MR. GRANT DUFF
Sir, I am sure that I shall not be accused of using mere words of course, if I say that the Question to which I venture to ask for a time the attention of the House, is one of the most important that can possibly come before us. It is, Sir, a very large and a very difficult Question, but it has one peculiarity which may be taken as a set off against its magnitude and its complications. It is, at least, no party Question. It lies above and altogether out of the reach of the conflicting opinions which divide the two sides of this Assembly, and nothing but the most perverse ingenuity could enable any one to show that Conservatives and Liberals are bound to think differently upon any one of the issues which are likely to be raised in our discussion to-night. The Commission, to the Report of which I am calling attention, was appointed, as many hon. Members will recollect, nearly three years ago. Its immediate occasion, though not its cause, was the controversy which had arisen in the periodical press about the state of Eton; a controversy which was at first angry, but which before it closed became on both sides more amicable. It was at one time proposed that the area over which the inquiry was to extend should be considerably wider than it actually was. The schools and collegiate bodies, which were ultimately marked out for inquiry, were Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Harrow, Rugby, St. Paul's, Merchant Taylors', Charter House, and Shrewsbury. The Commission was very fairly selected; it included one distinguished Member of this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford; three Members of the other branch of the Legislature, Lord Clarendon, Lord Devon, and Lord Lyttleton, selected, I presume, 106 respectively as a man of the world, a man of business, and a scholar; Professor Thomson, now Professor of Greek at Cambridge, and Mr. Vaughan, late Professor of Modern History at Oxford; last, not least, Mr. Twisleton, whose learning and high culture are well known to all. Those who, like myself, considered that there was room for very great improvement in the present state of our higher education thought, when we read the names, that we had obtained a Commission which would be rather a fair representation of existing views than one very likely to report in accordance with our wishes, and we trusted more to the indirect effect of the information which we knew would be brought out, than to any direct effect which could be expected to arise from the recommendations of the Commissioners. I am bound to say that we have been most agreeably disappointed. I shall, as I proceed, have to show that here and there I do not agree with some of the views of the Commissioners; but with the general tone of their Report, and with the majority of their suggestions I have no fault to find. The purposes to be served by a discussion of the Report in this House, seem to be twofold: 1. That the Government may be encouraged to bring in a Bill with a view to carrying into effect such recommendations of the Commissioners as require the aid of Parliament to carry them into effect; and 2. That the attention of Parliament and the country may be called to the recommendations which are addressed to the governing I bodies and the head masters of the schools. The Report is divided into two parts. The first, which is much the shortest, gives the general results of the inquiry into what is intelligibly, but loosely, called public school education, and sums up the general recommendations of the Commissioners, those, namely, which are applicable to all schools. The second, which runs to great length, consists of nine separate and very careful accounts of the several schools, to each of which is appended a summary of the special recommendations applicable to that particular school. It is, of course, chiefly to the first part that I shall ask hon. Members to direct their attention. Before we pass to what the Commissioners describe and recommend, let me recal to the recollection of the House what were the allegations of the educational reformers. They resolved themselves into two: 1. That the edu- 107 cation given to average boys at the public schools was-extremely bad; and secondly, that the education given to the most successful boys was, when compared with the requirements of the age, sadly inadequate. On both these counts of the indictment the Commissioners have found, so to speak, a verdict for the prosecution, as they have also, upon a hundred other counts, some of which are of no inconsiderable, though secondary importance. Of secondary importance I say, for let it never be forgotten that all questions about the property, the external government, and about the internal administration, are only auxiliary to these two. Is the range of study wide enough, and are the subjects which are attended to efficiently taught? Here is the answer of the Commissioners to the first question—The education appears to us sound and valuable in its main elements, but wanting in breadth and flexibility—defects which, in our judgment, destroy in many cases, and impair in all, its value as an education of the mind; and which are made more prominent at the present time by the extension of knowledge in various directions, and by the multiplied requirements of modern life.To the second question they reply—We have been unable to resist the conclusion that these schools, in very different degrees, are too indulgent to idleness, or struggle ineffectually with it, and that they consequently send out a large proportion of men of idle habits and empty and uncultivated minds.This passage is further illustrated by what follows: —If a youth, after four or five years spent at school, quits it at nineteen, unable to construe an easy bit of Latin or Greek without the help of a dictionary, or to write Latin grammatically, almost ignorant of geography and of the history of his own country, unacquainted with any modern language but his own, and hardly competent to write English correctly, to do a simple sum, or stumble through an easy proposition of Euclid, a total stranger to the laws which govern the physical world, and to its structure, with an eye and hand unpractised in drawing, and without knowing a note of music, with an uncultivated mind and no taste for reading or observation, his intellectual education must certainly be accounted a failure, though there may be no fault to find with his principles, character, or manners. We by no means intend to represent this as a type of the ordinary product of English public school education; but speaking both from the evidence we have received and from opportunities of observation open to all, we must say that it is a type much more common than it ought to be, making ample allowance for the difficulties that have to be contended with, and that the proportion of failures is therefore unduly large.The view here put forward is borne out by the evidence of many of the leading tutors 108 at Oxford, summed up in pages 24 and 25 of the Report. The Dean of Christchurch says—Very few can construe with accuracy a piece from an author they profess to have read. We never try them with an unseen passage; it would be useless to do so. Tolerable Latin prose is very rare; perhaps one piece in four is free from bad blunders; a good style is scarcely ever seen. The answers we get to simple grammar questions are very inaccurate.Remember that these young men, of whom the Dean of Christchurch thus speaks, are, after all, not the average product of your public schools. The average product is an even inferior article—an article so inferior that the head masters of all the schools, except Rugby and Shrewsbury, positively refused to allow the Commission to examine them for themselves, lest they should see how bad it was. The correspondence with regard to this is given at length, and should be read. How, then, do the Commissioners propose that we should remedy this state of things? They begin by proposing to re-constitute the governing bodies to which are confided the selection of the head masters, and the making of those permanent regulations which form, so to speak, the code of each school. The constitution of the bodies which at present govern these nine schools is very varied—in some better, in others worse; but in no one instance does it fulfil the conditions which are very properly insisted upon by the Commissioners in the following passage:—In some cases, as will more fully appear hereafter, the governing body was designed for a school very unlike that which it now has to govern. We are of opinion that in most cases, either from this cause or from the altered circumstances of the times, some modifications in the governing body have become necessary, and that, unwise as it certainly would be, in this as in other respects, to aim at mere uniformity, there are some common features which should generally belong to the governing body of a great public school. Such a body should be permanent in itself, being the guardian and trustee of the permanent interests of the school; though not unduly large, it should be protected by its numbers and by the position and character of its individual members from the domination of personal or local interests, of personal or professional influences or prejudices; and we should wish to see it include men conversant with the world, with the requirements of active life, and with the progress of literature and science.I do not think there are many persons in the House who will disagree with the general spirit of these remarks, although, of course, there will be a conflict of opinion about the constitution of the particular governing bodies suggested for each 109 school. Nor will there be much difference of view about the necessity for revising statutes on the principles adopted by the Commissioners in these words. "The statutes of founders are to be upheld and enforced whenever they conduce to the general objects of the foundation; but they are to be modified whenever they require a closer adaptation to the wants of modern society." Subject to the general superintendence of the governing bodies, the Commissioners propose, and rightly propose, that the head master should be well nigh absolute. The greatest diversity prevails in this respect at present. At Eton, for example, a head master, who, like Mr. Goodford, had an experience of many years as a teacher, could hardly move band or foot without the permission of his distinguished, but latterly very obstructive, superior, Provost Hawtrey; while at Harrow, Mr. Butler, fresh from college, was virtually independent of any control in the discharge of the duties of his office. The Commissioners think that the head masters should be assisted by a school council, with a consultative, but not legislative voice, and with the power of addressing the governing bodies when a majority desires to do so. How well an institution of this kind works, and has long worked at Rugby, is sufficiently known. How bitterly the great majority of the assistant masters of Eton regret the absence of any such institution is a fact not less familiar. Not many will now wish that the selection of the head master in any school should be limited by arbitrary restrictions; but with regard to the recommendation which immediately follows that, namely, that the classical languages and literature should continue to hold the principal place in the course of study, some controversy may arise in this House, and out of it Having regard, I will not say to what is abstractedly best, but to what is best in present circumstances, I, for my part, entirely and cordially agree with this proposition; but, in the method of carrying out the eighth recommendation, I should in some respects differ from the Commissioners. It seems to me that the only reasonable object to be set before us in teaching the classics is to make a young man of good abilities and application, when he has finished his classical course, able not only to read with facility everything that is not extraordinarily and exceptionally difficult in the two languages, like the choruses of the Choephoroe or the Trachiniae, but that 110 he should have read whatever is most admirable in classical literature, and that he should have a fair scholarly acquaintance with the whole of Greek and Roman history. That is not a large demand to make, even if you very materially curtail the amount of time now given to classics. It is not a large demand to make even if a boy only begins Latin at twelve, when you: think that far the greater part of his time between that age and the period at which; he leaves the University, say ten years, or the best hours of a seventh part of an ordinary human life, is given up to the classical languages, and to the knowledge to which they are the key. But is anything like this obtained at present by a course of classical study, which, carried on to the end of the University period, begins often at eight or nine years old? Is it gained, I ask, not by idle or stupid men, but by the very best of your students? Take the three classes of the classical tripos at Cambridge, and take the four honour classes at Oxford, and seek amongst their members for the kind of knowledge of which I speak—you will find the Cambridge men fail egregiously in knowledge of the matter of the authors which they have read, although more able to translate passages presenting some considerable difficulty, at sight. You will find the Oxford men, although admirably well acquainted with the language and matter of a certain number of books, and these very important ones, yet failing in the power of being able to read unfamiliar classical authors with sufficient case, and very indifferently acquainted cither with Greek or Roman history during the periods not covered by their books—very imperfectly acquainted, for example, with the age of Alexander the Great, or of the Antonines. Now, the cause of this is perfectly obvious—it is the exaggerated importance which is attributed to Latin and Greek composition, I am glad to see that there is an immense weight of evidence against verse composition in the appendix to the Report, but there is a clinging to prose composition in those languages, and even in some cases a clinging to Latin composition when the utility of Greek composition has been frankly given up as incapable of defence, I allude more especially to the evidence of the Master of Trinity, Cambridge. In this matter of composition the Commissioners make concessions, but they do not make sufficient concessions. I confess that I am on this one point thoroughly revolu- 111 tionary. I feel that every hour which I myself ever took from reading good Latin and Greek, and gave to writing bad Latin and Greek, was an hour lost, and I defy any one to prove that such hours are ever employed to advantage, except by perhaps three or four boys out of a hundred, who happen to have the peculiar knack of writing what is called brilliant composition; and when you have attained to this pinnacle, when you can write Greek verses like Mr. Riddell in the Anthologia Oxoniensis, or Latin verses like Professor Conington or Professor Goldwin Smith, in the same volume, have you done anything better than gain an accomplishment entitled to rank amongst intellectual acquirements, pretty much as fencing does amongst physical acquirements? No amount of sophistry can prove that there is any one important gift of the human intellect which is at all more brought out by Latin and Greek composition than by composition in other languages. In discussing the question, there is an everlasting application of the argument post hoc ergo propter hoc. We are told, for example, that such and such a person wrote good Latin verses before he made good speeches or wrote good leading articles, and then it is quietly assumed that he had the power to do the one only because he had done the other. I will not raise the question whether it is in the nature of things possible for a modern to write really well in Greek or Latin at all, although I fully believe that the least successful contemporary imitators of Cicero would have smiled at our Ciceronian Latin, and the weakest poet who ever failed at Athens would have found little to admire even in the "Greek Verses of Shrewsbury School." The Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta told the young Bengalees the other day—Depend upon it, no man ever wrote well by striving too hard to write well. English can only be well written by following the golden rule which Englishmen follow, or ought to follow, and that rule is never to try deliberately to write it well.Why should what is true of English not be true of Latin and Greek? The practice of orally translating and re-translating is exempt from many of the disadvantages of composition, and a chain of authorities in its favour may be cited from the days of the younger Pliny to those of the younger Pitt. It is strange that it seems to be so little kept up in any of our schools—only, I think, at St. Paul's. An immense amount 112 of time appears to be lost at more than one of these schools in repetition. Much of this will, I hope, he done away with if the quantity of verses is diminished, or more certainly still, if they are gradually abolished. What is gained by making a boy say, for example, the Alcestis of Euripides from beginning to end? To learn so much, and to have it ready at a moment's notice, is a task which costs even boys with excellent memories many hours of application, and when a boy has an indifferent memory, it must be a terrible infliction. It is stated in the evidence before us that, I think at Winchester, boys have been known to repeat as much as 7,000 lines at a time. Surely it would be far better if the authorities of each school were to compile a small volume which consisted entirely of really choice passages, to be committed to memory. Such a selection, if really well learned, would be a valuable possession for after life, but who cares to retain in his head whole books of the AEneid or entire Greek plays. The other studies on which the Commissioners insist are Arithmetic and Mathematics, one modern language (either French or German), one branch at least of Natural Science, and either drawing or music, to which are to be added a certain amount of religious teaching, History, Geography, and English composition. To those who feel inclined to doubt the expediency of giving instruction during at least part of the school course, in drawing or music, I would, without dwelling on the more obvious arguments in favour of these studies, recommend the perusal of some of the evidence given by that eminent scholar, Dr. Kennedy, of Shrewsbury, with regard to the bearing which they have upon classical scholarship. Nothing is more curious, indeed, than the little effect which our present classical training has in disposing the minds of those who go through it to the study of ancient art. Turn the six best Cambridge men and the six best Oxford men of their year loose in the Vatican, and you will find them hardly, if at all, more capable of understanding and appreciating what they see than any tolerably educated person. It may be doubted, I think, whether French should not be made obligatory in the case of all boys. Whether or not its utility, as a means of education, is as great as that of some of its rivals is, of course, an open question. For my own part, I am inclined to think that it is at present rather too much the 113 fashion in this country to depreciate the literature of France; and I am quite sure that the precision of French thought, that sort of honesty as between author and reader, which is so characteristic of French books, and which makes you certain as you read them that at least the writer knows what he means—nay, the very limitations upon the power of expressing ideas which mark the language—are useful correctives to certain tendencies at present very rife in our own literature. But whatever may or may not be its importance as instrument of education, its enormous importance as a subject of instruction makes it unnecessary to discuss its educative utility. It seems to me that the Commissioners have exercised a very wise discretion in postponing the claims of Italian to those of German. True it is that in favour of the first may be urged its affinity to Latin and to French, rendering it, as they do, singularly easy to teach in conjunction with these two languages, Then it is undoubtedly, in the Mediterranean and the East, extremely useful; nor must it be forgotten that the growing political importance of Italy, and the great awakening which is taking place there, will make it increasingly desirable to be acquainted with the language which is spoken by a great and powerful people, I must also admit that I know no means so appropriate as the study of the great writers of the Italian middle age for giving a lofty, ennobling, refined, and, as I may say, specifically Christian culture. The atmosphere, so to speak, which we breathe in the writings of Goethe is the same as that in which we all live. It is essentially modern. When we turn, however, to the Divina Commedia, we breathe another atmosphere. The world of Dante was a world almost as different from ours as the world of Sophocles. It is perhaps a hasty generalization from Milton, but one cannot help thinking that the early and deep study of the Italian literature is calculated to bring out in a very singular degree some of the finest characteristics of the English mind. The arguments, however, in favour of German are irresistible. It is at least as useful as Italian, not only from the number of people who speak it, but from the number of languages to which it is the key. The two reasons, however, which seem to me conclusive in its favour are the following. In the first place, the difficulty of really mastering it is so great and so serious that 114 the most bigoted adherent of the present system cannot afford, if, that is to say, he has himself acquired it, to treat it as an inadequate substitute for part of that Greek and Latin training, the difficulty of which is, to the minds of such people, its peculiar charm; and secondly, because the literature of Germany is to such an extent a reservoir of knowledge and of ideas that, with the exception of the exact sciences, there is no one subject of human research upon which anyone can thoroughly inform himself without being driven to German sources. Take the very subject of classics. I do not ask, are there not many Gorman books which are indispensable? but are there any books of much importance in use in our schools or Universities which are not either wholly German or taken to a great extent from Gorman sources? So it is with history, so with philosophy. Open any book on the theological controversies now raging in this country, and, strange to say, neither on the orthodox nor heterodox side is there almost a single authority cited which is not either German or wearing the uniform of one or the other widely divided schools of German opinion. A suggestion is made by Professor Huller respecting the assistance which might be derived in teaching both Latin and French from comparative philology, and he mentions a grammar, that of M. Egger, the well-known Professor in Paris, which is founded upon this principle. I am glad to see that the Commissioners think that the suggestion may be turned to practical use. I am somewhat surprised not to have observed that any questions had been put, or any suggestions made, with respect to paying more regard in the teaching of Greek, to the assistance to be derived from the living language. This subject has been brought very much before those who in Scotland take an interest in such matters, by Professor Blackie, well known as the translator of Æschylus. I do not myself venture to pronounce any opinion upon it, but I cannot help thinking that it is a matter which calls for very grave consideration. I cannot help thinking that something too much is made of the practical difficulties which are to be encountered in teaching foreign languages to schoolboys. The evidence on this subject, to he found in the blue-books, is very conflicting, but perhaps the best suggestion is that made in the excellent letter from Mr. Barry of Cheltenham, who says— 115I cannot but be of opinion that if a school can include one Frenchman and one German on its staff, for the purpose of correcting pronunciation and looking over the higher kinds of composition, and can then entrust the greater part of the French and German teaching to Englishmen who have had a University education, and who, having lived abroad, are thoroughly versed in the foreign language which they undertake to teach, the work will be far more effectively done than by any other arrangement.Small matters of this kind invariably come right of themselves, when there is an honest desire that they should come right, and people are not too impatient. Once let the authorities at our great schools become as anxious to make boys good French and German scholars, as they now are to make them good Greek and Latin scholars, and they will soon laugh at the very idea of there being any difficulty in the matter. Even now M. Vecqueray at Rugby tells the Commissioners that he finds the boys perfectly manageable. There is no wiser page in the whole of the Report than that in which the Commissioners—not one of whom, be it observed, is himself a scientific man—every one of whom, be it also observed, has been brought up under influences totally alien to those of science properly so called— sum up the overwhelming arguments in favour of introducing the study of natural science, into the regular course of our schools. They speak as follows:—Natural science, with such slight exceptions as we have noticed above, is practically excluded from the education of the higher classes in England. This exclusion is, in our view, a plain defect and a great practical evil. It narrows unduly and injuriously the mental training of the young, and the knowledge, interests, and pursuits of men in maturer life. Natural science quickens and cultivates directly the faculty of observation, which in very many persons lies dormant through life, the power of accurate and rapid generalization, and the mental habit of method and arrangement; it accustoms young persons to trace the sequence of cause and effect; it familiarises them with a kind of reasoning which interests them, and which they can promptly comprehend; and it is perhaps the best corrective for that indolence which is the vice of half-awakened minds, and which shrinks from any exertion that is not, like an effort of memory, merely mechanical. With sincere respect for the opinions of the eminent schoolmasters who differ from us in this matter, we are convinced that the introduction of the elements of natural science into the regular course of study is desirable, and we see no sufficient reason to doubt that it is practicable.Hon. Members will not, I think, consider that the Commissioners have done anything superfluous in insisting upon Geography being taught in regular lessons; although Mr. Blakesley, whose geographi- 116 cal attainments are well known, maintains, in some evidence which amusingly illustrates the effect of early prejudice, that it is vain to attempt what is continually successfully done even amongst us outer barbarians on the other side of the border. I am inclined to think that the recommendations, with respect to the mode of teaching history, might with advantage have been more specific, but the question is one which involves too much detail, and I will not enter upon it. It is difficult to understand why the Commissioners have not insisted upon all boys who go through a public school obtaining some knowledge, at least, of the outlines of English literature. This might easily be done without teaching it in class—if a course of lectures were delivered to guide the reading of the boys on the sixth form, or a paper upon the subject were set in the matriculation examination at the University. This is not by any means the only way in which-the House can aid the University—indeed, no satisfactory reform will be effected in the higher education till the University learns that it is its business to aid the public schools by enforcing a reasonably high standard of attainment upon those who seek to enter it, and the public school enforces a proportionably high standard upon the humbler schools which feed it. The Commissioners have not thought it their duty to suggest any action of this kind on the part of the University, although it is in accordance with the spirit of all that they say, and is, as is clear from the evidence, urgently desired by all those resident members of the University who are interested in the studies of the place. But they recommend an examination before entering the public school, and this leads me to the only question which has been discussed by the Commissioners, upon which their Report is not unanimous. The twenty-third recommendation runs as follows: —Every boy should be required, before admission to the school, to pass an entrance examination, and to show himself well grounded for his age in classics and arithmetic, and in the elements of either French or German.Mr. Vaughan objects to that provision in this recommendation, which requires proficiency corresponding with age in French or German, as the one indispensable qualification to be required in addition to proficiency in classics and arithmetic. He thinks that a boy should be allowed to take up for his entrance examination the 117 elements of some branch of natural science instead of a modern language. Mr Vaughan's dissent, if somewhat lengthy, is well reasoned and important; but after reading the evidence of Professor Owen, Dr. Carpenter, Sir Charles Lyell, Mr, Faraday, and others, I feel very strongly that all the reasons which he gives for postponing a modern language to the claims of natural science, tell much more strongly in favour of delaying the commencement of the study of the classics, Dr. Carpenter's evidence more especially is well worthy the study of hon. Members, and so is a pamphlet by Dr. Hodgson, to which he frequently alludes. I do not think that boys who enter a public school at twelve years old ought to be required to bring with them any knowledge of classics at all. I think that reading, writing, and the simple rules of arithmetic, a fair knowledge of French or German, and a reasonable amount of geography, English, and general knowledge would be quite sufficient. It can be proved to demonstration that a boy who does not begin the Latin Grammar till twelve years old will, if well taught previously in other subjects better suited to his age, soon overtake another who has begun it at nine or ten years old. I think that great encouragement should be given to the study of natural science at an early period of life, and that a boy should have an opportunity of showing acquaintance with it, and receive marks for it in his entrance ex-animation. Speaking of natural science, Mr. Vaughan aptly observes—Nor need its imposing name seem to disqualify it for a subject of examination in the middle and even lower forms of a public school, 'Greek,' which was once the synonym of 'abstruse' and 'unintelligible,' is now a subject in which boys of the lowest forms of public schools are daily examined. Natural science, however, like a classical language, has not only its elements, but its grammar, its accidence, so to speak, and even its alphabet, in each of which judicious and considerate examiners will be able to test the soundness of the knowledge of the least proficient,Of course, when a boy entered the school in any other than the lowest form, it would be necessary for him to come prepared to a certain extent in classics. At Shrewsbury I observe that hoys sometimes enter even in the lower sixth. All difficulties on this score would be prevented by the working of the Commissioners' twenty-fifth general recommendation, which is in the following words: —No boy should be suffered to remain in the school who fails to make reasonable progress in it. 118 For this purpose certain stages of progress should be fixed by reference to the forms into which the school is divided. A maximum age should be fixed for attaining each stage, and any boy who exceeds this maximum without reaching the corresponding stage of promotion should be removed from the school. A relaxation of this rule to a certain extent might be allowed in cases where it clearly appeared that the boy's failure to obtain promotion was due to his deficiency in one particular subject, while his marks in other subjects would have counterbalanced that deficiency had the system of promotion permitted it.To a certain extent the Commissioners adopt what is called the bifurcation principle. Arrangements should be made, they say, for allowing boys after arriving at a certain place in the school, to drop some portion of their classical work, in order to dovote more time to mathematics, modern languages, or natural science; or, on the other hand, to discontinue wholly, or in part, natural science, modern languages,: or mathematics, in order to give more time, to classics or some other study. Into this ' subject I shall not enter. It is clear from the evidence supplied in the very interesting communications from Cheltenham, Marlborough, and the Wellington College, that the difficulties which are in the way could be easily overcome; but with regard to the greatest of your public schools, above all, with regard to Eton, it is really not an important question. Make these schools in every respect what they should be, and improve your Universities proportionably, and the demand to enter such a school as Eton will become so great, that you will be able to dictate what conditions you please. You will be able, for instance, to say, that you do not care to receive any one who does not come to be prepared for the University, and you will be able to decline modifying what you have deliberately determined to be the best system of training for the mind, in deference to the requirements of this or that competitive examination. Make Eton what it ought to be, and it will be a school not only for England, but, within twenty years, for the upper classes of the whole of Europe, Three recommendations relate to the charges to be made to parents, and the stipends and emoluments of masters—both very important subjects, but subjects upon which we shall hear so much from the parties most interested, that I pass them by. With regard to the results of the present system of discipline, the evidence of Mr. Hedley, the Master of Balliol, and Mr. Rawlinson of Exeter, is very satisfactory, and the latter says expressly that the 119 change dates from the time when Arnold's pupils began to come up to Oxford. The Commissioners endorse the leading principle of that eminent man's school administration in the following words:—The principle of governing boys mainly through their own sense of what is right and honourable is undoubtedly the only true principle; but it requires much watchfulness, and a firm, temperate, and judicious administration to keep up the tone and standard of opinion, which are very liable to fluctuate, and the decline of which speedily turns a good school into a bad one.The thirtieth recommendation runs as follows:—The system of fagging should be likewise watched; fags should be relieved from all services which may be more properly performed by servants, and care should be taken that neither the time which a little boy has for preparing his lessons, nor the time which he has for play, should be encroached upon unduly.The buildings again of the great schools naturally come in for their share of attention, and are pronounced to be by no means all that could be desired, even at the wealthier schools. It has frequently been asked by persons who visited the Educational Exhibition, which took place in London some years ago, or the Educational Department of the great Exhibition, why so few of the numerous ingenious inventions which have been adopted in the best schools for the lower classes should not also be applied to the schools in which the highest classes are brought up. Nor has any satisfactory answer ever been given. But the evil to which I am alluding is much more serious, as any one may see who will look at the evidence, and there can be no doubt that, if it were not for the great amount of exercise which is everywhere encouraged, that the effects upon health would be much worse than they appear to be. With regard to games, it is perhaps more than doubtful whether the re-action which set in some time ago in favour of physical training has not gone a little too far, and has not, in some respects, taken a wrong direction. Cricket, for example, as an amusement is one thing, but cricket as a science, which requires to be studied for five hours per day, as we see to be the case from some of the evidence in these volumes, is a very different thing. It may be doubted whether any of the games popular at schools give, if too extensively practised, anything like the best training of which boys are susceptible, and I am sorry that no one appears to have suggested to the Commissioners to take upon this point the evidence 120 of Mr. M'Laren, who has established at Oxford a great gymnasium, which is well known, I have no doubt, to most Members of the House who keep up their connection with the University, and who has, I know, made a special study of this subject. Another defect which is brought out by the evidence, is the absence of any system of training for masters who are to teach the boys of the higher classes. All those who have attended to elementary education know that the art of teaching must itself be taught, and I do not think that our Universities can be considered to do their duty until they devise some means of giving instruction in this important art to the many young men who now devote themselves to a profession which is every day becoming more highly paid, and more highly considered. Such are the principal points which are brought out in the Commissioners' general Report; but before I pass to notice some of the more important suggestions which they make with regard to the several schools which have come under their review, I may be allowed to quote the passage in which they sum up their general impressions of the system—It is not easy to estimate the degree in which the English people are indebted to these schools for the qualities on which they pique themselves most—for their capacity to govern others and control themselves, their aptitude for combining freedom with order, their public spirit, their vigour and manliness of character, their strong but not slavish respect for public opinion, their love for healthy sports and exercise. These schools have been the chief nurseries of our statesmen; in them, and in schools modelled after them, men of all the various classes that make up English society, destined for every profession and career, have been brought up on a footing of social equality, and have contracted the most enduring friendships, and some of the ruling habits of their lives; and they have had, perhaps, the largest share in moulding the character of an English gentleman. The system, like other systems, has its blots and imperfections; there have been times when it was at once too lax and too severe—severe in its punishments, but lax in superintendence and prevention; it has permitted, if not encouraged, some roughness, tyranny, and licence, but these defects have not seriously marred its wholesome operation, and it appears to have gradually purged itself from them in a remarkable degree. Its growth, no doubt, is largely due to those very qualities in our national character which it has itself contributed to form; but justice bids us add that it is due likewise to the wise munificence which founded the institutions under whose shelter it has been enabled to take root, and to the good sense, temper, and ability of the men by whom, during successive generations, they have been governed.This is true, but there is another and a sadder side to the picture. Go back fifty years, and read Sydney Smith's articles 121 in the early numbers of the Edinburgh. What are the most important recommendations of this Report but an echo of his words to which so few listened. But his doctrines were not new doctrines. You will find them in Locke's treatise on Education, You will find them farther back still in Milton's noble paper. Nay, some of them you will find even in the writings of Ascham. If our fathers had only listened to those great men, what a waste of power would have been saved, and how much further advanced in all true civilization this England of ours would have been. Of all the schools which came under their review, Rugby seems best to have pleased the Commissioners. This distinction it owes partly to the wholesome interference of the Legislature, partly to the conscientious manner in which the Trustees discharge their duty, but above all to the great impulse which was given to it by Dr. Arnold. Nor must it be forgotten that since his death two out of its three head masters have been men of superior merit, and that they have been ably seconded by the assistant masters. The following is the language of the Report:—A system of mental training which comprehends almost every subject by which the minds of boys can be enlarged and invigorated a traditional spirit amongst the boys of respect and honour for intellectual work; a system of discipline which, while maintaining the noble and wholesome tradition of public schools, that the able and more industrious should command and govern the rest, still holds in reserve amaturer discretion to moderate excess, quiet uncertainty, and also to support the legitimate exercise of power; a system of physical training which, while it distinguishes the strong, strengthens the studious and spares the weak; a religious cultivation, which, though active, is not overstrained, but leaves something for solemn occasions to bring out. Such are some of the general conditions which have presented themselves to notice during our investigation. They go far also, we think, to explain that public confidence which the school has for many years possessed, and never since the days of Arnold in larger measure than at tin: present moment.The most important of the sixty-seven special recommendations of the Commissioners relating to this school appear to be those which suggest that the Local Trustees should be re-inforced by four gentlemen elected on account of generally acknowledged eminence in literature and science; that the number of the school should be limited to 500; that the incomes of the classical assistant masters should vary from £500 to £1,400; that the local privileges of the neighbourhood of Rugby 122 with reference to the school should be gradually abolished, in a way so as not by possibility to affect vested interests; that new scholarships and exhibitions should be founded and regulated according to the most approved principles; and that there should not be less than three classical masters to each 100 boys. In strong and melancholy contrast to Rugby, we have the once famous Westminster. It is not only that the state of scholarship there is, as is proved by the evidence of Dr. Scott, the head master, wretchedly, and indeed ludicrously low, but that, at least in college, the worst evils of the worst old times of our schools are in full vigour. Hon. Members will do well to turn to the evidence of Mr. Meyrick and his son, and to compare it with the counter evidence of Dr. Scott and several other witnesses. They will, I am sure, be unable to resist the conclusion that, although there may have been some exaggerations in the statements of the accusers, the evidence for the defence so completely breaks down, that it would be to push courtesy and respect of persons to the extreme if I were to refrain from saying, that the revelations about Westminster School which these volumes contain, reflect the greatest disgrace upon all those who have had any share in its management for some time back. There is one thing which I do not understand, and that is why the late Dean, whose position towards the College is defined, I believe, by the statutes to be that of mens in corpore, had not an opportunity of coming before the Commissioners, and explaining how it was that the condition of things, which we have now disclosed to us, was permitted to go on under his eye, and virtually with his sanction. I am sure the eminent ecclesiastic in question, the present Archbishop of Dublin, will thank me for thus giving him a reason for stepping forward to take his share of the responsibility for the state of Westminster, instead of allowing it to rest entirely upon the shoulders of his subordinates. I am happy, Sir, to think that the present Dean has given hostages to society in the publication of the Life of Arnold. He dared not allow these infamies to go on if he would, and he is the last man in the world to do so; but I must remind the public that cathedral bodies move slowly, and I think no man who has read this evidence will be foolish enough to send his 123 son to Westminster, until the Dean and Chapter can point, not only to promises of reform, but to a reform which shall amount to a revolution, already accomplished. So grossly, however, has the place been mismanaged that, I trust, the new governing body, which the Commissioners propose, may be called into existence as soon as possible. Most people who look at the question of the future of Westminster School unbiassed by sentiment, will, I presume, agree with Dr. Scott in thinking that, if it is to continue on its present site, it ought to be a day-school, and not a boarding-school. From Westminster, we pass naturally to the other London schools, which must be dismissed very shortly. The Commissioners are decidedly of opinion that the great and wealthy foundation of the Charter House would thrive much better as a boarding-school if removed into the country. There are not in this case any objections of the kind which have to be combated by those who desire that Westminster should remain a boarding-school, and be removed from its present site. Sutton's Hospital, which is connected with the Charter House school, and is a mere charitable institution, would, of course, remain where it is. The evidence relating to St. Paul's is peculiarly interesting, and fully bears out the Commissioners in their proposal to transfer it from its present most inconvenient position to one more suitable for boys—say, perhaps, the neighbourhood of the Regent's Park. It is now doing very little, whereas it is quite clear that it might be the first day-school not only in London, but in England. Its surplus revenue amounts to a very large sum, its accumulated capital is very great, and in little more than twenty years it will become very much richer. Surely it should be made what Dean Colet evidently intended it to be—an institution yielding to none in giving a really high class of education. There is, or is said to be, a question of law relating to the property of this school, about which a judicial decision should be immediately taken. What that decision will be, one can hardly doubt, as it is scarcely credible that Dean Colet, who was extremely anxious for the promotion of learning, should have wished the Mercers' Company to have been beneficially interested in the surplus revenues of his property, and only obliged to maintain the school as a charge upon them. Merchant Taylors' is in a somewhat 124 different position. At St. Paul's School the Mercers' Company do not admit themselves to be trustees in the legal sense of the term of Dean Colet's estates for the benefit of the school, but they do admit that they are bound to maintain the school. The Merchant Taylors' Company, on the other hand, hold themselves free from all legal obligation whatever, and say that they might abolish their school altogether if they pleased. It is more than doubtful whether they could do so, as considerable endowments have been given to them and accepted for the benefit of the school; nay, even the present site of the school was wholly or partially purchased with money given for the purpose of establishing a school by an individual member of the company. The Commissioners do not attempt to decide how far the claims of the Merchant Taylors' Company can be upheld, but they do not in this case suggest any change in the governing body. More than seventy pages of the Report are devoted to Eton, and it would be necessary for me to dwell upon them at much length if I were speaking to almost any other audience. There are, however, so many Etonians in the House of Commons that it would not become me to do more than to indicate a few points, with, regard to which it would be extremely interesting to hear the views of many Gentlemen whom I now address. First, then, it will be desirable to know whether the Commissioners are likely to be supported in the recommendation about the governing body of Eton, or whether it would not be more in accordance with the general opinion that the Provost and Fellows should altogether cease to have any part in the government of the school. The manner in. which the property entrusted to their care has been managed is such that it is evident that, in determining what their future position is to he, the Legislature must be guided simply by the consideration of what is likely to be best for the school. Then, again, I presume that a good deal of difference of opinion is likely to arise with regard to the twenty-first special recommendation about Eton, that, namely, the number of boys should never exceed 800: 650 in the upper, and 150 in the lower school. Further, the scheme suggested for the remuneration of the head master and the other masters, to be found in pages 124 and 125—which excites, I am told, dire indignation at Eton —will probably give rise to discussion; 125 and there are many other points which may also be debated. I suppose all will admit, after reading the evidence, that the time table should be revised, the school books improved—scholarships, exhibitions, and so forth, opened to competitive examination; that greater temptations to work should be held out to oppidans; the system upon which the college property is now managed should be revolutionized; and that the position of the mathematical masters should be improved. In the Session of 1861, I had several communications from the hon. Baronet the Member for the University, as well as from the Warden of Winchester. They were both desirous that that great foundation—the oldest of all our public schools, and the model upon which Eton was constructed — should be exempted from the Commission which I proposed. Their reason was, that Win-Chester had been to a certain extent examined into by the Oxford Commissioners in consequence of its connection with New College. This was not eventually done, I do not think that the hon. Baronet has, however, any reason to regret the course which has been taken. This institution, of which he was so distinguished a pupil, and which has contributed to this House not a few of its most distinguished Members, has quite held its own amongst the schools into which the Commission has examined. Here, as elsewhere, they have found a bad system, but that bad system has of late been worked with much ability and devotion. The position of Winchester and of Harrow is totally different, Winchester is very rich, possessing an income from endowments of at least £16,000 a year; while Harrow derives from endowments not much more than £1,000 a year. Nevertheless, Harrow, chiefly perhaps from its nearness to London, has acquired a far more important place than Winchester amongst our educational institutions. There is, however, loss for legislation to do at Harrow than almost anywhere else; on the other hand, the masters there, who are at this moment a very distinguished body of men, are more likely than almost any other person in their position to be speedily influenced by the recommendations of these Commissioners, and by the force of public opinion, to elicit which is one of the main objects of my making this Motion to-night. The last school into which the Commissioners were instructed to examine was the Free Grammar School of King Edward VI. at Shrewsbury, This founda- 126 tion lies on the boundary line, I think, we may say, between the public schools usually so called and the other endowed schools of the country, and some controversy has arisen in recent years as to whether its future should be that of a first-rate school, or whether it should be adapted rather to the wants of the middle class, as of course the majority of the endowed schools ought forthwith to be. The Commissioners have decided that it should remain a first-rate school, and I think they have decided wisely. A school which 300 years ago brought together the two most celebrated of English friends, Fulke Greville and Philip Sydney, which in our own day has educated so many distinguished scholars, and contributes, as the Commissioners justly observe, so disproportionately large a share to the teaching power of the two Universities, should on no account be allowed to fall into the second rank. The Commissioners say that the people of Shrewsbury should turn their attention rather to creating a good proprietary school in the town, than to making the present school fulfil the purpose of an institution for giving what is loosely called middle-class education. The demand, however, for that kind of education throughout the country is becoming so loud that I think we must determine ere long to break up and remodel our utterly inefficient network of endowed schools. In the year 1861, when I first proposed a Commission to inquire into the higher school education to the then Home Secretary, I contemplated a Commission which should inquire at once into the public schools and the grammar schools. Sir George Lewis wisely, however, thought that that was too large a scheme. I trust, however, that the Government will not lose sight of the truth that thirty good schools for the middle classes dotted over the face of England would be an enormous boon to them, and would do five times more to advance education than all the second and third rate grammar schools put together. We have not on this side of the Channel committed the folly which Burke so well exposed in the case of our neighbours, when they swept away the splendid foundations of medieval munificence; but we certainly in many cases by gross neglect do our best to make them as useless as possible. And now, Sir, I have but one word more. Throughout I have wished to address myself to those who think that the Commissioners have gone too far, rather than to those who think 127 that they have not gone far enough; and yet I know that there will be many who will feel this, and who will say that the Report would be less favourable if it had been drawn up by less friendly hands; for let it not be forgotten, the Lion has been for once painted by himself. To all those, however, I would say, that all times in England belong more or less to the men of half measures, and of compromises; but this time, perhaps, even more than most other times. Perhaps, however, in educational matters, and not in them alone, we are approaching the end of an epoch. A more logical and consequent generation will, I trust, carry reform farther when we have crumbled into dust. Sir, I beg to move the Resolution which stands in my name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the state of the higher School Education in England is not satisfactory, and calls for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government,"—(Mr. Grant Duff,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I rise to offer a few remarks upon the Motion made by my hon. Friend, and upon the precise position of the important question relating to public schools, as left by the Commissioners. My hon. Friend has explained his views in a speech of a very comprehensive character and great length. Will be permit me to say that I heard one portion of it with regret? I think the condemnation passed by my hon. Friend upon the School of Westminster might have been spared. I do not mean to say that my hon. Friend is not discharging his duty as a Member of Parliament in pronouncing, at a proper time, any judgment at which he might arrive after adequate examination of public documents; but what I feel is, that, as a very short time has elapsed since the voluminous records of the labours of the Commission have been submitted to the world, it is almost impossible, if hon. Members can be sufficiently prepared, to try the very serious accusations which he has made against all those connected with the management of Westminster School; and I think that accusations of that grave character bad better be reserved until the assembly to which they are addressed is in a condition to deal 128 with them. I have no doubt that the evils have been of a serious character, because they are so described in the Report of the Commission; but the Commissioners mention that measures have been taken by persons in authority for applying remedies to those evils at Winchester, and they express a hope that those remedies will be adequate to their purpose. So much I think it right to say, in justice as much to the feelings of those among us who may be interested in Westminster as to those out of doors who will attach great weight to what falls from an hon. Gentleman who has paid so much attention to the subject as has my hon. Friend. Having taken a great liberty in criticizing a portion of the speech of my hon. Friend, let me congratulate him, as the person to whom the appointment of this Commission was, I believe, principally due, upon having devoted his mind, his time, and his attention to a subject of very great interest and importance, and upon having submitted to the Government advice which I think has been highly beneficial both to the country at large and to the institutions which were the subjects of this inquiry. I congratulate him upon the stage at which his labours have arrived, and I trust that he will live to see, and that before long, results much more important than any which have yet been obtained. It may be thought that a discussion of this kind, so soon after the publication of this Report, is in one sense premature. At the same time, I cannot regret that my hon. Friend has called attention to the subject. The prospect offered by blue-books, so formidable in their dimensions, is of a nature rather to repel than to attract those who are not acquainted with the exceedingly interesting, varied, and weighty matter which they contain, and a debate may direct attention to them earlier than they would otherwise obtain it. I will not follow my hon. Friend into what I may call his particular observations, either upon particular schools or upon particular studies or recommendations of the Commissioners. There are only two of his remarks upon which I will say a word. He stated that he felt himself to be a person of nothing less than revolutionary character in recommending the total abolition of the practice of Greek and Latin composition. I think he did submit that recommendation to the House like a man who knew that he was about to expose himself to a storm of reproach; in fact, that he was partly alarmed even at the sound and echo of 129 his own voice when such words proceeded from his lips. I do not think that his revolutionary doctrine is likely to have any injurious effect. There is too much conservative feeling in all of us who have been connected with these schools, whatever may be our politics or associations, to permit of our having any reason to apprehend that this House will give a very dangerous impulse to innovation. But I must record my dissent from that revolutionary doctrine of my hon. Friend, I entirely agree with him that the practice has been pushed to great excess, especially in forcing it upon those who are not qualified to profit by it; but for those who are qualified to profit by it I trust that it will always remain in vigour, and will continue to form, as it has hitherto formed, a great ornament, and a very remarkable characteristic of English education. I will also simply record my protest against the recommendation not only of my hon. Friend, but of the Commissioners also, as to modern languages. I entirely dissent from the doctrine of my hon. Friend with regard to the relative places of the Italian and German languages in the education of a gentleman. If you speak to me of an author or a student, the matter is totally different. In many countries there are no educated men but authors and students. But it is the proud distinction of England to have a very large body of highly educated gentlemen deeply imbued with the spirit of ancient and modern literature, although they are neither authors nor students, but value cultivation and literature for their own sakes, and for their humanizing and elevating influences on the mind. For that purpose, which I trust will always be made the first and paramount purpose of education in this country, I venture to think that the place my hon. Friend has given relatively to the two languages ought to be reversed. I apologize to the House for going into the discussion of detail, and shall simply make a few observations on the general position of the system. When Her Majesty's Government determined on the appointment of this Commission, my right hon. Friend the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis applied himself to the subject with all that delicate consideration for the feelings of others, and all that prudence and judgment for which he was distinguished, and ascertained that the mode of conducting the investigation— undoubtedly called for by the public in- 130 terest—which would be most agreeable to the authorities of these schools was, by Commission, issued under the authority of the Crown. This would not possess any coercive powers or exercise anything even approaching to a moral force. To the composition of that Commission my right hon. Friend applied himself, and I am sure Gentlemen acquainted with the names which it included will agree with me in thinking that my right hon. Friend exercised a very sound judgment in selecting the individuals whom he was so fortunate as to bring together for that purpose. He did not confine his selections to any class or party, but sought, as my hon. Friend has said, to deal with the question as it ought to be dealt with—out of the mere circle of party politics. He applied to more than one Gentleman politically opposed to himself; and the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote), and other Gentlemen sharing his political opinions, accepted the invitation, and devoted themselves in good earnest to the duty. I think it imperative not to allow the very first mention of this question in the House of Commons to pass without calling on this House to recognize what the Government feels to have been the laborious exertions of the Commission, which held between 120 and 130 meetings, most of them being attended by; nearly all the Commissioners. And I must say, although there have been many occasions on which intelligent and enlightened public service has been rendered by Gentlemen appointed Commissioners under the nomination of the Crown, that I do not think any more signal instance could be quoted of the devotion of public men to an inquiry involving innumerable difficulties than that of the Commissioners whose Report now lies on the table. On the part of the Government, we feel ourselves deeply indebted for the invaluable assistance which they have given to the investigation of this question. It may not rank very high in the scale of mere political interest, but it does rank high in the opinion of many Members of both Houses of Parliament, who class our public schools among the great institutions of the country. The man, therefore, who endeavours here or elsewhere to destroy the essential character of those great public schools will find that he has undertaken a task scarcely less dangerous than that of their total subversion. It is a very remarkable fact, and one full of 131 significance, that hardly less than a third of the whole available time of Parliament in the year 1854 was given to the consideration of the details of the Bill for the reform of the University of Oxford. I do not believe that to any other measure which passed this House since the Reform Bill and the Poor Law, Parliament has been willing to devote so much of its attention. The circumstance, therefore, is full of meaning, affording, as it does, a true measure of the importance attached by us all to the consideration of whatever is connected with the welfare of our great seats of education. My hon. Friend has made a Motion following upon his speech which was founded on the Report of the Commission, but I think my hon. Friend will see that the Motion and the Report are not in entire correspondence. The Motion, no doubt, expresses the view of my hon. Friend himself, but I think it would be altogether premature to ask the assent of this House to any Resolution involving a condemnation of the public schools. I do not understand such to be the sense of the Report of the Commissioners. They knew perfectly well that, in one sense, it was their duty to find fault, to examine patiently and with almost infinite detail whatever they thought might be susceptible of amendment, and to recommend improvements. Measuring praise or blame by the mere number of words or pages in their Report, it may therefore be construed into a condemnation. But that would be a very great mistake. In the main, the Commissioners have affirmed the principle on which the system of our great public schools is founded, and have also borne testimony to the fact that these schools have discharged the functions for which they were established. They have also, in the main, awarded due praise to those at the head of our public schools for the devotion and ability with which they have applied themselves to the discharge of their duty. I fully admit, and I confidently join my hon. Friend in the assertion, that the Commissioners have pointed out very serious existing evils and defects, and they have also, I hope, furnished us with the means of arriving, after due time and on full consideration, at sound and safe conclusions as to the mode of applying a remedy. My hon. Friend seems to be of opinion—an opinion which, perhaps, is shared by the public—that the principal source of existing mischiefs or defects is to be found in the misconduct, or, at all 132 events, in the failure to perform their duty, on the part of teachers in our public schools. I do not believe anything could be more unjust than such a conclusion. With the exception, perhaps, of the tutors of the University—and I do not know whether they ought to he excepted—I do not know any class of men who perform their duties with greater zeal, assiduity, devotion, and laborious self-sacrifice than the teachers in our public schools. But the complaint is made, and with great truth, that the boys do not learn enough at our public schools. To parody what was written by Goldsmith—Boys learn but little here below,And learn that little ill.With the immense foundations which we possess, five times the amount of learning ought to be diffused in every branch. My hon. Friend left the matter as if nobody were to blame but the teachers and managers of the schools. He said, "the Universities find fault with the public schools because the young men come ill-prepared to the Universities." And that is quite true; but the public schools, in turn, have their complaints, and the whole affair revolves in a vicious circle. The parents complain that their children leave the Universities with their education incomplete; the Universities complain of inadequate preparation by the public schools; the public schools say the boys come ill-prepared from the private schools, and the private schools lay all the blame on the parents. And so it goes round and round. The point to be considered, however, is not how to shift the responsibility from one shoulder to the other, but how existing evils can be remedied. The Commissioners, it is fair to say, have not shrunk from this or any portion of the case; they have not hesitated to drive the matter home— to speak of the responsibilities of parents, and to lay blame where they think it necessary upon the inadequate manner in which parental authority is exercised among the wealthiest classes, both for the inculcation of knowledge and the maintenance of discipline. At page 40 of the Report, the Commissioners say—We hare spoken plainly of the responsibilities of schools; we think it right to speak not less plainly of those of parents. Several of the masters whom we have examined have dwelt in strong terms on the ill-prepared and ignorant state in which boys are very frequently sent to school; we are assured that there is no improvement perceptible in this respect, but the reverse, and the Returns which have been furnished to us regarding 133 the books read, and work done in the lower forms, and the ages of the boys in them, prove that these complaints are by no means without foundation. It is clear that there are many boys whose education can hardly be said to have begun till they enter, at the age of twelve or thirteen, or even later, a school containing several hundreds, where there can be comparatively little of that individual teaching which a very backward boy requires. In some degree this must, we fear, be ascribed to the deficiencies of preparatory schools, which too often fail to impart that thorough and accurate grounding which it should be their aim to bestow; but we do not hesitate to say that the fault rests chiefly with the parents.There is the verdict and sentence of the Commissioners. And, therefore, if we criticize these public schools, let it not be supposed that we are aiming at imposing upon the eminent, able, and excellent men — for such they are — by whom these schools are managed, an undue portion of blame or responsibility. When we say that the fault lies with the parents, what does this mean? It means that we are living in an age in a great degree pampered in luxury, in which self-indulgence pervades more and more largely the habits of an ever-increasing class of society, the rapid extension of which we may see indicated by the continual addition, not only of large streets, but of whole quarters, in themselves great towns, to this metropolis; and a necessary consequence of that self-indulgence is a growing indisposition to the severe discipline which study and education invariably require. Now, there is the secret, it lies in that laxity, which is essentially connected with the signal prosperity and wealth of the country. And in one sense, in our attempts to improve the public schools, we are fighting against the age. The wealthier we become, the more difficult does it grow to apply to our children, or to realize to ourselves, the necessity of a severe self-discipline. I say this not to extenuate the mischief, but to show that the mischief is profound. The most remarkable example of this fact will be found in the relative condition of England and Scotland. In Scotland, almost the whole of the wealthiest class of young men and boys are sent to England to be educated, and, consequently, the Universities and schools have to deal with classes which are hardly represented in our Universities. The consequence is that the Universities of Scotland are conducted upon principles which would be absolutely powerless if applied to England. The students in our Universities are encouraged in their studies by a spirit of incessant 134 competition and the hope of splendid rewards. In Scotland, however, there is no such encouragement. Go into St. Andrew's and Aberdeen where lads are working to a degree far exceeding that among ourselves. There is activity without competition, and one may almost say without reward. They carry on their work with a great degree of efficiency upon principles which in England would be found to be totally unequal to cope with the difficulties arising from greater wealth and increased luxury. That, Sir, I believe to be the great evil with which we have to contend; but do not let us suppose that the measure of the deficiencies of our schools or of our Universities is altogether to be found in the measure of their scholastic defects. I grant that attainments are most unsatisfactory in England; but we should, however, remember that there is no period attached to the history of the Universities or the public schools of England — I am speaking now with reference to the last four or five generations—when their instruction, in the opinion of the time, has answered so well, or when they have so effectually performed the work for which they were ordained, namely, the work of rearing the English gentleman, and the fitting him for the discharge of those varied duties which in this country have always been inseparable from his position in life. In deciding, therefore, upon the results which have been obtained from our Universities and public schools, do not let us forget, what is more important than their teaching power, their training power, a power which has been addressed to the end which the nation has recognized as desirable, and that end has been attained in a measure which the nation recognizes as sufficient. Whatever faults, therefore, we may be disposed to find with these institutions, and with whatever warmth we may be inclined to urge those objections, let us remember that the country owes to them a debt of gratitude for the work which they have performed. The mode only in which this work is to be done, requires much consideration. I feel confident, however, for my own part, that there will be no violent or precipitate legislation upon the subject, I think rather that Parliament will approach it in a spirit of mistrust. As regards the question of education, however, we cannot devote any consideration to the question without per- 135 ceiving that a very great deal has yet to be done. There are now not less than eight or nine branches which ought to be included in the course of training at a public school, and of these very few can be dispensed with. First of all there is religious instruction, then comes classical study, a vindication of which the Commissioners have embodied in their Report —an argument drawn up in so philosophical and historical a spirit that it will confirm the country in the opinion with which they regard the classics as being the best foundation for subsequent study. Then come mathematics, natural science, English composition, history, geography, and the alternative of drawing or music, which the Commissioners have proposed. It is no easy matter to combine all these subjects in a country where it is necessary to add a corporal or physical education through the medium of national games and exercises. In days like these when the boat race between the Universities excites greater public interest than many more important events, those who endeavour unduly to restrict this branch of education will find that they have attempted a task which is perfectly hopeless. There is only one consideration which ought not to be forgotten, because it is of the greatest importance. It will be a fearful mistake if, in our desire to enlarge the career of education, we should for one moment forget that the main end of that education is the development of mind and matter, and if we should fall into the error of overloading the mind, rendering further growth and improvement absolutely impossible under the weight imposed upon it. I will not now trouble the House any further with the general subject; but state simply what I understand to be its practical bearing. When the House had to deal with the Universities there were four departments of inquiry, and I think they were all embraced in the Report of the original Commission. One was the Government, the constitution, and management of the governing bodies, and the remainder were the property, the discipline, and the studies. The two first were felt by Parliament to come within their province, but the two last they believed would be dealt with better if left to the management of those who were more qualified to regulate them. When Parliament does proceed to legislate upon this Report—because I will not conceive it possible that Parliament should defer the consideration of so valuable an 136 inquiry longer than is absolutely necessary —it will, no doubt, again turn its attention to the constitution of the governing bodies and the management of their property. I need not, however, say that it has been impossible for Her Majesty's Government at this period of the year, and with the business now before them, to give the necessary time and consideration to these important volumes. Upon one point the Commissioners have not been able to give us any distinct authority or guidance, and that is with reference to the expediency of appointing a Parliamentary Commission in the case of public schools, as was done in the case of the Universities, for the purpose of superintending, guiding, and promoting those regulations, the adoption of which Parliament may deem to be advisable. That is a point upon which I do not presume to give an opinion, but it will necessarily have to be determined by Parliament. It will be impossible, however, to legislate upon the points I have adverted to during this Session. The experience we have had on former occasions I think makes that perfectly clear. We must, therefore, consider that, as far as any practical discussion is concerned, this question is postponed until another year. There is one minor point which the Government have under consideration, whether they should submit to Parliament a measure of the same character as has been, I think, introduced upon other occasions where similar considerations have been involved. The reform of the governing body is, perhaps, the most important subject that will come under the review of Parliament in connection with this inquiry of the Commissioners. These governing bodies are in some cases constituted in such a manner that their constitution is inextricably bound up with the life interest of their members. It has always been a sacred principle in our legislation upon this subject to pay the highest degree of respect to these life interests, and Parliament will probably not deviate from its usual practice in this case. It may, however, be right to go so far as to bring in a Bill by which all persons taking office in those governing bodies for the future shall be subject to the legislation of Parliament. That would prevent us from being tied up by absolute rights of a nature such as this House always recognizes in the holders of offices for life. With respect to all else, it will stand over, subject, however, to the duty of the Go- 137 vernment, in concurrence, I hope, with all the Members of this House, to give their very careful consideration to this roost important and profoundly interesting question. With regard to the discussion of tonight, although it may have no positive results, yet I think it will have the effect of enhancing the degree of interest which may be felt by the House and the country on a matter of so much importance.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, there is one observation which I wish to add to what has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But, first, I suppose that the hon. Gentleman who makes this Motion sees the propriety of not carrying it any further at present, inasmuch as this matter must be taken in hand, and properly so, by the Government, and also because the voluminous nature of the Report has precluded us from yet forming a judgment upon it. I have myself read the Report with great interest, but I own that I have not gone through all the evidence appended to it, and I should desire to refrain from expressing a premature opinion on this subject. The course, however, which the Government propose to adopt is, I think, the one most in harmony with the feeling of those who take a deep interest in this question—namely, that the matter should be left in the hands of the Government, in order that they may originate, say next Session, a proposition founded on this Report, when it is to be hoped that alike those concerned in these schools and Parliament itself, will be prepared to deal with the subject in the temper and spirit which befit it. The observation I wish to add to those addressed to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this. I, like my right hon. Friend, am connected with one of those great public schools. I mean Eton. I happen to know from the highest authorities there—indeed, I have their permission to say so—that since this Report has been in their hands they have taken all the recommendations of the Commissioners seriatim into their consideration, with the view of introducing as many of the improvements therein suggested as they believe will be advantageous to the institution. If, therefore, the Government are to take this matter in hand during the recess, they would do well, as I have no doubt they will do, to put themselves in communication with the authorities of these schools as to the course they are inclined to pursue; and then we can have the matter placed before us in the fullest 138 manner next Session, so as to enable Parliament to treat it satisfactorily. This is a most interesting question, and one of the most important that can be brought before the House; and for that, as well as for other reasons, I hope that the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press his Motion to a division, but will let the subject stand over until we are better prepared to give an opinion upon it.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that he felt, although that debate was probably drawing to its conclusion, that he should be wanting in his duty if he did not say a few words on the part of the Commissioners, especially after the very handsome acknowledgment which their services had received from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others. It was a very great gratification to his Colleagues and himself to find their labours treated with such kindness. When they undertook their task, they knew it was one of considerable labour and difficulty, and also one that would necessarily be somewhat of an invidious character. The Commissioners felt that many of them being connected with the schools which were to be the subject of their inquiry, and being bound up by personal ties of friendship with many of those who were charged with the conduct of those schools, it was a painful and invidious task to put those persons through the sort of ordeal and examination which had to be undergone. But they had endeavoured, he might safely say, to conduct their investigations throughout in a fair, a candid, and at the same time a friendly spirit. The Commissioners had thought that, on the whole, the interests of the schools with which they were themselves connected demanded that they should not attempt to hush up any matter, but that they should probe it to the bottom; that they should not out of a mistaken friendliness pass over things that called for inquiry; and although they had not evinced anything like a hostile spirit in the prosecution of their labours, yet a perusal of the evidence they had taken would, he thought, show that the investigation had been a searching one. He was bound to say, on behalf of those persons from whom they had obtained evidence, that the thanks of the Commissioners were due to them for the fair, candid, and noble spirit in which they had responded to their inquiries. The Commissioners had no power of compelling them to give evidence; yet everywhere 139 the greatest readiness was shown to afford them information; every question was discussed with them in the most open, frank, and friendly manner; and this although many of the gentlemen thus appealed to were placed in a position of considerable embarrassment by the inquiry. He must also say, on their behalf, that the Commissioners did not find among the masters and managers of the schools any obstinate spirit of resistance to improvement. On the contrary, in every school there was an admission—and more than an admission— of the importance of progress, and of attempts to meet the demands of the day. He said more than an admission, because in most of the schools a great deal had been done of late years. He could quote numerous instances in proof of that assertion, but, as he could not mention all those schools in that discussion, he did not like to single out any one and give it a preference over the rest. He believed, however, that in every school to which the inquiry extended much had been done to introduce new subjects of study, to improve the methods of teaching, and generally to promote the welfare of the boys there. But the schools found themselves in a position in which they needed help and encouragement in order to do what they were capable of doing. The fact was, they had been attempting, under the restrictions imposed upon them by their founders in years gone by, to accommodate a new system to a machinery originally designed for the working of an old one; and they, therefore, wanted the assistance of the Legislature to enable them to get free from those restrictions and to adopt the improvements which they were anxious to carry out. He earnestly hoped that in any legislation which the House might see fit to pass, care would be taken to observe the principle laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer— namely, that that legislation should be confined to the removal of the restrictions under which the schools laboured, the improvement of the constitution of the governing bodies, and the dealing with endowments; and that Parliament should not attempt to deal directly with the subjects of study or the management of the schools. If Parliament attempted to do that, he felt certain that it would do immense mischief, and utterly fail in its object. These public schools were national institutions, and had an important bearing on the formation of the national character; and not only so, but they were 140 themselves the product of the national mind of Englishmen. They had grown up by degrees, and were not originally in their present form. The English mind did not want the lycées and gymnasia which existed in other countries, but schools for the moral, physical, and intellectual training of boys between the important years of twelve and eighteen, and which should make of those boys young men—men in every sense of the word. And if institutions of that kind had sprung up from the nucleus of the old grammar schools, it was not to be wondered at that they should now find themselves subject to restrictions which impeded their action. Let them then be set free, and enabled to accommodate the new studies lately forced upon them to the old learning for the promotion of which they were founded. Let them be placed in the hands of men with the requisite knowledge and fitness for the task, but let Parliament forbear from attempting to do that for which it was incompetent. That was his view of this question; and the course which the Government proposed to take was exactly in conformity with that which he individually, and, he believed, the Commissioners generally, thought to be best. He should not be behaving fairly towards a particular school which had been mentioned in that debate if he did not make another remark. It was much to be regretted that the hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) should have used the language he did with respect to Westminster School, because hon. Members had not had time to read all the evidence, and did not know what the point was to which the hon. Gentleman had referred. His observations would only create an unfair prejudice against the institution in the House and with the public out of doors. It was a matter of great difficulty to determine the relations of boys in a school, to decide what was really fair and legitimate discipline among them, where fagging became tyranny, and discipline was turned into bullying; for much depended upon the individual characters of different boys, and the different turn which might be given to representations of the same matter. The way in which that question had arisen at Westminster was as follows;— The Commission inquired into the system of fagging there, as at other schools, taking the evidence of young men who had recently left school, and upon the whole they heard nearly the same report as to fagging and discipline which was given at many 141 of the other public schools. Later on a gentleman came to the Commission, and asked to he allowed to lay before them some statements of undue hardship and cruel treatment suffered by the younger boys under the fagging system at Westminster, That gentleman and his son I were examined; the masters and some of the other boys were also examined; and the Commissioners came to the conclusion that although, to a certain extent, the charges made were modified and disproved by some of the subsequent evidence, yet there remained sufficient grounds for concluding that the system of discipline and fagging among the boys was in an unsatisfactory state, and that the junior boys had to undergo undue hardships. With regard to the gentleman and his son by whom those facts were elicited, it was an act of great moral courage on their part to make a statement which would render them unpopular and would be sure to subject them to sifting criticism. That statement opened the eyes of the Commission to much that they would not otherwise have noticed; and the result was that at other schools they examined the junior boys and asked searching questions on the subject of fagging. The boys answered those questions very nicely, and not at all in the same spirit of complaint in which the charges were brought forward at Westminster. But, at some other schools, facts came to light which, if they had been represented in that spirit, might have grown into formidable charges of bullying. The Commission found that to a great extent the evil admitted of a cure; but to apply that cure in the case of Westminster really required the help of that House. Its source and root was to be found in the insufficient accommodation provided for the boys and the insufficient provision of servants, the consequence of which was that the boys were not so much under the eyes of the masters as they should be, and the younger boys were required to do many things which elsewhere were performed, and which ought to be performed, by hired service. The difficulty in employing a sufficient number of servants and in providing suitable buildings arose from the want of funds, for the revenues of the school were not, like those of Eton or of Winchester, independent revenues, with which the governing body could deal as they pleased; they were capitular revenues in the hands of the Dean and Chapter, and it was a question how far those revenues were applicable to the support of 142 the school. They had, indeed, been virtually taken out of the hands of the Dean and Chapter, or were about to be so taken, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; and it then became a question for Parliament how far those revenues could be devoted for improvements which were absolutely necessary at Westminster, if the school was to remain where it stood. The Commissioners could not abstain from pursuing the inquiry which he had mentioned, but he felt much pain in pursuing it, because what had been said was likely to be taken up and made a great deal of by persons who did not look carefully and thoroughly into the matter, and who would suppose that a case had been made out against the school, which might thus suffer injury. Now, he was convinced that the present Head Master at Westminster and his assistants were working hard to improve the school; and if the measures pointed out by the Commissioners for the improvement of study and of discipline were adopted, and the necessary funds were supplied, he believed that a great start would be made at Westminster, which would then resume the place formerly held by it among the public schools of this kingdom. Westminster had its disadvantages in being a London school, and in its connection with the capitular property. It deserved, therefore, to be dealt with tenderly, and he regretted that the hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) should have used such strong language in its condemnation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Government intended to introduce a Bill having reference to the constitution of the governing bodies and the question of endowments, and he asked whether the members of the late Commission were of opinion that another Commission should be appointed. Speaking for himself alone, he thought it would be utterly impossible to deal with this question satisfactorily unless a Commission were appointed to consult with the governing bodies, revise the statutes, and do away with unnecessary restrictions. Thus at Eton, among the old statutes was a provision that the Head Master should not ask any fee for the instruction of the 700 or 800 oppidans. For many years, however, it had been the practice of the Head Master to take fees, the old excuse being that he never demanded them, but took them when they were offered. More recently the last two Head Masters felt that it was absurd and improper to take any oath of this kind, and they had, therefore, been admitted to 143 the Head Mastership without taking it. That, however, was a violation of the statutes. It was clear that the oppidans ought to pay fees like the rest; and that the statute ought to be repealed. Many such cases would be found in the statutes of different schools, and with those it would be necessary to deal. Having done this, and having effected by legislation some other improvements, which could not otherwise be carried out, he hoped Parliament would leave the management of the schools and the direction of the course of instruction to be dealt with by the governing bodies. He believed that the Commissioners had been the means of suggesting points to the masters of those schools and to the public which would prove very useful. They had recommended that each year there should be a publication of what was done in each school, and he believed that publication would lead to a general advance in the schools, at the same time that their independent character would not be destroyed. In conclusion, he had again to express his hope that the legislation which that House might adopt would effect the necessary improvements without destroying the great principle upon which our public schools had been conducted.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.