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* They who wish to see Grammar schools more efficient, are unfairly reproached with a disposition to depreciate the institutions of the country. It is matter of public notoriety that many of them are in gross decay. The legislat e has not been backward in anticipating such a state of things. Not to multiply quotations from the statute book, the 18th of Elizabeth may be cited as a proof of what her Parliament thought charitable trustees of the highest rank sometimes capable. “ The same wheat, malt, or the money coming of the same, to be expended to the use of the relief of the commons and diet of the said colleges, cathedral church, halls, and houses only, and by no fraud or color let or sold away from the profit of the said colleges, cathedral church, halls, and houses, and the fellows and scholars in the same, and the use aforesaid, upon pain of deprivation of the Governor and Chief Rulers of the said colleges, cathedral church, halls, and houses, and all other thereunto consenting."
The spirit of many much earlier Acts of Parliament, and the practices of many governors and chief rulers”
fully justify this statute. The judicial methods of reform by Commission and Information have proved almost useless, nor can the new way by petition succeed. From time to time loud complaints have been made by private persons of the inefficiency of Grammar Schools, and numerous remedies proposed. The following passages, written at different times, may be considered illustrative at least of this :
" Yet this must be said for our ancestors, that their provision was very competent, and the endowment of schools was, in proportion to the estates of those times, very fair. When workmen wrought for one penny a day, when that land now worth forty or fifty shillings an acre, was then thought a dear bargain at ten groats; forty pounds per annum was a fair livelihood, and better than two hundred pounds now. But what do we add to our forefathers' stock? The trustees and governors in the several corporations share the improvements among themselves, take all above the salary for lawful prize, and leave the master to the bare old allowance, notwithstanding the vast increase of rents. So that by this means schools are become impropriations, and laymen, (ignorant fellows,) run away with the encouragement of learning. This abuse would deserve the parliament's notice, and a severe account to be taken of the revenue of schools, which ought to be done by requiring all masters and governors to give a perfect inventory of school lands, houses, &c. with their yearly value, and settling accordingly an honorable salary upon the master, with reasonable abatement for repairs, and the charges of the overseers. This course would 'invite men of eminent parts and abilities into school work; whereas now it is made the sanctuary of many idle insufficient persons, who have no hopes elsew here; or by those which have any merit, designed a step to some church preferment. It cannot be expected, as things are, that the schools of this nation (excepting some few which are illustrious and of royal foundation) should be in any tolerable condition." p. 4.
In another page of this singular little production, Mr. Needham proposes that “when the stipends and methods are thus established he should further propose that there should be no allowance for any one whatsoever to keep a private school upon his own account, unless it be the clerk of the parish, whose office it should be (with an allowance for it) to teach all the children of the parish, at certain hours each day, to write and read, and that by the direction and under the inspection of the minister; and on Saturdays to prepare them for their public answering in the church to the Catechise question: and that when children are thus far instructed in their own parish, they should be then sent to some public school, unless the parent were of such estate as to keep a tutor (to be approved by the Bishop) in his house, or were of so low a fortune that he could not be at the charge of breeding his child a scholar.” A Discourse on Schools and Schoolmasters, 1663, by M. N.
These initials are said to designate Marchamont Needham. He recommends a uniform Grammar, a fair increase of salaries to the schoolmaster, a parliamentary inquiry, and a further method of coercing improper teachers hy a most extraordinarily severe extension of the absurd old principle of licensing.
In 1678, Christopher Ware published his “ Considerations concerning Free Schools as settled in England ;” and certainly bears no very high testimony to the administration of the revenues of these establishments. His book contains some remarks on the formation of libraries well worth attention. The collections he made are in the library of Corpus Christi College.
In 1748 another attempt was made to remedy a strongly asserted evil in a Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury: “Of late years a Grammar school has labored under great disgrace. Frequent and from every quarter are complaints of disappointment from this part of education. In conversation it is often a point of debate whether it be proper for youth in general. The gentlemen are no longer in doubt; these give it quite up as a thing of no service but to a few, whose profession shall require a skill in Latin and Greek; and if they send their children at all to these places of instruction, it is because they knew not what else to do with them to a certain age. Many also fall in with a modern plan of education, I mean a French school; a scheme that looks plausible, and now takes so well, that our teachers of Latin must either make vigorous efforts for the recovery of their lost credit, or soon shut up their doors, if they are not disposed to do what some have already, i.e. strike in with the humor of the times, and educate in both ways.
“Severe as the censure may seem, it daily falls upon our Grammar schools. In vain do those that still remain friends of this branch of education labor to take it off. It is a judgment that has been formed upon experience; therefore it is pronounced without scruple: nor will less proof avail to wipe off the stain. The scholar may talk of the fine exercise it is for our youth to learn these languages, and prove it to be the best culti vation of their minds; the merchant is unaffected, and still insists that a boy designed for business seldom is the better for it. And it is, my Lord, with the utmost concern that one is obliged in a great measure to confess the justice of the charge."
Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, 1748.