Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/287

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The retiring commissioner of education has been so completely identified with the Bureau of Education that it is difficult to imagine the institution without the man. Dr. Eliot, at Harvard, and Dr. Harris, at Washington, have been our two great educational leaders, and when we turn to other lines of service—to the church, to medicine, to law, to journalism, to business, to politics—it is doubtful whether we can find elsewhere two men equally great. This is not a time to attempt an analysis of the work and limitations of a complex personality. It is better to quote the appreciation of a personal friend, Dr. Canfield: "He is indeed whole in himself, a common good—a man of amplest influence yet clearest of ambitious crime, our greatest yet with least pretense; rich in a saving common sense, and, as the greatest only are, in his simplicity sublime. His is the good gray head which all men know, and his the voice from which their omens all men draw. In the great battle of the public schools for sound and effective citizenship he is a tower of strength which stands foursquare to all the winds that blow."

The commissionership of education has been filled by the appointment of Dr. Elmer E. Brown, professor of education in the University of California. We may again quote, this time from the editorial pages of the Outlook: "He has shown himself to be safe and sane, philosophic in temper, practical in choice of ends and means, with unusual administrative ability, ready to take the initiative, not carried away by undue enthusiasm for novelties, yet always alert for all that marks true advancement, energetic and active and industrious, an able writer and speaker, and of a personality which makes him very acceptable in the educational world. In many ways and because of many characteristics and qualities he promises to be a worthy successor of one of the most widely revered educators this country has ever had the good fortune to enlist in its service."

No one can fill the vacancy left by Dr. Harris, but the new commissioner has a great opportunity for useful service. It is safe to say that there is no other country where public education is such an important factor in national life and at the same time no other country in which it is so completely neglected by the national government. This paradox is of course due to the fact that public education is left to state and local authorities, as was doubtless intended by the federal constitution. But wisely or otherwise, the national government has continually extended its functions. If it can examine banks, it can examine schools; if it can cooperate with states in their geological surveys, it can cooperate with them in their educational systems. As a matter of fact the constitution gives the congress power to 'provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States. Under the changed conditions of modern civilization, education, science, health and well-being are far more important for the common defense and general welfare of the nation than are the army and the navy.

But apart from cooperation with the states, such as now in fact exists in the case of the Department of Agriculture and the land grant colleges of agriculture and the mechanic arts, there is ample room to strengthen the Bureau of Education. After a secretary of