Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/57

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53
UNIVERSITY REFORMS

adjusted to respond to each and every wave of truth by surrounding the scholars with influences so subtle that unconsciously they are to become inoculated with culture and the love of learning. Experience teaches us, however, that this method of instruction generally produces one of two types of scholars—the savant for vanity "who is quite satisfied with the honor of being regarded as a curiosity himself" or the savant for amusement "who loves to look for knots in knowledge and to untie them, not too energetically, however, lest he lose the spirit of the game." Some of those who in a general way have been the most alert to apprehend the existence of defects in the educational system, without being able to localize the exact seat of the trouble in the machinery, have at times attributed the specific faults to the general tendency to introduce into the curriculum the study of purely utilitarian subjects. This view assumes that useful knowledge is vulgar and has no relation to culture, but fails to recognize the importance of emphasizing, not the subject studied, but the methods of work acquired. While many persons take an active interest in the discussion of the general problems of education, very few seem to appreciate that the acquisition of either culture or learning implies the subjection of the most complicated and delicately balanced organ of the human body, the brain, to a series of protracted tests and strains of considerable intensity. The general attitude of the public to the whole subject of education is very well expressed in the lines of Goethe:

Mein Kind ich habe es klug gemacht
Ich habe nie über das Denken gedacht.

In spite of the growing interest in the subject it is becoming more and more difficult to find an accurate definition of education, because each individual has his own ideals which may be regarded as the product of his past and present environment. We judge of the merits of a given system by the finished product, the individual scholar, and we argue in favor of the humanities, or of the sciences as the case may be, merely because certain types of scholars appeal to our personal predilections. We are apt to attribute the possession of the mental traits of those individuals who by their attainments represent the personification of our ideals to some special system of education (belonging to some school, college or university), quite forgetful of the fact that various subtle influences, such as heredity and environment, have been the most potent factors in determining the final result. An education, even if wisely planned and well directed, adds nothing to the natural brain power of the individual; it merely gives his latent faculties an opportunity to develop to their highest point of efficiency. If we could add one jot to the latent capacity of any scholar's brain there would still be hopes of making the silken purse from the sow's ear.

We find one person the possessor of a certain kind of knowledge and