The future welfare of the state depends on economic and moral conditions. If the natural resources are used up and new resources are not discovered to supplant them, if the soil is worn out, the coal and other minerals are used up and wasted, the rivers are allowed to fill up, then organized human life will be almost impossible. On the other hand, if all the natural wealth were preserved and the coming generations should not be taught so as to appreciate proper moral standards, then obviously the natural wealth would be of no use.
The postulates naturally lead us to declare that it is the state's duty to investigate how it may best safeguard its future, and also to take what action best judgment may dictate. The first question that arises is whence is this best judgment to come. Plato's ideal state was to be provided with seers or wise men selected and trained according to the judgment of the wise men of the previous generation. But this idea is fundamentally at variance with the ideals and practises of our democracy. The people of the states of our time do not believe that any wise man, or any set of wise men, have the ability or the right to know beforehand what youths will when matured fully be best suited to direct the welfare of a single generation, much less the ability to select the future men of best judgment.
The idea is pretty well grounded in the American states, particularly in the west and the middle west, that the state should with all its power endeavor to see that every youth within its bounds should have equal opportunities to make the most with his native ability. No human power can distinguish a Lincoln before he has well matured. It is the privilege of the state, yes, it is even its duty, to see that every person shall do as much as possible, leaving it in a large measure to the individual to know what he should do. We must therefore admit that it is the duty of the state to offer educational assistance to all who will take it, and that this education must usually partake of two ideals which are apparently diametrically opposite. The ideal education will fit the individual to be proficient in some useful line of activity, and at the same time give him such a general education that he may be morally sound. The first is the element of the professional education and the second is the element of the liberal education. Excellence in the first requires, providing the number of individuals are properly distributed, essentially a narrow life, and gives a high efficiency with large immediate rewards both to the individual and to the state. Excellence in the latter gives a broad view of the functions of the individual and of the relative values of the various activities. So long as we maintain our democratic habits and insist on selecting our wise men fully developed from among the masses, the state should insist, as far as its wealth and its power will permit, that all the individuals should have a liberal education. No method of reasoning or no experience of the past can show