Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/720

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side in the great educational controversy between the rival claims of the old classics and the new science. But, to the surprise of nearly everybody, Mr. Mill came out the ultra-defender of the dead languages as against the living languages and modern studies, and went to the utmost extreme iD his vindication of the traditional supremacy of the ancient classics.

It was recognized at the time that this was an anomalous and not fully explicable proceeding. We have it on good authority that, when Mr. Mill was inquired of as to his unexpected course, he excused it by saying that the scientific tendencies of the times are becoming too strong, and require to be checked—an explanation that still needed to be explained. Had Mr. Mill been himself less of a classicist and more of a scientist, less a devotee of the humanities and more a student of nature, he would have seen that these modern scientific tendencies are the inevitable results of a great evolutionary process of the human mind—a movement in the direction of higher knowledge—and no more to be withstood than the unfolding transformations of the natural world or the progress of human society.

But it was at that time too early to get the full explanation of Mr. Mill's position so as to understand his overwhelming bias in favor of the ascendency of dead languages and ancient literature in the collegiate preparation of young men. Not until the appearance of his "Autobiography" and the publication of the "Life of James Mill," his father, by Mr. Bain, was the secret of the situation fully revealed. It was of course known that James Mill was a man of great intellectual capacity and force, and it was believed that the son inherited from him these qualities in an eminent degree. But James Mill was a man who held very positive views on the subject of education, believed profoundly in its omnipotence, and resolved to show, in the case of his son, what it is capable of doing. He was, besides, an infatuated classicist, and a passionate admirer of the Greek language. And when we further remember that he was an iron-willed tyrant, and would not trust his son to other teachers, but himself became his tutor from babyhood to manhood, we can begin to appreciate the kind of influence to which young Mill was subjected. Crammed with classics in his earliest childhood, thinking in Greek at seven years of age, and overloaded with intellectual acquisitions of the highest order by his father's fanatical pedantry, the young fellow's faculties were kept upon the strain during the period of his bodily growth, until he was brought to the verge of insanity before he was yet of age. His strong mental constitution did not give way, but it was so warped and subjugated by his one-sided discipline that he was the last man living from whom to expect an unprejudiced judgment on the subject of mental cultivation.

When, therefore, Mr. Mill came to lay down the broad requirements of higher education, in his St. Andrew's discourse, he reasoned from his own remarkable experience, and insisted upon the inexorable predominance of the studies of which he had himself been made the victim. He went in for the ancient languages and the ancient literature as supreme, and relegated to a secondary place all the great results of modern thought. He ruled out from his curriculum the studies of history, of geography, of modern languages, and modern literature. Admitting the importance of science, he nevertheless assigned it a subordinate place in his scheme of education. Taking little account in his imposing plan either of the limitations of the human mind, the varying grades of human capacity, or the actual circumstances of human beings, he drew a scheme of culture that had but small application to the practical necessities of human life. His