Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/375
some few cases were developed in antagonism to a particular kind of education imparted to them.
Galton thinks that the natural differences among men are far wider than commonly supposed: from a careful study of the statistics of Cambrido-e examinations, he estimates that the capacity in mathemat- ics of a senior wrangler is to the lowest in the scale of students taking honors as three hundred to one. Similar results have been arrived at by comparisons made in other branches of learning. From all this, it would seem that the popular mind not only underrates the natural dif- ferences of men, but also exaggerates the real limits of the improva- bility of the masses of mankind. Education can only call out one's powers, not bestow them where they are lacking; and supreme minds almost seem to be independent of education, or, at least, always able to get all they need. The task of diffusing information is compara- tively an easy one, but the absorption and vitalization of it in the receiving minds is a matter quite beyond the teacher's skill. While we should not expect too much from instruction, we may rightly expect a great deal if it be wisely given; and here it may be fitting to draw attention to a danger in our modern schemes of education, very ably pointed out by Johnson in his recent work on China. The increasing uniformity in methods of instruction, while it may tend to the adoption of the one best plan for an average scholar, has a disadvantage in repressing individuality, and abolishing the many special kinds of teach- ing for which some teachers are peculiarly fit, and by which some of the best kinds of scholars, different from the average, are notably bene- fited. The narrow line of a great circle is undoubtedly the shortest path for a ship to take, but, if we would explore new seas and find new truths, the sharply-defined curve of economic navigation must be de- parted from; and the more diverse the tracks of the ship-master, the more of the deep waters of the unknown will he map out for us.
Instructors sometimes err in being too early in their work, as well as too uniform in their methods; so that matters of great moment lose the bloom of novelty before the reason needed to grasp them matures. One of the compensations for an education coming late in life by one's ovvn effort or otherwise is, that the wonderfulness and suggestiveness of truths come to the mind undampened by any early and useless famil- iarity.
In the cause of education it is to be regretted that men of the greatest natural endowments can so rarely describe their processes of thought, or analyze their methods of arriving at results. The intuitive perceptions derived from inheritance or long personal experience are of coalescent quality, and are of too rapid awakening to be capable of explanation and record in consciousness. The most original thinkers are, therefore, seldom gifted with the teaching-talent; just as orators and statesmen are not often eminent as authorities in elocution or polit- ical economy. Few of the ways and means of intellectual acumen can