Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/538

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Already innovations are being made in the training for commercial life. We shall probably see greater changes in the future. As a preparation for professional life—a 'training' in the athletic sense of the term—the classics hold the field. They develop the muscles of the mind, without attempting to give specialized skill in their use. The story of their attainment to this supreme position in education is a curious one. It is a story of blundering along the right road, reaching the right goal with the wrong end in view. During the Renaissance, men relearned the languages in which the knowledge of the ancients was enshrined, in order that they might extract their treasures of science and thought. With this fresh growth of learning, scholars felt the need of a common language in which to acquire knowledge and to express the results of their investigations. It was a necessity in the days of oral teaching and itinerant study. Equipped with Latin, an English student was equally at home in Cambridge, Paris or Padua. Frenchmen, Germans, Italians and Spaniards spoke and wrote in the same language as his teachers at home. Erasmus might 'learn in Oxford, teach in Cambridge,' correspond with all the scholars in Europe.

The first generous handfuls of classic wisdom snatched, scholars joined in a pedantic contest for the crumbs. This search required accurate knowledge of the languages which encased them. It was impossible to pay too much attention to their form. National, or rather university, rivalry instigated the representatives of learning to acquire a correct and elegant latinity in which to express their thoughts. It became traditional that a Scholar (with a capital S) was a man able to write Ciceronian Latin without the aid of dictionary or books of accidence; and this medieval tradition still holds in our public schools. When one reflects upon the purpose for which so much effort was originally spent, it is not a little humorous to find the effort continued for generations after the purpose has ceased to guide it. The results for which our ancestors strove have long been attained. The thought of the ancients has long been accessible to every one who can read English. Their science, which was living to the scholars of the Renaissance, is a historic curiosity, interesting merely as a stage in the progress of the human mind. We can attain all that the Renaissance sought for, and an infinity beside, without knowledge of either Greek or Latin. Yet in the epoch of Winchester rifles we still practise with flint locks. We stitch samplers in the days of sewing machines. A Runic inscription is scarcely more out of date than a Latin oration, since both are equally things of the past; both have equally fallen into disuse. Yet, with all the zeal of the Renaissance and with an equal appearance of seriousness, we spend years in preparing our boys to write Latin orations without the aid of books of reference. The cache of preserved fruits which the Renaissance discovered has long