Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/363

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MOST of the controversies which are rife in reference to the vital question of education appear to have originated in failure to rise to a sufficiently general point of view of the subject—to a national, international or perhaps an ethnic view. M. M. Guyau, who, in his Education et l'Hérédité, has discussed problems relative to morals, religion, aesthetics, and education, from the sociological point of view, has put the question into a really scientific form: Given the hereditary merits and faults of a race, to what extent can we by education modify the existing heritage to the advantage of a new heritage? For nothing less is involved; we have not only individuals to instruct, but a race to preserve and increase. Education, therefore, must rest on the physiological and moral laws of the cultivation of races. We do not overlook this in breeding useful animals, but in dealing with human beings we forget it—as if the education of men was concerned only with individuals.

The ethnic point of view is the correct one. We need, by education, to create hereditary qualities physically and intellectually useful to the race; besides cerebral and physiological heredity, we should assure such social hereditary forms as traditions, customs, social conscience, and public opinion. Society is, in fact, an organism endowed with a certain collective consciousness, although it is not concentrated in a self. We should, therefore, regard as a form of heredity and organic identity through ages, everything that maintains among a people continuity of character, spirit, habits, and aptitudes; in short, a national consciousness and a national will.

It being admitted that the ultimate aim of education is to insure the development of the race, the question arises as to the best means of insuring it. There is one which we desire to set prominently in the light—selection. The history of mankind shows us the struggles of races, nationalities, and individuals—not for life only, but for the progress of life under all its forms, including intellectual, aesthetic, and moral life. In our talk about the struggle for existence we forget the metamorphosis which selection undergoes in passing from the domain of brutal into that of intellectual and moral forces. We have, therefore, to reach a comprehension of the analogies and the differences between natural and social selection. As a first step toward this, we should ask to what extent ideas rule the world, and how a selection of ideas is first induced in the brain by education. We might call this psychological selection. The power of instruction and education.