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COMPULSORY STATE EDUCATION.


       Canon KINGSLEY deservedly obtains respectful attention for all he
says, and his earnest address on popular education at the Social Science Congress
has been read everywhere with interest. Many will be carried away by the
impassioned logic of the rev. gentleman, and will concede him point after point of
his argument, until the whole theory of compulsory State Education is granted;
and, indeed, theoretically, there is little advance in opposition to Canon
KINGSLEY's arguments.

       When he tells us that the State protects the life of a child - that it
will not let a parent kill his offspring, nor starve it, nor cruelly ill
treat it - and adds that to deprive a child of education is one of the greatest
wrongs that can be done to it, it is easy to obtain from most people the
concession of the inference that the State ought to see that every child has the
means of education afforded to it. Again, when he urges that the State punishes
children for crime, and that therefore it ought to provide them with that
education which shall make them appreciate crime in its true character, we are very
much disposed to concede his position at once. But, still, there is a
difference between theory and practice, and the very best theories are often
impracticable in the actual circumstances of a case.

       When we talk of the state providing for the education of a child, do
we always consider what that phrase may be made to mean? It may certainly mean
two very different things. It may mean that the state provides for education
as it does for physical nourishment - by compelling parents to perform a
natural duty;  or it may mean taking this duty off their hands and performing it for
them. This is not done in the case of physical maintenance, except where
parents are unable to provide for their children; and if a man leaves his children
to be provided for by the Poor-law while he is able to maintain them, he is
liable to punishment.

       Now, with regard to education, what Canon KINGSLEY proposes is just as
if, in the matter of bodily nurture, all the children who were left in rags
and half starved by their parents were taken off to the Workhouse and
maintained decently at the public expense. This, we fancy, would be a premium upon
neglecting children. The Rev. Canon complains that parents who could afford to pay
the proportion of the cost of their children's education demanded from them
in public schools, keep their children away from school rather than make this
little sacrifice. But this is a reason why the State should take the whole cost
of educating the lowers orders upon itself? If it is, it would apply to all
children kept with insufficient food and clothing. But we must not forget that
it is for only one class of the community that the state is asked to provide
education, and at the cost, chiefly, of the other classes, who would still have
to pay as before for the education of their own children.

       A really national system of education conducted by the State ought to
include lower schools, middle schools, and universities, supported out of
taxes, and opened to all who wished to avail themselves of their benefit. But if
we are going to provide primary schools only out of the public purse, we are
relieving the parents of one class altogether of their duty, instead of
compelling them to do it.

       The public expenditure on education is now heavy - it approaches a
million sterling - and the Government does only a fraction of the work; it pays
one third of the children of the working classes. What will the education
estimates be if the Government pays the entire expense of educating all the
children of the working classes? Four or five millions at least. And, whether this
amount were raised by rates or taxes, the classes who enjoyed no direct benefit
from it would have to pay the greater portion of it. Would it be desirable to
put a stop to those voluntary subscriptions which now do more even than
Government aid for the work of popular instruction, since they support schools to
which State help is not given; and it would be advisable to relieve parents
altogether of the expense of educating their children?

       For our own part, we wish we could see our way clear to compulsory
education independently of all religious considerations, and by insisting upon
conscience clauses and assisting secular schools, we should be sorry to see well
to do parents of the working classes relieved from all specific payments for
their children's schooling.

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