Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/869

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

160,000. The increase in population even during the decade 1880-90 was 13,000. Whether there has been a decrease since 1890 nobody at present knows, and will not know until the decennial census is taken next year.

In view of these facts, I feel justified in challenging the correctness of the gentleman's statement, quoted above. There can be no room for doubt that Maine has sustained considerable losses I in population from farm desertion, but no statistics can be presented to show that the State has, during the time stated above, been dwindling in the number of people living within her borders.

J. Earle Brown.
Woonsockett, R. I., August 17, 1899.
 

Editor's Table.

 

EDUCATION AND CHARACTER-BUILDING.

IT is many years ago now since Mr. Spencer, in his Study of Sociology, remarked upon the exaggerated hopes commonly built upon education. With the courage that is characteristic of him, he went counter to a current of opinion which was then running with perhaps its maximum force. He said that the belief in the efficacy of education to remold society had taken so strong a hold of the modern world that nothing but disappointment would avail to modify it. This was in the year 1872; since then the disappointment has in a measure come, and many are prepared to accept his views to-day, who, twenty-seven years ago, thought they proceeded from a mind fundamentally out of sympathy with modern progress. Facts indeed are accumulating from year to year to prove the soundness of the philosopher's contention that "cognition does not produce action," and that a great variety of knowledge may be introduced into the mind without in the least inclining the individual to higher modes of conduct.

We are reminded of Mr. Spencer's line of argument by an article lately published in the London Spectator, entitled Influence on the Young. The writer sees clearly that enthusiastic educationists undertake far more than they can perform. "The character forms itself," he says, "assimilating nutriment or detriment, as it were, from the air, which the parents or teachers, for all their pains, can in no way change." There seems indeed to be in the young, he remarks, a distinct tendency to resist influence. Father and son will be opposed in politics; very pious people too often find, to their sorrow, their children growing up far otherwise than they could wish. The man who is very settled in his habits is as like as not to have a boy who can not be persuaded to take a serious view of life. The most unexceptionable home lessons seem to be of no avail against the attractive power of light companions. Evidently, Nature is at work in ways that men can not control. If there is a law of "recoil," as the writer in the Spectator hints, we may be pretty sure it serves some good purpose. It introduces, we can see at once, a diversity which makes for the progress, and perhaps also for the stability, of society. Two practical questions, however, suggest themselves: (1) What can we reasonably hope from education? and (2) What can we do to make a wholesome milieu for the rising generation?

With regard to education, it is evident that we can not know the best it can do until it has been reduced to a science—until, that is to say, as a result of the joint labors