Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/361

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democracy," "the public school the hope of our country," etc. These catch-words may have important values, e. g., they may serve the campaign orator some fine phrases, but let us look a bit deeper than even these.

Perhaps as a reflex of that other half truth, "All men are created free and equal," has come the general conception that education is the common privilege of all without distinction; that it becomes a magic wand able to dispel the seeds of incapacity, imbecility, criminality or even immorality. In a word, we have been taught to regard education as creator, rather than helper, guide or cultivator. No one expects his gardener, however skillful, to supply a superior product from barren soil or defective seed. Now let it be given all possible emphasis that back of culture must be a capable brain; and that this element of capacity is rooted in the physical basis of life itself—the germ plasm. These are at once the soil and seed for our mental gardener to work upon.

Long ago have we learned the fundamental lesson here predicted as it relates to the school of husbandry. The breeder is first of all a discriminator. He knows what he wants, and he knows that in only one way may he have it, viz., by patient and persistent selection; and only those factors which measure up to his standard shall have any place in his school. Others may serve as bearers of burdens—as dray horse, or plodding ox; but they have no place in the stud or in that school destined for a higher product. Our husbandman has learned his lesson from that severe mistress of all progress, mother nature, whose rule is that of fitness. Of the product she has said "very good." The price may be high, above the rubies or mere marks, but its cost is well worth while.

Education and Selection.—Fundamental in Darwinism is natural selection, the counterpart of the artificial selection of the breeder. In nature it is a process of sifting, an elimination of the unfit through the rigors of the struggle for existence. Of its reality and efficiency in a state of nature there can be no doubt; though this does not imply that it has been the only method in operation.

As in social matters, so in educational methods, we have largely disregarded nature's method of selecting the fittest. On the contrary, our standards, whether of school or college, have been adapted to mediocrity. There has been a leveling down whenever the poorer pupil seemed unable to keep up. To be sure, in some instances the poorest have been returned to a lower grade, but rarely the average poor. In technical schools there has been less of this compromise, but it has not been wholly lacking even there. The effect has been to place a premium on mediocrity, just as has been the operation of a similar method in trade-unionism, and its sequence has been to a similar end—discouragement of initiative, independence, highest efficiency, and hence highest achievement.