Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/418

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of treatment; nor is it to be expected that every thing would drop into its place neatly at once. It is not unnecessary to say this, for every one connected with our universities knows the severe criticism which new schemes have to undergo, when they do not do what it is absolutely impossible that they should do—namely, start at once in as full perfection as systems that have been matured for many generations.

It has been assumed, throughout this essay, that the best way of introducing the study of modern literatures into the universities is to establish them as a subject wholly distinct from the ancient literatures. Some might think that the two courses might beneficially be amalgamated; but on the whole it seems an unnecessary risk to endanger old and well-established systems by an extensive and violent intrusion of unproved and untried material.

In conclusion, as the course of instruction here advocated involves a smaller amount of intellectual sharpening, and a larger and more various acquisition of positive knowledge, than the generality of the systems in use at the present day, it will not be beside the point to observe that the tendency of modern education has for four centuries been in this direction—that is, rather to encourage wealth and variety of mental possessions, than extreme acuteness in their employment. Not that mental acuteness is not cultivated at the present day as much as ever it was; for putting a point on the mind, nothing can excel the mathematical course at Cambridge. But the value assigned to width of knowledge has increased in a much greater ratio, as will be plain by looking back a little in European history. The School-men were in modern times the earliest educationalists of Europe. Their educational system was like their philosophy—the most simply, purely, and nakedly intellectual that the world has ever seen. They paid no regard to the storing of the mind with material, to the preparation of it for efforts to which it was at present unequal, to the laying broad foundations of fact and experience, not for the sake of immediate argument, but as food to be gradually appropriated and assimilated in the insensible silent workings of the growing man. They made men discuss. They were like a person who should expect a plant to grow by its own intrinsic power, without the nutriment of earth and water. They put the greatest strain on the intellect; but they did not bid the student to know. It was the revival of the classical literatures, and especially of Greek literature, that produced the first step in advance from this state of things. With them a flood of experience, novel, exciting, and illuminating, was poured upon the world. Nor was it long afterward that the great discoveries in mathematics and astronomy opened out a vast sphere of fresh knowledge in another direction. So vigorous an outburst could not be gainsaid. The intellect of the student was no longer left isolated; it was brought in contact with human action, the material world, and substantial