Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/540

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


536 POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

mar. The subject has been made arid and infertile. Give more generous treatment a fair chance ! Limit, says one class of apologists, the work in Greek to Homer and Herodotus. Let the boys do their translations with open dictionary and grammar. Do not delay so long over the introduction ; hasten their acquaintance with the Hellenic heroes; let them come beneath their spell and experience their glamor. With equal vehemence another school contends, not for Homer and Herodotus, but for Plato's ' Eepublic ' and the ' Memorabilia ' ; not for heroics, but for philosophy and art. The teaching of Greek is to have a new lease of life if it gives pledges that it will turn over a new leaf. These protestations of its advocates are pure cant. They known that neither legend, history, philosophy, nor art has influenced the vast majority of the boys who have thriven on a grammar-school training. Stultify the grammar, distract attention from accidence, syntax, prosody, and the value of the gymnastic is reduced to nil. Were it not for its humorous side, this change of front would be somewhat tragic. Boys are to be given the most sacred products of Greek thought as playthings. They are to be encouraged to express their opinion, in the vernacular of the dormitory, of Plato's metaphysics.

Because in the past such good results have been obtained by giving boys the shell without the kernel we are asked to believe that we shall do far better by giving them the kernel without the shell. We decline to recognize that it was not the nut which nourished them, but the ex- ercise of cracking it which prepared their jaws for an attack on more nutritious food. There is no question as to the nourishing properties of the Greek kernel, but it must take its place with the English kernel as an article of diet; and there are obvious reasons for serving the English kernel first.

Do away with grammar — sheer, barren, jejune grammar — and you sacrifice the discipline which has caused our schools, for centuries after the purposes of the classical revival were accomplished, to cherish Greek and Latin as the most efficient instruments of education. We do not want a reformed teaching of Greek. Its reformation would be its destruction. Homer's clash of shields may stir a martial spirit. Plato's spiritualism may satisfy a yearning. But these emotions are not vehicles of education; they are its burdens. The valor, the phi- losophy, the poetry, the art of the Greeks contributed little to the making of the mind of the boy Johnson, the boy Macaulay, the boy Gladstone — however much these great scholars may have been inspired by Greek ideals in later life. We have Gladstone's own emphatic testi- mony that when at Eton he cared nothing at all about the Homeric gods, nor yet for many a year after he had left. He was at Eton under the famous flogger, Dr. Keate, at a time when Greek and Latin were the only subjects in the school curriculum, with " as much divinity as can be gained from constructing the Greek Testament, and reading

�� �