POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
EDUCATION AS A FACTOR IN EVOLUTION.
AN ingenious but somewhat paradoxical writer of the present day has lately said that, "were we all agreed as to the training of our children, we need not await the slow evolution of the social millennium; it would be achievable in the very next generation." His argument is that "if a generation can be reared to reverence a stick or a stone, an inanimate idol, and this or that grotesque religious system, it can be reared also to love and reverence man." The postulate here, it will be observed, is a very extensive one—"were we all agreed as to the training of our children." The meaning evidently is, that if our intellectual methods and moral principles were in complete accord, and if both were of the most advanced order, we might look for the speedy coming of the millennium. Why not? We should be all but in it ourselves, and when it came our children would hardly know the difference.
It does not seem to us that there is much advantage in this way of stating the case. We are not all agreed as to the training of our children. We are agreed, broadly speaking, in some things; but, unfortunately, the things we are agreed upon do not make very directly for the millennium. In the matter of education there is no opinion so widely shared or so strongly held as that education ought to be mainly a preparation for commercial success. It was said long ago that wisdom was "the principal thing," and that therefore we should get wisdom. That opinion has been before the world for some thousands of years, but it has never yet dominated the mind of any society; and to-day, as much perhaps as ever, the feeling of the multitude is that money is the principal thing, and that therefore every effort should be bent on getting money. Apart from the teaching of school there is the teaching of daily life. Here again the most widely entertained ideals are not the best. The methods, for example, of the politician may almost be said to be imposed on him by the people. If the path to political success lay through a careful study of public questions with a view to the general good, our politics would be completely transformed and a new race of men would appear upon the scene. But the idea of the general good as a paramount object is one which, in the present state of our civilization, can not be brought home to many minds; and the fact that it is repudiated by the multitude renders it difficult for those who acknowledge and accept it to act on it in a consistent manner.
The writer we have quoted, Mr. Archdall Reid, thinks that, because a generation can be educated to worship a stick or a stone, one might just as easily be educated to "love and reverence man." Well, as we have already suggested, if the preceding generation loved and reverenced man, its successor would probably do so also, and possibly in a slightly increased degree. But that is not to the purpose; the question is, whether the present generation, being what it is, could as easily train the next into all the virtues required for the millennium as a given tribe of savages might train its children to believe in
- See his article, Characters, Congenital and Acquired, in Science, December 24, 1807.