Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/64

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science to scholars who have no elementary knowledge of the particular science, and whose general capacities have never been sufficiently developed. Students are invited to climb the higher rungs of the ladder of learning who have never trod the lower. But science cannot be taught to those who cannot read, nor commerce to those who cannot write. A few elementary lessons in shorthand and bookkeeping will not fit the British people to compete with the commercial enterprise of Germany. Such sudden and random attempts to reform our system of technical education are time and money wasted. There are grades and types in technological instruction, and progress can only be slow. It is useless to accept in the higher branches a student who does not come with a solid foundation on which to build. In such institutions as the Polytechnics at Zurich and Charlottenburg we find the students exclusively drawn from those who have already completed the highest branches of general education; in this country there is hardly a single institution where this could be said of more than a mere fraction of its students. The middle grades of technological instruction suffer from a similar defect. Boys are entered at technical institutions whose only previous instruction has been at elementary schools and evening classes; whose intellectual faculties have not been developed to the requisite point; and who have to be retaught the elements to fit them for the higher instruction. In fact there is no scientific conception of what this kind of instruction is to accomplish and of its proper and necessary basis of general education.

Yet this is just the division of higher education in which public authority-finds a field for its operations practically unoccupied. There are no ancient institutions which there is risk of supplanting. The variety of the subject itself is such that there is little danger of sinking into a uniform and mechanical system. What is required is first a scientific, well-thought-out plan and then its prompt and effective execution. A proper provision of the various grades and types of technological instruction should be organized in every place. The aim of each institution should be clear; and the intellectual equipment essential for admission to each should be laid down and enforced. The principles of true economy, from the national point of view, must not be lost sight of. Provision can only be made (since it must be of the highest type to be of the slightest use) for those really qualified to profit by it to the point of benefiting the community. Evening classes with no standard for admission and no test of efficiency may be valuable from a social point of view as providing innocent occupation and amusement, but they are doing little to raise the technical capacity of the nation. So far from 'developing a popular demand for higher instruction' they may be preventing its proper growth by perpetuating the popular misconception of what real technical instruction is, and