and is considered, as far as this test is concerned, to possess brainpower far beyond that of the unfortunate Brown, who was nearly last in this same examination.
Twenty years elapse, and Smith and Brown meet. Smith has jogged on in the usual routine; he may have never either said or done a foolish thing. Brown, on the other hand, is a man of wide reputation, has written clever books, and done many clever things; yet people who know his early history say how strange it was that he was so stupid when he was young, for he was ignominiously "spun" at Woolwich!
Those who thus speak imagine that the examination at which Smith succeeded and Brown failed was a test of their brain-power. It was in reality nothing of the kind; it was merely a test of the relative experience of those who trained Smith and Brown.
Even thus far it will be evident that our present supposed tests are not infallible; but we will go even further, and will examine the actual work itself which is supposed to be the great test of mental capacity, and we can divide this work into two classes—namely, acquired knowledge, and the power to reason. In nearly every case, the training which enables a youth to pass a competitive examination belongs to the first class—acquired knowledge. It consists of a knowledge of mathematical rules and formulæ, classics, modern languages, history, and geography. Mathematics, if properly taught, and especially geometry, tends to strengthen the mind and fit it to reason; but it too often happens that a youth is crammed with mathematics for a particular examination, and he has not mentally digested what he has thus been crammed with; and consequently, instead of his mind having been strengthened by this process, it has in reality become weakened; and ten or fifteen years after the examination, the man—then in his maturity—derives no advantage from his formerly acquired knowledge, because he has forgotten it. He merely suffers from the mental repletion of his younger days, and dislikes mathematics; just as a pastry-cook's boy is said to abhor tarts and buns, because he was crammed with them when he first was placed among such temptations. A knowledge of modern languages is useful to those who travel, or who wish to become acquainted with the literature of other countries; but, as a test of brain-power, the acquisition of any language fails. There is no language in use which is based on anything but arbitrary rules; reason has no influence on languages. The selection in French, for example, of masculines and feminines, is most unreasonable. Why should a chair in French be given petticoats, and a stool placed in breeches? Why should the sun be considered masculine, and the moon feminine? In German, the same arbitrary rules exist—the masculines, feminines, and neuters have no reason to guide them. Take a child of five year's old, and a clever man of twenty-five—let each use only the same exertion to acquire a knowledge of any spoken language,