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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/723

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"sovereign discretion" to extirpate the family in the matter of education, if it may take away a child as soon as it is ready for the Kindergarten, and dictate the whole course of its cultivation, stamping its character with a view to state objects, what else may it not do, and what becomes of the vaunted freedom of the citizen? The doctrine belongs to despotism, and was first and fitly practiced in Prussia as a means of shaping subjects to the uses of kingly power.

And now what is the state that claims such prerogatives in virtue of its sovereignty, and proposes to take the education of the whole community into its own hands? Divested of the glamour that surrounds this venerable abstraction, that which remains of actual reality is simply a lot of men got together to carry on the practical work of government. The state lives in the life of its representatives. It exists only as embodied in its officials. Certain men are chosen to make, repeal, and execute the laws, and these are the state. The state can do whatever they can do; the state is whatever they are. But we are not yet down to the naked reality. The community is divided into two great political parties, and the one that beats by numbers at election takes the government. Successful office-seekers, therefore, constitute the state. Those who succeed in partisan politics are those who cultivate the art of partisan politics. What these arts are, and what is the general quality of those who win by them, we need not say. But it is notorious that men of intelligence, integrity, and character are not successful partisans. It is the intriguers, the wire-pullers, and the crafty, unscrupulous managers in caucus and convention that win, and these men form the state. We do not exaggerate: witness the last Legislature of our own State. Humiliating as it may be to our patriotic pride, every candid person knows it to be a fact that an election under our representative system, with its inevitable caucus and convention machinery, is simply a winnowing out of superior men and the choice of the worst to take the offices of state.

We need not dilate upon the consequences; they are known and read of all men, and the lesson they teach has been freely drawn. If any worthy or meritorious thing is to be done, the significant exclamation is, "In Heaven's name keep it out of politics!" Such, indeed, is the growing disgust with political doings that it is now quixotically proposed to take even office-holding out of politics. And, yet, there are those who would intrust our politicians—ignorant, self-seeking, unscrupulous, and corrupt as the great mass of them are—with the whole work of education in society. Who is so senseless as to look for educational progress in such a condition of things? The system will be turned to the purposes of demagogism as surely as effect follows cause. The management of institutions of learning will become an art of getting state appropriations. The educational system will become rigid in proportion to the extent and complexity of its gradations, and will resist all improvement. Teachers, inspectors, superintendents, become office-holders and stipendiaries under the Government, and all animated with the common purpose of getting their salaries increased. Education, as a function of the states, must become a branch of mercenary politics. And this system, by its vicious growth, and its prestige of authority, and the boundless means at its command, must rival and overcome and extinguish all that private and voluntary interest in the work of education to which we are indebted for the past achievements in this important field of effort. Good may come from state education, but it will not be unmixed good, and it is at least an open question whether the evils of the system, where it is fully