Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/17

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7
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

stages of all studies whatever. The child, as well as the man, is linguist, student of science, artist, philosopher, moralist, poet, though his philology, science, art, philosophy, will be childish, not manly, germs and intuitions, not results of developed reason. Is it not obvious that in this view elementary schools become something far more than places for drilling the youthful mind in the use of the mere tools of knowledge? Is it not obvious, moreover, that, looked at from this point of view, a man's profession is only the outgrowth and fruitful consummation of his whole training; a divergence, when the time arrives that the whole of knowledge becomes too wide a field to cultivate, into some special fruit-bearing direction, which, whatever it may be, will lead to a truly liberal profession, inasmuch as by a man so trained his calling cannot but be followed in a liberal spirit?

We have in England and America no conception of what may be accomplished in the early stages of education, because we have been, to so great an extent, adherents of the grindstone-theory. "Nowhere," says Mr. Joseph Payne, commenting on the lamentable, almost ludicrous, failure of that embodiment of the grindstone-theory, applied to popular teaching through the medium, not of the Latin grammar, but of the three R's—I mean the so-called English "Revised Code"—"nowhere have I ever met, in the course of long practice and study in teaching, with a more striking illustration of the great truth that, just in proportion as you substitute mechanical routine for intelligent and sympathetic development of the child's powers, you shall fail in the object you are aiming at."[1] I think that the insignificant results of our present elementary schools, as compared with the amount of time, thought, and money, expended on them, and their want of real vitality, are to be mainly traced to this fundamentally false conception of elementary teaching as concerned only with the acquisition of the mere tools of knowledge.[2] By its fruits, or rather by its barren-

  1. "Of four-fifths of the scholars about to leave school, either no account, or an unsatisfactory one, is given by an examination of the most strictly elementary kind" (Report for 1869-'70). "We have never yet passed 20,000 in a population of 20,000,000 to the sixth standard; whereas old Prussia, without her recent aggrandizement, passed nearly 380,000 every year" (speech of Mr. Mundella, in the House of Commons, March 18, 1870). " What we call education in the inspected schools of England is the mere seed used in other countries, but with us that seed, as soon as it has sprouted, withers and dies, and never grows up into a crop for the feeding of the nations" (speech of Dr. Lyon Playfair, in the House of Commons, June 20, 1870). See the Fortnightly Review for August, 1873, and Payne in Social Science Transactions for 1872. If we should ever need—which God forbid!—a warning against the folly of substituting a sectarian for a national system of popular education, we may find it in the wretched perversion of English popular education in the hands of her Established Church.
  2. "What wonder if very recently an appeal has been made to statistics for the profoundly foolish purpose of showing that education is of no good—that it diminishes neither misery nor crime among the masses of mankind? I reply, Why should the thing which has been called education do either the one or the other? If I am a knave or a fool, teaching me to read and write won't make me less of either one or the other—