Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/157

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



JUNE, 1880.



THE CLASSICS THAT EDUCATE US.
By PAUL R. SHIPMAN.

I HAVE great respect for the classics, and would do anything within reason to spread the knowledge of them; but a preliminary-question must first be answered. What the classics are is not a matter of dispute, all agreeing that they are literary masterpieces, the study of which serves above all other studies to refine and liberalize the mind. But where are they? As to this, opinions differ.

"The Greeks, madam," replied John Randolph, when Mrs. Jellyby asked him to contribute aid to that suffering people—"the Greeks are at your door." And some people think the classics are in the same vicinity; dwelling, that is to say, in our mother-tongue in the sense in which the needy are at hand—not exclusively, but in such wise as to deserve our first attention. The President of Harvard College is one of these people. "I may avow," says President Eliot, "as the result of my reading and observation in the matter of education, that I recognize but one mental acquisition as an essential part of the education of a lady or a gentleman—namely, an accurate and refined use of the mother-tongue. Greek, Latin, French, German, mathematics, natural and physical science, metaphysics, history, and aesthetics are all profitable and delightful, both as training and as acquisitions, to him who studies them with intelligence and love, but not one of them has the least claim to be called an acquisition essential to a liberal education, or an essential part of a sound training." He adds: "The fruit of liberal education is not learning, but the capacity and desire to learn; not knowledge but power." This is explicit enough. For my own part, I agree to it.

But some people do not—affirming, contrariwise, that a knowledge of Latin and Greek is essential to a liberal education. Among these