Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/21

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11
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

scholars of the Revival, without Shakespeare or Milton, had to master Homer and Æschylus, or go without poetry altogether. With no wealth of modern literature, such as lies all round us, they were perforce classical students in order to be scholars. We cannot put back the wheels of time, and reproduce their circumstances. The mind of the generation refuses to be bound within antiquated limits: it will seek the new world of thought which lies before it. Try, therefore, to make classical scholars now of all liberally-educated boys, and you make nine-tenths of them into dunces or pedants. How many of the regiments of young men of this generation who have gone through, as it is well called, our older colleges, are real classical scholars? But the liberally-educated men of the times of the revival of learning were real classical scholars.

The Rev. Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, gives the following account of the present state of classical study even at Oxford: "We must not close our eyes to the fact that the honor-students" (that is to say, the students who have any expectation of winning the pecuniary prizes) "are the only students who are undergoing any educational process which it can be considered as the function of a university either to impart or to exact; the only students who are at all within the scope of the scientific apparatus and arrangements of an academical body. This class of students cannot be estimated at more than thirty per cent, of the whole number frequenting the university. The remaining seventy per cent, not only furnish from among them all the idleness and extravagance which are become a byword throughout the country, but cannot be considered to be even nominally pursuing any course of university studies at all."[1]

If the treasurer of a great manufacturing corporation were to report to his stockholders that, of all the raw material furnished, their machinery was capable of making only thirty per cent, into cloth, and that of a very peculiar and unsalable pattern; that the remaining seventy per cent, was not only not manufactured into any kind of cloth, but was much of it disseminated over the country, in the shape of deadly, poisonous rags, we should think there was something wrong in the machinery of that mill.

Thus it is that, classical education having dwindled into a shadow,[2]

  1. "Suggestions on Academical Organization," p. 230.
  2. "I think it incontestably true," says Prof. Sidgwick, "that for the last fifty years our classical studies (with much to demand our undivided praise) have been too critical and formal; and that we have sometimes been taught, while straining after an accuracy beyond our reach, to value the husk more than the fruit of ancient learning. .... This, at least, is true, that he who forgets that language is but the sign and vehicle of thought, and while studying the word knows little of the sentiment — who learns the measure, the garb and fashion of ancient song without looking to its living soul or feeling its inspiration, is not one jot better than a traveler in a classic land who sees its crumbling temples, and numbers, with arithmetical precision, their steps and pillars, but thinks not of their beauty, their design, or the living sculptures on their walls, or who