Dora B. Montefiore, New Age February 1905
Source: New Age, p. 69, 2 February 1905;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
I am glad to see that the President of the London Head Teachers’ Association has categorically condemned the recently published L.C.C. scheme for granting junior scholarships. This scheme, which in its inception and unfolding, shows clearly the hand of the much-vaunted, but over-esteemed “educational expert,” provides 2,600 junior scholarship (as against the present 600), the estimated annual cost of which will be £275,200. On the face of it this seems a generous attempt to provide good secondary education, at a cost of over £100 per annum per child, for the more intelligent and promising among the elementary scholars in the L.C.C. schools; but when we look this newest gift-horse to the people in the mouth we find that the question of provision of pupil teachers is inextricably mixed up with the general question of scholarships, and that instead of being a scheme for helping the poorest (those whose incomes are under £2 a week), the income limit is now abolished, and the scholarships will naturally be competed for, and won, by children whose parents belong more to the smaller bourgeoisie, instead of those belonging to the working classes. These scholarships are to be held from the age of 11 to 14, and – strange to say – were it not that we know what is behind the thoughts of these “educational experts,” two-thirds of these endowments are to go to girls, and one-third only to boys! Such remarkable apparent generosity towards the non-privileged sex should alone give us pause, and make us ask what charming little surprise for the girls these “experts” have up their sleeve? The answer to our question is that for boys the world is wide; and well-paid occupations, with scope for rises in salary, are more available. They do not care to be tied down to the drudgery of elementary teaching, with its small hope of advancement. For girls however, under existing economic and social conditions, and with their lower standard of living, the pay offered to elementary teachers has attractions. Women as a class, also, make better teachers than do men; they are more painstaking, patient, and intuitional; and, especially with younger pupils, more successful as regards results. It is, therefore, well worth the while of “experts” to spread a net for the girls of the better-class families who patronise the elementary schools – a net baited with “genteel” scholarships, a future “genteel” occupation of school-teaching.
Secondary scholarships for the people should mean the offer of an equal number of scholarships to poor boy and girl scholars, with the object of preparing them for citizenship, and not with the object of providing pupil teachers for elementary schools. Mr. Mortimer, the President of the London Head Teachers’ Association, pointed out that “at the age of 14, excluding the hundred superlative scholarships, reserved for intermediate scholarships, and allowing for a certain amount of waste, the scholarship holders would have to decide either to become pupil teachers, or to surrender their scholarships. He unhesitatingly stated that a more unfair condition of things it would be impossible to create, and he was surprised that a body of Englishmen should have framed such a condition.” Does he realise that this is one of the many of the delightful bits of “patronage” of popular education which the present Education Bill, blessed by Progressives and Socialists, as well as by Unionists, made possible? The men and women “experts” who frame these “ladders of learning,” as they so unctuously call them, for the use of the aristocracy of labour, hold no educational mandate from the people, who once more have sold their birthright for a mess of Fabian and Unionist pottage. The scholarships that the people need are those that open the gate to the science of life, not those that lift the latch of “Miss Pinkerton’s Academy” for the manufacture of pupil teachers. Commerce, design, science, craftsmanship, domestic economy, and the art of motherhood are neglected by these academic “experts”; whilst secondary education, already rich in old endowments, is to be further endowed to the tune of £144,000 a year. The nation’s khaki mandate to the present Government has already cost us dear, in the loss of men and treasure in South Africa; but the vital and intellectual cost to the nation, by the set-back to popular education contrived by those who have removed the people’s education from the people’s control, can only be estimated it the future by our children’s children.
A prospectus has been sent me from the Université Nouvelle, of Brussels, setting forth the ground-plan of a “Cours par Correspondance” on General Sociology, which has lately been started in that capital. The “Cours” is under the direction of Dr. Lafosse, who states in the prospectus that in treating through correspondence with his pupils the questions that arise” he speaks in the name of no special master, he invokes one authority only – that of Reason: all who reason logically will arrive at the same results as he has done.” Many women who cannot travel and take advantage of the opportunities given by contact with many men and many minds in educational centres, may be glad of the opportunity of continuing home study under the guidance and help of a specialist in sociology. Let any such write to the Secretary of the Université Nouvelle, 28, Rue de Ruysbroek, Brussels, who will gladly supply them with information and details about the correspondence course.
In a recent interview with a Finlander, published last week in a daily paper, the Finnish authority, speaking on the present in Russia, remarked that “Russian tactics proved absolutely futile in Finland; owing to the superior education of the Finnish peasantry.” I heartily wish the same could be, said of our English proletarian, when the tactical blandishments of the brewer, the lawyer, and the “expert educationalist” succeed over and over again, because of his unfortunate inferior education in the trend of modern movements, which have not till recently come much within the ken of labour. The L.R.C. on Saturday last rejected the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill now before Parliament by 483 votes to 270, on the ground that it would merely increase the political power of the propertied classes, by giving votes to upper and middle-class women, leaving the great majority of working women still voteless. A resolution was accordingly passed in favour of adult suffrage, male and female. Readers of this column do not need to be assured that I rejoice in the passing of the resolution in favour of adult suffrage, and only hope it will lead to real work in pursuance of the same object; for I have welcomed this conflict of opinion which has recently waged round the subject of votes for women, realising as I do that anything is better than indifference, and the repeating of meaningless shibboleths without the intention of acting on them. The strong interests ranged against the admission of women into political life, are the brewer, the lawyer, and the old lingering Gladstonian influence, but they are quite willing to “lie low and say nothing” as long as organised labour is prepared to do their work of opposition by passing resolutions against the Women’s Emancipation Bill. This Bill has its object the undoing of judge-made law, which in the case of Beresford Hope v. Lady Sandhurst, ruled that: “When you have a statute which deals with the exercise of public functions, unless that statute expressly gives power to women to exercise them, it is to be taken that the true construction is that the powers given are confined to men.” It is to remedy this judge-made injustice, and to make women legally able to benefit by every further extension of the franchise, that the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill is being brought forward. It is not an alternative to but an indispensable preliminary to, and part of, Adult Suffrage. The women who for years have been working to reverse this judge-made law are the women whose devoted work obtained for all women the passing of the Married Women’s Property Bill; and who have striven when any measure affecting women was before Parliament to modify such Measure for the benefit of the voiceless working woman; but when masculine Labour comes along, knowing nothing of the prolonged and handicapped struggle of the conscious womanhood and motherhood of the country, it is inclined to act as if the very women who had been helping to make progress possible were reactionaries, and inimical to the cause of the working woman. The non-privileged working women, however, understand better the situation, and in the words of William Morris, “remember the Fellowship”; they have abundantly testified through their organisations that they desire the present Bill to become law, knowing well, in the words of the same great human writer, that: “Ill would change be at whiles, were it not for the change beyond the change.”
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.