Excessive Schooling


Excessive Schooling.—The status and prospects of education were recently discussed by Lord Justice Bowen, of England, in an address at the London Workingmen's College. The speaker's view is described as one of "subdued hope." While education has within our day undergone changes that are hardly less than revolutionary, he admits that they have not been wholly for good. "The stream of knowledge has spread far and wide beyond its accustomed banks; it does not flow everywhere at its old depth. The first result of the flood is to fill the land with what seems to be a mighty river; the next is to hide to all but practiced eyes the course of the true stream. There is a wide expanse of waters, but they are almost everywhere shallow and very often muddy." Our modern education has been too largely vulgarized. The quality of the supply is inevitably affected by the quantity of the demand. The half-trained multitude can not distinguish between the best and the second best; and prolific mediocrity is at a premium. Yet we must not be too sadly disappointed that our overwrought expectations have not been wholly fulfilled. The more prudent advocates of popular education never pretended to present it as a cure-all. They never thought that it was designed to supersede morality and religion. They never expected that it would at once remove all social distinctions or polish intellectual pewter into sterling silver. They have confined themselves to a modest trust that it may do something. It has done something already, and they humbly believe it will do more. Time is needed to measure the consequences of so great a social change. The new leaven has been spread among large classes of the nation hardly touched by it until yesterday. As one great benefit it has rendered the competitive system possible in the public service, and has saved the country from the evils of nepotism, and from the worse evils of a political scramble for the spoils. But competition is not a good thing in itself—only a "sad necessity." "The cultivation for market purposes of brute brain power" may, indeed, have its uses. It probably saves a large number of fairly able men from their innate inclination to sheer idleness, and it probably provides the public services with a regular supply of fairly competent recruits. But it can never, except by accident, breed a competent scholar. Its direct tendency is to divert the thoughts of those engaged in it from all that the real lover of learning and literature seeks with a constant love. But even the diffusion of "mediocre culture" gives the average masses a better chance of fulfilling their vocation than did the reign of general ignorance that prevailed among them not many years ago.