Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/281

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

EDITOR'S TABLE.

 

HIGHER EDUCATION OF WOMEN.

THE interest which this subject is exciting at the present moment is, we take it, a very hopeful sign. The probability would appear to be that, in the clash of opinions, the truth will gradually be beaten out. Every writer brings to the question his or her own contribution of real experience; and, when once we have the facts properly sifted, it will not be such a difficult matter to draw conclusions.

Mrs. Lynn-Linton in England has taken up a position on this subject that places her in antagonism to most of those who have espoused what, for convenience, we may call the women's side of the question. She does not say that women can not take the highest education or make the best use of it, but on the whole she rather discourages, from a practical point of view, the effort to bestow the highest education on any very large number of women. We do not wish to be understood as committing ourselves to all the views she has advanced; but we think she has at least made one forward step by importing certain simple practical considerations into the discussion. She has shown that an advanced education has an appreciable money value to young men in a much larger proportion of cases than it has to young women. Much as we may talk of "education of the mind" and "discipline of the faculties," the education of boys and young men has mainly been dominated by practical ends. We are far from saying that those ends have always been wisely sought; we simply contend that in general they have been recognized. When a young man has been destined for the bar, for the Church, for the profession of medicine, or for some scientific or literary career, there has been a special object in giving him as liberal a preliminary education as possible; and such courses of higher education as have heretofore been devised have had as their main intention the fitting of men for professional careers, and not the mere production of a large number of finely polished intellects destined for no particular function whatever. It may be further said that, in the education of men, the definiteness of the ulterior aim has been to a large extent the circumstance that has rendered the imparting of a sound education possible. The mind can carry what it means to make use of, what it expects to find serviceable, far better than it can what does not point to any special application. The education of men has thus been given a certain concreteness and a certain actuality from the fact of its bearing, or, at the very least, being understood to bear a distinct and definite relation to practical life.

How is it, now, as regards the education of women? It is certainly true that women are taking to-day a much wider share in the work of the world than they did even a generation ago. Many more careers are open to them, and their ability to assume even the most difficult professional duties is no longer doubted. Manifestly, then, a practical necessity has arisen for placing within the reach of women the highest educational advantages. It can hardly, however, be maintained that the somewhat clamorous demand that has been made of late years on behalf of women for such advantages has been mainly inspired by the desire to enable women to hold their own in various professional walks. The object has rather been to produce a generation of gifted women without reference to any special practical use to be made