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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/521

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THE STORY OF A SCHOOL.

that; and, finally, he became angry and disgusted, and took himself away permanently. I watched this affair with much interest as a psychological experiment, but with some anxiety lest the moral leprosy should spread; but the character of the school told, and I was superfluous.

Another instance discloses something of the spirit prevailing among our students. The use of tobacco was discouraged incidentally in a variety of ways. We had a beautiful new building, and great care was taken to preserve it free from filth of any kind. A tobacco-stain, when observed, was removed at once with scrubbing-brush and sand. The physiology class, too, came upon the question of the action of tobacco upon the tissues of the body, and, besides, there was felt to be a social discredit in its use. One evening, while waiting for the mail at the post-office, a number of students on the same errand gathered about, and our talk turned on school matters. Allusion was made to our freedom from the restraint of rules. A late comer remarked: "But you have one rule, I understand. No one must use tobacco on the school premises." I assured him that, though I was opposed to the use of tobacco, I did not prohibit it. "But," I said, "no gentleman will soil the floor of a room occupied by ladies; and this fact, being understood, prevents its use more effectually than a positive prohibition." So powerful was the social reprobation of this filthy habit, that forty young men, of their own will, gave up the practice. It will thus be seen that our moral training, too, was largely incidental; it was implicit in every detail of school-life.

As will already have been anticipated, we dispensed with all distinctive religious services. I had carefully observed the effect in school and college throughout a long period of years, and had been forced to conclude that the evil results vastly outweighed the good. I had noticed that stated Bible-reading often became a mere lifeless form, in which many took no interest. This was contrary to the whole spirit of my system, "Vain repetitions," leading to a habit of regarding words apart from thought, were to be carefully avoided. Then, again, the teachings were dogmatic, appealing to authority, while science regards authority as an impertinence. Besides, the Constitution of the United States places its whole machinery upon a strictly secular basis, and religious services in a State school are there upon sufferance. No matter how carefully guarded, the daily performance of any religious service degenerates into formalism, and excites in the community sectarian animosities.

But, above all, I wished to place morals upon a scientific basis, so as to furnish a safe guide to conduct, independent of the shifting standards of theological belief. We, who received our appointments from the State, could not, honestly, either promote or