Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/27

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17
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

be reckoned liberal which train and educate the faculties of man as man.[1]

Now, the only conception of a liberal education that will satisfy these new conditions, the only conception of an education capable of becoming national and universal, at the same time that it is liberal, is that of a training of the national mind through the mother-tongue as the chief, and other tongues as the subordinate instruments, in the elements of all those branches of knowledge which, used in their rudiments as elements of general training, will develop, in their higher stages, into the objects of professional pursuits. Is there any other distinction than this between general and professional? In the infancy of knowledge, all callings, trades, and professions, are mysteries, whose secrets are carefully guarded from the uninitiated. Every mechanic belongs to his trade-guild, and has his trade-secrets. When Philip of Burgundy destroyed the little town of Dinant, in the Low Countries, the art of making copper vessels became, for the time being, a lost art. With the progress of general intelligence mystery falls away from simpler occupations, but still attaches to

  1. Nothing seems to me more thoroughly unrepublican and illiberal than the ground taken, by some who profess to be preeminently the advocates of liberal learning, against the promotion of higher education by grants from the state. Let the state promote the advancement of elementary education, they say, but for higher institutions to handle government moneys is only to touch pitch, and therewith be defiled. The distinction represents a remnant of aristocratic feeling, and springs from the idea that it is the duty of the educated, as a higher class, to take a paternal care for the masses; not the duty of the people, as a self-governing community, to give itself a liberal education. One cannot well see a higher function to be performed by the people, acting as a body, than to promote, by public action, its own higher education. If a line is to be drawn, beyond which its action should not reach, where shall it be drawn? Shall the people be allowed to promote the teaching of the three R's, and the four rules of arithmetic, but be forbidden to meddle with any thing beyond them? And in whose hands is the higher education to remain, in a country which has no established church? Is its progress forever to remain at the fitful mercy of an unenlightened and unsystematic private charity? The question as to the right means and methods of governmental action is undoubtedly a grave one, but no educational waste of state or national resources is ever likely to equal the waste arising from the capricious absurdity of private endowments. We have, indeed, of late, been startled by revelations of government corruption, but they have but a poor notion of the capacities of republicanism who are scared by them into that meanest of all political theories, the doctrine that the sole function of a government is merely to enact the part of head constable. A far juster view is that propounded by one of the best of England's teachers. "As the condition of social, and, to some extent, political independence," says the Rev. Mark Pattison, "is necessary to prevent material interests from stifling and absorbing studies, so the condition of sympathy with the general mind is necessary both to sustain the required activity and to make the university a proper seminary for the education of the national youth. The nation does not hire a number of learned men to teach its children: it itself educates them, through an organ into which its own best intellect, its scientific genius, is regularly drafted. This education is, in short, nothing but the free action of life and society, localized, economized, and brought to bear."—("Oxford Essays for 1855," p. 259.)