Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/33

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
23
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

ment of training—one which performs certain disciplinary functions which no other instrument can perform so well; but it is only live mathematics, not dead mathematics, mathematical in vital connection with physical science, not prematurely thrust as an ugly skeleton alone upon the youthful mind, upon the pretense that its sole object is their mental discipline. And, on the other hand, it is only for the study of physical science, pursued by vigorous scientific methods, and in rigorous, logical, and mathematical ways, that we can claim for it a place as a disciplinary, that is, a real study. As the mere becoming acquainted with a string of scientific results, it may well be left to the contempt of the Rev. Mr. Hawtrey.

But the chief influence of modern science upon liberal education will be its ethical influence. Its discoveries are transforming man's conception of the earth he lives on, and of his history and his work upon it. Before man acquires the control of matter, through ascertainment of the laws that govern it, his life on earth is poor, narrow, and full of hardship, and his earthly relations full of pain. So long as that state continues, life on earth must seem to him a small matter, and its opportunities for growth not much worth considering; it is only here and there that a philosopher in his closet attains to some realization of the capacities that lie hidden in it. War and savage occupations consume the days of the mass of men, and no culture is possible save the perverted culture of the cloister. But the advent of physical science means the emancipation of the masses into the privileges of intellectual life. From a battle-ground, the earth is transformed into a school-room, written all over with hieroglyphics, no longer mysterious, but to which mankind have found the key: and, with the right use of the secrets thus unfolded, will come to the mass of men that accession of material wealth which will give the leisure and opportunities that have heretofore been the monopoly of privileged classes.

It is not wonderful that men, at first, are carried away with the contemplation of its lower uses, even sometimes to the making them the sole end of education. It is but a reaction from the opposite extreme, only a dazzling of eyes with a flood of new light. Presently we shall look about us, and find the old relations of things not greatly altered. Matter is not going to supplant mind because we are learning so much more about it; whether we understand or do not understand the laws that govern it, matter remains the servant of mind, to educate it and do its bidding. The higher uses of science will still be spiritual uses. It has not come into the world merely to carry us faster through space, merely that we may sleep more softly and eat and drink more luxuriously, nor will education become the mere teaching how to do these things. It is with the spiritual educating function alone that we have to deal when we consider it as an element in liberal education.