Slike strani
PDF
ePub

pupils who will leave school before restoration. Are these to be allowed to relapse to their former state? If not, it will be necessary to follow them up after they leave school. As Dr. Groszmann points out, this will call for the modification and extension of compulsory attendance laws, the multiplication of evening schools, with ungraded classes, and further, for the creation of a special bureau which shall co-operate with educational departments and boards of charities and corrections, for the care of subnormals who have left school. I know this scheme will be assailed as paternalistic, but remember that paternalism and patriotism spring from the same root.

These remarks apply, of course, to the public schools; yet the private schools are likely to have a larger proportion of dullards, potential and actual, than the public schools. Their problem will be mainly in the selection of teachers who have the will and the ability to study each pupil thoroughly. Private schools seldom have very large classes, and this can be done without additional expenditure. But the school owner who is not merely after the dollars will feel obligated to do even more. He, too, will probably find it necessary to have an ungraded class; and it will be his duty to see that its members are either on the road to restoration or that they be sent to institutions that can properly care for them. At the same time he must see that the normal pupils are getting such care that they will not feel that they are being held to the level of dullards. So small and numerous classes, with very flexible gradation, should be the rule rather than the exception.

All these remedies, and more, are needed, but can we not do something to prevent abnormality? Stricter marriage laws, with better enforcement, are needed, as well as more exact and extensive vital statistics, and closer study of infancy. Fiske points out that civilization, founded on the family, is due to the prolonged period of infancy in man,-why then, should not society do something to insure the birth of normal infants and the maintenance of their normal status?

I am aware that these thoughts contain little, if anything, that is new or original. They are simply the contribution of one who having been for ten years in contact with such cases in public and private schools, realizes the magnitude of the problem.

The Religious Freedom of the Schools

MARY H. LEONARD, ROCHESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

A

T the meeting of the National Education Associa

tion in Boston in July, 1910, the much discussed question of religion in public schools came several times to the front. But among many noble and wise utterances the words of one speaker at the Religious Education Conference (held in connection with the N. E. A.) had special force:

“We need to teach the true significance of Religious Freedom.” It is hard to formulate precisely the profound meaning of this widely-used term in all its applications. Probably America is at least not behind any other civilized country in intelligence on this subject. Yet several recent events, as well as certain utterances heard at the National Educational gathering, show the need of more careful attempts to define the Religious Freedom which we all profess to believe in.

A few days before the meeting of the N. E. A. in Boston, the Supreme Court of Illinois announced an important decision which concludes the case of the Catholic residents of Winchester, Scott County, who protested against religious exercises in the schools in which their children were required to join, and applied for a writ of mandamus requiring the Board of Education to discontinue these exercises. The lower court denied the petition, but the Supreme Court upheld their contention and ordered that the writ be issued, closing its argument as follows: "The wrong arises ...

.. out of the compulsion to join in any form of worship. The free enjoyment of religious worship includes freedom not to worship.

This action of the Illinois Supreme Court has evoked considerable comment, and has aroused the fears of some good people lest the cause of religion as well as the moral influence of the schools should be weakened thereby.

Yet it ought to be held as true as an axiom that religious freedom forbids “compulsion to join in any form of worship,” and also that the free enjoyment of religious worship includes freedom not to worship.”

Nevertheless it is also undeniable that religious freedom requires that no ban be placed on religious worship in schools provided that compulsory attendance or participation be fully ruled out.

In the halls of Congress the services of a chaplain have always been provided, and the official ministrations of the late Dr. E. E. Hale as chaplain of the Senate were greatly valued by the nation. Attendance upon these exercises is of course voluntary on the part of the legislators, and such exercises have never been condemned as contrary to American principles.

There are hundreds of state universities, normal schools, and other institutions of learning in America where young men and women are gaining higher education at the cost of the state. In most of these schools and colleges chapel exercises of worship are held at stated periods, and are generally believed to be of value in the moral development of young people of college age. But while religious freedom requires that there should be no compulsion of attendance upon these exercises, it surely does not forbid that such exercises be held, nor that the young people should be encouraged to attend them, unless indeed in cases (which are exceedingly rare if they ever exist) where the students themselves may feel their own consciences violated by such attendance.

In the case of little children in the elementary schools the situation is somewhat different. It is not usually they themselves but their parents, whose free decision as to attendance or non-attendance should be guaranteed by the principle of religious freedom. A vast majority of the parents of school children in the United States not only have no conscientious objection to their children attending such exercises, but they generally believe that such exercises have a good moral effect upon the workings of the school, and they have fuller confidence in the schools as places for the training of their children when such exercises are held. There are thousands of school communities where not a single parent could be found who would object to the required attendance of his children upon these customary exercises of school worship. And for the courts to require the discontinuance of such exercises (provided that full freedom of non-attendance is given to the chil

ܕܕ

dren of objecting parents) would seem to be as great a violation of the principle of religious freedom as has ever been found in the schools of the past. “The free enjoyment of religious worship" no less than the freedom not to worship" is surely the heritage and birthright of American public schools.

The adjustment of the school program to meet these conditions is a question of expediency, and will vary under differing local conditions. There are doubtless schools where it is more expedient to omit altogether any form of school worship, and to trust wholly to other means of securing the right moral and spiritual development of the children. The excessive fears of some good people lest schools will relapse into atheism unless formal religious exercises are made a part of the daily program, is one of the hindrances to good moral teaching in the schools, since it keeps alive the fears of other religionists lest the schools are being controlled by sectarian influences.

A similar injury is done the schools by some good people who are unduly fearful lest the Bible shall not be accorded a pre-eminent place as the sole, or chief, source of moral and religious enlightenment. Thus one of the speakers at the recent N. E. A. meeting said that it is impossible to teach morals properly in school so long as the one great text-book in morals is discredited by being left out. It seems to be true that some of the good religionists who are most zealous in advocacy of the Bible claims are at present the chief hinderers to the legitimate use of the Bible in public schools.

There is an old law upon the Massachusetts statute book requiring that the Bible shall be read daily in the schools “without note or comment.” Both of these requirementsthat the Bible shall be read, and that the reading shall be “without note or comment-have a mediaeval sound to the intelligent schoolman of to-day.

The law that the Bible must be read is opposed to the principle of religious freedom, and its impropriety is only equalled by that of another law (found on some statute books) that the Bible shall not be read in the public schools. Nor is the requirement that it shall be “without note or comment” much more accordant with the spirit of American life. We freely comment on all other books and subjects. Then why not on the Bible, provided that the kind of note or comment does not violate the principles of religious freedom?

The true principle seems to have been expressed by the president of the N. E. A. when he said that we look forward to a time when the open Bible, used for moral and not for sectarian ends, shall be freely admitted into every American school.

Comments upon passages from the Bible, when used to illustrate history, to interpret their literary character, and especially to enforce their moral teachings, are as legitimate in the school as comments upon any other book. But comments made “for sectarian ends” are a violation of religious freedom in the schools. But what is sectarianism? And is it in itself, necessarily and always, a thing to be deplored?

A reply to this question may be found in the words of the United States Commissioner of Education at the Religious Education Conference: “It seems to me that sectarianism is an extremely necessary and valuable thing in our civilization, and that a civilization without sectarianism would mean a civilization that had got its growth. To be sure there is a kind of sectarianism that has passed its time. I have a very strong belief that the sectarianism that I profess belongs to the first class. It is to be hoped that we shall have in this country the deep, rich and full development of religious differences which to-day makes it impossible for us to teach systematic religion in our schools."

The “deep, rich and full development of religious differences” which Commissioner Brown advocates belongs to the churches and to private individuals, and should have no place in the national schools.

But what then? Is this development of religious differences the whole of religion? Surely there is a large body of moral and religious truth that has been wrought out in human experience and may be thought of as fixed and universal. Even the churches are seeing to-day that they have more points of agreement than of disagreement. The emphasis of thought in this age is on religious unity, rather than on differences in belief and practice, however important these differences may be in the growth of new religious ideas. And I do not believe that

« PrejšnjaNaprej »