Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/283

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269
EDITOR'S TABLE.

Editor's Table.

 
EVOLUTION AND EDUCATION.

OUR attention has been drawn to a lively discussion that has lately taken place in the St. Paul papers over the utterances, on the subject of the doctrine of evolution in its relation to education, of a certain Mr. Smith, who was appointed not long since superintendent of the public schools of that city. What seems clear is that Mr. Smith is a very ignorant man, whose views in regard to education are of an altogether retrograde character. How he came to be appointed to his present position is a question which is being gravely pondered by many of the citizens; but probably the explanation is not very far to seek. The dispensers of patronage in State and municipal affairs are not always competent to make the best nominations to offices calling for high qualifications; and sometimes they do not even act up to their own indifferent lights. The man that has the pull is very apt to be the man that gets the office, and it is not often that the strongest pull goes with the highest professional fitness.

However this may be, there Mr. Smith is, and what kind of a man he is may be judged from his utterances. It is thus that he refers to Mr. Spencer: "There is an old man in England who for years has spent all his time and devoted all his energies to the attempt to create a system which shall entirely ignore the name of the Deity. He will shortly die, and it shall not be remembered that he ever performed an act or said a word that blessed or comforted or relieved his suffering fellows." To further darken the picture, he contrasts Spencer with the late Cardinal Newman, who wrote the hymn "Lead, kindly light," and who, we are told, if he had done nothing more, would have been "followed by the blessings and the prayers of those whom he had comforted and saved." Again, dealing with the modern scientific view that, in the development of the human individual all antecedent stages of human development are, in a manner, passed through, he says: "Let us discard the primitive-man theory. You do not believe it. Rather shall we not hold with Emerson that every child born into the world is a new Messiah given into the arms of fallen humanity to lead them back to paradise?"

It is no part of our purpose to defend Mr. Spencer against the attacks of so negligible an assailant as Mr. Smith, of Minnesota. The words that Mr. Spencer has spoken for truth, for justice, for humanity, for peace, are his sufficient commendation and vindication — were vindication needed — in the eyes of all who have any competent knowledge of contemporary thought. If these words do not help to make the world better we should feel little inclined to put our trust in the most skillfully constructed sacred lyric. Men do not always know their benefactors; and it is altogether possible, nay probable, that thousands who perhaps never heard Mr. Spencer's name have benefited through the greater consideration with which they have been treated by others, owing to his teaching. It is quite possible for men, yes, and women too, to sing "Lead, kindly light" with great unction, and yet to be the ardent abettors of warlike sentiments and warlike acts — to revel in a ruthless and immoral jingoism.