, because more than one sect I happened to agree with it. But at all events they did have in some cases, and they could have in all cases under the 1320 Cowper-Temple clause, most substantial, valuable religious education. If they were going to clear that away, let them know what they were going to put in its place. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and the hon. Member for North West Ham cleared it away and left the Churches to manage their own affairs. He could not accept that statement. If the Government would assure them, or if there wore any clear prospect that by clearing away the Cowper-Temple clause they were to have any scheme—his right hon. friend's scheme, or, at all events, some scheme—which gave them the assurance that there would continue to be valuable religious education in every one of the schools, then by all means let them clear away the Cowper-Temple clause with all its absurdities, all its illogicalities, all its frictions, all these shams for which it was responsible But until he had some security that this Amendment was only to be the prelude to another scheme, and not in itself a complete scheme, he could not support it, because he would be open to the charge that he was himself desirous of seeing education upon a secular basis. That was not his view. He did not think it ought to be on a secular basis, and were he, therefore, to vote for the Amendment, he would give an entirely false impression of the views which he held. He held that the best plan of all was to find some scheme by which free play should be given to denominational teaching, dogmatic teaching, teaching which the parents desired, to all the varieties of teaching which they must have in a country where religious belief was itself so varied. That was the scheme he wanted. It was not given by the Bill, but even less was it given by the Amendment. The Bill in Clause 4 left some opening for religious denominational teaching. Even in Clause 3, though in a form which, he thought the Committee would insist on amending, there was some recognition of a free denominational element. But this Amendment, according to the intention of its movers, left no such possibility and no such opening; and if their carrying it meant that they accepted the views of these who proposed it, it meant that they had for ever banished religion from the schools. He could not personally lend any colour to the view that he shared these opinions. He did not share them. There was an illimitable abyss between 1321 the secular scheme of the two hon. Gentlemen to whom he had been referring and the scheme of his right hon. friend. There was an impassable abyss between that scheme and the scheme of any one who desired to see the voluntary school system maintained, and between that system and these who desired to see full religious teaching under the Cowper-Temple clause preserved in the schools. Of all the many plans that had been put before the Committee for dealing with the religious difficulty, the one which cut schools wholly adrift from religion was the one most repellant to his mind. Much as he objected, deeply as he objected to the Bill of the Government, unjust, provocative, unhistorical, and inadequate as he thought it was, he would rather have it than the scheme which for ever made the schools of the country schools for secular instruction and secular instruction alone. And although he fully admitted that on the basis proposed by these hon. Gentlemen they might erect other schemes of religious education which they did not agree with, it seemed to him that, if he were to support their Amendment in the hope of doing something afterwards which they did not agree with, he would only be misleading the Committee as to the true direction in which, upon this religious question, his opinions moved. For these reasons, though he should support the Amendment to the Amendment, the original Amendment itself seemed to be so inimical to the interests of religious education in elementary schools that, deeply as he sympathised with nine-tenths of what had fallen from the two eloquent speakers, he could not himself follow them into the lobby.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said that, al though he had no right to speak on behalf of any great body of his fellow countrymen, he claimed to have some knowledge with regard to the condition of religious education of the country and of the opinions of the great body of Nonconformists. Whatever scheme was put before the Committee would be objected to by somebody and a variety of difficulties would be brought forward which were supposed to be insuperable. He thought the Government had endeavoured in the best possible way to meet these difficulties. Of course some of the proposals in the Bill did 1322 not satisfy him, but, if the measure gave him complete satisfaction, probably it would prove unjust to some other sections of the community. An attempt had been made in the Bill to meet some of the difficulties of the minorities, and there was every disposition on the part of these whom he represented to regard the difficulties of the situation with the utmost fairness and a desire that they should be met. He thought the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education went a little beyond his brief in the speech he had made the previous day. Perhaps there was a measure of excuse for the ardour with which he took up the cause of religious education, but in his remarks he thought the hon. Member did scant justice to the great Sunday school institutions of the country, and he did not think they had had fair treatment or justice at the hands of many other speakers, probably from want of absolute knowledge of the facts. It would help to reassure the Committee if he stated one or two facts in connection with Sunday school institutions. He had the honour of being the president of one of the great Sunday school organisations connected with the Free Churches, and there were no less than 3,500,000 scholars in attendance in the so Churches. He was free to admit that they wore not staffed with the same efficient teachers as the day schools, but a great many of these teachers were also on the day schools staffs of both the council and the non-provided schools. In these Free Church Sunday schools they had some 400,000 teachers, many of whom belonged to the educated classes, and they gave the best religious instruction they could. Outside the Free Churches there were probably some 3,000,000 more children in attendance at Sunday schools. He thought that was something of an answer to the hon. Member for Leicester, who dismissed so lightly the idea that parents were in favour of simple Bible teaching. These scholars wore gathered in the Sunday schools by their own desire or by the desire of their parents, and they received there this religious education for whatever it was worth. He thought that in a debate where religious education took the lead, at least Sunday schools should have a little more prominent recognition than they had received up to the present. He had been connected with Sunday schools for 1323 fifty years and knew a great many parents, and he was not prepared to deny the fact that in a great many instances parents were not capable, and had not the disposition to give religious education; yet they desired that their children should have it, and they showed that desire by sending their children to our Sunday schools. One thing that had surprised him was that Members of this Committee who seemed to be extremely anxious for the religious education of the children of the working classes belonged to a class which did not care for this dogmatic teaching. He could give many extracts on this point from good authorities, but he would quote only two. The Bishop of London had testified that the children of the wealthier classes who came forward for confirmation had no religious education at all, while the other classes were well grounded.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE
said the late Colonial Secretary had said in regard to Bible reading without the explanations associated with creeds that—It would be absurd to say it widely differs from the instruction we receive at Eton and probably at Harrow and Rugby.He could give other quotations to show that dogmatic teaching was not in great favour with those classes who were constantly insisting upon it for the children. The secular position had been ably dealt with, and if any advocacy could command assent to the principle in this Committee it would be the advocacy of the hon. Member for North West Ham and the hon. Member for Leicester. But after all the hon. Member for Leicester had really delivered a doctrinaire speech without any practical results following, and there was nothing upon which to build up what he himself regarded as the essential part of the education of the young of this country. Whilst he had the greatest sympathy with very much which the hon. Member had advanced and would deprecate anything that would force dogmatic teaching upon the children in the schools, he did not think the hon. Member had moved the question one inch forward, good and powerful as his advocacy was from many points of view. The Nonconformist Party had 1324 always more or less sympathised with the secular movement, because it seemed to meet the one thing they were driven to in opposition to the dogmatic teaching of a certain dominant sect. The position of Nonconformists prior to 1870 was perhaps not altogether understood by the so who had the advantage of being young and who had not gone through the contest of that period. Their position was that they could not justly separate religion from education and that it must be a part of it. Therefore, as the State had no right to interfere with the religious education of its people, therefore it could not undertake education as such. That was the primary position of the Nonconformists, and circumstances drove them to that position the great ignorance in which the population of the country was then growing up and which increased year by year drove them from that position, and therefore the compromise of 1870 was made. Some extra-ordinary charges had boon made against Cowper-Temple teaching by the late Prime Minister. Surely the right hon. Gentleman did not need reminding that Cowper-Temple teaching had the imprimatur of the loading members of the Anglican Church, the Nonconformist Church, and these belonging to no Church at all. Therefore it could not deserve the epithets which had been applied to it. But whatever defects it might have, it at least kept the Bible before the children. Those who advocated a purely secular basis must say whether the Board of Education was to forbid the Bible entering the schools. Wore they prepared to take up that position and insist that the Bible was the one book which the Board of Education was to declare should not enter the schools?
§ MR. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
When the hon. Member says that we declare that the Bible is the only book that should be kept out of the school he is wrong.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE
said he was aware that there might be other books which the hon. Member would not like to see introduced into the schools, but the Bible was the only book which under this Amendment the Board of Education would have to interdict To adopt that position would be absolutely fatal to any Education Bill and strong as the present 1325 Government was it would he fatal to them. There were many Members of the Committee, some of them on the Ministerial side, who advocated secular teaching. He thought there were many who would feel justified in saying that if the Government had gone to the country with a programme of secular education as part of its education policy it would have come back as strong. That, of course, was the practical way of looking at it. Even now, some of these who had been engaged in Bible teaching for half a century were charged with being Atheists and Godless people because they were not prepared to take up this dogmatic teaching. He did not know what they could be called more than they had boon called already, but if there were any other epithets they would have been used if the Government had gone to the country with a programme of that sort. He desired to say a few words upon the Amendment to the Amendment, moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West, Birmingham. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Leicester who claimed that the right hon. Gentleman had shown consistency in the programme he had put before the Committee. He was old enough to remember the time when the right hon. Gentleman was a prominent member of the Birmingham Education League. At that time he was in favour of secular, or what was then called unsectarian education, and he did not then propound anything as an addition to secular education like what he had foreshadowed in his speech of the previous night. The right hon. Gentleman first of all laid down the principle that the State had no right to interefere in religion. So far his hon. friend the Member for Burnley thought he had caught a very big fish, but the right hon. Gentleman very soon eluded his grasp by indicating what he desired to have done on this basis of purely secular education, namely, that all sorts of religious teaching should be given in the State schools in school hours by State paid teachers. That was rather a wide basis for secular education. How the right hon. Gentleman could claim to be in favour of secular education after what he had said the previous night was difficult to understand. The only saving clause was that it must not be at the public expense. It would be extremely unjust to attempt to 1326 carry out this Amendment and to say that it must not be at the public expense. The Bill provided for an expenditure of something like £1,000,000. The bulk of that money would go to one denomination and it should pay for all its religious teaching. Therefore it would be at the public expense, whereas the other denominations if they chose to deal with religious teaching at all on behalf of the sects to which they belonged, would have to pay for it out of their own pockets. The dominant church could pay for it out of the receipts from rent of buildings, and it would not cost them a penny. It seemed to him therefore on financial grounds that it would be unjust. He wondered how many teachers in the schools would be willing to support this introduction of religious teaching by all denominations in school hours. Nothing could be more disastrous. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose that they should enter on one day or that they should go on separate days of the week? How were all the sects to be accommodated? The free churches asked no such thing. They were willing to submit to some fair and reasonable arrangement for giving undogmatic teaching in school hours, and they wore willing to supplement the undogmatic teaching by such teaching as they were able themselves to provide. Referring to this undogmatic teaching Lord Hugh Cecil in one of hs speeches had said—Board school teaching may be very good religious instruction so far as it goes, but there is then the fundamental objection that it cannot attach the child to a denomination.He thought that that was the very strongest argument which could possibly be used in favour of this kind of teaching. The State had no right to give such re ligious teaching as would attach the child to a religious denomination. Therefore he and these who sympathised with him adopted this not logical position, but, as they thought, the best position that had yet been found. Were the members of the Catholic Church and of the Anglican Church prepared to let him as a Baptist into their schools, and to teach what he should undoubtedly have to teach if he took up the line of dogmatic teaching, that there was absolute error in proclaiming that salvation came from the sacraments, and a variety of other dogmas of that sort?
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE
said that so far as his experience of the rural districts went—and it was somewhat large—that liberal spirit did not prevail in the Anglican Church generally. It was absolutely wrong for the State to give dogmatic religious teaching in the schools. What effect would that have on the children? Could there be anything more deplorable than the setting of children aside in little groups in their early life, being made to take part in sectarian bickerings, which they would do, because though they understood nothing whatever about them they still would say, "I belong to this clergyman or that minister?" He had heard of two little girls who were discussing about their separate schools, and one of them said, "My school has got a fine weathercock." The other girl replied, "My school has got a mortgage." He thought the giving of this religious instruction would be grossly unfair in many other ways, and that it would operate against the very best interests of education. What was the position in which they found themselves by these two Amendments. One asked the Committee to say that there must be no flavour whatever of religion in the schools. To carry that out logically they must banish from the schools much of the very finest literature. He was sure his hon. friend the Member for Burnley did not take that position. Logically, the books built up on the Bible and many others were the very finest volumes in literature. If they were to deal with these things logically these books could be, and probably would be, excluded on the part of a section, but if logic was to rule they must follow that section just as they might follow the section now asking for the purely secular basis. He thought he bad shown that it was impracticable to attempt to force on the Government a clause like this in connection with a Bill which they hoped to carry, and which would be for the benefit of education. He was sure the 1328 Amendment to the Amendment would be rejected by an enormous majority, because it not only did not banish the religious difficulties but increased them a thousand-fold. He hoped the Committee would reject the Amendment of the hon. Member for Burnley, though it was one for which he had more sympathy than he had for that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said the hon. Member for Leicester had made an appeal to him at the commencement of his speech which necessitated his making a further explanation. The hon. Member had asked, in effect, how far he should carry his Party with him in the Amendment he had moved to the Amendment. He thought the hon. Member implied that if he could assure him of substantial support for the Amendment as amended, the view of himself and many others who agreed with him, would be in favour of accepting that Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Then he thought he was hardly in a position to call him to account and invite him to explain how many of these who sat near him and behind him would follow him into the lobby. He did not know, but he could say for himself, that his proposal, which was made in all sincerity and honesty, was one which in his belief would be the ideal form, and that at any rate it was one out of two just solutions. The only two just solutions of the question were that the State should pay for all religions alike, or that it should pay for none. To pay for all was what was called denominationalism—an ugly word which might be accepted as defining the situation. That he had no doubt would be favoured by his friends behind him and by the Church for which they would principally speak, and at least it would be a fair solution. His only difficulty with regard to it was that he did not think it would be practicable. Then as to the other solution that the State should pay for none, he thought that was the principal object of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Burnley, and he thought that the words "during school hours" had slipped in and were not an essential part of his proposition. He would tell the hon. Member for Leicester that he was inaccurately expressing the effect 1329 of his statement when he said that he desired or ever had desired education to be upon what he now called a "secular basis." The distinction between secular and secularist was a fine distinction which, al though understood by the hon. Member and others skilled in dialectics, was not likely to be appreciated by the masses of the country. They would attribute the same meaning to both words. If the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had shown that he was assenting to the word "secular" then he might be accused of being a secularist as the hon Gentleman for Leicester inaccurately declared that he was in 1870. He was not a secularist in any souse in which that word was used in an expression by the hon. Member for Leicester attributed to the Prime Minister, when he said he had in a speech declared that he wished to keep religion out of the schools. He did not wish to keep religion out of the schools and never had. That was not the proposal of the National Education League and these associated with him in that agitation. On the contrary it was complementary to their proposal that the State should have nothing to do with religion, but that facility should be given equally to all denominations, in order that they might enter the schools am give their religious instruction. He imagined that the hon. Member for Burnley was not opposed to the facilities being given, provided it was not at the cost of the State, and that it was no given in school hours.
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
said he made it perfectly plain in his speed that during school hours he was opposed to any form of religious instruction being given. They were quite in favour of fill facilities for all denominations out o school hours.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said that the difference between them was perfectly clear. The hon. Gentleman would allow the same facilities as he would only they must come half an hour before compulsory attendance. It was to their coming half an hour after compulsory attendance to which the hon. Gentleman objected.
§ MR. MADDISON
said he did not commit hon. Members who agreed with him in this Amendment, because if this Amendment were carried, many con- 1330 sequential Amendments would be necessary. Speaking for himself, he made a great distinction between after school hours and before school hours, and he would only commit himself to facilities after school hours.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said that this was where they differed, and this difference was important, because if this instruction was given out of school hours it would not be availed of. It would be perfectly useless and a sham. If it wore the object of the hon. Member for Burnley that this religious instruction should not be banished from the schools, but should be given out of school hour? he was convinced that the hon. Gentleman would not obtain what he wished unless the instruction were given at the time of compulsory attendance He did not claim perfect consistency with what he had said in 1870. In 1870 there was a beginning of a new system, and they had had no practical experience of how an attempt to give instruction by voluntary means would succeed. He said perfectly frankly the other day that the great scheme proposed by Dr. Dale had practically broken down, and that they were compelled to introduce into the schools of Birmingham a system of reading the Bible without note or comment. But they had gone through three stages since then. As regarded the teacher, the hon. Member for North West Norfolk had practically caricatured what he had said. He maintained that the real question was the liberty of the subject. They had no right to impose a disability on the teacher in the time for which he was not paid by the State, or to bring in any regulations whatever as to the use he wished to make of it. It was in the interest of the teacher and of freedom I that the teacher should be allowed if he desired to give his services to any denomination to which he might belong and which might be willing to engage him.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
said he was glad to hear it. His proposal therefore was that, without calling upon the State to be responsible in any way for one penny of 1331 expenditure in the matter, all denominations should, be allowed the entry which would enable them to give religious instruction. What was the objection? The hon. Member declared it was very unfair. Why? Because under the Bill the Government were going to take the property of the Church and to pay for it, and therefore that would put into the hands of the Church a sum of money they might apply to this kind of teaching. How did that come about? Simply because the Church had property which even this Government did not propose absolutely to confiscate. There was a time when the Nonconformists had a great deal of property. The Wesleyans had property in their schools to this day. Those who had provided schools at their own cost— whether Nonconformist, Wesleyan or Anglican would, if they surrendered their schools under this Bill, be entitled to compensation. That was a mere accident, and it did not follow that the money they thus obtained for their own property would be earmarked and applied to giving religious instruction. What was at the bottom of a great deal of the opposition to this proposal? Simply the thought that the Church was too rich, and therefore better able to pay the cost. That was why the Nonconformists refused to allow equal justice to all sects. They wore satisfied with a form of religious education which did not satisfy a minority, if not a majority, in the country, and desired to provide their system at the national expense, but would not allow the others to provide the education they desired even at their own expense. In these two Amendments they were dealing with the separation between religious and secular instruction. The fourth clause was a separate matter to be dealt with on its merits. He should vote for his Amendment. If that was carried he would certainly vote for the amended Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Burnley. If his Amendment was not carried he should vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Burnley on the ground that it would not provide facilities which would be given to secure elementary religious education in the schools.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RUNCIMAN, Dewsbury)
said he would never presume to charge the right hon. Gentle- 1332 man the Member for West Birmingham with inconsistency in the views which he held in 1870 and those which he held now, because he gathered that they were different only so far as regarded administration. And surely in that question they ought freely to admit that any proposal must be in the nature of an experiment, and the experiment which the right hon. Gentleman suggested in 1870 had been found to be a failure. It never caught the imagination of the country. It had not been tolerated in a single great city of the country, so far as he knew, for any length of time. Having said that, he thought they might examine the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman without any reference to what he said in 1870 or 1874 when the agitation was at its height. The proposal now made seemed to him to centre round two points, namely, whether the religious instruction should be given within school hours or outside school hours, and whether that religious teaching should be given by the teachers or by someone who came from outside.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Yes, but what does it amount to? The right hon. Gentleman desires that attendance at religious instruction shall be compulsory.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
May I say what I propose is that every child should be required to go in at the proper time, and according to the desire of his parents he should go either to the secular instruction or to the religious instruction?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
If the right hon. Gentleman did not mean that there should be compulsory attendance during the hour for this specific purpose [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no!] that was what in practice it must amount to. And if so, he wanted to know what became of the parent. Why should not the parent, have the right to absent his child from the school at these very hours which were earmarked for religious instruction? Let him turn to another point, namely, that of the teachers. Really the whole subject of tests for teachers turned on the conditions of employment and the payment which should be made. It was not only a question of whether or not they induced 1333 the teacher de facto to be attached to a denomination in order to secure what he believed to be a fair remuneration for the work he performed. That might not be particularly obvious without illustration. He would take an illustration. They might have a school of say 400 children, where the headmaster was paid £250 a year in the gross. Under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme it might be possible for £50 to be paid from denominational funds, and £200 from public funds. He became, in fact, partly the servant of the denomination, and partly the servant of the public body. Such a proposal as that was unworkable. They ought not to ask any teach or to be the servant of two masters. He would turn from that subject to the real subject of discussion that afternoon, namely, the question whether or not we were to have in this country a system of purely secular instruction. He should like to know, in the first place, what was the meaning of purely secular instruction. He knew that his hon. friends the Members for Leicester and for North West Ham appeared to have clear ideas in their heads as to what they meant, but he would point out to them that whenever the system of secular instruction had been tried throughout the English speaking world, the syllabus had been frequently changed. In some cases it went so far as to lay down that any reference to God was to be cut out of Shakespeare, Paradise Lost was expurgated, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was placed in the Index Expurgatorius. It was perfectly obvious that nothing of that kind could be tolerated in this country, and he believed it had already been abandoned in some of our Colonies. In others where they had what was called purely secular instruction, Biblical instruction was carried on very much as in our own schools at the present time. He understood that in some they did not commence with prayer, but they had Biblical instruction. In others where they adhered to the system of purely secular instruction they had hymns but no prayers, and they had the Bible. He thought, therefore, when his hon. friends advocated a system of purely secular instruction and endeavoured to persuade the Government to adopt it, they ought to define clearly what they meant. After all, the whole thing centred around what appeared in the syllabus. He knew that there was one hon. Member who was a 1334 very prominent speaker for the Labour Party in this country—tho hon. Member for Blackburn—who in most eloquent language had expressed his views on the subject. Only in February of this year, he said it would indeed be an irreparable loss if the Bible, the most beautiful book of history, of poetry, and of moral teaching ever given to the world, wore to be excluded from the children's education because of unfortunate differences as to certain parts of the book. The hon. Member had said that to any liberal education or moral training the Bible must contribute. That was the view of one of the Labour Members who sat upon the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Leicester had made no statement whatever of his views as to the inclusion or exclusion of the Bible from our schools. He quite agreed that the hon. Member did not say that the Bible was the one book which he would exclude, nor did he say that the Bible was one of the books which he would include, and until they had some definite assurance as to what was meant by purely secular instruction he thought they were adopting the safer course if they adhered to the syllabus which almost throughout the whole country had been found the most workable and most successful. He could not agree that there had been any particular advance towards the secular position, even during the last few years. He knew that the majority sitting below the gangway on the other side were in favour of purely secular instruction; that there were also some Nonconformists who said they were in favour of it, and also some Bishops, High Churchmen and Catholics; but he thought one ought to point out that in nearly every case the reason why these gentlemen had declared in favour of purely secular instruction was not because they preferred it to religious instruction, but because from sheer desperation they thought it was the only way out of the difficulty. [Cries of "No."] Well, he was only stating his own view.
said that as to the Nonconformists he was absolutely convinced that taking any of the villages in any county of the United Kingdom, the Nonconformists as a body were not in favour 1335 of purely secular instruction. He ventured to say that nine-tenths of those who now sat on the Ministerial side of the House of Commons would not have boon there if they had advocated at the last election, or any previous election, the secularising of our schools. He believed that these gentlemen had been driven to this position because of the unreasonableness of those who occupied an extreme position on either side. The man in the street, after all, did not appreciate the extreme views on one side or the other. When they saw a prominent ecclesiastical journal describing the Bill as a brutal one and drawing attention to its frank savagery, he thought they might well understand why some men said that such extravagant language was unintelligible to them. On the other side was to be put the equally extravagant and unintelligible language of people who said, "Let us have an end of all these parsons and their religion, let us take the purely secular position." These gentlemen adopted this position out of sheer desperation. Was there any hon. Gentleman in this Committee who would declare that the majority of elementary school teachers in the country wished to see a purely secular system of education? Could the hon. Member for North Camberwell declare that the teachers with whom he was associated by a majority were in favour of purely secular education? He believed they were not. [Dr. MACNAMARA: "Hear, hear."] The value of Bible teaching, simple Bible reading, to the teachers was supposed to be enormous; they relied upon it to a large extent and they did not wish to see it wiped out of the syllabus. Of course he knew that they did not want to go into the finer distinctions of theology. He doubted whether there were any teachers who taught up to the sixth standard who entered on dissertations on baptismal regeneration, upon which he remarked that even the dignitaries of the Church of England were not agreed any more than those who were attached to the great Nonconformist bodies. Nor did they wish in the voluntary schools to describe all the definitions of the Atonement, nor to go into the arguments for or against the Immaculate Conception, nor to express he various views of the Resurrection. But the simple Bible teaching and the 1336 very elements of Christianity were regarded as being of supreme value.
He wished to point out how very difficult it would be for a teacher who wished to give religious instruction to his children to keep his religious feelings out of his tuition. For instance, the teacher who wished to inculcate a respect for truth into his pupils—the chances were that if he were a religious man he would immediately draw the attention of the child to the fact that the Scripture said that "no liar shall inherit the Kingdom of God," and who was to find fault with him for doing that? If he wished to inculcate the principles of justice he would immediately quote another portion of Scripture which says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged," and so on throughout all the great moral maxims. They would turn to the authority of Scripture for support. They might ask the teacher to teach his children purity, and he might do it merely on principles of hygiene, but it was probable that if he were a religious man he would appeal to the old Book and say, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In fact there was hardly any department of moral instruction where the teacher would not turn to the Bible not only for his own moral inspiration, but also for the exercise of the authority which he wished to exercise over the child. He did not wish to labour the point of the teachers' case, because they had many of them in the Committee who were capable of speaking for themselves, and he wished they had more. I If they had, they would soon get rid of a great deal of nonsense which was I talked about Cowper-Templeism. He had taken the trouble to obtain copies of the syllabus used by the Education Committees of Manchester, Middlesex, Kent, Lancashire, Hertfordshire Hampshire, and others, indeed from almost every county educational committee in the Kingdom. These committees were now running their schools upon Cowper-Temple lines, and it would not be believed by the Committee that an attack was made upon Cowper-Templeism if he referred to the syllabus itself. In Middlesex, in Standard I. the children learnt the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and a number of select hymns and texts; in Standard II., 1337 a little of the New Testament, and certain portions of St. Matthew's Gospel; in Standard III., Psalm 19 and St. Matthew's Gospel; in Standard IV., Deuteronomy; and the Gospel of St. John; in Standard V., Psalm 25, the Epistle to the Ephesians, a portion of the Epistle to the Corinthians, and also the lives of Samuel, Saul, David, and Elisha; in Standard VI. a portion of Isaiah, and the Epistle to the Ephesians; and in Standard VII., other Old Testament Prophets, another portion of Isaiah, and the Gospel of St. John. Such was the syllabus which was now being attacked by those who were against the Cowper-Temple teaching. How many hon. Gentlemen opposite approved of Cowper-Temple teaching? He ventured to think that there were not 10 per cent, of them who would get up and advocate it. The ordinary proceedings of the day began with prayers for the benefit of the morning school which consisted of the Lord's Prayer, and prayers which were drawn up in Middlesex as elsewhere by those who were denominationalists including not only Nonconformists, but also members of the English Church. Then in the evening they closed with prayers and hymns which were not of great dogmatic value but had a certain influence on the mind and on the memory of the child. That was what was being talked of by Members like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City, when they said they did not like Cowper-Temple teaching.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman is quite misrepresenting mo. On the contrary I attach the greatest value to Cowper-Temple teaching. I not only said I attached great value to it, but I said in my speech that I would prefer this unjust and one-sided system to a system which excluded religion.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
I ask the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if I misrepresented him. I quite understood him to assert that he was not in favour of Cowper-Temple teaching. May I ask whether he is or is not?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
A Cowper-Temple Clause which forbids anything but Cowper-Temple teaching I think grossly unfair and unjust, but a great deal 1338 of the most admirable religious teaching is given under that grossly unfair and unjust system.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I had no desire to misrepresent him. What I understood him to say was that Cowper-Temple teaching could not be satisfactory to him. It could not be regarded as adequate, and it was for the purposes of religious instruction not what he desired. If I misunderstood him I accept his explanation quite fully. If, said the hon. Member continuing, they were going to remove Cowper-Templeism from the schools they were going to take away the great basis on which he believed they could, as the children grew older raise up a fine religious superstructure. It was perfectly clear that to the man in the street this quarrel over the Cowper-Temple clause was absolutely unintelligible. Many of those who were educated in schools where the Cowper Temple clause was supposed to be adequate could not understand how objection was taken to it, and why it was not adequate now. He believed the Government Bill met the very difficulty that had been raised. He believed that in Clause 4 facilities were provided which would allow to be added to this basis of Cowper-Templeism a certain amount of dogmatic teaching of which no doubt a large number of Denominationalists would avail themselves. The ordinary man in the street, however, when he was at school and learnt to sing "Load, Kindly Light," did not know there was anything wrong in its undenominational character, and when he sang "Nearer My God to Thee" or the Old Hundredth he did not recognise them as purely Nonconformist hymns. Then why say that the Cowper-Temple clause was Nonconformist teaching? [OPPOSITION cries of "We do not."] This was the first time they had had, either in this debate or in that of 1902, any admission that it was other than Nonconformist teaching. For his part he should be prepared to vote against purely secular instruction, no matter from what quarter the proposal might come, and he could not believe that the people cared anything about the political quarrel here, but they wanted their children to lead godly, righteous, and sober lives, and did not wish to banish the Bible from the schools.
§ MR. BUTCHER (Cambridge University)
said the Amendment now before the Committee raised the most momentous issue that had yet been opened up in these debates. His strong conviction was in agreement with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that whatever might be the defects of the Bill now before the Committee, however great its inequalities and want of equity in many respects, it was infinitely superior to the Amendments which in different ways accepted the secular basis of education. In 1888 a Commission dealt with the question of secularism and religious teaching and one of the findings of the Commission was as follows—We are convinced that if the State were to secularise education it would be a violation of the wishes of the parents.That result was arrived at after much inquiry, and he believed that if at this time the question could come before the country as to whether it wished for secularism, its opinion would be as clearly expressed as was that of the Commission of 1888. He freely admitted that the Amendment to the Amendment, proposed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was, from the point of view of those who wished to retain definite religious teaching in the schools, far superior to the original Amendment. It gave them three things. It gave religious teaching in compulsory school hours; it allowed religious teaching to be given by one of the staff of the school; and it admitted of the free entry of the denominations to give such teaching as they desired. Yet he could not think that the Amendment, though it did differ widely from the first Amendment, would not in its final result bring about secular education pure and simple. It needed but one more stop to force on the secularist position and lead to the State disassociating itself entirely from religion. The Amendment laid it down that the State had no financial concern with religious instruction, though it was so far concerned as to set aside a compulsory school hour in which religious instruction should be given by the denominations. The driving force of logic on the secularist side was strong; it would be said irresistibly "if the State has no financial concern with religious instruction, why should it have any concern with it at all." Such was the intention of the original 1340 Amendment. Religious teaching was to be taken out of school hours and to be left entirely in the hands of the denominations, with teachers brought in from outside. The first result would be that the moral unity of the school would be lost; the moral unity, the tone and discipline which arose from the connection of religious with secular instruction. Once those two were dissociated, and the link severed that bound them together through the personality of the teacher, the educational framework of the school would be disjointed. There was, however, a far more important objection to the proposal than that. The Commission of 1888 found that there were two large and typical classes of parents in our great cities, whose children would probably get no religious instruction if it were not given by the State. There were, first, those poor but deserving parents whose lives were passed in the strain and stress of industrial competition; whose time was so occupied day and night as to render them unable, even if they were willing, to have regard to the spiritual welfare of their children; parents who were themselves uninstructed, and who, even if they had the time, had not the knowledge to instruct their children in religious matters. Next, there were parents who were negligent, criminal, or dissolute, and it was needless to speak of the education that would be given by them to their children. So that of the possible agencies which might take the place of the schools for religious instruction, the home and home influence might for those great multitudes of children be set aside. Then as to the other agencies, the Church, the Chapel, the Clergy, and all the voluntary associations that were in existence. he believed it was even more true to-day than when the Commission made its Report, that if all the organisations of the churches were put together, all their staffs of clergy and teachers would be utterly inadequate to cope with our great and growing population, especially when regard was had to the mobility of that population; it was in many places a loose and shifting population. The Report of the Commission in 1888 said—For the mass of children above described, we must put on record our opinion, that if they do not receive religious instruction and training from the teachers in the public elementary schools, they will receive none, and 1341 this is a matter of the gravest concern to the State.These words carried greater force to-day than when they were written. No one who honestly reflected on the conditions of life in our great industrial centres could fail to see that there were children who were mere waifs and strays, derelict children, who were outside the membership of the Churches, and who would be brought up in blank and heathenish ignorance unless the State stepped in and set in motion that great machinery which the State alone was able to supply. They must face the actual facts and not trust to some ideal hopes of what reorganised religious bodies might do in the future. Bishop Butler somewhere spoke of children as strangers who entered a world which was already in the possession of grown people. Towards those strangers the Members of this Committee owed enormous responsibilities. To multitudes of them they stood, as regards their religious welfare, in the place of parents; and he entreated the Committee to pass no vote by which those children should remain strangers and aliens, exiled for ever from the larger hope. He intended to vote against the first Amendment.
§ SIH W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)
said there was a desire in all parts of the Committee that in carrying out the principles of popular control and the abolition of tests for teachers, and in so doing removing grievances which had been in existence since 1902, there should be due regard to the neutrality of the State towards all religions. Clause I endeavoured to secure uniformity, but where that clause kept the promise of hope to the ear, Clauses 3 and 4, he thought, would break it to the hope. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had stated that the proposal of the hon. Gentleman for Burnley offered one out of the only two solutions whereby the principle of absolute neutrality of the State in regard to all religions might be secured. If the State was to be neutral towards religion it must subsidise either all religions or none. There must be concurrent endowment of all, or no endowment of any. The Bill in its present form did neither. The inalienable right of the parent to demand that the State should provide at its expense religious instruction in accord with the 1342 faith of the parent was repudiated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he did not think anyone had revived that proposition since the right hon. Gentleman spoke on the Second Reading. The only logical alternative, therefore, was to confine the secular arm of the State to secular matters, and neither compel attendance at public elementary schools for religious instruction nor exact payment from the ratepayers for purposes of religious instruction. When the right hon. Member for West Birmingham endeavoured to divide the double-barrelled Amendment of the hon. Member for Burnley into two parts and accepted the one and declined the other he put himself in a somewhat illogical position in maintaining that it was not part of the duty of the State to compulsorily exact payment for the purpose of religious instruction, but that it was part of the duty of the State to compel the attendance of children at public elementary schools in order to receive religious instruction. They had been told by the Minister for Education that the position taken up by the Member for Burnley was the logical position, and he (Sir William Collins) had yet to learn that the logical and the rational position in this matter must be the supremely bad, and that that which was illogical should alone be the supremely wise position. The Minister for Education was not always so severe upon the logical position. It was dangerous to quote him, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, having given one quotation in the earlier debate, was assured that it was meant ironically, and that he was misapprehending the intention of his right hon. friend. But in that charming book which every one had read, Obiter Dicta, he found at the commencement of one of the most entertaining chapters these words—The world is governed by logic. Truth, as well as Providence, is always on the side of the strongest battalions. An illogical opinion only requires rope enough to hang itself.He did not know whether his right hon. friend in Clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill was providing rope enough to secure the hanging of the illogical opinion. They were told that although the position was logical it was absolutely impossible, but he warned the Committee that in this matter the words of Charles Reade might come true and the impossible might disguise itself as a fact and go through the hollow mockery of taking place. 1343 What was the grievance of the passive resister? He understood it to be that he was compelled to pay for teaching a religion he abhorred. The Bill shifted the grievance, but it did not cure it. They had been told by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, speaking on behalf of the Catholics, that the Catholics regarded simple Bible teaching under the Cowper-Temple Clause not only as inadequate, but as bad, as hostile, and as abhorrent to their religious convictions, and in great part as a hostile religion. He agreed entirely with those who said that in these matters of conscience it was the individual who suffered under the law, and not the majority who made the law who should have the final word as to what it was that offended the conscience, and he took it that under the proposals of the Government the conscience of a large section of the community would be offended by sanctioning the teaching of Cowper-Templeism at the expense of the State. He had listened to the able speech of the hon. Member for Norwich, and he would venture to appeal from the new to the old Nonconformist opinion, which he thought was somewhat more liberal with regard to this question. In the year 1870, when the memorable Amendment of Mr. Richard was moved in this House, the mover said—If I know anything of the principles of Nonconformity, one of the most fundamental and universally acknowledged by them is this —that it is not right to take money received from the general taxation of the country and apply it to purposes of religious instruction and worship.He appealed from the new Nonconformity to the old Nonconformity, which he thought represented a truer type of liberal opinion than some of those he had heard expressed recently. Moreover, they knew in the year 1870, from that interesting biography of Mr. Gladstone by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, that an important correspondence took place between Cardinal Manning and Mr. Gladstone about that time. Cardinal Manning wrote to Mr. Gladstone in these words—I am glad to see you lay down the broad and intelligible line that State grants go to secular education and voluntary efforts must do the rest.That solution Mr. Gladstone maintained and believed was in no way 1344 unfriendly to religion. The Amendment of Mr. Richard in 1870 received the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who, in a speech at the Alexandra Palace in November, 1902, said—If we had our way there would he no religious differences at all. We should confine ourselves (I believe nine-tenths of Liberals would confine themselves) to secular education, and to such moral precepts as would be common to all and would not be obnoxious to people who do not come within the range of Christianity.The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that a system of secular instruction need not exclude the Bible. From his (Sir William Collins') point of view he did not believe any secular education would be complete without a knowledge of the literature of the Bible and of the historical matters with which it dealt. It was said that it was difficult or almost impracticable to separate moral from religious instruction. That was a point urged by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board. It was true, no doubt, that no matter with what subject of education they were, dealing, no matter what science they might be studying, if they went deep or far enough they were confronted with the great problems of law, cause, and force, and questions of how, why, whence, and whither, on which they came to the shore of the infinite, the abyss of the absolute. Religious teaching differed from all other instruction in that at the very outset these fundamental questions arose and were answered variously according to different creeds. For his own part he associated himself entirely with those who advocated this solution on grounds of true religion and piety. The use of the ambiguous word "secular" was apt to mislead. In one sense it meant neutrality towards all religions, and in another, antagonism towards any religion. It was because he believed that this secular solution as it was called would tend to awaken fresh life in the Churches, the Chapels, and the Sunday school, when they realised that their work was not to be imperfectly done by the State, and because he believed that this solution would be really carrying out the Divine injunction of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's, that he desired to limit the intervention of the State to 1345 secular education with reference to both payment and compulsory attendance.
MR. ARNOLD-FOKSTER (Croydon)
said he thought he had some grounds for speaking in this debate. In the first place he had the right every hon. Member had to speak on what, after all, was by far the most important part of this important Bill. He was brought up in the echoes of the 25th clause of the Education Act of 1870, and he supposed those with whom he had lived had been as closely concerned with the cause of education as any Member of this Committee. He wished he could worthily represent what he believed would have been the testimony of every one of those persons in the discussion which was now taking place. He believed that the universal testimony of all those whom he had known and who had been associated with this great educational problem would be that which he also desired to offer, and which he would like to render in a way worthy of them. Nonconformists professed that they had taken a liberal view of this question, but in many respects they failed to see how local and temporary their view was. Some of the dogmatic utterances which had been put forward were far from having any relation to the general movement throughout the world. He thought the Committee ought to vote for the last Amendment. By law they compelled every parent to Bind his child to school, and they had taken upon themselves the enormous responsibility of providing an avenue between the child's soul and any knowledge of and communication with the spiritual world and spiritual things. The hon. Member for Leicester had urged that they should cut away I all religious teaching from the State, but he could not accept that argument. They had already declared by the Bill that the child should be educated in religion, at the expense of the State, and therefore they should take care that the religion in which their children were educated should be the greatest boon which could possibly be bestowed upon them. It was said that this duty could only be carried out by giving the child a limited teaching under the Cowper-Temple Clause. Did the history of mankind justify the view that we could have really well-educated children without the co-operation of and without 1346 taking into their confidence those to whom faith was a living reality? The hon. Member for Dewsbury had told the Committee that they were justified in relying on the fact that certain passages were taught to the children. Every one of those passages might be taught, and the minds and spirits of the children loft absolutely untouched. The teacher might make the whole difference between truth and falsehood, life and death, reality and nonentity, by the spirit in which he taught these things. The teaching of the London School Board had been described as very good. He had hoard that the teachers who taught under the Board at the commencement of the school board r½gime were for the most part men who brought to their work a keen faith in what they taught; but he understood that that was no longer so to the same degree. Even the hon. Member for Leicester had admitted that the standard had not been maintained. The Committee had been told that they ought to be guided by the examples of France, Australia, and the United States. He thought the Committee would not do well to adopt that recommendation. He once prepared a set of text-books for Australian schools under an extreme r½gime, which he was happy to think had now boon abandoned. He was not allowed to mention the name of the Deity, or to quote from Scripture or to enlarge on any Scripture doctrine, but merely to put in its place some machine-made morality. He had some acquaintance with a French work intended to teach morality apart from religious instruction. Children were told that they must honour their parents, and it was explained that those who did not do so were liable to an amende of 5 francs under the code. He did not think Australia had got very far on the journey upon which it set out, and they were finding out it was leading them to a sad conclusion. He did not know enough of what took place in the great States of the Union to say much in regard to the teaching there, but what he had heard made him feel that the United States had not received much encouragement to pursue the path upon which they had set out. What he did suggest to the Committee was that, if religion was to be taught, they must give that religion the chance which all religions had demanded and at the best times 1347 had obtained. The idea of teaching the morality of the Bible by merely repeating the verses of the Bible was childish. No country had ever attempted to inculcate morality in its people by merely reciting its religious books without any exegesis of those books. They could not give religious instruction by merely reciting passages from the Bible without comment, because the whole value of that recitation depended absolutely upon the spirit of the person reading and the comment with which it was accompanied. As they had ordained that religious instruction should be taught, then they should let those who were most competent teach it. Was the House of Commons going to say, "This is the religion of the people of England." Such an idea was absurd. By this Bill they were endeavouring to fix a minimum which was not acceptable to a large number of conscientious people, and they were trying to prevent them going beyond that minimum. With regard to Cowper-Temple teaching he had known instances where it had been given as devotedly and conscientiously as any denominational teaching, but they had no guarantee in regard to it. If they excluded from the schools people who loved what they taught, they would sterilise and atrophy what they taught. In this matter they had to look further than the duration of this Parliament. As the State had made up its mind that it would be responsible for the spiritual guidance of children in our schools, he desired to range himself on the side of those who would not keep out of the schools those who cared most about making their teaching a living reality. Some hard things and some true things had been said about the teaching in schools other than the elementary school. Those, however, who had been educated at public schools knew the help and power they derived from homo teaching and from coming in contact with great minds, but hon. Members should not forget that there were millions of poor children who were likely to be deprived of that enormous advantage which came from personal contact with a great soul and a great teacher. The Christian Brothers had been mentioned. He thought that was an extraordinary example of what they could gain by enlisting on their side men who had a whole-hearted ambition to do their duty, 1348 and teach that which they believed to be true. He knew the work the Christian Brothers had done, and they dare not shut out in Ireland the Christian Brothers from the schools. [An HON. MEMBER: But they do not take State funds.] He knew that quite well, but the object of this very Amendment was that they should have people teaching religion because they believed in it without being supported from State funds, and that was why he had quoted the Christian Brothers. For those reasons he proposed to support the Amendment to the Amendment, and he hoped it would be made effective by the carrying of the Amendment as well.
§ DR. MACNAMARA (Camberwell, N.)
said he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down on what evidence he had made the statement that religious teaching bad deteriorated under the London School Board. It was laid down first of all in a scheme in the preparation of which a former Tory Leader of this House, Mr. W. H. Smith, took an honourable part. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the hon. Member for Leicester as decrying the London system, but he said nothing of the sort.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he would be only too delighted if he was shown to be wrong. He believed that the reason alleged was that a smaller proportion of teachers went through the training colleges.
§ DR. MACNAMARA
replied that there were more teachers going through the training colleges, and more going through denominational colleges, than ever. the right hon. Gentleman's statement was entirely groundless. The right hon. Gentleman had given the Committee some of his reminiscences as a book writer for the Colony of Australia. He was asked to write a book suited to all tastes, and he appeared to be admirably adapted for I he task. If it failed he could always have an expurgated second edition. All he could hope was that the right hon. Gentleman would not treat the Deity as he treated free trade and cut Him out of the second edition altogether. He wished to express his gratitude to the leader of the exposition for his deliberate statement that, bad as 1349 it was from his point of view, he would rather have Cowper-Temple teaching than nothing at all. He hoped that statement would reach the ears of the noble Lord who sat behind the right hon. Gentleman and of many militant Bishops. The Bishop of Rochester, who was now Bishop of Southwark, once said that the Cowper-Temple clause was an ugly, shifting, shapeless monster. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham would, he gathered, receive the support of the Party opposite. It had the support of the Leader of the Opposition, and it had the equal distinction of being blessed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon. It was therefore to that Amendment that he desired to direct particular attention. He was deeply grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham for his statement on the Second Reading that, now that the teaching profession was a branch of the Civil Service, teachers must be immune from religious tests. It was, however, no longer ago than four years that the Loader of the Opposition when Prime Minister, to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred for confirmation, said that anybody who advocated that was guilty of raving lunacy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, by his Amendment, said in effect, "We will spend public money in compelling parents to send their children to school to get religious teaching, or set their children aside for secular instruction during the time of religious teaching." He would ask the out-and-out secularists who were in favour of secular schools, and who were on a much firmer basis than the right hon. Gentleman, whether they could vote for a proposition which did one of two things, namely, compelled parents to send their children to get religious instruction which they did not wish them to receive, or compelled them to have their children invidiously set aside while religious instruction was going on. The right hon. Gentleman's scheme provided for the right on entry all round. Did he think that at all a practical scheme? The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government were setting up and endowing undenominationalism, but he was himself setting up and endowing pandemonium. The right hon. Gentleman's proposition was entirely 1350 fantastic and did not come up to his suggestion that they should not spend public money on the religion of anyone. The hon. Member for Burnley and those who were associated with him were on firmer ground. They went straight for secular schools, and he admitted they had all the logic and all the doctrinaire arguments on their side. He admitted that the scheme of the Bill was indefensible from the point of view of dry and doctrinaire logic; but it had behind it ! thirty-five years of unqualified practical success. Secular schools were entirely out of touch with national sentiment. Their institution was possible from the moment Mr. Forster's Bill was passed, because the Cowper-Temple clause permitted them to be set up. Why had they never been set up? He objected to the advocates of a secular solution superimposing upon the statute-book that which they might have got, and had not got, locally. What was the good of saying that the people wanted secular schools. The history of the school boards shewed they did not. If the Committee would permit him he would read an extremely interesting letter which Mr. Cowper-Temple wrote on May 6th, 1872, and which was absolutely apposite to the present situation. He said—The Bill nearly made shipwreck on account of the religious difficulty, which was so enormously exaggerated by theorists, but which has never appeared a very real difficulty to those who are practically acquainted with education. The great difficulty was that of the secular party trying to persuade other people that those who advocated unsectarianism were adopting a visionary, hopeless, and impossible scheme. If the thing had been argued upon merely theoretical grounds, I think the secular party might have succeeded in convincing people that unsectarian education was impossible, but the arguments they used went for very little.…Experience has shown that in unsectarian schools religion can be taught in a most practical, efficient, and useful way, supplying to the children the amount of religious knowledge which they require without trenching upon those theological disputes, controversial difficulties, and alarming apprehensions which have induced many good men who love the Bible themselves to be driven to the extreme and abhorrent view that they must absolutely exclude the Bible from the schools.That was very applicable to the present situation. On all the theoretical argument he would give the supporters of the secular basis their own way; but here I was Mr. Cowper-Temple's statement that: what they said was impossible could be 1351 carried to a success. Tens of thousands of children would be shut out from the sweetening and beautifying influence of religious truth if Bible teaching was excluded from the schools, and even if he had no other argument, he would urge it with all the power he could command.
§ MR. BONAR LAW (Camberwell, Dulwich)
said he agreed with one remark of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that it was extremely easy to make a strong argumentative case for a purely secular solution of this difficulty. He had listened with the greatest admiration to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester who had disposed once for all of the idea that there could be such a thing as undogmatic Christianity taught in our schools. He, therefore, was surprised that the last speaker from the- Treasury Bench had not realised that the teaching he was defending was not undogmatic teaching. Christianity was dogma, and it was absolutely impossible to teach it without teaching dogma. The case for the secular solution had been best put on the previous evening by the hon. Member for North West Ham, whose two arguments were that the secular solution was the simple and natural solution, and that there was no alternative between that solution and the Bill now under discussion. He admitted that it was apparently the simplest way of putting out that fire which for twenty six years had either smouldered or flamed in this country. It was an open question whether it had done more harm smouldering or in flames, for when it smouldered the system of elementary education remained unchanged, because no political Party was willing to face the danger of changing it. The children's interests were thus sacrificed on the altars of religious bigotry. [Cries of "No."] No one knew this better than the Member for the City of London, who knowingly risked unpopularity to improve elementary education. This Bill proved his success, for it left the educational system practically as it was left by his right hon. friend. The business of the Government was not to take the easiest solution; it was to choose the solution that was best for the people of England. In talking of the logic of facts, the hon. Member for North West Ham had omitted to note the one fact that the majority of the people 1352 of England wished to have religious instruction in their schools. That fact excluded absolutely from their purview the secular solution. For the hon. Member's second point that there was no alternative solution except this Bill, the argument was extremely weak— the mandate of the country. The hon. Member had poured deserved contempt on the idea that there was any mandate.
§ MR. MASTERMAN (West Ham, N.)
said that what he had stated was that there was a mandate for popular control.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said he accepted the hon. Gentlemen's explanation, but he had read the hon. Gentleman's speech that morning and certainly he did ridicule the idea that there was any mandate for the; particular Bill now before the House.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said there was nothing now as to the theory of mandates. The only mandate clearly given was that the country was tired of them and desired a change; and there were indications that perhaps they were repenting of that view. [An HON. MEMBER: Where are they?] If any mandate was given on the education question, it was to correct the injustice which any particular class of the community suffered under the education system as left by the Act of 1902. If the Government had set themselves only to that task, it would have been much easier, more statesmanlike, and in the end better even for their Party interests than the course they had taken. The Minister for Education had made use of an epigram of which he had since repented. Had he ever discovered why this particular epigram had "taken on" so much? It was not that it was a particularly good one.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said the right hon. Gentleman had made hundreds of other 1353 platitudes—if he preferred that word— which were far better, but which no one remembered. Why was "minorities must suffer" remembered? It was remembered because it was true, because it exactly expressed the spirit in which this Bill had been introduced. The President of the Board of Trade, who represented far better than any other Minister the force—strong because it was so narrow— that was behind the Bill, gave his views to the House with perfect frankness and distinctness. The right hon. Gentleman said—We are willing to give facilities to Roman Catholics; but as for the Church of England, it ought to he either Catholic or Protestant, and if it is Protestant, what we propose ought to be good enough for it.[MINISTERIAL cheers.] Hon. Members cheered; but did they not see that that was precisely the spirit which always animated religious intolerance and persecution? Men never or rarely persecuted on religious grounds unless they believed that the views which they tried to compel other people to adopt were good for the other people. That was exactly the position of the President of the Board of Trade. But the right hon. Gentleman should realise that the real question at issue was not whether the Bill ought to satisfy the Church of England, but whether it did, in fact, satisfy the Church of England. It was said that the agitation against the Bill was got up by the Bishops and clergy. If that were true the Bill might pass. But if, as he believed, hostility to the Bill was felt by the great body of the Church of England; no majority, no power that the Government possessed, could make the Bill the law of England.
Order, order ! I think the hon. Gentleman is now transcending even the rattier wide limits of this Amendment.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said he desired to show that there was an alternative to secularism. The hon. Member for North West Ham had referred to Canada to prove that there was no solution but secularism.
§ MR. MASTERMAN
said he referred to Upper Canada to show that the system which he recommended was in operation there.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said the hon. Member had forgotten that during the last two or throe years there had been the keenest struggle in Canada, not about Quebec, but over the form of religious instruction to be adopted in the New Provinces, and that the problem had been solved by a Liberal Government, not by such a system as was proposed by the Bill or by secularism, but by a system of denominational education. The President of the Board of Trade had described Dr. Clifford and Oliver Cromwell as the two greatest outstanding Nonconformists. Personally he had always had a strong admiration for Cromwell, which perhaps was a strange confession from one who imagined himself to be a Tory. He thought that Cromwell had boon badly treated by the Party opposite. It was bad enough that a year or two ago an oration was delivered over him by Lord Rosebery and at the same time his life was written by the Secretary for India. Every one knew that the character of Cromwell and the character of the Secretary for India were in every respect antipathetic. But the President of the Board of Trade had gone much further in his view of Cromwell. As a matter of fact Cromwell was, for his day, a man who above all his contemporaries was distinguished by a desire for religious tolerance. [Loud cries of "Oh" from the NATIONALIST Benches.] He did not expect that that statement would be accepted by hon. Members for Ireland. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: Have you read history at all?] There were plenty Dr. Clifford's and plenty Presidents of the Board of Trade in Cromwell's time, and one of Cromwell's most difficult tasks was to prevent these gentlemen from flying at the throats of those with whom they disagreed on religious grounds.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
said that thirty-five years had shown that under the Cowper-Temple clause fundamental Christianity could be taught without any difficulty. Parents of all denominations accepted it, and often sent their children to board schools in order to get it. There was no religious difficulty in the schools themselves. He had been a member of a school board in which Anglicans, Nonconformists, Conservatives, and Liberals were represented, and' they had always worked together without any friction. In the school 1355 religious instruction was given by a member of the Church of England, and was without the slightest taint of dogma. He acknowledged that it was not possible to give simple Bible teaching without comment; for instance, it was impossible to teach children about publicans and sinners without telling them that a publican was not a man who kept a public-house. In his view the difficulty was to introduce dogma into teaching, and for his own part he would not teach the difference between the various denominations in the Evangelical Churches. He quite understood the difficulties of the Roman Catholics and Jews. The Roman Catholics believed that secular education must be permeated through and through by religious instruction. It was only fair, therefore, that when they were in sufficient numbers to make a school for themselves that should be done, although in isolated cases they must be content to withdraw their children from instruction. The Amendment before them would not, however, moot the Roman Catholics' view. the right hon. Member for Dover had spoken of the parent's right to have his child brought up in the faith which he himself professed. But the Church of England was not a faith. It was only a form of worship; the faith was the Protestant faith. If on five days of the week children were grounded in those fundamental truths upon which all Protestants were agreed, they could be taught the tenets of the different sects in the Sunday school or on Saturday evening. Personally he thought it better the children should not know of the s-sectarian differences. To say it was impossible to get children to attend Sunday school was a lamentable confession of weakness on the part of those who were always talking about the earnest desire of parents that their children should have denominational teaching. A great number of the Church schools were founded in the first half of the nineteenth century, but without any idea of any particular kind of denominational teaching at all. The Nonconformists were quite willing to accept the teaching of the National Society which was founded in 1811, because it was the same as what was called undenominational teaching to-day. If the Church of England teaching of fifty or sixty years ago had been continued this religious difficulty would not have arisen now; it was the Romanising teaching that people 1356 were afraid of. The right hon. Member for Dover had mentioned the case of Eton and other public schools where there were compulsory chapels. Nobody objected to hearing the beautiful Litany of the English Church read; it was the modern additions to it to which people objected. It appeared that denominational teaching was not necessary for the wealthier classes—it was only necessary for the poorer classes. This was like the lady at a Primrose League meeting who declared "that eternal punishment was an excellent doctrine—for the lower classes." By accepting the Amendment of the Member for West Birmingham they would be accentuating the differences between denominations. Could not all Protestants agree to teach their children the real truths in which all believed— the matters concerning which Christians were at peace, and not those points upon which Christians were at war?
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that what seemed to be the chief ground, the chief cause, which made this Bill in its present shape unjust was that it unquestionably proposed to endow a particular form of religious teaching which was not acceptable to a large section of the population and to pay for that religious teaching out of the public rates and taxes. This discussion, which had been exceedingly interesting and informing, must have conveyed to the mind of every hon. Member present the growing conviction that if this Bill could not be so modified as to meet the religious convictions of a considerable section of the English people, the solution advocated by the hon. Member for Burnley would become absolutely inevitable. He believed with his slight knowledge of this country that a proposal of the Government to put the Bible out of the schools would come to grief. And that was the answer, the only answer to the hon. Member for Burnley, and to the admirable speeches of the hon. Member for North West Ham and the hon. Member for Leicester. But as sure as this Bill was forced through this House in a shape which would leave large sections of the English people suffering under religious grievances, so sure would the day come, and it would be near at hand, when the secular solution of the hon. Member for Burnley would be forced on the country. It was admitted by the supporters of the Government that, the 1357 Bill could not be made a success unless it satisfied substantially the religious convictions of all considerable sections of thy population. In order to make the Bill, which was drawn in the spirit of compromise, successful for a long period, like the compromise of 1870, it was necessary to satisfy the religious convictions of all sections, and with regard to their conscientious objections the Government must receive the statements of the spokesmen of those communities. It was no use for the President of the Board of Trade or any hon. member below the gangway to say they were unreasonable. They themselves were the best judges, the only judges of whether this Bill pressed on their conscientious convictions or not. If the Bill proposed as it did propose to endow one form of religious teaching at the public expense, it was obvious to everybody that it could not continue to be a solution unless such concessions were made as would ensure that other denominations were upon an equality in this matter. That was the great principle which the Government had to keep in mind and which every Member who desired to keep the Bible in the schools had to keep before him. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the speech he had just now made had gone further than any Members on that side in approving Cowper-Temple teaching. He had said that excellent religious teaching was given under the Cowper-Temple clause, and that if he were driven to make a choice between secular education and the general application of the Cowper-Temple clause he would accept the latter. But the position of the Roman Catholics was very different; if they were forced to make a choice they would support the hon. Members for Burnley and Leicester. If he himself were forced to choose between the Cowper-Temple clause and secular education, he would choose the latter, and that was the education which all the Irish Members, and the whole of the community for which they spoke, would choose. He had no desire to make any invidious distinction between his case and that of hon. Members above the gangway; all he wished to point out was that their case was, a fortiori, that the Bill in its present shape would weigh more heavily upon them than on the consciences for which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. The right hon. Gentleman had complained only 1358 of interference; they complained of actual hostility. Roman Catholic Members said that to force their children into schools where there was simple Bible teaching—Protestant teaching endowed by the State out of rates and taxes paid by Roman Catholics—was not even handed justice. he had heard a good deal said about Australia, Canada, and America, and it had been said that every English speaking community in the world but England had accepted the principle of totally secular schools. That was not accurate. Let him warn hon. Members not to be led into the belief that the thinking people of America and Australia were entirely satisfied. These great causes did not produce their full effect in one generation, nor in two generations. One of the greatest statesmen in Australia had said to him—Mr. Dillon, I am not a man who is very strong in my religions convictions. I cannot say that I belong at present to any church, but I must confess that I view with the utmost alarm and doubt the great experiment that is being tried for the first time in the history of Australia. We are breeding a race with no religious convictions whatever. No nation that I have ever read of has ever continued to exist for any length of time without religious convictions.That showed that there were men in Australia who were extremely doubtful of the result of the experiment. In New South Wales they had gone back on that system. There was free entry allowed to ministers of all religious denominations, and arrangements were made to give denominational instruction; and there was provision for religious teaching at the public expense of something analogous to the teaching allowed under the Cowper-Temple clause. He found in a great public school in New South Wales a teacher giving a lecture on the Sermon on the Mount. He called that dogmatic teaching; but at any rate it was good and religious teaching. He also went round the great school system of New York, which was magnificent in all its equipment. In the city of New York the system was supposed to be purely secular, but the head of the schools, an Irishman, said they always opened the session with the Lord's Prayer and sang hymns. He was puzzled to know how men could call that purely secular education. If he had his choice he would without hesitation select for Catholic schools the right to have that constant influence of good 1359 example of reverence and prayer and religious symbols in preference to the Catechism. Could any man who understood the nature of children put in competition in point of importance for the future of the child the influence, whether of the home or of the school, which went on from hour to hour and almost from moment to moment, against the Catechism? In conclusion let him allude once more to the most powerful speech delivered by the hon. Member for Leicester. In a peroration full of eloquence the hon. Gentleman had referred to the influence of parents compared with the influence of the school, and had said it was a melancholy state of things that parents were encouraged by the present system to leave the religious education of their children to the schools and to cultivate the idea that they were safe in abandoning the children to the influence of the school. He heard the hon. Member for Leicester a few days ago say that the child had a right to appeal from the parent to the State for protection against the religious teaching of the parent, and Nationalist Members objected at the time; but now to his amazement, the hon. Member for Leicester became the most extravagant champion in this Committee for the rights of the parent against the school and the State in this matter. But the hon. Member for Leicester was a young man, and perhaps he would get wiser when he was older. When the hon. Gentleman spoke of the comparative insignificance of the school in the life of the child, he was ignorant of the experience of mankind. He did not wish to; speak lightly of the influence upon the child of a Christian home or of any kind of morally good home, for he had always recognised that there were excellent moral people who had no religious belief at all; but when the hon. Gentleman said that the school and the college through which the child passed had little or no influence upon the future of its moral life he knew very little of the mind of youth. If they banished religion from the schools as they were invited to do by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Burnley, they would be doing a mighty and momentous thing, and generations might pass before the full results of that proceeding would be brought to light; but he believed they would be inflicting a tremendous injury 1360 upon the nation and the race. No nation had ever continued to exist without religious faith. What the soul was to the body, religious faith was to nations and to peoples, and when they killed the religious faith of a people, he believed in his heart and conscience they killed their capacity of life as a nation, and therefore the injury to the nation was enormous. The position of Catholics had been exactly described by the Leader of the Opposition. They would support this Amendment, because it was an improvement on the original Amendment, but they would vote against the original Amendment, because they were against secularism in the schools. He repeated his previous warning, that unless the Bill were so altered as to ease the consciences of a considerable section of people in this country, although they might defeat the Motion for secular education that day, it would come on the morrow as surely as the sunrise.
§ MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said the Committee had a very serious responsibility in dealing with the Amendment before it. Would it not be well if they were to approach each other in a spirit of compromise? He remembered very well, in the year 1901, the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University appealed to the then Government to allow him to select nine men from around him, and ten men from the other side of the House, and said he would promise to bring in a Bill in the following year that would go through the House almost without opposition. If they had more of that spirit to-day, they would be very much nearer a settlement. The Bill did not attempt to drive denominational teaching from the schools; and it must have been a disappointment to the President of the Board of Education to find that his efforts in this direction had been so summarily rejected by many. They had to consider how far they could adopt into a really national system, teaching which was desired by many earnest men and good citizens throughout the country. When the teaching of sectarianism was put upon the rates in 1902, it raised a storm of opposition and passive resistance which it was absolutely necessary to allay; but whilst endeavouring to meet the objections which had been made, care ought to be taken that another storm was not raised which would force many Christian men 1361 into hostility to this measure. The object of this Bill was to secure the combination of popular control with facilities, and only by adopting that principle could they secure a compromise that would last for many years. By this Amendment to establish a secular system of education the interests of the children and of the country would be jeopardised and irretrievably damaged. They had before them the great question whether there should first be public control, and he held it was their duty as representing the State, in the first instance, to insist upon public control, accompanying the expenditure of public money, to adopt Clause 1, and at the same time avoid making it impossible for religious instruction to be given in the future. The Wesleyan Methodist Church had declared emphatically, by an unanimous vote of its conference, that there should be a public elementary school within reach of every child in which non-sectarian Christian instruction should be given, but they did not necessarily object to alternative denominational teaching being offered in populous places. They should do what they could to prevent the feuds of the past being continued, and therefore he begged in a spirit of earnestness that each section should try to understand the position and views of the other. Roman Catholics had a high claim to sympathy, but they should not forget that there were men of equal earnestness of conviction who had as great a claim upon the Committee. They should try to meet each other in this matter. Character and the highest ideals of conduct were based on religion; therefore he protested against an Amendment which would banish religious teaching from the schools.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said that, as the only Roman Catholic Member of the Opposition present, he wished to say a few words on this Amendment. Catholics were quite willing to pay for their own religion, but they must have Catholic teachers in Catholic schools, and until this was granted they would continue to oppose this Bill to the best of their ability. If the Government granted this concession to Catholics, of course they should grant it to the Church of England as well. From a Catholic point of view it appeared to him that the Bill was most 1362 unjust to the poor, and almost all Catholics were poor people. Those who could afford to pay a few shillings per week for the education of their children could nearly always find some school where they could get their own religion taught, but the poor man was compelled to send his child to school, and if he wished to have any religious instruction at all—
The hon. Member is entering upon Second Reading considerations. The discussion now is, between what this Bill provides and the secular solution.
These observations might be relevant on Clause 4, but they are not relevant to this Amendment.
§ MR. SAMUEL EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid.) moved to report progress.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said that the hon. Member for Ludlow had not given way, and as he was not told to discontinue his speech he thought he was in order in proceeding.
I did not call upon the hon. Member to discontinue his speech, but he sat down and did not resume, and so I called upon the hon. Member for Glamorganshire.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report progress; and 1363 ask leave to sit again"—(Mr. Samuel Evans)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.