Democrats and Education.
(Interview, Chicago "News-Record.")
Judge Altgeld was interviewed by a News-Record reporter regarding his views on the school question. He was asked: "Am I to understand that the Democracy does not believe in controlling the education of children in the State?"
"The Democrats believe in compulsory education," was the reply. "They believe that every child should be educated, and that if not otherwise provided for should be educated at the expense of the State. The public schools of the State should be controlled by the State and should be free from sectarian teaching. They should not be utilized by any one religious sect to impress its particular doctrines upon the impressionable minds of youthful scholars."
"But what about parochial schools?" was asked by the interviewer.
"Theoretically the State school system is for the purpose of taking care of all those children whose parents cannot or do not choose to send their children to private schools. There was a time in the history of the world when there were no common schools. Every learner had to purchase teaching of some private tutor or school. But the public school system, well managed, backed by the immense resources of the State, has practically superseded in the business of education, especially in the primary or grammar grades, the instruction by private schools. But the parochial school system, being an adjunct of a church, an auxiliary of religious teaching, has survived along with a church religion. At the time they were established, the church, wisely thoughtful of the welfare of its youth, provided a combination of secular and religious instructions by one and the same set of tutors. Thus the parochial school, being a part of the church as much as the Sunday school is a part of the English Protestant churches, cannot justly be assailed. There is nothing in the common school system, or in the fundamental theory upon which it rests, which prompts the belief that it should be forced upon people who are unwilling to accept it. As already explained, it is maintained to supply a difficiency and not to wrench the control of the education of children from parents."
"Do the Democrats believe in compulsory education?"
"They do most emphatically. They believe that no child should be permitted to grow up neglected, but they are opposed to State interference with parents who do educate their children."
"Can the State accept as legal such education as provided in a parochial school over which it has no control?"
"If it could be assumed that the State is more regardful and more tender of the welfare of its children than the parents of those same children, then this point might be open to discussion. But we all know that while parents make mistakes concerning the management of their children in educational as well as other matters, still the intentions of parents, being admittedly good, no sensible man will argue that the State should intercede and dictate to the parent a particular course of treatment or discipline for the child."
"Should the State exercise control over the parochial schools?"
"No; for the State contributes nothing to maintain them. If these schools do anything or teach anything contrary to law, the State can stop it. When it became obvious that the railroads were making unjust discrimination between their patrons, the State stepped in and undertook to rectify the abuse of power. Likewise, if it were shown that the parochial schools were teaching doctrines contrary to the welfare of the State, or if they were mistreating the scholars, or in any way violating the law, then the State ought to step in and stop the wrong. But I have never heard that any such charge is made even by the most virulent enemies of the parochial schools. It is admitted that they are good from an educational point of view."
"Should the State inspect them and see to it that they have no objectionable features?"
"No. Upon the same ground the State may not inspect the management of the home circle in order to see that a parent, does not maltreat his children, or that a husband does not misuse his wife. The presumption of the State is, that where complaint is not made no abuse exists. Thus, the schools need not be inspected, because there is no presumption of an abuse. If there is anything wrong and anybody knows it, complaint should be made. The same is true of the mistreatment of children by parents or guardians.
There is another feature which is vastly more important, and that is this: The State assumes the work of education. Certain persons, generally adherents of churches, do not wish to avail themselves of this privilege of the State schools. The State acquiesces, and is thus relieved of a financial burden. Now, then, suppose the State, tracking the children into the private schools, demands that teaching in these schools shall be done thus and so, and that the parochial or private school must, in fact, be made a public school. If that is done, the State becomes at once a partner or participant in the parochial school system. If the State goes that far, the parochial school
224authorities are justified in asking for money out of the State fund to help sustain the school; certainly for enough to pay for those particular features which the State required to be added to the parochial school curriculum. This, of course, could not be granted."
"Why could it not be done?"
"Because the Constitution forbids the recognition of any church by the State. For the State of Illinois to investigate the parochial schools, and then have the inspector nail up over the door, ‘Inspected and accepted as a school by the State of Illinois,’ would be to accept and recognize the authority and power behind the school — a church or a religion. Control of parochial schools is the first step toward the recognition of a church."
"What about the teaching of foreign languages in the parochial schools?"
"There is not a parochial school in all Illinois but gives instruction in the English language. All the children are taught English. The idea that the parochial school can overthrow the English language is absurd, and nobody believes it. Among the Germans it is pride to have the children speak the parent tongue. If it is to be the purpose of the State to prevent the teaching of a foreign language to the children, the State officers will have to go into the family circle, where, in many instances, the English language is not allowed to be spoken, in order that the children may be forced to speak the parents' tongue, This, and the teaching of the foreign language as the language of instruction in the parochial schools, indicate simply that the parents and teachers realize that without such instruction the children cannot be made to learn and use the language of the parents, while they all learn the English language without trouble."