Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 7.djvu/722

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Again, schools and education, technically so called, are not the antecedent but the consequent of progress. The men who have been most successful in penetrating the secrets of Nature and solving the problems of society have been in advance of any school. The education of these men has not been for mental discipline; they have studied to find the truth, and an incident of that study has been discipline. Whence came that discipline which rendered schools possible? Not from disciplinary studies, certainly. It came in the study of surrounding conditions, with the view to bring those conditions into conformity with what was deemed personal or social well-being. Mental discipline had then the same relation to human activity that it has now. Until schools were created, all study was in the direction of real or apparent utility; all study outside of the schools is at present for knowledge or utility.

That is, the law of education has been and is now, that mental discipline is the incident and not the end of study. Hence the conclusion, study what is most useful, and the resulting discipline will be most valuable.

We see the same truth in another aspect when we observe that the highest mental and physical power is attained in efforts to discover, measure, and control the forces around us. A language is never so easily or so well learned as when our personal comfort depends upon its use. The hand and eye of the hunter are never so thoroughly disciplined as when he knows that at any moment his life may depend on the accuracy of his aim. The mathematics have been invented to measure the relations of things in common life, or to investigate the less apparent relations.

I cannot forbear here to point out, further, that the truth in regard to mental discipline appears to be a universal truth or law of human activity, perhaps of all activity. Discipline is an incidental result of right exercise. In accordance with this truth are developed and disciplined the religious, intellectual, physical, social—indeed, every faculty and capacity within us. This law recognized, and science and philosophy will force us to accept the best truths of religion—those truths which take man out of himself, make him forgetful of himself, and teach him that he does most for himself who does most for others. Upon such a general truth appears to rest the proposition that we should study—for utility for utility in its widest and best sense—and not for discipline. In the light of this truth we recognize the dead languages—all languages—the mathematics, as but the means, the machinery of an education. Resting on experience, they direct us to new experience. These are the glass through which we may see something of ourselves and the universe. Why waste half our lives in studying the glass under pretense of disciplining our eyes, when our eyes would be better disciplined by studying Nature beyond? Better still to break through all barriers, and study things them-