Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/570

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mitted to operations that go under the name of mental cultivation. Machine education is of the very lowest sort, and the best that can he said of it is, that it is barely better than nothing at all. The worst difficulty is, that it is not capable of improvement. The method itself is radically false, so that the improvements of it but make it worse. At the same time it borrows influence from its enormous extension and the authority by which it is enforced. The education-factories run in series, each has a complex grading, and the different institutions are intimately belted with each other, and all driven by the motive power of legislation. As might be expected, the whole system is run with a view to popular effect, which is necessarily fatal to the best results.

If the reader will refresh his memory in regard to the first principles of mental cultivation by reading the article, found elsewhere in our pages, entitled "Brain-Power in Education," he will get a clear idea of what must be the necessary outcome of educational mechanics. In the work of the school there are two modes of dealing with the brain; it can be stored with information, or strengthened in its functional operations. True education consists in the development of brain-power in accordance with the laws of its activity, and is simply and always a discipline in spontaneous self-exertion. In the attainment of this object the engineer of the educational machine has very little to do. The office of the teacher is important, but it consists in encouraging, inciting, and arousing the pupil to put forth his own efforts, and when this is most effectually done the result is not of that conspicuous kind that is suitable to make a showy impression at a public parade. No method has yet been devised for exhibiting such results that is not full of rank injustice and that does not put a premium upon inferior work.

But it is wholly different when the object is simply to store the brain. This is an easy process, depending upon external appliances and mechanical arrangements, and is capable of being so organized and driven that a shallow and vicious system shall win the highest public applause. As the article referred to explains, it is impossible to get indexes of the hardest brain-work that are fitted to astonish gaping outsiders; but, when it is a question of merely stuffing with acquisitions, nothing is easier than to invent methods by which the results may be strikingly displayed. Hence the marking system which professes to indicate degrees of proficiency and educational results, and which gives so much business to teachers, examiners, inspectors, and superintendents, and enables them to report to boards of control, to parents, and to the public the wonderful success of the institution. This is machine education in its perfection, and the worst of it is, that it excludes the possibility of rational education. The two things are incompatible, for that which can be shown with effect is sure to take precedence of that which can not be exhibited, and brain-storing will proceed at the expense of the self-activity by which mental power is alone acquired. The subjects, moreover, that are most favorable to storing will take the lead and come to be fundamental in machine education. The whole mechanism of the public-school system is now impelled by law in this bad direction. The higher schools react upon the lower, to stimulate the method. Competition for promotion fires the vanity of the pupils, and parental influence conspires to heighten the result.

A new confirmation of this bad state of things has been recently elicited by the New York "Mail and Express," which has started a little inquest of its own into the working of the public schools. A reporter was sent to question the different teachers and officials on various points, and the information he