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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/658

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

or Semitic electricity, or Roman magnetism; it bids any and every people welcome that will promote science and lend it help.

When we remember that the natural sciences began only about a century ago to strive for a place in the state; that before that date they had been nothing more than the private affair of exceptional minds; that for the first half of our century even they played absolutely no part in public education, but only ran a tolerated subcourse with it in the universities, and were utterly unnoticed both in the lower schools and in special seminaries; that in my younger days a man might be regarded as cultivated without having the faintest notion of any natural science whatever; and that it was made a reproach to men like Goethe that they took any interest in the sciences, and showed an active concern about them—when we think of all this, and compare with it the circumstances of our day, and the tendencies of our times, we understand at once why those authorities who would step backward into bygone ages prefer so-called classical education and favor all the influences that have clung to it since mediæval days—why they would restore to the word that authority which is claimed to-day by the fact, and why those who are still paddling about in that cultivation, handed down to us from the middle ages, seize on every straw they fancy able to keep them above water. An instinct tells these half-taught noodles that the ground is slipping away from them; that a day is rapidly drawing near when those branches of knowledge, which they assert as of universal need for every man who claims to be cultivated, shall be worthless except as specialities; when only one here and there will trouble himself about whether some crowned cowherd marched with his mates on a plundering slave-hunt, as in Homer's times; and when the knowledge of Nature and her laws must come to the front as always indispensable to a liberal education. Just as that man, a century or so ago, was looked on as wholly neglected and uneducated who had not toiled at his school-desk over the scanning of Latin verses, so will people no long time hence be surprised at the careless lack of training: in that man who has not mastered the mechanism of the telegraph or the laws of heat long before he takes his way to the university.

"My good man," wrote a Hessian landgrave at the beginning of the last century to his postmaster, who had cudgeled a royal messenger—"my good man, we have heard with the highest displeasure the steps you have presumed on in your inborn coarseness and clownishness." I don't know whether the Landgrave laid great stress on the word "inborn," but he certainly used it with the feeling that the case was one of inherited peculiarity. Now, in that day classical education held sole and undisputed rule; could it have pushed back heredity and stifled it by nobler growths?

Most surely not; and what classical training could not avail to do in centuries when it held sole sway, it is still more powerless to effect