Imagens da página

The True Education.


Two extreme theories are earnestly contending for the control of American education. One of these theories asserts that the sole end of school training is the development of man's faculties in due harmony. All lower ends are dismissed as unworthy of consideration. The practical utility of knowledge in business affairs is accepted as its sufficient condemnation as an element of education. Culture, it is urged, has nothing to do with life's toils and struggles. Her grand and only function is the perfection of man as an intellectual, esthetic, and moral being. Her brow must never wear the coronet of an earnest endeavor to alleviate the miseries of the world or rectify its disorders; and, above all, her hands and garments must never be soiled by degrading contact with human toil and industry. This is the Hellenism of Matthew Arnold of England, who looks upon knowing as sublime, but shrinks from doing as something vulgar. The nearest approach it permits the scholar to make to the present affairs

of earth is to let his consciousness play around them, and his thoughts stream in upon them. He is to be self-centered, dignified, and serene amid life's storms and earthquakes. His sublime mission is to get “sweetness and light,” and his sublimest achievement is the exquisite and delicate expression of an exquisite and delicate thought. This is educational dilettanteism.

Over against this theory is that educational criterion which asks of every school study, “Of what practical use will its facts be in the shop or in the store, on the farm or in the factory, in managing a railway or a bank?” The supreme and ultimate test of the worth of knowledge is its practical utility for the purposes of guidance in life’s business and toil. If a fact can not be used in the work of life, it is declared to be a useless fact, and its acquisition a positive waste of time and effort. “Light! Yes, we do want light, but it must be light which will help us to work and find food and clothing and lodging for ourselves." “No education which does not make this its first aim is worth anything at all."

This, in a few sentences, is that narrow utilitarianism of which the historian Froude of England, is, perhaps, the extremest advocate the educational theory which is to-day clamoring, not only for the exclusion of the classics from our educational courses, but for the complete subordination of American culture to industrial pursuits and interests. It makes human life rest upon the base of life-preserving and bread-winning activities, and taper to the apex of

taste and sentiment. To this pyramidal criterion, beginning with its base, all knowledge is summoned. If it will serve as brick or mortar, if it can be used as tool or material, it is decided to be of transcendent worth. Man’s labor is made the supreme good, and the architect is subordinated to what he builds. The prime test of the worth of knowledge is the intrinsic utility of its facts in the industries of life. The “ vital knowledge ” is the art of getting a living-of winning one's bread and shelter.

I have stated these two extreme and opposing theories as a preparation for an earnest inquiry for the true end of education. What should be the leading aim of school training ? What its comprehensive function? These are the great questions which underlie, and are to determine the scope and character of American education and culture; and hence their right answer is a matter of the highest practical interest and importance.

It will aid us in this inquiry if we remember that the present wide-spread conflict of educational ideas is but the battle between those opposing views of human life, which divide and antagonize the great thinkers of the age. The real leaders in these great controversies which have brought the traditional methods of education into the very throes of revolution, are the Scientists and the Hellenists, the Materialists and the Psychologists, and the other antagonistic schools of speculative thinkers. Education is their battle-field.

The first step then in the inquiry under consider

ation is to go back of it to another, to wit: What is man's chief end in the present life? This is the fundamental question ; for when we have discovered the chief end and purpose of human existence, we have, as a consequence, found the highest function of education, since to prepare man to meet completely the purpose of life is the comprehensive aim of school training. What, then, is the chief end, the central aim, the ultimate purpose of a complete human life?

In answering this question I shall not attempt to solve the profound problems of human existence. Nor shall I ask philosophy to guide me back to man's origin that I may learn whence he is; nor to lift the veil of futurity that I may know whither he goes. This would be asking the blind to lead the blind. Neither the sublime laws of evolution, nor the grand sequences of physical nature, can reveal man's origin, or destiny, or glory. I would rather reverently accept the truth that man is a child of God, created in His image and for His glory, and crowned as an heir of immortality. This is better than postulate or hypothesis ; this is revelation.

Turning to this being with such an origin and destiny, we discern that he has two natures, the one spiritual, the other physical,—the one a regal soul, the other a subject body. Appealing to human consciousness, we learn that man's spiritual nature is endowed with faculties and powers, each capable of almost infinite expansion and culture; and both reason and experience show that these embryo powers can only yield fruition through their development

and perfection by activity and use. The soul's birthright is capacity-capacity to know, to feel, to will, to enjoy—but all this heritage may be buried in a napkin, or bartered for a mess of pottage! The mere possession of these capabilities is not the realization of their sublime end. They are bestowed under the divine command, “Be ye perfect," and their great purpose is reached only in their deepest, widest, and intensest activity and vigor, and in their nearest possible approach to perfection.

But man has a body as well as an indwelling soul. His God-like, spiritual nature is tabernacled in flesh, and its development and perfection are limited and aided by physical conditions and needs. The body is not only the earthly home of the soul, but it is also its agent, its helper, and nourisher. Through the physical senses the mind holds communion with external nature,—and what knowledge, what raptures, what impulses and desires flow through these senses into the soul! Moreover, the activity and powers of the mind are limited and conditioned by its incarnating physical organism. Through the broken walls and gates of the body disease enters the very citadel of the soul, and its noblest powers become the wildest discord or the most helpless imbecility. Hence the care of the body is a most important concern and duty of life. Not only is it to be fed, clothed, and sheltered, its health and vigor preserved, but its blind and clamorous appetites are to be controlled and ennobled. But it is to be observed that the perfection of

« AnteriorContinuar »