HC Deb 24 August 1893 vol 16 cc956-9
Mr. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if he will explain on what grounds the Board of National Education in Ireland has recently issued a revised edition of the Fifth Reading Book, in which the articles on The British Constitution, by the late Archbishop Whately, and the articles on political economy by the same author have been expunged, and which contains as new matter five articles by the Right Rev. Monsignor Molloy, two by the Most Rev. Dr. Healy, one by Cardinal Wiseman, one by Lord O'Hagan, and one by Cardinal Newman?

DR. COMMINS (Cork, S.E.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the discarded chapters on Constitutional Law and political economy are to be added to the advanced higher course in Trinity College, Dublin?

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

May I ask the Chief Secretary will he explain on what grounds the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland have omitted from the Fifth Book of Lessons The History of the British Constitution, by the late Archbishop Whately, and also 18 articles, by the same author, on political economy, and why five out of the eight lessons on Scripture history have been omitted, and writings substituted which are objected to by Protestants, and in the Third Reading Book for children from 9 to 12 years of age, the last verso of Moore's Canadian Boat Song, teaching the Invocation of the Saints, has been inserted; and if this change is made with the sanction of the Government?

*MR. M. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the last annual meeting of the Trades Union Congress, representing the organised workers of the United Kingdom, a resolution was unanimously passed protesting against the retention of these articles on political economy by Archbishop Whately; and has he not received a resolution passed by the Belfast Trades Council, which is largely composed of supporters of the hon. Member for South Antrim, also protesting against the retention of these articles as being pre-judicial to the interests of Irish working men?

MR. BODKIN (Roscommon, N.)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers these questions, will he say if lie is aware that the curriculum of intermediate education include the works of a certain Pagan, an alleged poet named Homer; is he aware that in this person's writing the doctrine is taught and encouraged of the invocation of heathen deities in- cluding Jove, Venus, and Mars, and other objectionable personages, and in the interests of pure evangelical teaching will ho have these works removed from the intermediate programme with a view to substituting for them—


Order, order! The question savours somewhat of ridicule, I think.


With reference to this question, and the one which follows on the same subject in the name of the hon. Member for South Belfast, I am informed that, in consequence of representations urged on the Board of National Education from time to time, a revision of the Fifth Book was undertaken and brought to a completion in 1892; that at a meeting of the Board, held on January 31 last, a Committee of the Commissioners, consisting of four Protestants of various denominations and two Roman Catholics, was appointed to consider the draft of the book as revised; that this mixed Committee unanimously approved of the revised publication; and the Board at its meeting, on April 25, also unanimously adopted the Report of the Revision Committee. Now, as regards the matter expunged, &c, the articles on The British Constitution, I understand, were considered too difficult for readers of the Fifth Book, and more appropriate for pupils further advanced. As to the lessons on political economy, I find that on June 4, 1891, and again on May 5, 1892, dissatisfaction was expressed at these lessons, in questions addressed to my predecessors in office. Several passages in the lessons were considered prejudicial to the interest of working men who are Trade Unionists, and one passage made the singular observation that the effect of fixing a judicial rent would be to leave the farm idle on the landlord's hands. These doctrines are now clearly antiquated. As to the addition of the last verse of The Canadian Boat Song, all I can say is that the hon. Gentleman has waited a long time to make this discovery, the addition having been made and published as far back as 1884. Moreover, the song in its entirety is very commonly used in the public elementary schools of Great Britain. I may add that the Fifth Book was regarded as too extensive for the pupils' course, and, on the recommendation of the Revision Committee, the Board decided to reduce it. The Scripture lessons shared in the reduction, I believe, though 18 pages still remain, and any new matter substituted for old matter has been selected for its excellence and for the distinguished character of the authors. I have examined these passages; they mainly concern physical and geographical matters, and seem to me not to contain a syllable of controversy or offence to the most sensitive mind. The Executive Government was not consulted before the publication of the revised book, nor is it considered necessary, under the circumstances of the case, that it should have been consulted. A discretionary power is necessarily vested in the Commissioners with regard to these publications, within the limits of which they may make such changes as to them appear desirable without previously communicating with the Government.


I shall call attention to this matter on the Estimates.