Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/487

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473
HEREDITY IN RELATION TO EDUCATION.

right itself under favorable conditions, the teacher is considerate, hopeful, and wise in the guidance of his pupils.

But equally important is the study of the individual, and it is the neglect of this that constitutes perhaps the greatest danger of modern education. We adapt our methods to human nature as we conceive of it, but is the individual as much considered as he was? The tendency of the age is to aggregation of men, to concerted action, to adaptation of methods to the masses, to the average man or boy or girl, while John Smith and Eliza Brown are apt to be regarded as simply units and nothing more. If I were asked to state what I considered the greatest evil threatening education or actually existing in education, if not in our entire civilization to-day, I should reply that in my opinion it was just what I have referred to—not recognizing the individual as such in the masses.

Allow me to point out that the available energy of the world is increased in proportion as we develop individuals—i. e., human beings differing from their fellows. We see this in the passage of a community from a savage to a civilized condition. There is division of labor with differentiation of function. It is better for the community that there should be carpenters, blacksmiths, masons, etc., than that there should be an attempt to make each individual a Jack-of-all-trades. So in education we should aim to develop those differences that Nature has established. So-called education has done much harm by running counter to Nature. Evidently, then, the great business of the teacher is to study Nature with a solicitous anxiety to learn her meaning as to man.

Froebel, after ages of educational blundering by mankind, set out on the right path, because he, like the one who would enter the kingdom of heaven, became as a little child, and so understood children and adapted methods to human nature as it is—methods in which their individuality is recognized at the very outset. Would that we had followed this great genius closer; would that we were to-day applying his methods in their best aspects to our education more fully! I mean in the sense that we adapted our methods to human nature as it is, and not with any so-called practical end in view, such as fitting the boy or girl merely to sit at a desk in a warehouse, or stand behind a counter in a shop.

But our schools, like our other institutions, are a reflection of our general state of human progress; and while we have much to be thankful for, I must, with President Eliot, of Harvard University, consider that our school education is still in no small degree a failure, partly because we have not grasped the purpose of education and partly because we do not recognize that men are more than methods after all—that John Smith is more than