Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/250

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238
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION.

THE agitation for a reform in the Civil Service, as it is called, should it result in the establishment of that measure, may be expected to produce effects not now much anticipated or cared for. The essence of the reform is to consist in getting better men for office-holders than American politics has hitherto afforded—certainly a most laudable thing. But the mode of arriving at the better qualified men is to be by "examinations," that is, by the educational test. Before candidates can be examined, however, and decided upon, it will be necessary to arrange the standards by which they shall be judged, and one of the important effects of the system will be to bring to inexorable judgment those preliminary standards on which the whole policy must rest. One of the reasons why the superstitions and absurdities of education are so tenaciously persistent, is the difficulty of bringing the results of so-called culture to direct practical test or verification; but the examiners who frame the catechism by which candidates for office are to be sifted and accepted or rejected, cannot fail to do something toward the removal of this difficulty. In deciding what qualifications are desired, they will give judgment upon the method that has produced them.

The English have tried Civil Service reform sufficiently long to begin to connect cause and effect, and take account of the validity and worth of its standards. They began the system of Civil Service examination in 1853 by drawing up scales of the valuation of different kinds of knowledge as expressed numerically by marks, so that proficiency in the various branches could be added up and indicate the "standing," as is done in many schools. This scheme, of course, represented current ideas, and the Indian Civil Service Board decided that "in the two great ancient languages there ought to be an examination not less severe than those examinations by which the highest classical distinctions are awarded at Oxford and Cambridge." This was for those who aspired to civil positions in India; and how the knowledges were rated comparatively may be inferred from the following examples:

Greek 750
Latin 750
French 375
German 375
Natural sciences 500

This marked predominance of dead over living languages, and the still more striking predominance of language over science, could not fail ultimately to bring the whole question under critical scrutiny, and has led to a reëstimate of the educational value of lingual studies. We publish part of a paper read by Prof. Bain before the British Social Science Association, which deals with this important subject, and our readers will find it valuable as a contribution to education, regardless of the Civil Service interest, while it illustrates what must be the effect of that reform in bringing educational questions into a new aspect. The overshadowing predominance of language forces an inquiry which proves that it is of the very lowest possible use as a means of mental culture.

 

 

SAVINGS-BANKS AND STATE CONTROL.

The recent scandalous revelations concerning the management of savings-banks and similar institutions of trust have, of course, provoked much dis-