Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/428

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414
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

courage the bona fide study of Greek, it ought to do. There is no study so cultivating; there are few studies so humanizing; there are not very many studies so ennobling. But just for this reason we think but little of it as a mere whetstone for the understanding of boys; and think a very great deal, on the other hand, of the vast importance of not forcing on any one the necessity for a fragmentary acquisition which is to form no part of his future studies. Whatever else is necessary nowadays, this is most necessary—to prevent that dispersion of the mind over a hundred unconnected morsels of half-knowledge, to which the enormous multiplication of intellectual interests too much tends."

With this demand for thoroughness of study we entirely agree; and it favors the conclusion that of the multitude of subjects undertaken some must be cut off. We say, let those go that are demonstrated and acknowledged failures. The "Spectators" complaint that Greek is superficially crammed at Cambridge, is but a fresh example of the lamentations of thoughtful men over the same result at the universities for two hundred years. It is not that modern science crowds classical studies so that there is not sufficient time. John Milton made exactly the same complaint when the dead languages and their literatures were almost the exclusive objects of university study, and there was no such thing as the rivalry of scientific studies.

When we consider the force of tradition in a conservative country like England, it is not to be expected that reforms in these rich old universities will move very fast; yet the majority for retaining the customary Greek was not large. Common sense makes headway, but the surprising thing is that the old extravagant claims for this study should still be urged. The "Spectator" affirms Greek to be the most cultivating of all studies, and among the very highest for its humanizing and ennobling influences. The authority of the "Spectator" is outweighed by those who declare that the influence of classical studies is of a very different character. Dr. Whewell characterized it as "narrow and enfeebling"; Macaulay says they have "a tendency to contract the views and deaden the sensibility"; and Sydney Smith speaks of the effect of classical learning as an "elegant imbecility." Certainly that can not be an eminently "cultivating" study which leaves whole important tracts of our mental nature uncultivated; nor can that be the most "humanizing" of studies which puts an ancient fraction of the human race, to be approached only through a dead language, in place of living humanity itself. And are we to regard that study as especially "ennobling" which knows nothing of the conquests, aspirations, and encouragements of the knowledge and life of the present time?

 

 

THE STUDY OF SEWERAGE IN LONDON.

The current standards of study and valuations of knowledge are factitious and false. Greek is not so ennobling a study as that of sewerage. To trace out the obscure laws of our own and of surrounding nature, so as to get command of natural agencies for beneficent ends, is the noblest object of study. If life be greater than any of its accidents, what study is so exalted as that which teaches how to save it, to improve it, and to perfect it? When diphtheria makes its dread appearance, and the priceless lives of beloved children are in mortal peril, then comes, with startling emphasis, the true answer to the question, "What knowledge is of most worth?"—it is the knowledge that leads to self-preservation. There is such a thing as life-saving knowledge, but it is not of the classical sort, nor that which is most prized in colleges, even in these later times. It is scien-