Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/456

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434

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tution which, has done so much to encourage the sentiment of worship. The liberal movement, the impulse toward Christian unity, the substitution of ethical for dogmatic teaching, the appeal to the soul of man rather than to his credulity, all seem to indicate that the Church, which has been so much in the past history of the race, is yet to adapt herself to the changed conditions of the times, and still be an important factor in its future.

But of even greater importance are those changes which seem imminent in the school. Its influence comes at an age when the mind is particularly plastic, and when life is new and fresh. It occupies the attention during the greater portion of at least five days in the week, and even during the remainder it is seldom absent from the thoughts for any considerable length of time. One can scarcely overestimate the importance of establishing so pervasive an institution upon the right basis.

It may seem a trite thing to particularize again the function of an old institution like the school, yet it is only by keeping this very constantly in mind that one can appreciate its present position, or pass intelligent judgment upon those innovations which have been proposed for its improvement.

The school, in the first place, then, is a means and not an end. It serves a purpose. It is not, like the state or the church, an organism and possessed of life. One can construct no pleasing ideal of what the perfect school ought to be. He can at best only specify what results it should produce. Like all other tools, its function is to form and to fashion. A machine is not valued for its proportions, its color, its material, but for its subserviency to the work required, and for the character of its products. The point demands emphasis, for educators too frequently look to the symmetry of the school itself instead of to the harmony of its results. They forget that different materials require different tools for their working.

It is a curious thing that the human mind should so delight in the idea of stability, and should attempt to attain it, when such an idea finds no place in all nature. Even the crystal, the most unchanging object of our admiration, has undergone innumerable births and deaths. All nature is in a state of solution and of flux. There is no stability, even comparative, except where there is no life. Yet we, who believe ourselves to live best when we are in the most perfect communion with that infinite intelligence whose manifestation we call Nature, are constantly denying our faith by the profane effort to give permanence to that which is essentially transitory. Our laws seem to us good. We crystallize them into a code, and so burden the generations to come with an evil mortgage upon their justice. Our faith seems to us divine. We kill it by formulating it into a creed, and so starve the souls of our