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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/457

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THE SPIRIT OF MANUAL TRAINING.

children. Oppressed with weariness, we paint our heaven as a place of eternal rest. As well might we extol the lifeless moon above the sentient earth. It is no wonder that men fear death, and hear with chill delight the holy name of heaven. Through all our human institutions there runs this same unnaturalness and inconsistency acting like a constant brake upon our progress. In theory we adore this progress, but the seraphim of our secret altars are insoluble, infusible, unchangeable. In the school this inconsistency of ours has been particularly glaring and particularly disastrous. We have found our imagination of sufficient compass to span the distance between man and protoplasm, but it seems to have halted at the less difficult task of recognizing that the principle of evolution is still working, and that the educational demands of one age are not the demands of all ages.

The cause of education, however, will be but poorly served if one demolish without building up again with as much zeal as he tears down. Nor must one complain too bitterly of an institution which, in spite of its short-comings, has assisted to produce in the community a culture sufficient to recognize them. But it would be well to remember that the school can never be made to conform to any crystallographic habit, however beautiful. Let it be regarded as what it is, simply a tool and a very plastic one at that, not too sacred to be sharpened and altered, whenever by so doing it can be made to accomplish better work.

The great question, then, concerning the schools is a very simple one: What effect has the institution upon its pupils? What sort of men and women does it make out of them? It is not what studies are taught, or what accomplishments are imparted, or what extent of information is bestowed. These considerations have their proper importance, but they are secondary; the real test is deeper. The standard so far has been too material. We want now something more spiritual. It is a truism to say that the function of the school is not to instruct, but to educate; but it is a truism which has not yet been taken sufficiently to heart to be translated into a fact. Struck by the manifest inadequacy of the ordinary school in preparing boys to meet the problems of life, a somewhat vehement reformer has declared that America has succeeded, not because of her public-school system, but in spite of it. The exaggeration is evident. There are many, however, who can not help feeling that as a moral force the modern school, whether public or private, has been scarcely less than impotent. It has given itself up to the business of instruction, and has found little or no time for the infinitely more important work of development. The whole force of the school should be devoted to the one supreme issue—the boy himself. If, while you are making a man, you can also make a scholar, it will be well, but look to the man