Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/18

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8
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.


ness, we may know it; and I may add that it is because in our common schools we are completely outgrowing it, that day by day we see in them so much new life.

So much in regard to the debt which a liberal education is destined soon to owe to the progress of psychology, giving prevalence to truer views in regard to its rudimentary processes. Let me pass to the second influence, which is acting powerfully to modify all our previous conceptions of the subject; I mean the progress of modern linguistic science. I take this next in order because, contrary to the current of thought prevailing at the present moment, I believe the old doctrine will still be found to hold true, even after physical science shall have at last found its true place in the new education, that the study of that wonderful world of matter, which is the stage on which man plays his earthly part, wonderful as it is, is yet inferior in dignity and importance to the study of the being and doing of the actor who plays his part thereon. Scientific studies, though for the time being in the ascendant, yet, even when all their rights shall be accorded to them, will, in a well-balanced system, take their place a little below ethical studies. This, I say, as not believing in the current materialistic philosophy in any of its forms, but as being an immaterialist, as I must phrase it, since we have been robbed by unworthy and degrading associations of the word spiritualist. But, without raising any question of precedence between branches of study which are both essential to any true conception of a complete education, let me proceed to point out that the progress of linguistic science and of modern literature has totally transformed the educational character and position of the ethical studies of which they are the instrument and the embodiment. When the Revival of Learning gave birth to the present classical system of literary, or, as I have termed it, ethical liberal study, it did so by putting into the hands of scholars not merely two grammars as instruments of youthful mental discipline, as the advocates of the grindstone-system would fain have us believe, but two languages

unless somebody shows me how to put my reading and writing to wise and good purposes. "Suppose any one were to argue that medicine is of no use, because it could be proved statistically that the percentage of deaths was just the same among people who had been taught how to open a medicine-chest, and among those who did not so much as know the key by sight. The argument is absurd; but it is not more preposterous than that against which I am contending. The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all the other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write, and you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom-box. But it is quite another matter whether he ever opens the box or not. And he is as likely to poison as to cure himself, if, without guidance, he swallows the first drug that comes to hand. In these times a man may as well be purblind as unable to read—lame, as unable to write. But I protest, that if I thought the alternative were a necessary one, I would rather that the children of the poor should grow up ignorant of both these mighty arts than that they should remain ignorant of that knowledge to which these arts are means."—(Huxley, " Lay Sermons" p. 43.)