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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/131

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

from childhood to manhood, but a knowledge of Latin and Greek, with a little English and arithmetic, we have here the strongest testimony that their knowledge of the former is most inaccurate, and their knowledge of the latter contemptible."

And now let us observe how this thorough-going system is characterized by one who has had the best possible opportunities for observing and knowing its results. In a lecture delivered before the Royal Institution of Great Britain, by the Rev. F. W. Farrar, a distinguished author and philologist, and who was one of the masters of Harrow School, and for thirteen years a classical teacher, we have the following estimate of the present value of the system. Canon Farrar says: "I must, then, avow my own deliberate opinion, arrived at in the teeth of the strongest possible bias and prejudice in the opposite direction—arrived at with the fullest possible knowledge of every single argument which may be urged on the other side—I must avow my distinct conviction that our present system of exclusively classical education, as a whole, and carried out as we do carry it out, is a deplorable failure. I say it, knowing that the words are strong words, but not without having considered them well; and I say it because that system has been 'weighed in the balance and found wanting.' It is no epigram, but a simple fact, to say that classical education neglects all the powers of some minds, and some of the powers of all minds. In the case of the few it has a value which, being partial, is unsatisfactory; in the case of the vast multitude it ends in utter and irremediable waste."

In speaking of the defects in teaching the dead languages, President Porter refers to the superiority in some points of English over American methods. He says: "The culture and elevation which might come were the power of rapid and facile reading cultivated, and the use of it, or the expression of thought and feeling appreciated, fail in great measure to be attained. These mistakes and failures are probably more conspicuous in the American colleges than in those of England or Germany, for the reason that in England composition in prose and verse compels to a certain mastery of the vocabulary, and a sense of the use of words which mere grammatical analysis can never impart."

Certainly, if anywhere, we should expect to find in these critical constructive exercises in "composition in prose and verse," which President Porter recognizes as a special excellence of the English teaching, the most successful exemplification of the benefits of classical culture. But Canon Farrar refers to this very practice in the following scathing terms as the worst failure of the system: "To myself, trained in the system for years, and training others in it for years—being one of those who succeeded in it, if that amount of progress which has been thought worthy of high classical honors in two universities may be called success—influenced, therefore, by every conceivable prejudice of authority, experience, and personal vanity in its favor, I can only give my emphatic conclusion that every year the practice of it appears to me increasingly deplorable, and the theory of it every year increasingly absurd."

After giving some examples, this disgusted but but unusually candid classical teacher thus proceeds: "This is the sort of 'kelp and brick-dust' used to polish the cogs of their mental machinery! And when, for a good decade of human life, and those its most invaluable years, a boy has stumbled on this dreadful mill-round, without progressing a single step, and is plucked at his matriculation for Latin prose, we flatter ourselves, forsooth, that we have been giving him the best means for learning Latin quotations, for improving taste (or what passes for such), for ac-