Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 25.djvu/862

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844
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

says: "To them it appears strange, and almost monstrous, that the dead languages should hold the place they do in general education; and it can hardly be denied that their supremacy is the result of routine rather than of argument." After declaring his doubts whether an exclusively scientific training would be satisfactory, he adds: "But it is useless to discuss the question upon the supposition that the majority of boys attain, either to a knowledge of the languages (Latin and Greek) or to an appreciation of the writings of the ancient authors. The contrary is notoriously the truth." This is a broad indorsement of the assertion that the study of the dead languages is generally, as a matter of fact, a failure. He further observes: "I believe that French and German, if properly taught, which I admit they rarely are at present, would go far to replace Latin and Greek from a disciplinary point of view, while the actual value of the acquisition would, in the majority of cases, be incomparably greater. In half the time usually devoted, without success, to the classical languages, most boys could acquire a really serviceable knowledge of French and German. History and the serious study of the English literature, now shamefully neglected, would also find a place in such a scheme."

We put these unsolicited and responsible declarations of an English university man, who has had both a classical and a scientific training, against the one-sided expressions drawn by the classical party from Lord Coleridge and Matthew Arnold while in this country.

But it is not this aspect of the matter—a mere question of conflicting authorities—that chiefly concerns us here. Lord Rayleigh had previously made an incidental observation which strikes deeper into this subject than anything he said in his formal reference to it. He was speaking of the character of his celebrated instructor, the late Professor Clerk-Maxwell, of whom he said, "As a teacher and examiner he was well acquainted with the almost universal tendency of uninstructed minds to elevate phrases above things." This goes to the root of the antagonism between literary and scientific education, considered as means of mental cultivation.

Literary education is carried on in the world of words; scientific education, truly such, goes on in the world of things in which words, though indispensable, are subordinate, and not the substantive objects with which the mind is engaged. Literature, as a method, stops with the words, makes the things for which they stand of little account, and is occupied with the arts of expression. In science, things are uppermost, they are what the mind really has to deal with, and their verbal representatives are merely matters of convenience in dealing with them. But the literary mind exalts the symbols to the higher place, and makes education consist in loading the mind with languages, with but little conception of those higher ends to which all language should be made tributary. Of course, it is easier and more pleasant to become interested in words and pay little attention to things, and, where the object is only light intellectual gratification, literature answers the end.

But we have here to do with the subject of education, with the true and best mode of developing the powers of the mind, and for this purpose the difference between words and things is wide and fundamental. Both are important, but the question is, which is to be held supreme? Science as a new force in education relegates words to the subordinate place, and it clinches the case by affirming that knowledge of things is the true test of intelligence, and that the mere knowledge of words is but highly respectable ignorance. Unless there has been a grapple with some subject in its actual facts, elements, and relations, and some considerable degree of mental dis-