Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/135

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123
EDITOR'S TABLE.

Editor's Table.

 

AN EDUCATIONAL HERETIC.

WE observe that Professor Peck has not feared to include, in his lately published collection of essays, the title of which, The Personal Equation, no one has yet been quite able to understand, the paper on American Education which appeared in The Cosmopolitan last year, and for which the editor of that periodical felt compelled, in a manner, to apologize. Some of Professor Peck's utterances, it must be acknowledged, sound rather awful, considering the age and the milieu in which they are given to the world. When he says, for example, that "every really great thing that has been accomplished in the history of man has been accomplished by an aristocracy," he runs the risk of shocking, if not the moral, the political sense of the community no less rudely and painfully than the anarchist does when he passionately pronounces the doom of private property and recommends the treatment of all social diseases by dynamite. We are not sure, however, that Professor Peck means as much harm to our cherished institutions as the average reader might be led to suppose. By an aristocracy he does not mean a privileged caste, but simply a body of men trained to think and having personal gifts of control. Even the most extreme democracy must acknowledge that there are such persons. By whom are our "primaries" dominated if not by individuals trained to think along certain lines which, by an abuse of language, we call political, and who are masterful in council and decisive in action? And how many men, all told, have a really controlling voice in our national politics? We doubt very much if their numerical proportion to the whole community is greater than that borne by the narrowest aristocracies of the past to the communities in which they have severally existed. Yet without these men nothing, substantially, can be done. Their will is law. It is true they rule partly by fawning on the multitude, but they can afford a little of this condescension to secure the reality of power. "Paris is well worth a mass," said Henry of Navarre, when he became a Catholic on succeeding to the throne of France; and the boss does not grudge a little servility when needed to strengthen his hold upon the people. In Professor Peck's sense, then, we have an aristocracy now—that is to say, a ruling class—only it is not one out of which much good can come. It is organized on too bad a principle.

It is apropos of education that the professor gave expression to this shocking sentiment. He does not believe in compulsory education, and evidently thinks that the state goes too far now in facilitating education for all. It is not, if we understand him aright, that begrudges education to any, but simply that he thinks the present system, from a strictly practical point of view, is not working well. "A sounder policy," he says, "would be to make the way to education easy, but not free, to all." As we have before expressed our general adherence to this view, we must be. content to share whatever odium attaches to the professor for his remarks. A recent writer in a French review[1] has been discussing what he

  1. See Revue des Revues for January 15, 1898, article by M. Henry Berenger.