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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/765

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THE STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE: A PROGRAMME.

it is said that the carrying out of such arrangements as those indicated must enhance the cost of production, and thus handicap the producer in the race of competition, I venture, in the first place, to doubt the fact; but if it be so, it results that industrial society has to face a dilemma, either horn of which threatens impalement.

On the one hand, a population whose labor is sufficiently remunerated may be physically and morally healthy and socially stable, but may fail in industrial competition by reason of the dearness of its produce. On the other hand, a population whose labor is insufficiently remunerated must become physically and morally unhealthy, and socially unstable; and though it may succeed for a while in industrial competition, by reason of the cheapness of its produce, it must in the end fall, through hideous misery and degradation, to utter ruin.

Well, if these are the only possible alternatives, let us for ourselves and our children choose the former, and, if need be, starve like men. But I do not believe that a stable society made up of healthy, vigorous, instructed, and self-ruling people would ever incur serious risk of that fate. They are not likely to be troubled with many competitors of the same character, and they may be safely trusted to find ways of holding their own.

 

Assuming that the physical and moral well-being and the stable social order, which are the indispensable conditions of permanent industrial development, are secured, there remains for consideration the means of attaining that knowledge and skill, without which, even then, the battle of competition can not be successfully fought. Let us consider how we stand. A vast system of elementary education has now been in operation among us for sixteen years, and has reached all but a very small fraction of the population. I do not think that there is any room for doubt that, on the whole, it has worked well, and that its indirect no less than its direct benefits have been immense. But, as might be expected, it exhibits the defects of all our educational systems—fashioned as they were to meet the wants of a by-gone condition of society. There is a widespread, and I think well-justified, complaint that it has too much to do with books and too little to do with things. I am as little disposed as any one can well be to narrow early education and to make the primary school a mere annex of the shop. And it is not so much in the interests of industry as in that of breadth of culture, that I echo the common complaint against the bookish and theoretical character of our primary instruction.

If there were no such things as industrial pursuits, a system of education which does nothing for the faculties of observation, which trains neither the eye nor the hand, and is compatible with utter ignorance of the commonest natural truths, might still be reasonably regarded as strangely imperfect. And when we consider that the instruction and training which are lacking are exactly those which are