Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/308

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its reward? Is purity fostered by the promiscuous herding of hundreds of children, old and young, corrupt and innocent, in the same building, under teachers whose time must be given to mint, anise and cummin rather than to these weightier matters of the Eternal Law? Says M. de Coubertin, "Not ignorance and sloth of mind threaten our younger generation so much as moral inertia and atrophy of the will. The supreme problem is to cure these." This moral inertia can be overcome, this will of the child can be developed and trained only by treating each pupil as a special problem to be worked out with knowledge, with sympathy, with tact, with enthusiasm, by every teacher under whose control the child is brought.

The bottom fallacy of much of the acknowledged inefficiency of public education is that equality implies uniformity. We are to give all youth an equal chance; therefore let us put it through one common course of study, therefore let us give it a discipline of the barracks. But this is not to secure to children an equal opportunity at all. Whose omniscience devised this uniform course which is so to act upon the antipodal natures of John and of Patrick, of Marie and of Tessa as to give them an equal chance to develop into their very best? Who found this universal solvent of all the oddities, stupidities and personalities of a townful of child nature? A uniform course is the very embodiment of inequality, making the weak weaker, the dull duller, the cross-grained more out of touch with the rest of mankind. Such a course may suit three children out of every twenty; but the remaining seventeen are mainly stupefied by it, learning only to associate what is most disagreeable, what is most useless, what is most quickly to be forgotten with those school years during which it was vainly attempted to fit their tender and growing individualities to an arbitrary mould. The only way in which to give every child an equal chance with every other is to provide for each the atmosphere and incentives suited to his particular needs and nature. Then that nature will respond and grow, revealing powers and aptitudes inconceivable under the blight of uniformity. There is no such thing as an "average child." He is a fiction as absurd as the passionless man of the old political economy. As well might one talk of an average vegetable and subject all plants to an unchanging regimen.

The fundamental principle of the "new education" which is as old as India and Greece—is to develop and strengthen individuality. All men are born free: you shall not make them slaves to a fictitious average. All men are born equal before the law: you shall not make them unequal before the law by forcing upon them a common training which gives those few whom the course happens to fit an enormous advantage, leaving the rest substantially untouched by the real forces of education. So much of the military, disciplinary side of the school as promotes