Civics: as Applied Sociology/Part 1/C—The Citizen in Process of Development
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|D—The Applied Sociology of the Present→|
Leaving now the external survey of the city by help of its material framework, its characteristic buildings and predominant styles, for the deeper psychological survey of the citizens themselves, we may conveniently begin with these also in their process of development—in fact, our method compels us to this course. We enter then a school; and if we bring fresh eyes we may soon be agreed that the extraordinary babel of studies its time-table and curriculum reveal, is intelligible from no single one of the various geographic or historic points of view we have traversed from mountain to sea, or from past to present. But this unprecedented conflict of studies becomes at once intelligible when viewed apart from any and every definite theory of education yet promulgated by educationists, and even acquires a fresh theory of its own—that of the attempted recapitulation of the survivals of each and all preceding periods in their practical or speculative aspects, particularly the later legends and literatures, their rituals and codes. Thus, the inordinate specialisation upon arithmetic, the exaggeration of all three R's, is plainly the survival of the demand for cheap yet efficient clerks, characteristic of the recent and contemporary financial period.
The ritual of examinations with its correlation of memorising and muscular drill is similarly a development of the imperial order, historically borrowed from the Napoleonic one; the chaotic "general knowledge" is similarly a survival of the encyclopædic period; that is, of the French Revolution and the Liberal Movement generally; the Latin grammar and verses are of course the survivals of the Renaissance, as the precise fidelity to absurd spelling is the imitation of its proof readers; the essay is the abridged form of the mediaeval disputation; and only such genuine sympathy with Virgil or Tacitus, with Homer or Plato as one in a thousand acquires, is truly Roman or Greek at all. The religious instruction, however, re-interpreted by the mediaeval Church or the Reformation, has still its strength in some of the best elements of patriarchal literature; while the fairy tale, by which all this superincumbent weight of learning is sometimes alleviated, is the child's inheritance from the matriarchal order. Finally, the apple and the ball, at the bottom of this whole burden of books, complete the recapitulation; as the one, the raw fruit; the other, the ready missile, of primeval man. Our child then is heir of all the ages more fully than he or his teachers commonly realise. The struggle for mastery of the schools is thus no temporary feud, but an unending battle; one destined to increase rather than diminish; for in this there is the perpetual clash of all the forces of good heredity and evil atavism, of all the new variations also, healthy or diseases.