THE SCHOOL BOARDS: WHAT THEY CAN DO, AND WHAT THEY MAY DO.
An electioneering manifesto would be out of place in the pages of this Review; but any suspicion that may arise in the mind of the reader that the following pages partake of that nature, will be dispelled, if he reflect that they cannot be published until after the day on which the ratepayers of the metropolis will have decided which candidates for seats upon the Metropolitan School Board they will take, and which they will leave.
[Footnote 1: Notwithstanding Mr. Huxley’s intentions, the Editor took upon himself, in what seemed to him to be the public interest, to send an extract from this article to the newspapers—before the day of the election of the School Board.—EDITOR of the Contemporary Review.]
As one of those candidates, I may be permitted to say, that I feel much in the frame of mind of the Irish bricklayer’s labourer, who bet another that he could not carry him to the top of the ladder in his hod. The challenged hodman won his wager, but as the stakes were handed over, the challenger wistfully remarked, “I’d great hopes of falling at the third round from the top.” And, in view of the work and the worry which awaits the members of the School Boards, I must confess to an occasional ungrateful hope that the friends who are toiling upwards with me in their hod, may, when they reach “the third round from the top,” let me fall back into peace and quietness.
But whether fortune befriend me in this rough method, or not, I should like to submit to those of whom I am a potential, but of whom I may not be an actual, colleague, and to others who may be interested in this most important problem—how to get the Education Act to work efficiently—some considerations as to what are the duties of the members of the School Boards, and what are the limits of their power.
I suppose no one will be disposed to dispute the proposition, that the prime duty of every member of such a Board is to endeavour to administer the Act honestly; or in accordance, not only with its letter, but with its spirit. And if so, it would seem that the first step towards this very desirable end is, to obtain a clear notion of what that letter signifies, and what that spirit implies; or, in other words, what the clauses of the Act are intended to enjoin and to forbid. So that it is really not admissible, except for factious and abusive purposes, to assume that any one who endeavours to get at this clear meaning is desirous only of raising quibbles and making difficulties.