Sunday, February 14, 2010

17Jun1870, The Education Bill

LONDON, June 17th, 1870.
Mrs. Talbot came to see me, and we went across to see Lavinia's [FN: Her sister Lavinia was about to be married to Edward Talbot, afterwards Bishop of Winchester.] presents at No. 11. Hearing my voice in the hall, who should call me into his study but the Prime Minister ! to ask me what I thought of the Government proceedings last night about the Education Bill. Things have been going very ticklishly with it lately. First, there was a determined push for secular education in all rate-supported schools ; then for undenominational and unsectarian religious instruction. Thank God, both these have gone overboard, and it has been cheering to perceive the strong wish through the country for religion in all schools. It would be a bitter humiliation for a Christian country to be driven by its wretched divisions to give up the very name of religion in its great national schools ; and, as to the other plan, anybody who knows anything of teaching knows that it is an impossible absurdity to define such a thing by law, and a gross tyranny to impose it upon any school teacher who happens to have distinct religious convictions. Next has arisen an outcry from dissenters for the exclusion of all "distinctive formularies" from the rate-supported schools. This also is an illogical piece of blind prejudice, for the masters are to be (rightly) left perfectly free to teach what they believe, subject to a strict Conscience clause ; and the result must be, that instead of wise, sober old formularies, any cocky, irreverent, bigoted, or lax master may instil his own shallow, crude, or narrow ideas. However, the Government have conceded it, giving, however, a great pull to the old-fashioned denominational schools (even when state-aided) by increasing the Government grant considerably. It seems the best plan that could be hit upon.

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