Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/653

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IN the September number of "The Popular Science Monthly," 1880, appeared an article, reprinted from the "Fortnightly Review," entitled "State Education: a Help or a Hindrance?" It was written by the Honorable Auberon Herbert, an English writer of more than ordinary ability. He opposes state education on principle; and, as much of his reasoning applies in this country as well as in England, it is desirable that his fallacies should be exposed in the same journal that has given them currency here. The writer has neither limited his remarks to the English system, nor confined himself to obnoxious methods of applying courses of study to the education of the young in England or elsewhere. Had he done either, a writer on this side the Atlantic might have hesitated to question the propriety of his convictions. But, embracing, as he seems to do, the whole field of organized state educational effort, he has opened a theme as broad as the foundations on which society rests.

Some of his conclusions present points on which eminent educators, both in England and in America, widely differ. A note at the bottom of the first page of his article may have some modifying effect upon his radical conclusions. This note is in the words following: "I ought to say that I have changed my opinions as regards the action of the state since 1870. I would not have made this change without the assistance of Mr. Herbert Spencer's writings."—("Popular Science Monthly," vol. xvii, p. 585.) Mr. Spencer, to whose writings our author refers, has written many able things on education, with which educators are well agreed; but he is not understood in this country to be wholly opposed to state education. And it may be suggested that the disciple may differ with his teacher, or that the teacher may himself be misunderstood in the application of his principles to particular conditions of the social status. The conditions of the state, also, must be continually advancing beyond the demands of earlier efforts, as society in its tastes and needs moves forward. State growth has no limit, and hence no rule can be laid down for the government of the future that does not embrace the possibility of new combinations. The Spencer of to-day may predict, but the Spencer of to-morrow may find the historic progress in conflict with his prediction. Man's needs in his social and civil relations, in his artificial progress, can not be determined with the precision of mathematical certainty, as we determine the movements of the planets.

The English Government, of which the writer of the article under consideration is an integral element, is rapidly changing its position on the question of state education. The question with his country