The Division of School Funds for Religious Purposes
IN the history of this nation we have just now come upon a crisis in the development of our political theory. Doubtless every point of time is a crisis of some sort. Some important epoch is passed, some new era begun, each day, if we consider the matter strictly, The arbitrary choice of one’s point of view determines to a great extent such reflections. On the present occasion, we may, without doing violence to the facts of history, say that our political theory is on the eve of receiving important definitions which will bring to a close an era of political, social, and ecclesiastical discussion and contention that has been prolonged one hundred years. The history of a nation is its commentary on its political principle. In the course of time this principle gets practical application in all its relations, social, æsthetic, religious, and world-historical. What was vague and indefinite in its first announcement, a glittering generality, gets close definition and concreteness. The people of the United States have been finding out exactly what they meant — or ought to mean —by such phrases as: All men are born free and equal; That government is best which governs least; Morality and religion are essential to good government; Education in free common schools is necessary in a republic; Godless education is worse than no education; Church and state must be kept separate, etc.
In the problem of public education the state encounters its first practical collision with the ecclesiastical organization of the people. The problem of the relation of state to church it had solved easily enough in its first phases by adopting the laissez faire system: “ Make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” But here it finds a disputed province on the confines of the domain of civil society, that of secular education in the conventionalities of intelligence, in the theoretical means of communication and of participation in the realized reason of mankind. Civil society claims this province by right of eminent domain, taking from the family or the individual what it finds needful for the benefit of the community at large. The church, on the other hand, claims it on the ground that secular education must be united with religious education in the same school in order to be wholesome, and, on the ground of the impossibility of teaching religion without teaching specific dogmas (any code of which must trench on the rights of conscience of some class of believers), denies the right of the state or of civil society to assume control of public education. It asks for a division of school funds and proposes that each class of believers shall establish its own schools. It does not fail to mention that its title to the control of all education is very ancient, and indeed honorable, inasmuch as the church gave the first and for a long period the only public education. But the state remembers when it too was under the yoke of the church, and is not moved by the claim based on original acquisition, for that reason. It must be mentioned that while some classes of religious believers set up the claim for a division of the funds and ecclesiastical partition of the schools, others are content with the free common school under civil control, provided that the reading of the Bible, or some simple religious exercises, be introduced. Others still desire to make the common schools entirely secular, and leave to the several religious denominations the conduct of religious instruction in their Sundayschools and by other appliances entirely unaided by public funds or gratuities,
The lesson of history on this point is at first sight ambiguous. While the development of modern civilization has tended towards the separation of political from ecclesiastical functions, yet this separation has not been fully accomplished in the great nations of Europe. We find an established church everywhere, and the utmost advancement there is indicated by a liberality towards religion as such, and by the division of the state appropriation among the different denominations. The school seems to have followed the state in the separation, and to have come under state control, but with permission given to the church to enter the school and instruct the children, each confession taking charge of its own. The theory of the monarchy makes it the patriarchal head over its people, provident over their social wants, their moral and religious training, and their secular education. The theory of our republic sets out from the opposite point of view, and grants no power to the central government which can be left to be administered by the local civil organizations with perfect safety to the nation as a whole. Its experience has led it to assume larger and larger control over some of the functions of civil society, as already stated. The history of Europe during the past quarter of a century, in one of its social aspects, exhibits a struggle between nations to obtain or to preserve industrial or commercial superiority by means of technical schools established to educate skilled workmen. Later, during the last decade, the Prussian experiment and its success have convinced the other nations that public education must be made compulsory at least for military reasons. The American state has precisely the same grounds for establishing universal secular education in common schools, but its theory of separation of church and state cannot permit it to teach any religious dogmas within the same. The selection of any one code of dogmas would involve the violation of the rights of conscience which the state is bound to accord to those who have not subscribed to precisely that code.
While this question has been agitated more or less extensively for the past half-century without other effect than to make temporary trial of the division of school funds,1 or to cause the adoption of constitutional provisions forbidding appropriations for sectarian purposes,2 the general tendency has been to increase the earnestness of the demands of some of the religious classes for a division, and to arouse the others to a more determined opposition.3 The question has frequently influenced local politics.
The first appearance of the question in the national politics is found in the last annual message to Congress by our chief magistrate. His proposition makes an epoch in our political history, for the reason that it thrusts the question upon the central government. Once before the whole people, it is likely to find an early settlement in the adoption of a constitutional amendment.
President Grant “suggests and recommends ” the adoption of a constitutional amendment requiring each of the several States to establish and maintain free public schools, adequate to the education of all children, forbidding religious or anti-Christian instruction in the same, and prohibiting the diversion of any public funds for sectarian purposes ; also making education compulsory to the extent of disfranchising the illiterate who attain their majority after 1890.
By this provision and the further one of church taxation, recommended in the same message, our state would rid itself effectually of all future collisions with ecclesiastical powers. The fact that a large majority of the States (twenty-two or more) have, in express terms or by general restriction, prohibited by constitutional enactment any sectarian diversion of school funds, makes it seem probable that three fourths of the States would ratify such an amendment if proposed by Congress. Meanwhile there is great tension in the public mind on the question. Events transpiring here or in Europe that bear relation in any way to it are watched with eager interest.
In this paper an attempt will be made to present the grounds in favor of preserving the common school as a purely secular institution, without any religious instruction in it whatever. The writer will endeavor to do full justice to the importance of religion and to its institution, the church, so far as its consideration belongs here, or space will permit.
There is a wide-spread conviction, shared by all Teutonic peoples, and more especially by the Anglo-Saxon branch settled in America, that church and state should be kept separate; that the church should take its place side by side with secular institutions which are subordinate to the state, so far as temporal organization is concerned, but left free as regards spiritual organization and matters of faith. This conviction is not fully articulate, but remains in a shape so indefinite as almost to be called a disposition, rather than a distinct doctrine. An appeal to this conviction is the most direct form of defense which the advocates of secular common schools can adopt. But such a defense does not reach the position of some who favor the church control of education; who, in short, defend the unity of political with religious power. It is, however, a legitimate preliminary argument, if it is supplemented by a demonstration of the inherent necessity of the separation of church and state in order that the former may become perfect spiritually, and that the latter may make political and civil freedom possible. This line of defense, moreover, must confine itself to showing how the religious control of the schools by the various classes of believers, and the division of the school funds among them, will result in the destruction or injury of political freedom. For many pious people suppose that to bring the common schools under religious control will aid the state by preparing for it large numbers of good men, and they do not regard the school as directly and necessarily a civil institution, but on the contrary they affirm education to be a function of the church, and its secular and religious aspects to be inseparable.
Let us then inquire what are the immediate practical effects of a division of the school funds among the different religious denominations, and of a consignment to them of the province of secular education. The principle of division will recognize, at least on its first trial, the class of indifferent people as well as the class of disbelievers in religion, as entitled to their pro rata in the distribution. The first occasion for collision will be found in the practical details of partitioning the funds. The school funds permanently invested and the school funds collected by taxation are under the direction of the political power. The standard of division, and the minute regulations necessary for its application, must be adopted by the political power. The settlement of these questions will necessarily involve long and bitter controversies. For it is not to be supposed that a political body made up of representatives from all classes of faiths will agree at once upon a simple and just basis of division that will be recognized as such by the majority of the community. Then in the administration of the division after the basis has been adopted, still worse collisions impend. Each class of believers will become suspicious of partiality in the directory who are appointed to administer, inasmuch as the members of the directory will belong personally each to some one class of believers. In the adoption of a basis for division, rules must be made regarding registration and attendance of pupils ; regarding the qualifications of teachers and the tests of the efficiency of their instruction; regarding the course of study, and the amount and kind of secular instruction to be given; regarding the accommodations furnished to the children in the matters of buildings (heating, light, ventilation, etc.) and apparatus (furniture, blackboards, maps, globes, reference books, etc.); regarding the form of reports to be made to inspectors and the aid and assistance to be rendered to such inspectors. For a just basis of division must take into account all of these things and many more. It must consider not merely the number of children enrolled, but the actual attendance of each and the length of daily session. It must consider the ages of pupils; for instruction costs less and is comparatively less valuable in infancy than in maturer years. The literary qualifications of teachers can be ascertained only by examination conducted by government inspectors, and their qualifications as to discipline and instruction only by inspection of their actual work in school. To distribute public money to poorly taught schools, or to schools in which secular instruction has been dwarfed and pushed aside for religious instruction, would afford just cause of complaint on the part of those who have furnished good instruction in kind and amount in the secular branches. The obvious necessity of appointing government inspectors over these parochial schools, and of giving them authority to examine teachers, grant certificates, and prescribe standards of instruction and discipline, gives occasion for constant conflict between the civil power and the various religious castes. Whatever a strong denomination chooses to consider unjust interference or discrimination will be resented, and a powerful influence will be brought to bear on the government, through their representatives, to modify it. A government elected by a popular vote is ill-calculated to withstand such pressure, and can do it only by means of the creation of sectarian bias among the members of the opposition. A defeat of any sect at one time in the government would bring about renewed effort at the next popular election at the polls. Religious animus mingling with political animus would make partisan intensity very bitter. The history of Florence may be profitably studied on his point.
Again, it must be noted that if the stipend divided among the churches is very large, and the government supervision is lax, permitting the enrollment and return of children at very early ages, of children whose attendance is for very short periods, and perhaps of children who are each enrolled on the registers of many different schools within the denomination, permitting also the poor quality of instruction which is incident to the assignment of a hundred or more pupils to each teacher, it will be quite likely to happen that some churches will be able to support their schools entirely on the government stipend, and even save money towards the direct support of their religious services. The step to a church establishment is a very short one from the endowment of church schools.
If such is the effect upon the government, what is the necessary effect upon the schools ?
First, it is obvious that a poor classification of pupils as regards advancement in studies would result. The common schools of the country suffer very much from this source. A teacher with forty pupils of different ages and attainments, ranging from beginners up to those who have advanced eight years on the course of study, will probably find no two pupils excepting the beginners at just the same point of advancement. If the teacher makes classes, she will bring together into each class pupils who differ so much that the best ones do not have to study to learn the lesson which may be too hard for the poorest scholars in the class. If she makes no classes, she must hear each individual recite his four or more lessons by himself, and more than a hundred such recitations within six hours will allow for each something less than four minutes. Want of good classification causes instruction to degenerate into a process of requiring and hearing lessons that are verbally committed to memory, and of which all discussion is omitted and correct understanding not insisted upon. For this reason the country school is rather a place where children go to learn what they can, of their own accord, from the text-book, than a place where they are incited by the teacher to regular and systematic exertion, and led by emulation and critical attention to the recitations of their classmates to gain deep and independent insights of their own. There remains, of course, the moral training which a good teacher even in a country school may secure in the formation of correct habits of regularity, punctuality, silence, attention, industry, politeness, and kindness towards one’s fellows. In city schools and in the large schools of villages, classification is adopted to such an extent that each teacher may have from forty to sixty pupils, and these of so nearly the same qualifications that they may be taught in two classes. The time for each recitation may be a half-hour, during which it is possible to test the work of every pupil, discuss the bearings of the lesson, criticise the mistakes of the pupils and of the text-book, review previous lessons in the points which relate to the task of to-day, and show the pupil how to study as well as what to study.
The classification of pupils in accordance with the religious belief of their parents does not assist the teacher of secular studies at all. Each small parochial school will have the same difficulty as the small country school, intensified. For if the already small schools of the country are divided, either the cost of instruction will be greatly increased by the necessity of providing several teachers where one now does the work, or else the schools must be so scattered that each pupil on an average has to go much farther to reach the school to which he belongs. Small denominations will find this very hard. But they will get little sympathy: their children may attend the parochial schools nearest at hand and be proselyted to a faith different from that of their fathers. Parochial schools in the cities would be able to classify better, especially those of the large denominations. But the schools of small congregations of believers would be ill - classified even in the cities; all schools in the villages would be ill-classified, and in the country schools no classification could be attempted.
Where good classification is possible, a teacher can better instruct a far greater number of pupils than where it is not possible. The consequence is that illclassified schools are not only inferior in regard to instruction, but they are far more costly pro rata. Let a school of forty pupils under one teacher be divided according to religious confession into five schools, the largest having twenty pupils, the next having ten, the next six, the next three, and the last one. Unless these can be combined with other schools, thereby increasing the distance each pupil has to travel, five teachers will now be required to do the work. The school-money from the state being distributed pro rata, the smallest classes of believers will have to pay nearly the entire expense of education from their own pockets. Being few in number, they will find the cost of tuition to each child fearfully heavy, and education among poor people who are unwilling to forego their rights of conscience will be altogether prevented.
The conflict of religious castes in the legislative bodies and at the polls, the general dissatisfaction which would be felt by the majority of the people in whatever distribution might be made, and above all the inferiority of instruction which necessarily results from poor classification,— these, added to the practical argument drawn from the expensiveness of separate schools (outside of the city for even the large classes of believers, and for the small classes everywhere), would doubtless cause an early return to the free common - school system, after a trial of the parochial system. But a persistence in the system which is under discussion would soon bring upon the community worse evils than those named, in the form of results. There would be a decrease of secular knowledge and a great increase of theological knowledge. Inasmuch as this separation of schools was brought about in the interest of religious differences, it is quite natural to infer that greater and greater stress would be laid upon those differences in the religious instruction given in the parochial schools. Esprit de corps would add intensity to the impression received from the instructor in doctrines. In the nature of theological truth there lies the possibility of furnishing food for fanaticism and bigotry. In these days of the newspaper and cheap transit from one section to another, and above all of the common school, the barriers of religious caste have become so broken down that a universal spirit of toleration prevails. The liberality of the greater part of the community disenchants even the bigot who has had the misfortune to be reared under a narrowminded and exclusive system. Children of all confessions mingling in the free common school learn to know, love, and respect each other. They learn to cooperate with each other and to make peaceful combinations. They learn to trust those of a different religious faith, and, in short, to judge their fellow-men by overt acts instead of mere belief or disposition. In the industrial community after they leave the school, they continue the same lesson, learning to know and respect their fellow - men for other reasons than religious belief. In the daily newspaper they contemplate the spectacle of the great world of humanity, and their sympathies, being schooled in this institution, become so broad as to include all men. This humane feeling, love of man, love of one’s neighbor as one’s self, is regarded by many as the truest realization of Christianity. The love of God with all one’s heart and mind and strength is doubtless essential to but is not distinctive of Christianity. Christian morality certainly culminates in this brotherly affection for one’s fellow-men.
But in the parochial school an effective instruction in the dogmas of the church must perforce develop a habit of thinking on the distinction between man and man as holding different religious beliefs. Within one’s church are the elect for time and for eternity. Without one’s church are the proscribed and lost. I am one of the sheep, my neighbor is one of the goats. Love of God and fear to disobey him furnish the groundwork of the confession. Then comes the infinite importance of right belief, and of conformity to the ceremonial observances of the church, as ordained of God. If these are so important to me, their disregard by my neighbor must surely be fraught with infinite consequences to him. If God hates my neighbor, it is certainly wrong for me to love him. Toleration is a crime. If by bodily suffering a heretic’s soul may be saved, the church is only merciful if it inflicts it.
The social good feeling and the mutual respect and confidence which grow up in the common school are to be sacrificed, and in their place are to come — through the agency of the parochial school — the exclusiveness and distrust which belong to a training in the use of theological distinctions as of infinite consequence in the destiny of each individual man, if this training is begun early and long continued.
If the ground is taken that the humanitarian feeling of the age, out of which grows the toleration here spoken of, and the so-called liberal tendency, is to be condemned, it must be all the more clear that a very radical reaction is intended by this movement towards the ecclesiastic control of secular education. It is evident that exclusiveness and less of toleration are desired. What this bodes towards the minority, should one class of believers who hold this view become the majority, is equally evident. The only safety rests in division into many denominations. If one becomes dominant and will not tolerate the others, there will be proscription and persecution. We have already seen that the tendency of divided schools must be to compel the small classes of believers to send their children to the schools of the larger classes, and thus to disappear altogether. With this process there will be a continual rise of ecclesiastical power and a deeper penetration of its influence into the counsels of the civil government. This will happen during the first generation. The second generation educated exclusively in the parochial school, and without the counteracting influence of a majority of their fellow-men educated into liberal, tolerant humanitarianism, will be quite ready to vote the establishment of the church and the punishment of dissenters by excluding them from a share of the benefits of the public funds appropriated to the church. A third generation educated under this reactionary plan would not scruple to add to civil disabilities the physical chastisement of heretics.
The establishment of God’s kingdom upon earth in this guise would be the utter extirpation of civil freedom and of all science except theology. That intensity of partisan feeling which grows into bigotry would make impossible a popular government such as ours. There would be no political dialectic process like that now existing, in which the violence or indiscretion of one party reacts swiftly and places its opponent in power; for when the partisan spirit brings in eternal distinctions, the choice of God, into its political creed, it is not easy for the individual to renounce one party and work with another that holds different views of God’s choice. The eyes would become so blinded by the contemplation of infinite and eternal distinctions that they could not discern finite ones. The shifting of partisans which now keeps up the equipoise and secures political freedom could no longer be relied upon, and here too we should see the spectacle exhibited by the republican experiments of the Romanic nations. Each party when in power would use all its strength to annihilate the other. The only refuge from such a state of things is in monarchy and a hereditary nobility, to which we should come in due time, after the crushing effect of religious wars.
But very few will believe that these things are involved in the giving up of education to church control. The first effect of the attempt to distribute a school fund derived from taxation would be the creation of a party opposed to a school fund altogether, and the connection with the state would be severed by the utter destruction of all free schools. Doubtless the growth of the illiterate class, and the consequent weakness of the state and the decline of productive industry, would cause, first, the establishment of free schools for indigent children, as a preventive of crime. Then, by a gradual progress, the free schools for indigent children would grow into the commonschool system again.
In order to gain a clearer insight into the main question, we must now investigate the inherent nature of the state and the grounds on which its separation from the church is defended. Afterwards the necessity of the secular school to the state must be considered.
As a slowly but constantly growing fact in modern history, the separation of church and state has attracted the attention of thinking minds, and its causes have received considerable investigation. Upon a precise determination of these causes depends the settlement of a variety of social and political questions, some of which have been already suggested in the first part of this paper.
Asking ourselves what is the end and aim of the state, we ultimately find this answer: The object of the state is the establishment of justice among men and the prevention of crime through this means. The church may have for its object the bringing of men to God and the prevention of sin. Sin and crime are the two distinctions which we must study if we would get clearly before us the difference between state and church, between the political and the religious body. Crime is a breach of the laws of right or justice as defined by the state. Sin is a breach of the mandates of religion. Crime may be punished by a fine, personal duress, or the forfeiture of life; it is measurable, and its punishment is intended to cancel the debt exactly. A sin, on the contrary, is looked upon by religion as an infinite forfeiture, and no finite penalty can restore the sinner to his true relation. Only complete repentance, and utter renunciation of the sin and its consequences as selfish benefit, will restore one before God. God meets infinite forfeiture with infinite mercy wherever there is complete repentance. Repentance, however, does not (and ought not to) save one from the punishment due to crime. Justice must secure to each man the fruition of his deed. If it is criminal, then his deed returns upon him negatively, depriving him of property or personal liberty. Each man to be free must be self-determined. The ideal of self - determination is the ideal set up by justice. All that man does be shall do to himself. Society organized as the state shall see to it that his deed aimed outwards returns to him: if good, to free him and bless him; if bad, to fetter and curse him. To relieve him of the consequences of his crime were to insult his ideal and prevent him from being self-determined. If, on the other hand, the state regarded crime as sin, borrowing its standard from religion, it would have no finite measure and could not visit the criminal with any punishment except death. This would be the code of Draco. But even death would not expiate crime regarded as sin. It would require eternal punishment.
From this divergence between their modes of viewing dereliction arises the confusion when church and state are united. Justice considers only the overt act. It attempts to return only one’s deed upon him; not his unexecuted intention, his disposition, but his deed. Religion regards, and must regard, the disposition or intention. It must lay stress on self-search; it must go behind the deed and before the deed, and proclaim the mandate of religion: a pure heart, an upright disposition and intention, is an essential condition for all who would seek God and find him. Disposition can be judged of only by disposition; when the civil power undertakes to discover disposition, it interprets overt acts, and when it ceases to limit itself thus, it becomes the instrument of suspicion and inaugurates a reign of terror. While the criminal stands on the scaffold, condemned to receive the extreme penalty of the law and without hope of escape, the church may offer him the consolations of religion, assuring him of reconciliation with God effected through his sincere repentance, and promising him immediate blessedness. The smallest sin, unrepented of, shuts one out of the kingdom of God; the largest one, repented of, is forgiven. Here is evident the exclusion of quantitative measure; small and great no longer have significance when we speak of the infinite.
So long as state and church are united, there is of necessity a mutual influence on their standards. The exercise of civil power on the part of the church tends perpetually to impel it to the introduction of finite standards, thus allowing expiation for sin; to permit the substitution of penance for repentance. The exercise of ecclesiastical power by the state, on the other hand, tends to confuse its standards of punishment and to make its penalties too severe at one time and too lax at another, and thus to render the whole course of justice uncertain, by considering the disposition rather than the overt act.
To religion, therefore, should not be given the power of compulsion nor of inflicting penalties. Its nature will lead it to confound finite misdemeanors with sins, and sins are infinite in their negativity. The state with its principle of justice can inflict penalties and exercise compulsion. It can cognize the overt act and say to the doer, In what measure you injure society, in that measure yourself shall suffer. But it cannot go beyond the overt act and penetrate within the sacred circle of personality, in order to take account of the measure in which the soul has internally realized the absolute ideal. Whatsoever has not become deed, but remains only a thought, is not yet uttered or externalized, and hence cannot be returned on the doer, henee cannot be cognized by justice. But religion finds its true province in taking cognizance of the disposition, of the intent and purpose. Hence the stress that it lays on confession and profession, on the shrift, the narration of religious experience, and above all the outpouring of the soul in prayer. Phariseeism, which looks only to external forms and ceremonies, is the object of its strongest disapproval. Cleanliness within, purification of the heart in its motives and imaginings, are always insisted on. When under the influence of the principle which takes account of the disposition rather than the overt act, and which depends upon confession to obtain this, the state formerly put its suspected criminals to the torture in order to compel a confession.
Church and state thus differ in their attitude toward the real world. The church assumes a negative attitude toward it, making the world and all that it contains to be a finite and unworthy affair when compared with the object of religion, which is the attainment of the supreme ideal or reconciliation with God. There are, accordingly, two negative acts which go with religion: (a) devotion, theoretical, the negative act of the intellect by which the soul acknowledges its own infinite unworthiness and the utter nullity of all its finite concerns in view of the absolute ideal and its own reconciliation therewith; (b) sacrifice, the negative act of the will, the practical renunciation of selfish interests whenever they come in conflict with spiritual interests. The general relation of religion to this world is therefore negative. Its outcome would be nihilism if made the principle of the secular. The state and civil society, on the other hand, hold a positive relation to the real world. Man, as a natural being, is a brute, with brute necessities. Food, clothing, and shelter he must have. Secular institutions have for their object the transformation of crude selfishness into disinterested service of others. The brutish form of supplying one’s wants shall give place to universal, non-selfish forms. By division of labor, for example, each one shall labor for all the rest, for society in the aggregate. By means of the universal solvent of property, i. e., money, he shall be helped in turn by all society, and far more potently than he can help himself. By organization and consequent renunciation of his mere animal individuality he becomes a person in society and acts directly for society, his deed being returned to him by society, purified from selfishness (or at least the form of selfishness) by this mediation. Thus the state and civil society organize the finite world of man into an institution which reflects the divine; for the divine possesses the reality of this mediation, to wit, the mediation of the individual man in his relation to God, who is the Absolute Person. Civil society reflects or adumbrates the divine by mediating the individual man through the community, his labor through their labor, his fruition through theirs.
In this sense, therefore, the religious and secular realms do not conflict, but mutually complement each other. Religion presents the absolute ideal and demands a reconciliation with it in the innermost depths of individual consciousness, at the sacrifice of all that is temporal, while the state and civil society seek only to mold the secular world into a reflection or manifestation of the divine idea by transmuting human selfishness into rational action. The religious world is the divine itself, the secular world is the manifestation or reflection of it. In religion, he who loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. In civil society, the man who seeks to gratify his animal wants of food, clothing, and shelter must first serve others or labor at some employment. Directly supplying his wants he can be no higher than a savage, and even the savages have some organization of society in which the individual offers up himself to the whole and is in turn protected by the whole. By division of labor a greater miracle is performed. Each helps the others and the others help him. But he gets back a myriad-fold as much as his own unaided might could obtain. By his free will be dedicates his labor to society, and society with equal free will endows him from its stores. It is an act of grace, mankind meeting the devotion of the individual by a magnificent return. The organization of state and civil society furnishes to each one the possibility of participating in the labors of all, asking from him only the devotion of his own labor in return.
If it is desirable that the church should continue to exist as a reality in this world of ours, then it is desirable that the necessary condition thereof, or the state and civil society, shall exist. Hence if religion or the church sets up the doctrine of the supreme importance of spiritual interests and insists upon the subordination of all secular interests thereto, it must not apply this doctrine outside of the individual. If it attacks the organized institutions of the state and civil society with this principle, it will attack by the same action its own historical existence, and thus contradict itself. It directs itself outward in order to destroy the outward. It undertakes to annihilate the only possible divine form that the externality of man (his historical existence in time and space) can assume. For this can be done only on the principle of justice, as has been shown. Religious mediation is between God and the personal will of man, secular mediation is between the individual man and mankind. The salvation of the soul demands supreme renunciation. The salvation from barbarism demands the sacrifice of one’s potentiality, his right to be everything at once (all humanity), and the devotion of one’s euergies to a special calling and its minute details.
Herein, too, religion distinguishes itself from morality. The strictly moral duties concern the relation of man to man, and for this reason are all finite when compared with the content of religion. The moral world is moreover distinguished from the state in that it too, like religion, deals with the disposition, the heart, the motives. But as it relates to man in general, it herein resembles the state. The moral world has one factor identical with religion, to wit, the disposition of the individual man; and one factor identical with the state, to wit, mankind in general. Hence the secular relation of religion toward morality is likewise negative and destructive, just as it is toward the state. If the religious duty of the salvation of the soul should be alone heeded, and the individual occupy himself solely with this, all the moral virtues would die of neglect. The direct mediation of man with God would replace all finite mediation of man with society; people would flee to the wilderness in order to live a holy life as hermits, or seek seclusion in monastic cells in their endeavor to realize a more direct communion with God. The beggar, who is the symbol of the utter annulment of the secular world, would again become the nearest approach of the worldly to the divine life. Such, indeed, he is represented in the Autos of Calderon. Productive industry and beggary are antitheses; in The World Theatre, however, the beggar takes the lowest place in this life, but for this reason alone in the next he stands higher than the king.
Before coming to treat directly of the necessity of the secular school to the state as an institution belonging within civil society rather than to the church, it will be proper in this connection to consider the incompatibility between religious instruction and secular instruction, and the advantage of separating the two for the highest perfection of each. The secular branches — reading, writing, and arithmetic, geography, grammar, and history — form the conventional instrumentality by the mastery of which the individual man is enabled to lay hold of and participate in the spiritual patrimony of the race, the treasures of human experience already spoken of as preserved and transmitted in the form of science and literature by means of the human combination called civil society. These branches of instruction are “godless” in the sense that they relate to man and nature directly. But inasmuch as they initiate man into the theoretical participation with mankind, and enable him to share in the victory achieved by the race over nature, they participate in the spiritual or divine and godlike. They possess the semblance of the divine just as the state and civil society do; being instrumentalities only, they may reflect the divine but not constitute it. Hence we find their relation to religious instruction quite similar to that of the state to the church. When taught in close connection with religion they tend to weaken the effect of the latter, and in turn suffer from the tendency to introduce its alien method into their treatment. In these secular branches the mind is to be cultivated to keep all of its powers awake: thought is to be alert and critical, faith is to be dormant. In religion, faith is the chief organ, and the merely negative activity of the understanding is to be subordinated and set aside. Religious truth is revealed in allegoric and symbolic form, and is to be appreciated not merely by the intellect but by the fantasy. The analytic understanding is necessarily hostile and skeptical in its attitude toward religious truth, but it is an essential activity in the apprehension of science. The conclusion is obvious that the mind must not be changed too abruptly from secular studies to religious contemplation. To bring in a lesson on religious dogmas just succeeding a lesson in mathematics or physical science inevitably has the disadvantage that the mind brings with it the bent or proclivity of the latter study, and to the serious injury of the former. We are not surprised to find, therefore, as a practical fact, that such schools tend either to cultivate habits of flippant and shallow reasoning on sacred themes, thus sapping the foundations of piety, or that on the other hand the influence of the dogmatic tone of the religious lessons creeps into the secular recitations, and drives out critical acuteness and independent thinking from the mind of the pupil. Too much authority leaves too little room for originality. Now in religious lessons, wherein the divine is taught as revealed to the human race, the raw, immature intellect of youth is not to be permitted to attempt to construct for itself speculatively the contents. It is too much for it to grasp the rationality of the dogma, for to do this requires a synthesis of theoretical and practical, of the will and the intellect; and the theoretical intellect alone is inadequate to comprehend the highest truth. The will develops only with one’s life work, and becomes clear or transparent in its forms only after it has been realized in experience. Hence the utmost care should be taken to surround religious instruction with the proper atmosphere. It should be approached with a very carefully arranged preparation, and after the mind has recovered from the intellectual tension of its analytic studies.
The commonly accepted theory of the relation of the common school to the state in our own country may be briefly formulated thus: Our government is a government of the people by the people. The people are expected to make the laws that govern them, if not directly, at least indirectly through representatives selected by them and from their own number. Even a people that is to render enlightened obedience to laws made for them must have some school education. With a people that is called upon constantly to choose, at the ballotbox, between representatives, and also to decide the course which it ought to take in regard to public measures, school education is indispensable.
Even under governments that have a hereditary ruling class the necessity of common-school education has been discovered. The motive not merely to have intelligent obedience among its subjects, but to have the functions of society, now grown so complex, performed with greater skill, has controlled in this. The printed page has come to be for the great majority of civilized men the chief means of obtaining and communicating information. It has made an artificial addition to the three wants — food, clothing, and shelter. Besides these, man has a spiritual want— books. The common school teaches how to read, how to measure the world of things, and thus be able to exchange the commodities necessary to gratify the three material wants. By reading and writing man learns how to gratify his spiritual want of culture. The net result of school discipline may be summarized under the head of power to make combinations. The mathematical and physical sciences enable one to make combinations in the material world, the literary, grammatical, and historical studies enable one to make human combinations. Directive power involves these species of combination, one or both. Now the demand of directive power increases in modern times in a geometrical ratio. Formerly political and military combinations included the greater part of the combinations needing directive power. Within a hundred years, labor - saving machinery has turned mere hand labor into the brain labor of supervision and direction. The mere hand laborer does not need much directive power. One overseer can direct a whole gang. But in a manufacturing establishment every machine has to be supervised, and, again, the various phases of the whole must be also supervised. The supply of raw material, the procuring of help, and the disposition of the manufactured product, each and all need skilled directive power to make the requisite combinations with materials and men. The laborer who leaves the spade and sits as a director of a machine has new demands made upon him, demands of a higher spiritual character. He must have regularity, punctuality, and attention — spiritual forces developed in him — the moral basis of school discipline. Vast corporations spring up on every hand to conduct mining, manufacturing, transit facilities, commerce, and intercommunication (telegraph, newspapers, etc.). These demand a generation of laborers educated to make combinations, material and spiritual, in order to furnish the directive power to manage them. The enormous growth of cities is the social characteristic of our century. This keeps pace with the multiplication of the powers of productive industry by means of machinery. Most remarkable, too, is the fact that the railroad, telegraph, and daily newspaper have made all the villages participant in urban life, and, as it were, moved all except the agricultural population into the city. Urban life is characterized by extreme division of labor and mutual interdependence of each individual upon every other. The highest degree of complexity and the closest unity exists, and its demand upon the individual is exorbitant and can be met in an adequate manner only by elaborate preparation in the common school.
Again, it is a recent discovery, dating back a quarter of a century, that civil society must be protected in its departments of productive industry by the æsthetic education of the laborer. Taste quite as much as skill is an ingredient of the manufactured product that is to command the highest price in the market and the readiest sale. Various European powers have established large schools of industrial art, and by this means have successfully recovered prestige for their manufactures when in some instances the same had already been driven from market by foreign competition. The productive power of labor is increased twenty-five to fifty per cent, by the education given in the primary school; and by the full course of the common school the increase in productive power (as measured by the wages of the laborer 4) is from fifty to one hundred per cent. over that of the illiterate.
In addition to the political and social necessity, there is the military necessity of common-school education. This has become apparent through the recent rapid strides of Prussia to the first place among the powers of Europe. The other great powers are fully aroused to the importance of common schools, by that portent. The invention of machinery for use in war has progressed so far that an uneducated soldiery stands no chance with one trained in schools into ability to make combinations readily.
Thus, while other states educate for reasons of national strength, — military necessity and industrial necessity, — our nation has the weightier necessity of educating its citizens for the duties of self-government, — intelligent obedience to laws, and intelligent capacity to make and administer laws. The language of the president’s message is very strong on this point: “ We are a republic whereof one man is as good as another before the law. Under such a form of government it is of the greatest importance that all should be possessed of education and intelligence enough to cast a vote with a right understanding of its meaning. A large association of ignorant men cannot for any considerable period oppose successful resistance to an oppressive tyranny from the educated few, but will inevitably sink into acquiescence to the will of intelligence, whether directed by the demagogue or by priestcraft. Hence the education of the masses becomes our first necessity for the preservation of our institutions.”
Here, then, are the grounds why the state cannot give up to the church the direction and control of common schools. The church is and must be the last institution to which to trust the political or the industrial interests of the nation. Once, when the state and civil society were as yet germinal and undeveloped, and more or less in implicit unity with the church, all education was in the hands of the latter. With the development of these institutions, they became filled with the divine form revealed to them through the Christian religion, and took on the semblance of that divine form, each discovering its own peculiar guiding principle. Thus the state is governed by justice, civil society by productive industry, education by the scientific method. The principle of religion is adumbrated in all these, but could not be exactly repeated by them without destruction to the entire secular world.
It is not the question whether religion is essential to man or not. Its essentiality to the state and civil society must be granted by all who will prove the necessity of the separation of church and state. The real question is whether religion should be united in implicit unity with the secular (state and civil society), and whether religious instruction is best given in the same school with secular instruction.
Christian civilization — for such we must name it, when we consider what principle it reflects — has always tended to develop its institutions into independence through harmony with each other. An institution in collision with others is necessarily limited through those others and is made finite thereby; it depends upon those others for its definition. The tendency of the Christian principle of love and recognition is to evolve harmony; the members freely choose a common end and aim, and thus effect a deeper unity with each other through spontaneous self-direction on the part of each. Blind obedience requires definite specific commands. “ One head shall govern many pairs of hands.” But such blind obedience is an example of abstract identity wherein the central unit is not reënforced by its subjects. When the obedient hands acquire enlightened brains, and assist in the spirit of the whole, there is reduplication and reënforcement of the highest degree. By this the central unit is assisted to some purpose, for it has not to exert the motive power for all, but each member of the system is in turn a new centre and furnishes its own motive power. One brain divided and dissipated in the occupation of directing many blindly obedient hands soon reaches the maximum of its influence. For the margin of adaptation necessary under each new set of circumstances changes by degrees the original direction given, until it is to be found contradicting the first impulse. But when each new member of the system is a self-active one, one that seizes the central principle, interprets its spirit, and applies it to the new set of conditions with whatever modifications are necessary, there is no limit to the growth of such a system. Recognition, reflection, harmony, are thus the products of the Christian principle, which tends perpetually to the evolution of new selfdirective centres. God is believed to rejoice more over the creation of one free soul who loves and recognizes him, and lives a divine life, than over a whole cosmos of mechanically adjusted worlds regulated to run like clock-work. In the free soul he sees his image; in the mechanism he sees his caricature.
This principle of growth into independence of what is at first dependent, and a part of another organism, is believed to be the highest principle dominant in the universe. It is found suggested in Leibnitz’s system of monads, in Plato’s system of ideas, in Aristotle’s first and second entelechies, in Hegel’s absolute idea, and throughout the profound speculations of the great churchmen, such as St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and St. Anselm, as well as in the writings of the German mystics, Meister Eckhart, Tauler, Jacob Boehme, and others.
Since the thirteenth century, the age in which Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the greatest thinker of all Christendom, unfolded the nature of justice and saw in it the divine foundation of the state and the importance of its supremacy in civil affairs, just as the church is supreme in religious affairs, the conviction has gathered strength that the secular must develop independently of the ecclesiastical, and that in finding its own necessary conditions of development it will come to reflect the divine ideal of the Christian church.1
These institutions organized separately on their own principles will best subserve the cause of religion and further the interests of God’s kingdom.
William T. Harris.
- As in New York.↩
- In Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Mississippi, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arkansas.↩
- Alaw introduced into one of our territorial legislatures (New Mexico) provided for a division of school funds, leaving it to each tax-payer to say to which sect his school-tax should be paid, also to each criminal to direct the disposition of his fine in the same way. The bill lacked one vote of becoming a law.↩
- See statistics on this subject collected in the Report of the National Commissioner of Education for 1870, pp. 448, seq.↩
- Dante, that noble Ghibelline who followed the thought of Aquinas, has happily expressed this principle of reflection or recognition in his Paradiso.↩
- After repeating the sentiment of Plato and Aristotle that God in no wise possesses envy, he says,— “Più l' è conforme, e però più le piace :
Che l' ardor santo, ch' ogni cosa raggia,
Nella più simigliante è più vivace.”