By WESLEY MILLS, M. A., M. D.,
PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOLOGY, MCGILL UNIVERSITY, MONTREAL.
IT is of course necessary that the education of a country shall be systemized, harmonized, and consolidated. This involves so much machinery, including examinations, inspections, reports, etc., that those concerned are under constant temptation to take the form for the substance, and to mistake the immediate issue for the great end. It will not be denied that this state of things exists or has existed in connection with every attempt to produce what has been termed a system of education. Manifestly system is essential to success. Without system, concerted plans, and co-operation you would not be here to-night. One of the great problems of the day is the extent to which system should prevail. The answer to this question, which is filled with practical issues, may be inferred, in part at least, from my treatment of education this evening.
The teacher has to do, in reality, primarily with methods, examinations, results, etc., only in so far as these are means to an end, that end being the development of human nature.
The teacher is, or should be, first, last, and always, a developer. If he sees no further than methods as set before him by others; if he assumes that the one method will suit all his pupils equally well; if he believes that there is any one invariably best method, he will become after all but a sort of machine. The educator is concerned with human nature, and must endeavor to study it in as broad a way as possible. To him the knowledge of the development of man from more primitive conditions is the study of all studies. His great aim should be to carry on in some measure this progress, this evolution or unfolding, for we know as yet but indifferently the possibilities for mankind.
Whether man was derived from some form of life lower in the scale or not, it is perfectly clear that he has passed through states not very distantly removed from the condition of the brutes, or, at all events, immeasurably remote from that of the civilized man of to-day. And the history of the race is in some measure the history of the individual. The teacher who does not realize this can scarcely understand the peculiar behavior of boys in particular. At times, especially when left to themselves, they seem to act like savages; for the moment they appear to revert to a savage state. But knowing the tendency of human nature to
- An address delivered before the Ontario Educational Association in Toronto, April, 1893.