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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/642

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

engine of a species entirely imaginary—one which it is impossible to construct but very easy to understand," referring to Carnot's engine. In like manner, if one would command confidence as a draughtsman he must be a mechanic as well. And, finally, if I am a student of words alone, and if I go not beyond my dictionaries, I shall never guess their meaning. A large proportion of our emphatic words are technical; they belonged originally to some craft, and none but a craftsman knows their exact meaning. President Eliot, of Harvard, once said that the highest education was that which gave one the fullest and most accurate use of his mother-tongue. I would modify the statement, and claim that the highest and most liberal education is that which, besides cultivating most fully the powers of thought, gives one full command of all the arts of expression.

I need not remark that many, perhaps most thoughts, do not admit of concrete nor even of pictorial expression, as, for example, all abstractions; hence they suffer seriously from want of clearness. If you have a clear thought on abstract matters you can never be sure you have expressed it clearly.

Before we devote ourselves exclusively to the arts of expression, we must cultivate all the faculties and encourage the growth of thoughts worthy of expression. The thought must precede its expression by any method, and in the cultivation of the thinking mind the concrete should precede the abstract. Give children clear and accurate thoughts of real things, of the material world we live in, of real plants and animals, of the laws of materials, of qualities and then of quantities, before you venture on the field of abstractions. Before you cultivate the high arts, make sure of the low ones; without them as a foundation no superstructure of fine art can stand overnight. As Emerson says (in "Man, the Reformer"): "We must have a basis for our higher accomplishments, our delicate entertainments of poetry and philosophy, in the work of our hands. We must have an antagonism in the tough world for all the variety of our spiritual faculties, or they will not be born."

A habit of clear thinking once formed will never leave us, however abstract our investigations become; while a habit of stopping short with ill-defined results, of resting content with obscure and half-grown mental images, a mental attitude of fogginess, has a stultifying effect which seriously dwarfs the mind. This is a most important subject, but I have place for but a few words of exhortation. Give children clear thoughts, and begin with the concrete. When the mind is too weary or too sick to clear up obscurities, it is time to seek rest and recreation and fresh air. Beware of straining the powers of attention by too much schooling; beware of overtaxing the mind by too many and too difficult subjects, and especially beware of poisoning the blood and debilitating the brain by bad air. The fruit of any and all these evils is mental as well as physical decrepitude.