Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/88

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84
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE SCHOOL AND THE FAMILY
By J. McKEEN CATTELL

IN our complicated civilization a change in any direction may have unforeseen effects in other directions. If we do away with an aristocracy of birth, we leave room for a plutocracy and for politics as a trade; if we learn to use machinery, we throw into quasi-slavery a large part of the people; if we improve the means of communication and transportation, we build the tenement districts of the cities; if we develop a system of credits and exchange, we get public debts, panics, lockouts and congested wealth; if we use reason more, the surer instincts atrophy.

One of the cases where notable progress has yielded sinister byl^roducts is the tendency of the school to weaken the family. Civilization may persist and progress without the family; but human and pre-human societies have been so completely based on it that no one can foresee the results of its destruction. Mankind will last only so long as children are born and cared for; and no plausible substitute for the family has been proposed. It is in any case evident that the premature weakening of the family will bring disaster; our reasoned efforts should at present be directed to its support and toward adjusting to it our newer adventures.

The school by its nature weakens the family, for it takes the children away from home and gives them interests not centered in the home. Within certain limits it may be a gain to polish homely wits and supply a new and wider outlook. The family can withstand a certain amount of aggression and may even be the better for it. But the notion is wide-spread that the more years a child spends in school, the more days in the year and the more hours in the day, the better it is, and that the scholastic trivialities inherited from the idle classes are the proper material for education. There is even approval of places like kindergartens and girls boarding schools, which are harmful both to the family and to the individual.

The sacrifice of the family to the school under the best of conditions is serious enough; it is distressing to see methods used that are wantonly destructive. If children are really more cultivated than their parents there is inevitable discord. We can only say that the older generation must suffer for the newer, the present family for the better family that is to be. But the emphasis on superficial book