easily and with pleasure a couple of years later. It is possible to teach an infant to walk two months before the body is ready, but bow legs are likely to be the only permanent result. So it may be that the premature use of numbers apart from any real interest is actually harmful. The school work in arithmetic is certainly of very little use.
Exploitation of the conventional spelling and grammar is one of the insignia of the classes, which, like their dress and etiquette, is imitated by the masses without profit. The accuracy of spelling secured by school drill is useless; the syntactical limitations injure expression and style. Nothing much can be said in favor of geography, history and literature as they are taught, or for such science as now and then appears. We have a book method, essential for certain purposes, extended far outside the limits of its usefulness. The clerk or priest becoming teacher regards the elements of those subjects in which he is expert as the only ones proper to education, and the great mass of the people are ready to imitate those who have assumed authority over them. The futile system is supported ex post facto by a bad psychology, which claims that the methods used will teach children to observe, remember and reason. Primary education is planned as a preparation for the high school, and the high-school course as a preparation for college; the college is for students preparing for the professions and at the same time a club for the idling classes.
It is not at all clear why the public should pay a thousand dollars for the expenses of each boy who goes through college to enjoy the pleasures of drinking clubs and betting on athletics; and it is surely absurd to let the conventional courses of the college distort every elementary school. As Franklin said, there is a good deal of difference between a good physician and a poor physician, but not much difference between a good physician and no physician; and the same is true of the lawyer, the clergyman, the journalist and even the university president. We could get on tolerably well without all these gentlemen, except only the few who are working to advance knowledge and its applications; and it is, in any case, needless to make their production the principal aim of our educational system. The good ones are born fit for their work, and will do equally well whether they learn to read at twelve or at six.
The imprisoned hope of Pandora is the only justification of our educational system. We look forward to getting some day professional men who will serve a better civilization, and schools that will make children happier, wiser and more useful. In the meanwhile we consume on the altars of our schools more property than the lawyers can guard, more health than the physicians can restore and more unborn souls than the clergymen can save.
The unborn children due to the schools have been too little regarded.