Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/135

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125
EDITOR'S TABLE.

you-please system." We ask whether everything that is left to private enterprise can properly be said to be left to a "go-as-you-please system." If so, all we can say is, that the system in question, call it as you will, produces some very good and marvelous results. Laissez-faire has made the railway systems of this country and of England; it has made great steamship companies and telegraph companies and life-insurance companies; it has organized the most gigantic industrial and commercial enterprises, and provided in the most wonderful manner for the whole material life of the community. To say that a social function not controlled by the Government must necessarily fall into disorder (which, of course, is what the term "go-as-you-please" is meant to imply), is to go further than our correspondent probably meant to go, or than any sensible man would go; and yet the contrast he seeks to draw between governmental methods and the go-as-you-please system involves this as a general principle. But is there no go-as-you-please in governmental methods? Is our public-school system free from the intrusion of vicious political influences? Are not teachers in different states agitating at this very moment for some greater security in their positions than can be enjoyed under existing laws? And do not they feel that their usefulness is continually being impaired by their dependence on the favor of trustees who are themselves dependent on the political machine? We know of no go-as-you-please that is more destitute of all moral impulse or direction than the go-as-you-please of municipal politics. It is really go-as-the-boss-pleases, and the boss goes for the offices and the plunder by the most direct road! "We attach the educational interests of the community to precisely the faultiest part of our whole political system, and then exult that we have rescued it from the régime of go-as-you-please! Well, when we say "we," we must be allowed to exclude ourselves, for we don't.

Our proposition is characterized by our correspondent as "revolutionary." We think the word too strong; call it radical if you like, seeing that it goes to the root of things; but we think it a mild form of revolution to propose that people should not look to the Government to educate them. We should like to see the people educating the Government; and the people could do this if they would only first educate themselves.

Our correspondent has the true democratic spirit, and does not want to see classes formed in this free country; nevertheless, he talks of "the poor" as people whose children ought to be educated at the expense of the "wealthy tax-payers." If this is not establishing classes with a vengeance we don't know what is. We hold that nothing would tend more to raise the spirit of the poor and enhance their sense of citizenship and of social equality than to feel that they did not depend on the rich for the education of their children, but that they provided for that all-important object by their own labor, and, if necessary, self-denial. If the rich are to contribute of their substance to the poor under legal compulsion, why should education in particular be the thing for which they are called to pay? Why not provide shoe-leather or blankets, and let the poor have the benefit that assuredly would come to many of them from having a direct interest in their children's education? But the whole idea of the rich being bound to contribute to the maintenance of the poor is a vicious one. If such an obligation, properly enforcible by law, exists, then—let us not hesitate to say it—there must be something rotten in our economics; and we can not too soon apply ourselves to finding out what that is, instead of dealing in weak and ineffectual palliatives.

But, we are told, the public-school system educates the people more rapidly than private education could possibly do— educates a greater number in