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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 1.djvu/512

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WE hold educational reform to be the first and most important of all reforms. There are many things in this world that need amendment, and, happily, there are plenty of people willing to help on the work. By diversity of tastes and division of labor, the business of reform is taken up piecemeal, and it is but natural that each party should clamor for the precedence of its own projects over all others. Some think the world is only to be regenerated by reforming its drinks, others its meats, others its recreations, and others its times of labor. Some are sure that what society most needs is better land-laws, others that it is better revenue regulations, and others, again, wider suffrage or free-trade, or a closer sorting of office-holders. Admitting that much good is yet to be attained in all these directions, there still remains a more radical and comprehensive task of reform. Our notion is. that the great agency which undertakes to prepare human beings for their work in life by awakening and directing their feelings, and by furnishing them with ideas and knowledge, is in extreme need of thorough amendment. Because, as men feel and think, so will they act; as are its constituents, so will be society; and, until people are better instructed in the things which pertain to their true welfare, all other reformatory schemes will yield but partial and unsatisfactory results.

But the phrase "educational reform" is vague and capable of various meanings. That phase of it which is destined to work out the most extensive and salutary effects will consist, we believe, in reconstituting the general methods of study upon a scientific basis. What the world wants now, to give effect to philanthropic aspiration, is to know what to do and how to do it, and the great means to this end must be found in comprehensive scientific education. But there is much misapprehension and some misrepresentation as to what is properly meant by scientific education. Its advocates urge the increasing study of science, and it is charged that they would make education consist in the bare acquisition of physical facts. They protest against the excess of traditional studies, and are reproached with the desire to sever our mental connection with the past. They object to the time given to Greek and Latin, and are accused of being the enemies of language in education. In short, they ask the introduction of new studies into an old system which already covers the whole ground and occupies all the time; and, as this can only be done by abandoning much that is established and venerated, the advocates of this change are characterized as the narrow-minded foes of all liberal culture.

These imputations are, however, erroneous and unjust. What the advocates of scientific reform in education demand is, not that everybody shall become chemists, or astronomers, or geologists, or that the past shall be ignored, or language neglected; but they demand that the unfolding mind of the age shall be put into more direct relation with the present realities of the world than our traditional culture allows. They ask but the thorough modernization of educational systems; and, as the characteristic and controlling element of modern thought is science, they maintain that this should be the characteristic and controlling element of culture. They are the enemies of neither literature, language, nor his-