Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

ROUTINE AND IDEALS

A SCHOOL AND COLLEGE ADDRESS

THE older I grow, the more strongly I feel that the best thing in man or woman is being " there." Physical bravery, which is always inspiring, is surprisingly common ; but the sure and steady quality of being "there" belongs to comparatively few. This is why we hear on every hand, "If you want a thing well done, do it yourself;" not because the man who wants it done is best able to do it, but because to many persons it seems a hopeless quest to look for any one who cares enough for them, who can put himself vigorously enough into their places, to give them his best, to give them intelligent, unremitting, loyal service until the job is done, — not half done, or nine tenths done, or ninety-nine hundredths done, but done, with intelligence and devotion in every nail he drives, or every comma he writes. Some are reluctant, some afraid of doing more than they are paid for, some indifferent, some obligingly helpful but not well trained and not so deeply devoted as to train themselves. I suppose that in one sphere of life or another a number of these persons earn what they get. Yet sometimes I think there are only two kinds of service, — that which is not worth having at any price, and that for which no money can pay. All of us know a few who give this latter kind of service, and know what they are to us, and to every one with whom they deal. These are the people who are " there."

Now being "there" is the result of three things, — intelligence, constant practice, and something hard to define but not too fancifully called an ideal. Of intelligence everybody can see the need; but not everybody knows how little quickness of mind is required. As Senator Hoar once told the highest scholars in Harvard College, much of the good work in the world has been that of dull men who have done their best. Moderate intelligence, with devotion behind it. and with constant exercise \r} the right direction, has produced some of the most valuable among me_n_and women.

The best thing education can do is to make moral character efficient through mental discipline. Here we come to the need of training, and to the question whether the education of to-day trains boys and girls (I do not say as it should, but as it might) for thorough, and responsible, and unselfish work.

Professor A. S. Hill cautions writers against "announcing platitudes as if they were oracles," and against "apologizing for them as if they were original sin." I am in danger of both these transgressions. In proclaiming that there is no education without hard work, I may seem to proclaim a platitude of the first water; yet you can hardly call any proposition a platitude if its acceptance depends on its interpretation. To me the proposition means, nobody can get an education without working for it; to some others it appears to mean, nobody can get an education without other people's working to give it to him, or even to make him like it well enough to take it; and my interpretation, that he cannot get it without working hard himself, though it strikes me as so obvious that I am half ashamed to mention it, strikes others as a reversion to a narrow and harsh conservatism, to the original sin of a time when an education was a Procrustes bed, which now strained and stretched the mind until it broke, and now lopped every delicate outgrowth of the soul.

Of all discoveries in modern education the most beautiful is the recognition of individual need and individual claim, of the infinite and fascinating variety in human capacity, of the awful responsibility for those who by the pressure of dull routine would stifle a human soul, of the almost divine mission for those who help a human soul into the fulness of life. For what is nearer the divine than to see that a child has life, and has it more abundantiy? "The past was wrong," says the educator of to-day; "let us right it. Education has been dark and cruel; let us make it bright and kind." Thus it comes to pass that, as many a prosperous father whose boyhood was pinched by poverty is determined that his son shall not suffer as he himself has suffered, and throws away on him money which he in turn throws away on folly and on vice, — as such a father saps a young man's strength in trying to be generous, so does many an educator of to-day, atoning for the cruelty of the past by the enervating luxury of the present, sap a child's

« AnteriorContinuar »