Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/616

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It only wants an effort to shake off the thralldom of familiar ideas and to see with fresh eyes, and then the monstrous fact, that all England is placing itself under official restraints as regards that which it cares most about, would be enough to show us that there must be something radically wrong in a system which necessarily carries with it such a disqualification.

"But what are we to do?" is the impatient exclamation of many persons who feel both the pretensions and the poverty-stricken character of our present system. "Could education be supplied without official assistance?" My answer is that it could; that the combining and cooperative power of our people would provide for this great want, as it is providing for their religious and social wants; that money is waiting to flow from some of the richer people, if so plain and good an outlet were left open—money which is at present doing harm by creating scholarships and increasing the power of examinations—that good citizenship essentially consists in those who have learned to value some gift of civilization awakening the same sense in those who remain indifferent. "But why did not education spread quicker in the earlier part of the century?" No truly great thing grows like a mushroom. An intelligent value for education can only spread slowly like civilization itself. In our hurry to act we have not seen how much life and movement is sacrificed to make place for an official system. Those who administer such systems wish to get the flower ready-made without any process of growth. They do not recognize in the early and imperfect efforts the first stage of growth from which the better form will spring, but they wish to start at once with that which will satisfy their own rather prudish eyes. A certain uniform standard is fixed, and all that falls short of it is declared infamous. Of course, it is always possible to smear education, religion, or anything else, over a country, as you might smear paint, by departments or boards, and in five years be able to glorify your great work and to cram your speeches with statistics of what you have done. Every autocrat with ideas in his head has done the same thing, but he has also left it to his successors to moralize over the results of his work. Education when still left to itself did spread, perhaps too rapidly, in the beginning of the century. Presented to the English people by Lancaster, it was received like a gospel of good news; and, although many of the early schools were of exceedingly humble and imperfect form, yet the want was beginning to be felt, and the supply was following. Then came the unwise, if well-intentioned, assistance of Government. As usual, the political philanthropists could not endure to see a movement taking its own direction and shaping itself. As soon as the idea of Government responsibility had taken root, the evil was done. It is a mistake to suppose that Government effort and individual effort can live side by side. The habits of mind which belong to each are so different that one must destroy the other. In the course of time there fell alike