Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/637

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By Professor C. M. WOODWARD, Ph. D.,


WITH his gentle lance Emerson pricked many a bubble, and, though collapse did not always follow immediately, the wound was always fatal. In 1844, in his essay on New England reformers, he charged popular education with a want of truth and nature. He complained that an education to things was not given. Said he: "We are students of words; we are shut up in schools and colleges and recitation-rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing. We can not use our hands, or our legs, or our eyes, or our arms." And again, speaking of the exclusive devotion of the schools to Latin, Greek, and mathematics, "which, by a wonderful drowsiness of usage" had been "stereotyped education, as the manner of men is," he says: "In a hundred high-schools and colleges this warfare against common sense still goes on. ... Is it not absurd that the whole liberal talent of this country should be directed in its best years on studies that lead to nothing?"

This is evidently too severe, bat we must admit that Emerson anticipated and greatly aided a reform which has been gathering strength for a whole generation. Hence it is to-day scarcely necessary that I should present arguments in favor of manual education. The great tidal-wave of conviction is sweeping over our whole land, and the attitude and aspect of men are greatly changed from what they were ten years ago. What I said in 1873 in a public address in favor of technical education was held to be rank heresy. I fear it would be regarded as rather commonplace to-day. The progressive spirit of the age has actually penetrated our thick hides, and we are trying to keep step with the universe.

In every community the demands of technical education have been discussed, and, in every instance when the old system has been subjected to the tests which good sense applies to business, it has been found wanting.

Defective Education.—Is, then, I ask—is the education we give as broad and round and full as it ought to be? Is the time of tutelage most wisely spent? Do the results we secure justify the means and methods we use? Is the relation between education and morality as close as it should be? Does our education fill the definition of

  1. Address delivered at Saratoga Springs, New York, on Thursday, July 13th, before the joint meeting of the National Teachers' Association and the American Institute of Instruction.