Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/574

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
558
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

upon public affairs, because science is allegiance to truth, while current politics is little else than allegiance to lies. No man expects that a politician will be honest, or candid, or truthful, or make a bold and honorable avowal of principles; nor is there any possible ground to hope that our politics will purify themselves by any working of their internal elements so that men of probity, high character, and real greatness will be put in the positions of power. The regenerative influence, if it comes at all, must come from other sources, and we expect it to come sooner or later from the great movement of modern science, which must bring with it a new training in the intellectual virtues. It is to the new conceptions and new culture of science that we look for the production of men of a higher quality for public use to replace that lower quality which has ceased to command the admiration of intelligent and honorable-minded people. Our politics is to-day the despair of our most earnest citizens, and we can see no possible escape from its corruption and its degradation but by the supply of new men animated by higher ideas, qualified by superior intelligence, and trained in reverence for truth, and these men are to be produced by the slowly ripening influence of science, as it comes gradually to pervade our educational systems. Of course, no great change of this kind can be suddenly precipitated; it must be a slow growth, to work effectual results; but science advances with its work, and gives us some ground of hope even in the most discouraging of all the fields of human effort.

 

 

EDUCATION WITHOUT DEAD LANGUAGES.

One would think that the advocates of the classics, as the one superior system for the unfolding of the human mind, would have long ago abated their exclusive pretensions in face of the fact that such multitudes fail with it, and that so many succeed without it. It is not found difficult to evade the force of the first objection that great numbers of dead-language students come to nothing with their classics, because it is said that they neglect their opportunities, or get far more good from this source than they are ever aware of. But it is not so easy to escape the objection to the wonderful worth of defunct speech in the cultivation of the human faculties with such multiplying evidence as we have of great intellectual power acquired by a mental cultivation into which the dead languages have never entered. That these studies have declined in consideration, and are put upon the defensive, and fall back upon tradition and authority for backing, is simply because other instruments of culture in these modern times are not only competing with them but are beating them everywhere. Accompanying the decline of the classics, there has arisen an outside education, irregular in form, unguided by institutions, self-inspired and self-shaped, which is full of great results. The past generation has abounded in men who have either turned their backs upon the universities, after trying them, or who have never gone near them, but who have become leaders of thought in all departments of intellectual activity. The unfortunate creatures who have been enticed to college, and there loaded down with a knapsack of dead languages have found, as was very natural, that they were overweighted in the competitive race of practical life, and left behind by those whose acquisitions are better adapted to the new requirements of the age. Charles Darwin went to the university, neglected the classics, and made what he could out of it for the promotion of his natural history studies; and Herbert Spencer refused to be lured there at all. Yet these are the men who are guiding the mind of the age, while for twenty years we have been afflicted with the