Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/25

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
15
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

shall have to give a negative answer, just so long as we do not look upon all these as the truly disciplinary studies, and the elements of all these as the true elementary studies, the very school-studies fitted, above all others, for maturing the youthful mind, and filling it with true wisdom. So long as we insist upon approaching them through the operose and roundabout method of dead-language studies, schooldays will flee away, and the object will not be accomplished. The great vice of our education, as has been well said, is its indirectness.

Combining the ideas which I have thus presented—1. That the study of foreign languages as languages, whether dead or living, holds a place in our present education-philosophy quite out of proportion to its real value and importance, and that it is the discipline of philosophy which we are indirectly aiming at, behind and through the discipline of language; 2. That it is through one tongue and not many that that discipline can best be imparted, inasmuch as that is the only one that can or will ever, by the majority of men, be really mastered; and, 3. That now, for the first time, there is the possibility, through the progress of modern linguistic science, of a scientific and systematic study of the mother-tongue—I arrive at the conclusion that we are presently to have, as a substitute for the exclusive or almost exclusive use of classical languages and literatures, as the main disciplinary element in liberal education, a systematic study of the English language and a recognition of its literature as primary, not secondary. And surely it is a strange phenomenon, if it be true, as a foreign scholar has recently maintained,[1] that the sovereignty of the world is hereafter to belong to the English language; and if it be true, as I think may well be maintained, that with this conquering language we possess the world's foremost literature, it is a strange phenomenon that we think them so little worthy of systematic study, give them a place so subordinate as instruments of our own liberal culture, that to-day we must go to the Germans for a good English grammar; to the French for the best, if a very defective, history of our literature. To my mind, no more striking illustration could be given of our want of a true education-philosophy.

How has it happened that we still lack such a philosophy? The answer to that question brings me to my next point, and the third new ingredient in the liberal education of the future, the element contributed by republicanism. I have said that the science of education was still in its infancy; I believe that it is only as a part of republican institutions that it can reach maturity. For the only true liberal education is the education of man as man; the only truly liberal system is that which can be applied to a whole nation, and such a system is only possible as a part of republican institutions. And, when we consider how short a time we have been living under them, and how crude and imperfect they still are, it is not strange that they have not yet pro-

  1. De Candolle.