Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/721

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ideal university was, therefore, but a cloud-land romance. Its course of studies, patterned on his own comprehensive erudition, was little else than an elaborate recipe for making John Stuart Mills. lie forgot that, whatever may be a man's native intellectual power, universality must be the eternal equivalent of superficiality, and he was himself a striking illustration of this forgotten truth. His acquaintance with science was so superficial that he was compelled to seek the aid of others in getting even the scientific illustrations needful for the exposition of his great work on logic. We do not go too far in saying that he lost his hold upon the age as a philosophic thinker by his want of command of the great scientific results of modern inquiry. He had been so long and so thoroughly steeped in the spirit of antiquity that he was disqualified for appreciating the grand import of modern ideas. He was a powerful student of human affairs, but from the antiquated point of view. He was in the Golden-Age, Paradise-Lost dispensation of thought in which the notions of the early perfection of mankind and the superiority of the ancients were contrasted with the degeneracy of the moderns, and so completely was his intellect possessed and perverted by this view, that he was disabled from appreciating the immense and epoch-making influence of the modern doctrine of evolution.

Yet palpable as were its exaggerations, and preposterous as were its estimates of the relative importance of different kinds of knowledge, the St. Andrew's address had an extensive and a very injurious influence. It was a godsend for the declining classical cause, for, although Mr. Mill condemned unsparingly the existing teaching of classics, its partisans cared nothing for that, so long as he conceded the predominance of classical claims. So his authority became a new bulwark for the defense of established abuses. It strengthened the hands of educational obstructives, and the specious arguments offered for the exaltation of ancient learning re-enforced all its arrogant and exclusive pretensions. The commendations of science went for nothing, as the magnitude of the classical claims left no room for them. Mr. Mill labored to extend the already excessive influence of dead-language studies in the colleges, and the power of his name was thus effectually arrayed against the rising demands of modern knowledge.


We have recalled this memorable discourse of Mr. Mill at the present time, because it is a landmark in the recent history of the controversy, and because since its publication the subject of dead languages in the colleges has had no such vigorous shake-up as has been given to it by Mr. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., in his telling address delivered before the Harvard chapter of the fraternity of the Phi Beta Kappa on June 28th. Mr. Adams is, of course, on the side of modern studies as against the classics. Into the argument as presented by Mr. Mill he does not enter, nor does he deny the transcendent benefits which some allege they have derived from the study of dead languages. But, not concerned with its ideals, he deals with the current classical education as a familiar fact, and tests it by its actual fruits. His point of view is that of common, well-to-do people, who demand the advantages of a higher education, but whose time of study is limited, and who must pass from the college to the labors and struggles of every-day life. Appealing to experience, to hard practical results, he finds himself compelled to condemn the system as a failure, a defeat of the true and highest purposes of education, an outrageous wrong to youth, and in its stubborn persistence against all the dictates of common sense a scandal to the intelligence of the age. Mr. Adams, moreover, proves his case. We