Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/722

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venture to assert that no candid person can read this production, in connection with that of Mill, without recognizing that, to all the intents and purposes of the discussion, the American student of railroads has given a crushing answer to the English philosopher.

We are first of all glad to recognize that Mr. Adams has dealt with the subject with the freedom of entire fearlessness, and has set a much-needed example. He has not minced matters, but has boldly and bluntly said what a great many others think but hesitate to express. There is a good deal more intense conviction upon this matter than gets publicly uttered. Most men who have invested in classical education, and find that they have been sold, are anything but eager to acknowledge it. Having been cheated, they prefer to keep quiet about it. But Mr. Adams told the authorities of Harvard College to their faces that he had been victimized by their policy, and was there to arraign it on that very intelligible ground. In most explicit terms he characterized the worthlessness of the fundamental studies of that school, and which are the fundamental studies of most other colleges. But little further progress is to be made in the way of plain speaking when the staple of college study is openly denounced in the halls consecrated to it, and in the congregated presence of all parties to it, not only as a superstition, but as a superstition of the lowest and grossest sort. Greek and Latin, as pursued in our higher institutions, he pronounced to be nothing less or other than a "college fetich." It is among the native African negroes that fetichism is in most eminent vogue. A fetich is some object, no matter what—a tree, a mountain, a beast, a bit of wood, a lion's tail, an old bone—which the besotted native adores as possessed of religious potency, and to which he ascribes marvelous or magical power. A "college fetich" is, therefore, a study which is looked upon with a kind of stupid veneration, as capable of exerting mysterious and wonderful influences upon the minds of those devoted to it. The dead-language fetich is a matter of blind adoration. It is of but little use to argue against it—of but little use to reason with the fetichistic state of mind—for the peculiarity of any inveterate superstition is that it may be riddled with logic through and through, and its absurdity demonstrated over and over, without impairing in the slightest degree the mystical faith in its efficacy. Mr. Adams, therefore, confined himself mainly to an exposure of the results of the dead-language superstition, as he knew it and had suffered by it, in the college which gave him his education. His point of view was thus indicated: "To-day, whether I want to or not. I must speak from individual experience. Indeed, I have no other ground on which to stand. I am not a scholar; I am not an educator; I am not a philosopher; but I submit that, in educational matters, individual practical experience is entitled to some weight. Not one man in ten thousand can contribute anything to this discussion in the way of more profound views or deeper insight. Yet any concrete actual experience, if it be only simply and directly told, may prove a contribution of value, and that contribution we all can bring. An average college graduate, I am here to subject the college theories to the practical test of an experience in the tussle of life." Mr. Adams then describes how he entered the Latin School and learned two grammars by heart, and spent five years in mastering "the other rudiments of what we are pleased to call a liberal education," and then went through Harvard College, devoting himself industriously to all the regulation studies of which Latin and Greek were fundamental. Entering upon active life with his college preparation, he took hold of one of the large problems which has