[From Manx Note Book vol ii, 1886]


ONE of the problems of the day, and not one of the least importance, is how the work performed by our Elementary Schools is to be continued after the children leave them. To suppose that a child who has passed through the course prescribed by the Department is in any true and real sense of the word "educated," is only to delude oneself. We spend annually in the Isle of Mann about £9,000 on Elementary Schools, of which sum about £2,500 is expended in Douglas. Does the community at large get value for that sum, and if not, why not ? In the March number of the "Contemporary Review," Mr. Walter Besant (not less eminent as a philanthropist than a novelist) instances as "the latest failure of the well intentioned, "the "failure" of the Education Act in England, and especially in London. He says:- It is a failure, like the emancipation of the slaves; because, though it has done some things well, it has wholly failed to achieve the great result confidently predicted for it by its advocates, in the year '68. What is more, we now understand that it never can achieve those results. It was going, we were told, to give all English children a sound and thorough elementary education. It was, further, going to inspire those children with the ardour for knowledge, so that, on leaving school, they would carry on their studies and continually advance in learning. It was going to take away the national reproach of ignorance, and to make us the best educated country in the world. As for what it has done, and is doing . . . . the Board Schools do, I suppose, impart as good an education to the children as the time at their disposal will allow." And yet, as he goes on to allege, " in the first two years after leaving school it is said that they have forgotten everything." Without going so far as to accept this statement without a good deal of qualification as applicable to our own case, we may and must admit, that unless something be done to keep up one's knowledge, it ' is quite certain that in two years a great deal may be forgotten. What can be done to prevent the fearful loss ensuing from the failure in permanence of the teaching now universally bestowed, by which all our expenditure on that head is in a more or less degree wasted ? There are three principal lines along which education and culture are advanced. They are indicated by the words Literature, Science and Art. What possible opportunities have the children leaving school in Douglas (I won't ask the question as to the other parts of the Island) for advancement along either of these lines ? As to the latter it is very gratifying to be able to get a little encouragement. Through the liberality of some Douglas men, and the energy and perservance of others, a School of Art has been provided, where children who have left the Elementary Schools may learn the principles and practlce of Art. It is the reverse of encouraging to consider how few avail themselves of the opportunity. How are we situated with regard to Literature and Science ? Is there any provision whatever for teaching these in any way that can possibly be made use of by the children in Douglas, who have passed through the Elementary Schools, and who are preparing themselves for beginning the battle of life ? I fear we must reply to this question, No. Is it not worth while to consider whether there may not be some means of providing for the furtherance of knowledge in Literature and Science ? Or, is it to be assumed that such teaching is not required ? And if as it seems the former of these questions must be answered in the affirmative, how are we to set about providing what is so urgently needed ? One very obvious and easily accomplished method of promoting the study of Literature, is the formation of a Free Library, as to which we have heard something lately. But alas! we have heard of many schemes lately in Douglas. A New Market, a New Street, a New Bridge, have with a Free Library, the honour of having been mentioned in the public papers, and apparently all interest in them being allowed to die away and be forgotten. One is tempted to ask: Is there any public spirit at all among us ? Are we content to be, and remain 100 years behind our neighbours in the "adjacent island?" If not, we might surely establish a Free Library in Douglas, as a first instalment towards a better state of things. No one can pretend that the establishment of such an institution would do everything we want; but it would do much. It is true there is some prospect of a room being hired, and furnished with a few books as a beginning, and as a beginning (but as such only), such a plan may be deemed satisfactory, especially, if as 1 hear is the case, care is to be taken to provide books of reference and standard works which are what is required in such a Library-not light literature only. For though no one is more persuaded than I am of the advantage to be derived from the perusal of wholesome fiction, I am certain that it alone will never promote advance in true literature. In order to provide such books and suitable conveniences for their study, a permanent and properly designed building is required, and it can be obtained so cheaply that it seems a thousand pities not to take advantage of the opportunity, while it exists. (I allude of course to the assistance available from the Baume Trustees).

But I would go further and advocate as well the teaching of Elementary Science as an indispensable requisite, for the foundation of that technical education, we hear so much about, and which is so eminently necessary in the present day. What is to prevent the Board Schools being used for this, and other "continuation" schemes, in the evening? Of course, the teaching will, like everything else worth having, cost something. Equally, of course, the cry of "No more Taxes" will be raised in opposition to this, as it is to all other schemes of improvement. But I would put the question of expense in a different form from that in which it is usually presented. It seems to me that we should not ask in such a case: Can we afford to do this ? but rather: Can we afford to do without it ? It is an old proverb, but one based upon the wide experience of no mean authority : 1, There is that scattereth and yet increaseth," while it is only, necessary to look round and see the truth of the remainder of the quotation-" There is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty."




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