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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/644

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SOME OUTLINES FROM THE HISTORY OF EDUCATION.
By W. R. BENEDICT,

PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY AND LOGIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI.

I.

IT is noticeable that, upon the subjects of education and religion, almost every one believes he has something to say. It is noticeable also that this belief is often quite apart from knowledge or special preparation. In mathematics, we wait for the judgment of the mathematician, in chemistry, for the judgment of the chemist, while in education we wait for no one, but bring forth our opinions loudly and dogmatically. We have, as a pleasant consequence, the fact that the nonsense written and spoken about education is like no other nonsense for completeness, except that written and spoken concerning religion. What fledgling does not think it in his power to produce a helpful tractate about God, his nature and modus operandi? In like manner, who can not write a scientific tractate upon education?

It is a consideration of much moment, when approaching such a subject as education, to reflect that true science ends controversy. The Ptolemaic and Copernican systems may not share the heavens between them. Is it said we have various systems of theology? This is painfully true, the reason being that we have not a scientifically adequate one on the face of the earth. The same is the case with systems of government and political economy. We may safely conclude that the fact of the existence of diverse systems is proof that the given subject has not been reduced to scientific expression.

From earliest times there have been teachers and students; from earliest times great-minded men have given themselves to the work of education. We see throughout Europe ancient seats of learning cared for by governments and reverently regarded. More than this, during the past two, even three centuries, enthusiastic efforts have been made to found education upon its true bases. Most fitting opportunities were granted to men who thought they had the science of the matter; experiment after experiment was tried; and yet to-day we find ourselves in the very thick of the conflict, on the threshold of great changes, and apparently no nearer the education-science. Naturally the question arises, Why is this so? as naturally also the further question, What have we to expect? These inquiries are vitally related, and the answer to the second follows from the answer to the first.

Past endeavors have not given us a science of education because, from the nature of the case, education is the last subject that can become a science. Who is it whom we seek to educate? Man. What