Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/931
A MODERN LIBERAL EDUCATION.
SUCH is the title of an exceedingly interesting, well-considered, and, in our opinion, weighty article contributed by Prof. Ladd, of Yale, to a late number of our excellent contemporary the Educational Review. The writer well remarks at the outset that the word "liberal" applied to education must imply some sort of differentiation. That differentiation, he shows, is not quantitative but qualitative. A "liberal education" does not mean a liberal supply of education; it means a liberalizing education, or, as he defines it, "that which makes the free mind, which furnishes the liberalizing culture of the trained gentleman." Prof. Ladd is quite aware that such a definition may strike not a few as invidious, but be is not disposed upon that account to alter the terms in which it is expressed.
We think he is right. There is an education which is imparted and accepted with a main, if not exclusive, view to its practical utility to the individual in enabling him to receive a better share than he otherwise might of the goods which society has to divide. And there is an education which aims at expanding his mental and moral powers, and fitting him to profit by the best that has been or is being thought and imagined and expressed in the world. The first, while imparting a measure of efficiency for everyday purposes, not infrequently instills an absolute distaste and repulsion for all higher uses of the intellect. The second develops both capacity and desire for intellectual and æsthetic pleasures, raises the mind above vulgar prejudices, and places the whole
life of the individual on a higher level. The education that produces the latter effect even partially is so far a liberal education; and if the word "gentleman" is to have a real as opposed to a purely conventional significance, we may apply it with much propriety to one whose mind has undergone this liberalizing influence, and whose tastes and sympathies have thus been arrayed on the side of whatever helps to elevate and refine society. We fail to see that, in the true sense, there is anything antidemocratic in this; but if any think otherwise they are, of course, entitled to their opinion. Meantime, we feel sure that the higher education which we have thus imperfectly described, but which Prof. Ladd maps out for us in a very satisfactory and instructive manner, is a matter of vast importance for the progress of national culture and the right direction of our national life.
"A truly liberal education," Prof. Ladd observes, "includes as essential to it the prolonged and scholastic pursuit of three subjects or groups of subjects. These three are language and literature, mathematics and natural science, and the soul of man, including the products of his reflective thinking. Any culture," he continues, "which is markedly defective on any one of these three sides comes, so far, short of being liberal; of being, that is to say, the kind of culture which sets the mind most truly free, and which is most worthy of the cultivated gentleman in the nobler meaning of the latter word." It is an extremely wide scheme of education that is here laid out; and we may say of it, as is said of the strait gate and narrow way,