Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/11

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THE

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



NOVEMBER, 1873.



LIBERAL EDUCATION OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY[1]
By Prof. WILLIAM P. ATKINSON,
OF THE MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY.

THE collapse of that classical system of liberal education which has held almost undisputed sway since the revival of learning in the sixteenth century, and the now generally recognized insufficiency of the theory which makes the study of the languages of Greece and Rome the sole foundation of the higher education, are leading, as all familiar with the educational thought of the present day are aware, to the greatest variety of speculations as to the system which is destined to supersede it. That a theory of liberal education as well adapted to the wants of the nineteenth-or, shall we not rather say the twentieth-century, as was the classical theory to the wants of the sixteenth, has yet been elaborated, would be quite too much to affirm. We are living in the midst of a chaos of conflicting opinions, and it seems to be the duty of all who think at all on a subject on which the vital interests of the future so much depend, and especially incumbent on all practical teachers to make such contribution as they are able, from their studies and reflection or their experience, toward the right solution of the problem. It is to such a contribution that I now ask your attention.

I begin with a definition of Liberal Education, in regard to which I presume we shall not be much at variance. The term liberal is opposed to the term servile. A liberal education is that education which makes a man an intellectual freeman, as opposed to that which makes a man a tool, an instrument for the accomplishment of some ulterior aim or object. The aim of the liberal education of any period is the right use of the realized capital of extant knowledge of that period, for the training of the whole, or only of some privileged part of the

  1. A paper read in the Department of Higher Instruction at the annual meeting of the National Teachers' Association at Elmira, N. Y., August, 1873.