THERE is one aspect of the broad classical controversy of momentous importance, but which has been much neglected in the general discussion of the subject. We refer to the relation of our collegiate system to the system of education in the schools of lower grade. It is only by scrutinizing this relation that we can really appreciate the extent of the practical antagonism between the classical and the scientific systems of study, and recognize how completely the colleges are all on one side in this issue.
We are abundantly assured that, whatever may have been the case in the past, there is now no ground of complaint that the dead languages usurp too much attention, while the sciences are correspondingly neglected. The curriculums are appealed to to show that classical studies are no longer in the way of science, which is every year receiving increasing attention in these institutions. New laboratories, observatories, and museums, are pointed at to show the augmenting facilities of scientific study, and we are told that, by the growing optional system, the student is more and more allowed a choice of subjects when he enters college, which enables him, if he likes, to give a larger portion if not his entire time to science.
But all this does not mean so much as it appears to mean. We are not for a moment to regard the influence of the colleges as limited to the students who come under their direct control. They exert a varied and powerful influence upon the secondary schools, upon the methods of early teaching, and upon both the youthful and adult mind of the community at large, which is overwhelmingly in behalf of the classics, and solid against science. They not only determine the prior studies of the great numbers who enter college, but they set the standards of education for multitudes who never pass to the higher institutions. They sustain and they enforce an ideal of culture which shapes the policy and fixes the character of the whole system of instruction that deals with the common education of the people. The alleged liberality implied by the optional system is misleading, if it is taken to imply any real liberty of the student to choose his studies untrammeled by college requirements, for not the slightest option is allowed as between the dead languages and the sciences in that prior period when the youthful mind receives its bent in the lower or preparatory schools. The relaxation of classical demands after admission to college, so far from indicating a diminished exaction of dead-language studies, is accompanied by an increasing stringency of requirement in these subjects before college is entered. With increasing option in college the standard of preparation is raised, which means that more Greek and Latin is forced upon the preparatory schools. The point of strain is shifted, but this is done in such a way as greatly to aggravate the evils of classical study. The worst influence of the colleges upon general education, as we have often maintained, is their reactive effect upon the preparatory schools, and the whole secondary system of instruction to which the youthful mind of the country is subjected. By their demands upon these institutions, the colleges lend their influence to maintain throughout the community an ideal of culture that is predominantly and in effect exclusively classical. Modern studies have no status, no recognition in the preparatory stage