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Australia and the Empire/The State Schoolmaster



After the broad fact of their democratic basis, the most general and most remarkable feature in connection with the social and political development of the Australian colonies is the general system of public education that has been adopted. Education has, in fact, been made a State Department, and is managed on strictly unsectarian, or, if you will, nonreligious, lines. Free, secular,[1] and compulsory, these three words form the magic talisman that has enabled the colonial politician to overcome the opposition of the Churches and sects, each of which, it may be fairly assumed, was anxious that at least its own religious creeds and formularies should be expounded in the public schools, at the public expense.

Why, it may be asked, have these young communities been so eager to compel their children to be educated up to certain standards, at the cost of the general tax-payer, rather than at that of the individual parent? Why, too, if bent on this general experiment in educational socialism, should they have banished religion from the curriculum?

For the British reader to be able to grapple with these Australian problems, it is, above all things, necessary that he should keep steadily before his mind the utterly different social conditions of the two communities. None of these political problems can be solved so long as we continue to regard them as so many abstract propositions. For instance, it is absurd to argue, because we Australians declined to sanction Wentworth's scheme of creating a brand-new local peerage, that we are all bent on destroying that venerable institution in the mother country. Personally I read the felicitous speech of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the other day, welcoming the Marquis of Salisbury to Edinburgh, with an historical relish that was heightened by the associations called forth by the high-sounding names of host and guest. But I should only be struck with a sense of the incongruous and the ridiculous in Mr. Smith of Melbourne, or Mr. Brown of Sydney, being suddenly converted into Earls or Marquises. This matter of titles, which is after all a minor matter, furnishes, I think, a not inapt illustration of the sociological differences between Great Britain and Australia.

Before proceeding any further with my subject of the "State Schoolmaster," let me frankly say that under the utterly different social conditions of England, a very large number of thoughtful "Australian secularists" would, if they transferred their residence to this country, be warm supporters of the "voluntary" or religious schools working in conjunction with the Board Schools under Mr. Forster's great Act. In England there is a fairly homogeneous people, possessing a Church and a religious system of education, that, by reason of its influence, extent, and antiquity, is entitled to be called "national." "Of the 15,000 voluntary schools," says the Rev. Dr. Rigg, a prominent but honourably fair-minded Wesleyan, "not less than 12,000 belong to the Church of England." To recklessly use the tax-payers' money for the wanton destruction of these voluntary schools, and for the substitution, regardless of cost, of a purely secular system, seems to me, as an Australian secularist, the height of folly, and the result not of enlightenment, but of sectarian bitterness, envy, and animosity.

But we in Australia have to begin our "nation-building" at the very beginning. We are not a homogeneous people. So great in numbers is the Irish minority that we are veritably two races. On the matter of religion, we have been compelled to organise the State on a basis of indifference—so various and antagonistic are the religious divisions of the people.

To come now to the question of the national systems of education in Australia, I would point out that the present unsectarian or non-religious system has simply superseded the old "denominational" or religious system which was first tried in all the colonies and, judged by the test of the ballot-box, pronounced a dismal and universal failure. I can speak from personal experience of the denominational system in Victoria, before the passing of Mr. Wilberforce Stephen's Education Act. Whilst the general run of the Protestant schools were fairly efficient, and assisted in some measure to fit the future citizen to play his part in a free and, what should therefore be, an enlightened community, the Roman Catholic schools were universally acknowledged to be the worst in the land. I have known pious parents of that faith constantly in danger of the priestly ban for the crime of removing their children from their own schools, where their education was being neglected, to others, where it would be looked after with some degree of efficiency. Of course, it may be said that it is no concern of the State if a certain section of the people are willing to submit to an inefficient system of schooling for their sons and daughters.

It was on this ground, I believe, that the two former Anglican Bishops of Melbourne, Dr. Perry and Dr. Moorhouse, were both advocates of the Roman Catholic claims. But there is another, and to my mind much more important, side to the question. Is any State—least of all a democratic State—in a condition of stability when one-fourth of its members on all vital points, except that of a common language, remains alien? I do not know any writer who has put this side of the question with such force as Mr. Topp, and I will therefore quote a few sentences from his essay on "English Institutions and the Irish Race:"—

"It is not too much to say that the assimilation of the Irish is the first necessity to every English community. Fortunately, we in Victoria have a means to our hand which, though not consciously devised for this purpose, is partially adapted to effect it. This is the Education Act. By means of it, the youth of the Roman Catholic population is gradually passed through the State Schools, and, mixing, as it therefore does, with the young of other sects, it must inevitably cease to retain any strong feeling of bigotry or exclusiveness. … The Education Act may be defective in many respects, and is undoubtedly a great expense to the community. It may even be thought by doctrinaires to be going altogether beyond the proper functions of the State. But if, in the course of a generation, it enables us to eliminate a baneful and corrupting influence, no cost that may be paid for it can be considered too great. … Should it be objected that the views here propounded are indicative of religious bigotry and a non-recognition of the doctrine of toleration, it can be answered that there is something more important even than toleration, and that is the peace and happiness of the people. Before toleration can work beneficially for any community, all its members must have attained a certain uniform level of intelligence and morality; otherwise the toleration is all on one side. The less advanced part of the community gets the benefit of it, without having either the desire or the ability to reciprocate."—(Melbourne Review, Jan. 1881.)

Although the constituencies have supported this system of "free, secular, and compulsory" education everywhere in Australia by decisive majorities, the battle still rages, and a determined opposition, mainly by the Roman Catholic clergy, is kept up, against the Education Act. It is significant, however, that the bulk of their flocks show very little, if any, real hostility to the system. I have recently felt it my duty to read almost a roomful of controversial writings on this education question in Australia. By far the most intelligent advocate I have met of the Roman Catholic demands for a separate public grant for their schools is Mr. Charles Fairfield, who puts the issues with great clearness, from his standpoint, in an essay entitled "Those Catholic Claims" (Melbourne Review, Jan. 1885). When confronted with the low standard of general education displayed in all countries where his co-religionists have had the matter entirely in their own hands, Mr. Fairfield, with engaging frankness, confesses that if asked, "What sort of workmanship do Catholics turn out in countries such as Spain, where they have still very much their own way in educational matters, or in Italy, where they formerly had?" his plain answer would be, "Well, one can't say much for it! The reason why they have bad schools in Spain is because nearly every other institution of the country is three parts rotten."

If we would see the denominational system worked to real advantage by the Roman Catholics, Mr. Fairfield thinks we should turn to England. "The reason why the Catholic schools in England," he remarks, "are models of efficiency, discipline, and good order, is because all the other social and political institutions surrounding them are in good trim. So that Catholic elementary schools, plus English civilisation, are worth having; and Catholic elementary schools without the stimulus of rival systems, and without the bracing atmosphere of the best modern civilisations, are not up to much. … I know that some Catholics would go through anything rather than acknowledge that their educators borrow from the culture or the civilisation that surrounds them. But never mind that; they do. With shocking inconsistency, some of them have a positive knack of borrowing and assimilating the best educational methods of their rivals. In England, Catholics are 'on their good behaviour.' For many years they have had, in face of a community, modern, enlightened, critical, and suspicious, to justify their existence."

This, as I understand it, is to declare that in Spain, where the system is practically supreme, the general education is deplorable, while in England, where the Roman Catholics form a small and, so far as the purely English element is concerned, an exceptional minority, they are on "their good behaviour," and kept up to the mark.[2] Can any admission be more damaging? But in dealing with the results of the Roman Catholic schools under the old denominational system in Victoria, we were unfortunately confronted with a state of things more like that of Spain than that of England. Had the Roman Catholic schools in the colony been at all up even to the very ordinary Protestant standard, I very gravely doubt whether the community would have disturbed them; most certainly the present enormously costly system would never have been attempted.

In the very next number of the periodical, in which Mr. Fairfield pleaded for the Roman Catholic claims, Sir Robert Stout, the late Premier of New Zealand, in an article entitled "Our Waifs and Strays," subjected the whole question to the crushing test of statistics. Sir Robert Stout, I may remark, is one of the very few prominent public men in Australasia who is an open disbeliever in Christianity. His article therefore should be perused with caution, as it is quite impossible, especially for a capable man, to take up so exceptional and so hostile an attitude against the bulk of his fellows, and not display an "anti-religious bias." Sir Robert Stout attempts to show by figures (1) that the churches that are loudest in denouncing secular education have the worst record; and (2) that "godless" schools have not produced so many wicked children as the sectarian seminaries. I do not question the accuracy of his statistics; but I draw a different inference from them. Mr. Hayter, the Government Statist of Victoria, has a very pithy way of summing up the vital statistics of that colony. From 1865 to 1876, he tells us, there were forty-one criminals executed, of whom not one was born in Victoria;—so it is clear that the State schools cannot be held responsible in any of these cases. Of this number, two only were natives of other Australian colonies; there were nine Englishmen, one Welshman, seventeen Irishmen, two Scotchmen; and for Belgium, France, Switzerland, United States, and West Indies, one each; China, four; at sea, one. Twelve of these forty-one claimed to be of the Church of England, twenty-one were Roman Catholics, two Presbyterians, three Wesleyans, and three Pagans. Thirty-six were cases of murder, and the residue capital cases of other kinds. As I have elsewhere pointed out, these figures are the more startling, when it is borne in mind that the Roman Catholics only number a fourth of the population.

These statistics, published from year to year, by Mr. Hayter, have really furnished the most powerful argument in favour of the State schools, and against the old system of giving large grants to the various religious denominations for educational purposes. But, as I have said, while bound to accept such statistics, I by no means draw the anti-religious deductions from them so trenchantly set forth by Sir Robert Stout. He appears to argue that crimes prevail among certain classes because of their religious belief; instead of, as I prefer to think, in spite of it. I hold that the great majority of human beings would be far worse citizens, as well as far more unhappy creatures, if deprived of their religious faith, and their supernatural aspirations. As I have said at the beginning of the chapter, I should be an advocate for religious education in the State schools in Australia, but for the fact that the people are so sharply divided into two races, which can only be assimilated by a common system of national education. In addition to this there is no religious communion like the Anglican Church in England, which, by its numbers, wealth, and prestige, could carry on the education of the country on religious lines, to the satisfaction of even a bare majority of the people. It was the hopelessness of the task in these new countries to make the State teach religion that has impelled so many religious men, and in fact the great majority of a not irreligious community, to favour the secular system. To show that my own position is not a singular or isolated one, I may point out that from the days of Sir Richard Bourke and Robert Lowe, in New South Wales to those of the late Wilberforce Stephen,[3] in Victoria, many of the most distinguished members of the Anglican laity, despite their Bishops, have been among the chief supporters of the national, as opposed to the denominational, system of education. In fact, remembering that Mr. Higinbotham—in my opinion, the real father of the system in Victoria, though Mr. Stephen framed and carried the measure through Parliament—was then at least, also a prominent churchman, it may be said that the present State schools are largely the creation of the enlightened laity of Dr. Moorhouse's communion.

But to my mind there is a much more imperative argument in favour of the State, or, as they were first called, Common, schools, than any to be derived from Mr. Hayter's criminal statistics. Let me digress for a moment to observe that the term Common schools was a really more felicitous one than State schools, for it emphasised the main point that they were intended to be "common" to every church, sect, and social class in the community—in other words, to be broadly and truly National. But stupid parents did not like the idea of their children going to "common" schools, and associating with common children, so the name, with its grand significance, was sacrificed to that vulgar snobbishness which is just as rampant in democracies as elsewhere. These fastidious Australians would, I presume, had they been consulted, have changed the "Book of Common Prayer" into the "Volume of Polite Supplication;" and the "House of Commons," translated into their nomenclature, would have become the "Assembly of Genteels." Let us, however, pass on from the mere name to the thing itself. In my opinion, the full justification, as well as the immediate cause, of the free, secular, and compulsory system of public education now in vogue in Australia, is the hostile attitude assumed by the Roman Catholic clergy towards the rest of the community, as shown by their persistent efforts to isolate and divide their flocks from it. From time to time the leading Roman Catholic prelates of Australia have fulminated against what are called "mixed marriages!" but, whatever the evil of these mixed marriages may be, it is quite evident that unless they take place there can never be a united and homogeneous people in the land. In the course of this book I have more than once had occasion to refer to Scotland as affording the most happy illustration of the successful blending of two originally hostile races. But suppose the Highlanders as a body had been Roman Catholics, and had been forbidden, under dire ecclesiastical anathemas, to marry with the Lowlanders, what would be the condition of Scotland at the present day? Now, this is the state of things that the Australians, on the very threshold of their existence as a people, have to face. So long as the Irish-Australian flocks slavishly obey their priests, there must be this great bar and division between what I have called the two races in Australia. But if, as Mr. Topp points out, we can bring the young Irish-Australian children into the State schools, to be trained and educated side by side with the children of more enlightened parents, there may be some hope in a generation or two of raising that section of the community to the necessary level of the prevailing civilisation, whence will follow their complete fusion into the future Australian people.

For good or evil, this free, secular, and compulsory system has been established. Let us, instead of indulging in the futile abuse or equally futile laudation of the measure, impose upon ourselves the worthier task of endeavouring to find out what are its real aims, and what are its probable results. I cannot think of a better way to assist the British reader in this enterprise than by giving him a life-like picture of a lofty type of the Victorian State schoolmaster, which came into my hands under the following circumstances.

When the Great Melbourne Exhibition was held in 1880, among the Government exhibits was the model of an "up-country" State school, with all the fittings and appliances used in the daily routine of educational work. This, however, was only the shell; but the kernel, in the form of a somewhat undersized "bush" schoolmaster, sat inside. With that feeling of contempt which all metropolitans seem to have for country-folk, and which, as Prince Bismarck observes, is a sign of their own frothy imbecility, we Melbournians were at first disposed to ignore this "live exhibit" who insisted at intervals on explaining the aim and scope of public education, especially as applied to the inland towns and remote bush villages of Victoria. We soon discovered that it was not possible to ignore him for long. He had lived among his rude urchins and the lonesome gum-trees so long that the throng and bustle of the city, and the voices of so many people, with at least a smattering of culture, seemed to set his brain on fire. For he had read widely and pondered deeply in his bush solitudes, and had not only the phrases of the philosophers on his tongue, but their profoundest and most suggestive thoughts in his mind. And now here were numbers of other men with varying experiences and opinions, with whom for the first time he could converse freely on these high themes. He had an odd way of speaking about celebrated personages, as though he knew them intimately, and would say: "I like Thomas immensely, though I often find him very crotchety; but when I want a thoroughly rational chum, give me Herbert;"—and it took one rather aback to realise that his familiar bush companions were the authors of Sartor Resartus and First Principles.

On a closer acquaintance, it transpired that the young "up-country" schoolmaster, whose name was Charles Wesley Caddy,[4] had beguiled his leisure by putting some of his reflections into literary form. It then became evident that the bush-student, unlike the city smatterers, was not only acquainted with the luminous philosophy of our day, based on the Theory of Evolution, but could explain and quaintly illustrate its far-reaching truths by apt illustrations drawn from our everyday common colonial life. We at least could find him a vehicle for such rare effusions, and so, scattered amongst the newspapers and periodicals of the day, may be found such perfect essays of their kind as "The Morals of Politics," "The Education of the Educated," "The Belief of Unbelievers," all richly deserving preservation in book-form. Imbedded in one of these essays, by Mr. Wesley Caddy, was a personal sketch of a Victorian country schoolmaster, which, throwing light as it does on this great controversy of sectarian versus secular education, I here transcribe in part:—

"There died at Daylesford, a few months ago, a gentleman who had been in the service of the Victorian Education Department for many years; and who, with two or three other noted teachers, had been selected for an inspectorship of schools. He died before the time fixed for the commencement of his new duties. His career has been favourably noticed by every Government inspector who had gauged his work and noted his methods of instruction. Like all enthusiasts, he reckoned nothing small that related to his own art. He reduced the 'result-grinding' to a science, and year after year made his scholars pass a better examination than was done in any other Victorian school. He knew how to make a school pay. These were the points in which he excelled in following the work of education as a business; and if this was all that could be said of him, there would be no reason for dwelling on his career any more than on that of a successful shopkeeper. But he had, and contrived to instil into other teachers, the conviction that teaching was a great art. To bring on a crop of youngsters vying with each other in their school work, and to cultivate in them a love of fairplay and a detestation of everything mean and low, was the delight of his life. He knew the value of ritual as a controlling power over children, as well as some sections of religious teachers know its efficacy in managing childlike men. A boy sent to him by an assistant and charged with an offence, was dealt with in a manner as solemn as that assumed by a Supreme Court judge. No criminal guilty of manslaughter ever felt the enormity of his offence more keenly than that boy when the consequences to himself and younger boys were pointed out of acting in a dishonourable manner; and the boy always left the room convinced of the justice of his punishment and the sinfulness of his offence."


Children draw their general notions of religious obligation from the family and from Sunday-school teachings; but their code of honour is picked up at school. In a large State school of 800 children, such as that of which the late Geddie Pearse was head teacher, the number of children who can be dealt with individually by the head teacher is necessarily small. The work of the head teacher in such a case will be to try and impress his methods on his assistants. And where a large staff can be got to follow up such methods in dealing with the morals of children, no man can deny that the greatest possible amount of moral culture is being obtained. What Geddie Pearse achieved in Daylesford and elsewhere is being daily attempted in hundreds of Victorian schools. There are, of course, numbers of teachers who have no higher idea of their work than that it is, according to their position in the service, a good or bad occupation as a moneymaking affair; and who, if they can get their scholars to show up creditably at the annual examinations, consider they have delivered their souls. But the number of these bears probably about the same ratio to the number of those who are solicitous about conduct as well as attainments, as the number of money-grubbing clergymen bears to the number of those really desirous of promoting the spread of purity of life. That is to say, the work of moral instruction is being as well carried out under our strictly secular system as the work of religious instruction is being carried out in the churches; and the bulk of the people are now so well satisfied of this that, unless the clergy and their organs cease their clamour against the good work notoriously being done in large towns and in out-of-the-way bush hamlets, the respect and support accorded from traditional usage to the pastoral office will be withdrawn, and given to the class which is really furthering the spread of enlightenment.

One would fain close with this pleasant little sketch of the model Australian schoolmaster—this Roger Ascham of the Bush, who expended his life and thoughts, and gave up his days and nights, to his schoolful of colonial children, as faithfully as did his predecessor to Queen Elizabeth and the one or two favoured ladies of her Court. But it is as well to thresh this subject out thoroughly, and to see the dark side and the dangers as well as the brilliant successes of the system. It is not denied, even by its most enthusiastic advocates, that the free, secular, and compulsory system of education cannot be established in any country without a considerable national outlay. Could a race of headmasters of the type of Geddie Pearse be always found, no expense would be too great. But of course such a man in any profession or walk of life is the exception rather than the rule. The question then is, does the system work sufficiently well to justify the outlay in such communities as our colonies?

I think that any impartial person who has actually studied the subject on the spot will be almost sure to answer in the affirmative. In the first place, I would beg the British reader not to be misled by such phrases as "godless" education, as applied to the Australian State schools. So misleading are all such epithets that I confess, friend as I am of the State schools, I was astonished to find how essentially religious the teaching is in the authorised reading-books, or "Royal Readers," as they are called in Victoria. I thought that even Mr. Alexander Sutherland, the well-known graduate of the Melbourne University, a foremost authority on education, as well as a capable and copious writer mainly on local historical matters, might have unconsciously over-stated this fact in his controversy with the Victorian clergy who are always agitating for the repeal of the Act. I find, however, from an examination of these Victorian school-books that he is to a great extent justified in his assertion that they are "saturated with religion;" and so, he adds, "are the ordinary instructions of the teachers."

What, then, can be the grievance of the clergy—Roman Catholic or Protestant? Frankly, it is, so far as they do oppose the Education Act, that the teachers are forbidden to give any religious—which under the circumstances must be sectarian—teaching in school hours.[5] Can it be otherwise in a mixed community where all religions are tolerated and none are favoured? This, I feel quite convinced, is the common-sense view of the question taken by that powerful potentate in a democracy, the working-class elector. He is of opinion that the State school system should have a much more extended, and, he would add, a much fairer, trial than it has yet received. I think that the majority of the Protestant clergy are beginning to realise this, and it is only fair to say that many of them were from the first active and unwearying promoters of it. This applies without doubt to the more earnest of the Wesleyans, Independents, Baptists, and the leaders of the other sects styled in England Dissenters.

But it does not appear to be the case so widely with the Anglicans or the Presbyterians, particularly the former, which I attribute, so far as Victoria is concerned, to the deservedly great influence of the first two Bishops of Melbourne who were both avowed opponents of so-called secular education. Writing from an admittedly political point of view, I venture to express a hope that the leaders of the Colonial Church of England will carefully reconsider their position. These nascent nations are just now at the great turning-point of their career. In which direction their future lies, rests with Fate. But of this I am sure: the majority of thinking persons—for it is a mistake to suppose that the colonial working-classes do not think—have resolutely made up their minds, whatever the immediate cost may be, to weld the various races admitted into the commonwealth of the great Island-Continent into one people. It is the only way to change a condition of things that might almost be described as a chronic state of civil war. The majority of the people see this plainly enough, and through that too often shaky and babbling mouthpiece, the politician, they have handed over the work to the State schoolmaster. Many of the clergy not unnaturally regard this bold act as an infraction of their rights, but let them remember that it need not be so if they are wise. This may read like a paradox, but it is a plain fact.

The people of Australia are quite as religious as the people of England. They will, however, instinctively turn to those religious teachers who are prepared to assist and not to thwart the essential educational movement intended to make them, as far as possible, a united and a homogeneous people. Speaking again with perhaps unpardonable boldness, I venture to assert that if the Anglican Church in Australia should develop at the critical moment a man of genius as its chief priest and leader, he will entirely reverse the policy of his great predecessors from Bishop Broughton to Bishop Moorhouse. What benefit has accrued to that Church from the powerful assistance it has rendered to the Roman Catholics in opposition to the State schools? None; except it be to "dis-Australianise" herself. If a man of the commanding ability and restless energy of Dr. Moorhouse could not stem the tide, what hope is there for a lesser man? Instead of opposing the State school system which is the inevitable outcome of the social condition of the country, how much wiser it would be for the Anglicans and Presbyterians, whose zeal, learning, and piety are widely recognised and revered, to assist to widen the school curriculum, and to aid instead of thwart the State schoolmaster.

Had such men as Bishop Perry and Bishop Moorhouse, from the first, countenanced this essential educational reform, whereby Victorian children were to go to school "in common" at the public expense, they could have demanded a just compromise on the subject of religion, and caused to be brought into force a measure similar to the Public Instruction Act of 1880, which Sir Henry Parkes introduced into New South Wales. So long as they had supported a "Common" system of public education—"free" and "compulsory"—the people would not have insisted on its being "secular." They, in fact, only did so in despair, finding it impossible to get the religious leaders to do anything but blindly oppose what their own instinct of self-preservation told them was essential to the salvation of the State. Had the two worthy and eminent prelates I have named cordially supported the movement, they could have dictated their own terms as to the State school curriculum, and they would have earned the undying gratitude of all right-thinking patriotic men in the colonies, and would have done much, without the change by a hair's-breadth of an article or formulary of their creed, to make their Church the Church of Australia.

It may not unnaturally be asked by an attentive English student of Australian affairs, whether this system of free, secular, and compulsory education is not likely, sooner or later, to be overthrown. The fact that a large and organised minority, controlled by vigilant ecclesiastical leaders, is opposed to the State schools, is certainly a fact not to be overlooked or lightly considered. I will frankly concede that I have always considered it quite possible that the opponents of the State schools may, in one or other of these colonies, succeed in snatching a chance victory in a corrupt or moribund legislature, I remember discussing the possibility with a very far-seeing colonial politician, to whom I quoted the excellent American phrase to the effect that "persistent bigotry is, in the long-run, more than a match for wobbling enlightenment." With a long knowledge of Australian public affairs gained in and out of Parliament, my friend replied somewhat after this fashion:—

"Suppose," he said, "for the sake of argument, that it is granted there may be a chance majority who will vote the re-establishment of denominational schools in our colony. You will admit that it is not very likely to occur, and could not possibly occur, if the issues were put fairly before the people. Such a blow at the State school system, therefore, could only be the result of a chance majority in what would be a very corrupt, and by no means representative, House. What would follow after this alarming division when the appeal to the electors took place? Do you think the people, having literally studded the land with State schools, are going to destroy them, and revert to the old inefficient anti-national system? No; mark my words, the only result of such an unlikely contingency as you predict would be the immediate return of an overwhelming majority pledged to their eyes to re-establish, without a moment's delay, the State schools. And to make sure that no such retrograde movement should ever again take place, I make no doubt that a much more aggressive measure would be passed, under which no person should be allowed to hold any post or office in the State who had not been trained in the State schools,"

I will conclude this sketch of the State schoolmaster by offering a few remarks concerning his aristocratic relative, the University Professor. The Universities, like the State schools, are secular institutions; but their education is certainly not free,—neither is it compulsory. The fees are heavy, and the students limited. Despite the fact that Australian Universities owe their origin to the far-seeing political genius of Wentworth, and that throughout Australia these institutions have been favoured with an exceptionally capable professoriate, I think that alma mater is still somewhat of an aristocratic exotic in these democratic colonies. The fault seems to be that we have striven too slavishly to imitate the great English models; or rather, I should say, the Colonial Universities have not moved with the times, and are now, from a popular standpoint, altogether behind the "Home" Universities. This, however, is a subject on which I will not presume to dogmatise, but considering its bearing on the general subject of Australian education, I will venture to append the opinion of one who can speak with some show of authority.[6] I allude to Professor Herbert A. Strong, now of Victoria University, Liverpool, who a short time ago vacated the Classical Professorship in the University of Melbourne, but whose warmest sentiments are still with the people of that great colony in which he passed an important portion of his life. In answer to certain questions on the subject which I recently submitted to him, Professor Strong remarks: "My idea of the Melbourne University is that it is doing a great and noble work there. The fault of its curriculum is the absence of modern languages and of real philology teaching. It is (or was five years ago) behind in its physiology. The Universities here have much more effect upon the masses, because the professors do not think it infra dig. to lecture to the people at large, and to try and do for England what the Scotch professors have done for Scotland."

In my opinion, this is not creditable to the chief educational institution of a democratic community which supports it out of the public revenue by a grant of £9000 annually. Yet the Melbourne University undoubtedly still holds the supreme place in the public mind, mainly, no doubt, on account of the great attainments and high reputation of its original professorial Board. But it is impossible for any institution, especially in these young democratic lands, to survive long on tradition alone. The next scene in the educational drama of Victoria will probably be the popularising of the University as the head of the State school system, and, strange as the phrase may sound in Australian ears, the modernising of its curriculum.

  1. Not necessarily purely "secular." See Appendix E, "Education in Australia."
  2. The English criminal statistics, however, tell a less flattering tale.—"The actual results range from fifteen, twenty, and forty per cent., up to gaols (as in Liverpool) where the Roman Catholic prisoners are considerably in excess of all others confined. In two great cities the Roman Catholic female prisoners have for several years averaged three times the numbers of the remainder of their sex."—Quarterly Review, January 1888, p. 60.
  3. The late eminent Victorian lawyer and judge, then Attorney-General for the colony, who framed and passed the present Education Act of Victoria.
  4. The sad intelligence has just reached me that this really gifted man was recently run over by a cab in Melbourne and killed.
  5. See Appendix E, "Education in Australia."
  6. See Appendix E, "Education in Australia."