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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/685

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THE STATE AS AN EDUCATOR.

state is the most efficient educator of youth. The vastness of the enterprise demands the most rigorous system. But the more rigorous the system the less room will there be for the development of individual differences. The tendency of such a system is to make the mind a mere receptacle which receives its daily portion of mental pabulum. Even if trained to think at all, they must of necessity be trained to think very much alike, which is but little better than no thought. In other words, as the system grows stronger the individual grows proportionally weaker.

China, whose philosophers first recognized the supremacy of force, and whose moralists gave us a code which, after twenty-five centuries have elapsed, is yet too exalted for practical life, was reduced to her present condition, not for want of talent, of which she had much, but by a most rigorous system of state education, which consisted, not of investigating new phenomena, but of conning by rote what their ancestors had taught them. But we need not go to the Orient to witness the effects of state education. Germany has a most unyielding system, whose fruits are already beginning to ripen. This gigantic system, the pride of the Old World and the wonder of the New, is fast reducing the German mind to a mere repository of facts and figures. It will be remembered that no one can enter a German university until he has spent nine years in the gymnasium, chiefly upon Latin and Greek. To show the influence of such a course of study, I can do no better than to quote the words of Lord Macaulay, who says: "Unfortunately, those grammatical and philological studies, without which it was impossible to understand the great works of Athenian and Roman genius, have a tendency to contract the views and deaden the sensibilities of those who follow them with extreme assiduity. A powerful mind which has been long employed in such studies may be compared to the gigantic spirit in the Arabian tale, who was persuaded to contract himself to small dimensions in order to enter within the enchanted vessel, and, when his prison had been closed upon him, found himself unable to escape from the narrow boundaries to the measure of which he had reduced himself."

France until recently had a most perfect system of state instruction. No private schools could be established without a license from the Minister of Education, and these might be closed at any moment by a simple order from that officer. Under this system France made rapid strides toward that condition in which China has so long remained. M. de Tocqueville, that clear-headed Frenchman to whom America owes so much, remarked that his countrymen of his day were much more alike than their ancestors even of the next previous generation.

There are reasons why the effects of state education will not so readily discover themselves in America. In the first place, our system is yet very imperfect. But the chief reason is our extensive foreign