Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/129

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

activities which directly minister to self preservation"; and, next, "those activities which secure the necessaries of life, and so indirectly minister to self-preservation"; and then "those which have for their end the rearing and discipline of offspring." The social and political relations come next in importance; and, finally, those matters of literature and art which belong to the leisure part of life. Mr. Sill says that this scheme is fundamentally erroneous, and, in fact, "the exact reverse of the truth." Bodily and material interests are studiously belittled. Mr. Sill says: "The ordinary man, unenlightened by education, manages pretty well this matter of getting a living for his body; which is, no doubt, a necessary condition to any intellectual life, but is intrinsically of considerably less importance than that higher end, which alone, indeed, gives it any value whatever." Again, "As to the body, and as to the getting a living for it, and even as to the care of offspring, something may be left to nature and to natural instinct"; and yet again, when a youth has first become "an intelligent man," according to the traditional ideal, "he will be able to get his handy information for himself afterward, as happens to be most useful to him."

This undisguised contempt of a knowledge of the human constitution and the conditions of its welfare is more than classical. The ancients were ignorant of these things, and therefore indifferent to them; it is only in the degraded scholastic ages that we find the body and bodily interests systematically undervalued and despised. But better reasons could be given in those days for hating and crucifying the corporeal nature than can now be given for neglecting to study and understand it. Mr. Sill reasons that it is only the "higher end" which it subserves which gives man's bodily organism any value whatever; and this higher end is "spiritual enlargement," and, as spiritual enlargement is to come by vital contact "with the living men who thought in Latin and Greek," we arrive at the luminous conclusion that the final purpose of the human constitution is to acquire a knowledge of the dead languages. If this is the upshot of our existence, Mallock's question, "Is life worth living?" is not, after all, so futile. But, if we grant that it is worth living, that knowledge is of first importance which qualifies us to preserve it. To disparage this knowledge, to discourage it, or to crowd it out by any other knowledge whatever, on any pretext, is nothing less than a crime. That life is imperiled on all sides, by agencies working so variously and so fatally, and to the ignorant so mysteriously, that Divine Providence is constantly accused of arbitrary interference to destroy it, is undeniable. Science alone has furnished that knowledge of the human organism and of surrounding nature that confers the power of warding off the causes of death, and thus leads to a more reverent view of the government of the world. Eight and left, and every day, and all around us, men, women, and children are struck down and sent to unripe graves for lack of the knowledge which science has given of the avoidable causes of death. And the same thing may be said of a great number of the diseases by which, if life is not ended, it is turned into a calamity and a curse. Again, science informs us concerning the operation of those numerous causes by which vitality is depressed, the bodily and mental constitution enfeebled and undermined, and existence made worthless for all its better purposes. And, yet again, we owe to science the knowledge of those laws and conditions of the human organism by which it may be improved, increased in its capacities of enjoyment, and augmented in its powers of effective action.

Classical education is worthless for all these objects. It leaves its victims in a state of ignorance as baleful as that