John Maclean Internet Archive
Transcribed by the John Maclean Internet Archive

Education in Scotland

by John Maclean

Source: Justice 23rd May 1908, p.6
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Copyleft: John Maclean Internet Archive ( 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

So apathetic have the middle-class in Scotland become so far as social progress is concerned—and that, of course, can be accounted for by the fact that they are the dominant class and have all their interests well attended to—that even the vaunted superiority of Scotland in educational affairs is probably a thing of the past. Incited by the desire to rise supreme in commerce and industry other countries have directed themselves with marvellous energy to the perfecting of the education of their young whilst all the time we in Scotland have been resting on the achievements of our fathers.

However, our Liberal leaders have awakened from their lethargy, and through Mr. Sinclair have produced an Education Bill. Last year the Bill was mysteriously dropped, this year it has been surprisingly resurrected. No mention was made of it in the King’s Speech, and no educational organisation knows why it has been so suddenly revived. After innumerable attempts this Bill will certainly be passed, through the dauntless courage and assiduity of our Scottish Liberals. And there shall be a revolution in Auld Scotia’s education. For does not Mr. Sinclair’s Bill tell us that accommodation, apparatus, equipment, and service for the preparation and supply of meals to pupils attending schools within their district be provided; that crippled or defective children shall be conveyed to school; that school boards may provide books, etc., to pupils, where they deem it necessary; that medical men may examine the children to find out whether their parents are neglecting them and ought to be imprisoned, so as to take from the said parents their independence to neglect them; that school boards may frame bye-laws compelling young lads and lasses after work hours to attend continuation classes till they reach the age of 17; that school boards may dismiss teachers in an arbitrary manner, and may give others microscopic pensions, if these, naturally, have not been revolutionary Socialists; and that voters after this shall have only one vote. These, with certain petty financial details, are the vast issues that have taken our professors, educational experts and politicians so many years to screw up their courage to the sticking point to face. Their sleepless nights, their multitudinous cares for the welfare of the children of the poor are almost past—the Bill is going to become an Act. Maybe!

Unfortunately for our middle-class plundering saints and sages, the workers have awakened and are demanding an Education Bill. On May Sunday, despite the sobs and dripping drizzle of our weeping weather, the largest assembly of workers ever met on such an occasion passed, amidst other resolutions, the following:—

“That this meeting calls upon the Liberal Government to introduce and pass this year (1908) an Education Bill for Scotland, embodying, amongst others, the following important points (a) secular education; (b) free maintenance of all school children; (c) free books; (d) extension of the age limit to 16 years; (e) maintenance scholarships for all attending secondary schools, technical colleges and universities; (f) free medical examination of all, with free treatment of such as require medical aid; (g) the establishment of homes in the country and at the coast for the benefit of school children; (h) all educational expenditure to be borne by the State.”

This or a similar resolution will be passed at public meetings from end to end of Scotland. But that’s not all. A petition has been drawn up by the May-Day Committee, and books for signature are going to be sent to Socialist and trade union organisations everywhere in the country, so that our smug, self-complacent bourgeoisie may recognise that we of the working-class demand the nation’s best education for our children. Never before was a better opportunity afforded by the masters to show the absolute necessity for free maintenance. All winter unemployment and broken time prevailed over Scotland; wages have been falling and will fall; and now innumerable engineers are virtually locked out to prevent them, I presume, giving aid to the locked-out woodworkers. The children will be pinched through no fault and no desire of their parents. Free Maintenance is the only shield of the young, and the only practical measure that can enable school life to be extended. Let all comrades in Scotland, with united frontal attack, prevent the passing of Sinclair’s despicable Bill by the steadfast clamour for a workers’ Bill along the lines—sketched in the above resolution. But, by all means, let us present a formidable petition—the first, remember, that has been presented by the wage-slaves of the land of Burns. We can make history without going to Parliament ourselves.