Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/770

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By Professor A. E. DOLBEAR.

INSTITUTIONS are necessary for society of all grades. The Hottentot needs them as well as we and has them. In society that has been stable for a long time the institutions have been so adjusted that they are very perfectly adapted to the needs of the people, as those in China are. In a community where nothing new is learned and nothing forgotten, the mechanism for the maintenance of society runs with the least friction, and in a good sense the institutions of a country are the mechanical supports which maintain its form and give coherence to it. When one thinks of an Englishman, a German, a Russian, or a Turk, he is not thinking of one who chances to speak this or that tongue or who has this or that cast of countenance, but of one who has been molded by certain institutions in which he was brought up, and which have given to each one a personality different from any of the others, which personality has adapted him to live comfortably with an environment different from the others, and in which each of the others would find more or less that was disagreeable, and in which, at any rate for a time, he would be uncomfortable. This fitting a man for his environment is education in the large sense, and every human being is educated thus. The great difference between both individuals and nations is traceable to the breadth of the environment or the number and variety of institutions that are operative in their growth.

Wherein is the difference between the German and the Turk, that one is a synonym for civilization while the other is a symbol of barbarism and lethargy? One has been educated not only by his own institutions but by all other available ones; he has laid the world under tribute and the heavens bring to him comforts, while the other with as good opportunities has been for centuries content to shut out from himself all foreign influences whatever. His environment has been simply that of his own involuntary efforts, and it has made him a beast, as it will any who are content with less than the universe can give.

This environment of which I speak is not one of locality merely, and does not imply that the one who has traveled most is the best educated. The mountain does go to Mohammed if Mohammed commands it aright. Through literature and science all institutions are available for the one who wants them. That is a very poor education that fits a man to be a citizen content with a dozen neighbors who all do and think as he does. That is the highest and best education that fits one to be an inhabitant of the