Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/132

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122
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

recognition ... (p. 522). To say that it is a 'law of nature' that a man should have a property in the work of his hands, is no more than saying that that on which a man has imposed his labor is recognized by others as something which should be his, just as he is recognized by them as one that should be his own master. ... It is only within a society, as a relation between its members, that there can be such a thing as a right, and the right to free life rests on the common will of society. Just as the recognized interest of a society constitutes for each member of it the right to free life, so it constitutes the right to the instruments of such life, and thus through the medium, first of custom, then of law, securing them to each." This is Prof. Leslie's thought in amplified form, and it may be of interest to Mr. Philpott to note the passage.

John H. Wigmore.

Cambridge, Mass., September14, 1889.




EDITOR'S TABLE.


A MINORITY BUT NOT A SECT.

A PROTESTANT minister in Oakland, Cal., in a recent address on the subject of the public-school system of the United States, expressed himself as follows: "In one of the schools of San Francisco Herbert Spencer's 'Data of Ethics' was introduced as a text-book of morals — as palpable a violation of the law forbidding sectarian instruction as the introduction of the Catholic or Methodist catechism; for Herbert Spencer belongs to that very small and narrow sect which promulgates the creed of agnosticism." If the reverend speaker had taken the ground that the "Data of Ethics" was too abstruse a book to be placed in the hands of public-school pupils, we should have felt inclined to sustain his objection. But when he says that to introduce such a book is to give a sectarian character to the school in which it is used, we must enter a protest. Science is never sectarian; philosophy is never sectarian. Sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed. The followers of Mr. Spencer may be a minority, but they are no more a sect than were the adherents of the Copernican system of astronomy, or than are the believers in the Darwinian theory of natural selection. Mr. Spencer makes no appeal to faith, but finds his premises in the common experience of mankind. A pupil who was being taught out of the "Data of Ethics" would he quite at liberty to dispute either the premises or the arguments of the author; and he would not he silenced by the declaration that Mr. Spencer was infallible. But when catechisms are taught they are taught, not as containing matter for discussion, but as containing doctrines that must not be disputed, on pain of more or less disagreeable consequences. Similarly, when the Bible is read in school, it is read not as a fallible record of events or a fallible guide in morals, but as something absolutely authoritative — the very voice of God. It is perfectly obvious, then, where sectarianism in education begins: it begins just at the point where doctrines of any kind, accepted on faith by a portion of the community and not discussible on grounds of reason, are made a part of public-school instruction. Sectarianism comes in whenever the teacher is obliged to say "Hush!" to the inquiring scholar who wants his reason satisfied before he will believe. There is no sectarianism, on the other hand, in making use of a book which lays no claim to any kind of privilege, and which, therefore, can not force the belief of any one. The followers of Mr. Spencer do not form a sect, because they have no beliefs which they wish to exempt from criticism or discussion, and because they hold themselves at full lib-