Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- August 27, 1892Altgeld's Masterful Interpretation of the Parochial School Question
Altgeld has expressed his sentiments about that torrid election question which now holds sway in Illinois. His remarks at the time of his nomination and subsequent speeches have now been amplified as well as perfected by the addition of necessary detail. We quote, without omission, and have conscientiously translated it into German. In its direct, compelling logic and understandable, progressive attitude, it represents a veritable arsenal of efficient weapons with which the "Know-nothingism" and the Republican Fiferism can be combatted.
"Like the Democrats, I am in favor of compulsory school attendance. Likewise, I desire that every child shall have a certain, definite education and that schooling shall be at state expense, if it is not otherwise provided for.
The public schools of the state shall be under state supervision, and no sectarian religious beliefs shall be taught there, so that no particular creeds may be implante into the easily susceptible minds of school children.
The state-schools have been created, to take care of all those children, whose 2parents or guardians refrain from sending them to private schools.
There was a period during the history of the world, when no common public schools existed. Whoever wanted to learn something had to hire an individual teacher or pay for it in an exclusive school. But in the course of time, the well directed, amply state financial public schools, particularly the elementary and grammar classes, have supplanted the private institutions.
But the parochial school, with its church connection, survived. When such a school was founded, the church provided worldly and religious instruction, both from the same instructor. The parochial schools of the various denominations are a part of their respective churches, just as the Sunday School is a division of the English-American Protestant church. We have no right to interfere. The principle on which our public school system has been built, does not contain any paragraph, which authorizes the state to compel people to accept this system, if they do not desire it and are providing instruction for their children elsewhere. The public school is here to cope with the problem of insufficient schools, but not to abolish parental control and choice in regard to their offspring's education.
Like the Democrats, as aforesaid, I am for compulsory school attendance. It cannot be tolerated that a person shall grow up in ignorance but the state has no right 3whatever to meddle with parents who obtain an education for their progeny.
The state shall regard the curriculum of a parochial school as sufficient and legal, even if it has no supervision over such institutions. The state is no less concerned in the child's welfare than the parents.
In educational matters, as in other affairs which affect children, parents may err occasionally, but their intentions are good. No one endowed with intelligence will therefore insist, that the state has a right to prescribe to parents the methods they shall use to raise their children or to maintain discipline.
Supervision over parochial schools is not a state right, because the state does not contribute anything towards them. Only if something ocours there which comes in conflict with the criminal laws may the state intervene. If it becomes evident that such schools teach subjects which are detrimental to the state and the commonweal, or that the scholars are maltreated, then the state would have the right to take steps in order to abolish such conditions, but only then. Even the most inveterate enemies of the parochial schools have never brought such accusations. They admit that from an educational stand point they are good.4
The state does not have the right to inspect parochial schools in order to ascertain if everything proceeds properly. Based on the same right or rather illegality, it should be possible for the state to enter the sanctity of the home, just to be assured that no wrong is committed therein. The state must act on the presumption that where no complaint has been made no misdemeanor exists. Parochial schools must not be inspected by the state when there is no evidence of some infraction. If some unlawful act has been perpetrated in such a school, and someone knows about it, then he should register his complaint. The same is true in regard to maltreatment of minors by their parents or guardians. If certain people, mostly church adherents, take recourse to the parochial, instead of state schools, then they save money for the state. Let as consider this case, the state deliberately drags children who do not belong to a certain congregation into a private school and demands they should be tutored in a certain manner, in short, treats them as if they were in a public school. Thereby the state would become a partner of a parochial school. But, if the state goes to such extremes, then the parochial school which has never asked for a state subvention, would have the right to demand financial assistance, at least to defray the cost of instruction in those branches over which the state exacted control.
Such payments would not be permissable, since the constitution prohibits recognition 5of any church in state affairs.
If the state of Illinois would investigate the parochial schools and then fasten the proclamation onto the portals: "Inspected by the State of Illinois and accepted as a school" then the state would recognize the power that lurks behind the school, namely, the church. Inspection of a parochial school by the state is a preliminary step towards recognition of the church by the state. If the state were to pay money towards the maintainance of such a school, then our courts would declare it as unconstitutional. But, as I have shown, it is contrary to the spirit of the constitution to inspect any church-schools.
In this parochial school question, we hear much about the teaching of foreign languages. In the entire state of Illinois, there is not a single such school, where English is not being taught; all children there obtain an English education. The gibberish, that the parochial schools might bring the English language into oblivion, is silly, and no one considers or believes it seriously. For these very reasons it is entirely uncalled for, that a definite, compulsory, language teaching program should be enforced among parochial schools.6
Among the Germans of this country, we find the reasonable desire, that their children should be able to read and write their parental language. If it were the absolute intention of the state to prevent children from learning the well entrenched German or any other language besides English, then state officials would have to penetrate the innermost family circles where English is often omitted in order to induce children to learn this tongue by imitation, whereby they acquire it from their very infancy.
The addiction to the German language at home, and its use during teaching hours in the various courses of the parochial schools is resorted to, since teachers and parents know, that this is the only method whereby the student can obtain a thorough knowledge of his mother tongue, aside from the English. But hide or hair, its not a state affair."
If Altgeld's ideas will bring victory on Nov. 8th, when the Illinois ballot tells the outcome, and we can expect that he emerges victorious, then the first months of the next year will give us a repetition of what transpired in Wisconsin a year ago, Under Gov. Altgeld's influence the new legal administration of Illinois will abolish the Edwards law; his instigation will help in creating a new school-law, which containone of the objectional features of the Edwards mandate and it will give the parochia private, and state schools equality and justice.
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