By Dr. C. HANFORD HENDERSON.
IN venturing to speak or write about a topic so much, spoken about and so much written about as education, one may be pardoned a little hesitation. In the midst of our present wealth. of educational theories, the need seems not so much for any addition to them or any restatement of them as for a little genuine, wholesome action in carrying them into effect. And yet this problem, the education of our children, though so very old and so much discussed, is always new and never exhausted. The last word has not been spoken.
This perennial interest in education springs, I think, from two sources — from a feeling that much of the current action that goes under the name of education is obviously ill-advised, and from an appreciation of the tremendous importance of the whole matter. For, mark you, what we propose to discuss is no more nor less than this — the unfolding of the human spirit. It is a process for whose preparation the mighty drama of evolution has not been counted too great; and, now that that drama has become in our hands a conscious process, we can scarcely overestimate the unique significance of this, its concluding scene. It is an august problem, one that I stand before in reverence and humility.
In a day of more childlike faith one can readily conceive the attitude of mind of those who, in the presence of such an issue as this, devoutly waited for the working of the Spirit, and listened to its utterance as to the oracle of God. But though the old faiths are dead, or at least certain aspects of them, there is a new faith no less inspiring and no less revered. Modern faith believes in the essential sanity of the human spirit. It believes that it is possible by pure and holy living to so strengthen and clarify the spiritual vision that one may catch some glimpse of the divinely human truth. And this glimpse comes not to one man alone but to you and to me, when together, in the disinterestedness of a common purpose, we attempt to let the light play about the problems of the inner life.
And first let me say, in considering the aim of modern education, that I do not do so as the advocate of any special system or of any limited cult. I am in no sense a special pleader. It may be known to some of my readers that I have had for several years the charge of a manual training school in Philadelphia, and the thought would be quite natural that I may have come to regard the salvation of childhood as dependent in some occult way upon the training of its extremities. But, believe me, this is far from the truth. We hold, rather, the deep conviction that the province