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Our New Zealand Cousins
Chapter XVIII

Education in New Zealand—School buildings—Opinion of a high authority—The order of educational arrange­ments—Professor Black's mining lectures—Scheme for instruction to miners—Technical education—Political parasites.

To turn now more to the social than the physical features of the colony. After the neatness and numbers of the churches, perhaps the next thing that most strikes a reflective observer is the atten­tion that is paid to education, as exemplified in the number of schools, colleges, seminaries, and other educational buildings one meets. Although pos­sessing a considerably more rigorous and mutable climate than New South Wales, the school build­ings, as a rule, are not nearly so pretentious and expensive in New Zealand as they are in the former colony. This one fact alone speaks well for the practical nature of the people. In New South Wales enormous sums of money have been needlessly spent in erecting stone buildings far in advance of the requirements of the times. The schools are mostly built of wood in country dis­tricts in New Zealand. They are comfortable and neat. The children generally are taught together in class on the floor; but in the benches and at the desks the boys occupy one side of the school and the girls the other. The school furniture is fully up to modern requirements. All the teachers I met— and I tried to get speech of as many as I could— were very intelligent, and possessed of considerable esprit de corps. In such cities as Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, &c., the high schools were indeed quite palatial looking, and some of the private educational institutions were not more admirable in their interior arrangements for the comfort and health of the pupils, than impos­ing externally from an architectural point of view.

I had the privilege and good fortune to meet some of the highest and most honoured authorities on educational subjects in the colony. I found a very generally expressed opinion that the existing system errs on the side of liberality. The burden of the educational impost presses heavier on the people every year. In fact, free education is felt by many now to have been a political blunder. It was never wanted. In the bitter outcry against sectarian teaching on the part of large masses, the advocates of free education stole a march, and succeeded in getting their whole programme of free, secular, and compulsory education swallowed entire, like a bolus. Many now think that the giving up of the revenue derived from fees was a useless, nay, a harmful surrender. What costs nothing, say they, is generally not valued much by the recipient, and anything which tends to sap the citadel of personal responsibility and individual independence is bad for the self-reliance of the citizen.

" In Dunedin," as a venerable and learned friend put it to me, "In Dunedin, no one objected to school fees. There were only a very few poor widows who could not afford to pay ; and provision was always made for the children of such, without any one being any the wiser. The old instincts of Scottish independence revolted at the thought of parental responsibility being shirked in the matter of the education of their children. It was held as an article of faith by the majority, that it was as incumbent on a parent to provide food for the growth and development and nourishment of the child's mind as for his body. The result of free education by the State is," pursued my friend, ,f very much to beget a feeling of entire indifference on the subject on the part of many, and a general weakening of the sense of parental responsibility almost along the whole line." I try to reproduce our exact conversation. Said I, "But you would have education compulsory?" "Undoubtedly ; but if parents complied with the requirements of the law in respect of attainments, and were willing to pay out of their own pockets direct, why should they be forced to make their children attend this or that school, or submit them to the tuition of this or that teacher? That I think an unwise and an unnecessary compulsion. I do not wonder at one section of the community kicking against such a sweeping and arbitrary enactment. It savours of persecution, and I would resent it myself."

"But does it not ensure greater economy in working, and greater efficiency, and better results to have a compulsory State system? Would not the latitude you advocate tend to the multiplication of sectarian and denominational schools?"

"What has that to do with the justice of the case? But I do not think it would. The Free Church of Scotland had hundreds of schools, and she was very glad, indeed, to hand them over to the school boards. They had always been a heavy burden, the bearing of which had fallen almost exclusively on the minister, who had already too much to attend to, if he was really to carry on his own peculiar pastoral work, and attend to his public ministrations with any degree of acceptance and success. The consequences have been all for good, in the case of the Free Church of Scotland, and I do not think that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, and possibly a section of the Anglican, any movement in the direction of having schools separate from the State schools will ever be made here."

"But would not the secularists object?"

"What matter if they did? I do not think that secularism is so strong as some people would like to make out. There is a distinct reaction against it here in this community." (We were speaking of Dunedin at the time.) "The feeling that I am glad to say is gaining strength amongst us is, that the Bible should be read in all the public schools. I would apply the principle of local option to Bible teaching, as to whisky selling. If the majority of the people in a country town—we will say Balclutha, for instance,—wished to have the Bible taught in their schools, why should the veto of Dunedin prevent it, and vice versa ? Of course, to obviate individual hardships, any child might have exemption from attendance on the Bible classes under a conscience clause."

"But suppose the Catholics and Anglicans did set up separate schools, would they not demand a share of the proceeds of the education cess, as a result of your proposed modifications?"

"Well, and they might have it! I would allow," said my reverend old friend, "I would allow a capitation grant from the general revenue, con­ditional on the child passing the secular standard established by the Government educational depart­ment. In Canada there is an education rate, and Catholics are there allowed to pay over their rates to their own schools, whether high or ele­mentary. All are, of course, inspected and examined by the Government officials, only the Government does not examine in religious teaching. This has worked admirably there, and is the best and fairest compromise that could be made between the advocates of purely secular teaching on the one hand, and denominationalism on the other."

I give this conversation as being the boldly- expressed opinions of a representative man. I found they were shared by the majority of the intelligent colonists I spoke to on the subject. There was evidently in Otago and Canterbury a reaction against secularism pure and simple, and the advocates of Bible teaching in schools would in my opinion poll an immense majority if it came to a vote.

The order of educational arrangements is briefly thus :—

The first step is the primary school. These primary schools are thickly scattered over the length and breadth of the land. Attached to every school is a glebe and house for the teacher. A system of what is called provincial scholarships is in force—so many for juniors and so many for seniors. These are open to the youth of both sexes, and are tenable for three years. They ensure the holder free education, either in a district high school or in such high schools as those of Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Timaru, &c. In fact, all the principal towns boast of their high school.

In the "Otago boys and girls high schools Dunedin," for instance, there are more than fifty resident pupils getting free education, who either hold provincial scholarships, or who, in the competition for these, have made fifty per cent, or over of the necessary marks. This, surely, is a liberal arrangement.

Some high schools again have a higher grade of scholarships; these are tenable for three years also, are of the value of 40/. per annum, and the holders must take the arts course in the University of Otago. This University itself also offers two scholarships of similar value and condition.

The New Zealand University, which is merely an examining body, offers also every year about a dozen junior, and about half that number of senior scholarships. These are open to the whole colony. There are also exhibitions and scholar­ships founded by wealthy and patriotic patrons of learning, and the Otago University has at least one nomination for a military cadetship, at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

The scholarships of the University of Otago'are of three kinds: The Junior, of the annual value of 45/.; the Medical Scholarships, annual value 100/.; and the Senior, which are fixed each year by the Senate at its annual meeting. There are also money and book prizes for best essays, and other inducements to aspirants after academic dis­tinctions. Altogether, the endowments and en­couragements to students are on the most liberal and praiseworthy scale.

There has also been good organization among the teachers and professors, for mutual improve­ment. During the last seven years it has been the custom for the professors in Dunedin, to give Saturday lectures in turns, for a few months every year, to school teachers solely. The response by the teachers has been most cheering. Hundreds come down every Saturday during the course, from a radius of eighty miles from the city. The teachers pay a guinea to the Government for their ticket, which entitles them to admission to the lectures, and their railway carriage to and fro. A most liberal concession! The movement, three years ago, extended to Christchurch, and is now a fixed institution there, and it is now being started in Wellington.

It would be well if some such admirable custom could be inaugurated in connection with our splendid Sydney University.

This is not the only evidence of the practical good sense and energy which the educational bodies in New Zealand bring to bear on their work.

Last year the Otago University Council, re­cognizing the need of practical instruction in many departments of industry outside the academic walls as well as inside, tried the experiment of sending Professor Black to the mining centres to lecture'to the miners, and the result was a pronounced success. The subject is of such practical im­portance to communities such as ours, in a young country where minerals are of such frequent occurrence, that I make no apology for tran­scribing copiously from Professor Black's report.

The professor first of all went to the mining centres on the West Coast, where there are ex­tensive gold-fields. There he says:

"I delivered forty-four lectures at fifteen differ­ent places, and established testing classes at nine centres. The attendance at the classes was very satisfactory, many miners in several districts taking a holiday during my visit, so as to avail them­selves more fully of the testing classes.

"At Boatman's, near Reefton, I was joined by Mr. Alex. Montgomery, M.A. of this University (Otago), on March 14th, and during the remainder of the tour he was of the greatest assistance to me, taking an active part in every department of the work. Mr. Montgomery also delivered lectures on 'Geology, Mineral Veins, Faults,' &c., in Grey- mouth, Kumara, Hokitika, and Ross, and visited the coal-mines at Koranui, Coalbrookdale, and Brunner, as well as several of the largest quartz reef mines at Reefton, Boatman's, and Lyell. Mr. Montgomery's lectures, like my own, were very well received everywhere, and a strong desire was expressed in many quarters that he should be available for carrying on this kind of teaching in the district. The subjects of my lectures were the following: —1. How quartz reefs were formed. 2. How gold came into the reefs. 3, 4, and 5. The chemistry of gold. 6. The extraction of gold from quartz. 7. The chlorine process for extract­ing gold. 8. Sodium amalgam, and its use in saving gold. 9. The amalgamation of copper plates, and the removal of gold from them. 10. The analysis and assay of gold-bearing stone. 11. The ores and metallurgy of silver, lead, tin, copper, antimony, zinc, mercury. 12. The chemis­try of sheelite, &c.

"In the testing classes the students themselves went through the processes for testing metallic ores containing the metals named above, Mr. Montgomery having charge of the blowpipe pro­cesses, whilst I directed the wet chemical opera­tions.

"In the more important centres, when the miners were beginning to see how simple and practical were the methods of testing ores, they began to form themselves into clubs (subscribing usually il. each) 'to procure the appliances necessary for carrying on the testing of ores after my departure. Before the end of April ten of these clubs were in existence, with their chair­men and secretaries, and funds subscribed, with a membership ranging from thirteen to thirty- five each, total membership about 200. At two other places, clubs were being formed when I was just leaving the coast. The following are the centres where clubs are now in existence:— Reefton, Boatman's, Lyell, Westport, Waiman- garoa, Greymouth, Kumara, Hokitika, Ross, Goldsborough; and in process of formation at Dillmanstown and Rimu. Public meetings were held in most of the centres to apply to the Government and the University of Otago for assistance in the way of instructors and facili­ties for procuring appliances at the smallest cost.

"During my whole visit I received the warmest support, not only from the miners and the civic authorities, but also from the clergymen of all denominations, medical men, and druggists. The press also very heartily advocated the movement, and published elaborate reports of the processes of testing. During my visit to the coast, as well as to the Otago gold-fields, I was strongly impressed with the large field open for teaching to crowds of intelligent men such subjects as geology, minera­logy, the use of the blowpipe, the chemistry of minerals, the extraction of metals from their ores. The men are there thirsting for this kind of know­ledge. They at present present the saddening spectacle of standing together in clubs, with funds subscribed for procuring chemicals, books, and apparatus, but with no one left to teach them the use of these appliances. There was never a better opportunity offered to any Government, or University authorities, of providing suitable means of instruction to so large a number of earnest students eager to receive it. And no body of students will make a better or more direct and immediate use of the instruction pro­vided for them.

"Such instruction, if liberally provided, will convert very many of these miners into most intelligent prospectors, since they will then be able to identify a valuable ore when they find it (which is not the case at present). The country will reap a thousandfold in the develop­ment of its wonderful mineral resources any expenditure judiciously made in this direc­tion.

"It is important that help to these clubs come soon if it is to come at all. It is much easier to keep them going now than it will be to resuscitate them again if they are allowed to die for lack of support. I need not say that it will give myself the greatest pleasure to take an active part during the summer holidays in carrying on the move­ment so auspiciously begun in connection with your 'School of Mines.'"

The Professor was farther so impressed with the importance of the work thus auspiciously begun, that he has formulated a scheme which he for­warded to the Minister of Mines to provide special instruction in several branches of know­ledge on the gold-fields.

The branches of knowledge embraced in this scheme are as follows:—"1. Geology, the general subject including modes of occurrence of useful minerals, prospecting for useful minerals by boring and otherwise. 2. Ore-dressing, in­cluding gold-saving machines, treatment of auriferous sulphides (sulphides of iron, copper, antimony, arsenic, &c.), the preparation of valuable ores for the market. 3. Mineralogy, including the wet and dry processes for determin­ing minerals, the physical characters of useful minerals, instruction in the use of the blowpipe. 4. Metallurgy, including the 'characters, tests, and mode of occurrence of the ores of gold, silver, lead, mercury, copper, tin, antimony, iron, zinc, manganese, and cobalt, and the processes for smelting these metals or reducing them from their ores. 5. Analysis and Assaying, including practical instruction in the processes for assaying metallic ores. In these testing classes, which I regard as a most valuable part of the scheme, the students themselves will perform the work under the direction of the instructors. It is for the prosecution of this kind of work that the local schools of mines have been formed. 6. Mine-surveying. 7. Mining— These, I think, may, in the meantime, be provided for by an arrangement with one or more of the local mining engineers." So much for Dr. Black's admirable syllabus.

Can any one doubt that the systematic carrying out of such a scheme as this would redound im­mensely to the credit of the Government, and to the welfare and progress of the mining com­munity?

A Technical College has, in Sydney, New South Wales, been in existence for some years, and has of late been launching out upon a wider sea of enter­prise, making tentative efforts in directions some­what similar to the foregoing. Such efforts are a healthy sign of awakening interest in this import­ant work of practical technical education. They are deserving of the warmest sympathy and com­mendation of. every patriotic Australian; and the itinerary of one such lecturer is worth all the twaddle and fustian of all the stump politicians and demagoguic nostrum-mongers who muster thick in Sydney, and who air their incoherent and in many cases antiquated and exploded theories with a vehemence and fervour which, if applied to some honest occupation—say breaking blue metal, for instance—would make even these wind-bags superior to all the frowns of fortune. Your politi­cal spouter and conference organizer, however, has a wholesome horror generally of hard work for himself. The golden gift of eloquence, or what he mistakably assumes to be its equivalent, "glibness of gab," is accepted by him as the direct guerdon of a kind Providence to enable him to live sumptuously on the proceeds of the hard work of others. Such men are the parasites of the body politic.

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