Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/719

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Editor's Table.



MORE than once have we hinted in these columns that the only thing which can render State education successful, and enable it to accomplish the ends which a system of education ought to accomplish, is the earnest co-operation of the more intelligent portion of the public. The trouble is that the public do not in general see the matter in this light. They not unnaturally think that one of the advantages of State education is that all responsibility in connection with the matter is taken off their shoulders. When the government of a country establishes a postal service the individual citizen does not feel called upon to devote his time or his ingenuity to the task of perfecting it. Of course, if he is a reformer born, and his thoughts happen to run in that direction, be will favor the Post-Office Department from time to time with suggestions which may or may not be of value; but in general the feeling is that such volunteer assistance is not needed. Somewhat similar—very similar indeed—is the feeling which the average citizen entertains in regard to the educational system of his State. It is something he need not interfere with: he pays his taxes, and he has a right to have his children educated; and there the matter ends.

What the average citizen must wake up to some day is the perception that there the matter must not end. It is one thing to ask the State to arrange for the conveyance of letters or parcels; it is quite another to intrust it with the education of youth. For the former purpose a few business arrangements, such as are within the compass of ordinary practical intelligence, fully suffice; for the latter something more is wanted than any government, as such, has it in its power to supply. What, for example, is education without an ideal? Can the State supply an ideal? Individual teachers—the more conscientious ones—may have their ideals; but do they derive these from their contact with or relations to the State? Or is their position as State employees precisely the thing which makes it hard for them to have or maintain ideals?

Let us, however, make it quite clear what we mean when we speak of the importance of an ideal in education, and of the utter incompleteness of education without an ideal. By an ideal we simply mean a conception of life worthy of a moral and rational being—such a conception of life as shall develop and strengthen, not weaken and wither, his or her moral and intellectual powers. The first lesson which should be taught to the child is the lesson of its actual, and yet more its potential, worth. "If," says the heathen philosopher Epictetus, "a man should be able to assent to this doctrine as he ought, that we are all sprung from God, I suppose that he would never have any ignoble or mean thoughts about himself." Now, education without an ideal is an education in which a child is never taught to think nobly of himself, and in which, by inevitable consequence, he is almost precluded from having any noble thoughts about anybody or anything. It is consequently an education without any large or worthy aim, an education in which the child is