first. The majority of thoughtful people, if questioned, would, I believe, make answer that their own spiritual enlightenment had come from literature that happened to fall within their reading rather than from either pulpit or college chair. It looks very much as if we were leaving to chance—if there be such a thing—what ought to be the object of our mightiest effort.
I should deeply regret any exaggeration of the deficiencies of the school, but I think that I do not err in stating that in many of these institutions the work of true education would be better accomplished were the formal instruction now in vogue entirely abolished, and the children simply brought into daily contact with some living, spiritually-minded man or woman, and through them with the questions of life and with the rich literature of the race.
The end of education being discipline, it is manifest that the subjects chosen for study are less important than the spirit in which the study is pursued. In the atmosphere of a school where this sentiment prevails, almost any curriculum will produce living men. But there are certain branches of study which, better than any others, are calculated to provoke thought and serve the ends of education. There are certain ways of spending the time that promise the richest harvest. To select such studies and employ such modes is indisputably the function of those who attempt to guide the course of education. In this all are certainly agreed. Yet that old notion of the ideal school still hinders the search after these admittedly good things. In many schools the course pursued is much the same as if we mixed the colors on our palette with our eyes shut, and still expected to get the tint desired. The discrepancy between the end sought and the method employed would discourage any one less sophisticated than the average school-man. Hygiene, for example, is taught in rooms so ill-ventilated that the children are fairly pale. Grammar and parsing are inflicted in the blind hope that they may in some occult way influence the language of the child. They rarely do. On some unaccountable theory of culture years are devoted to languages that one will never use, and precious moments squandered on the geography of places one will never see or hear of. And so one might follow the entire list of studies undertaken in the majority of schools. They seem hopelessly inadequate.
In the face of such wide-spread failure it would appear that this search after a suitable scheme for the disposition of the time of children must be very difficult. The truth is, that it is difficult to the verge of the impossible, if one proceeds in this credulous fashion, selecting studies and occupations which bear no relation whatever to the result it is desired to produce, and then calmly trusts that by some alchemistic process these base metals will be transmuted into gold. But the task is not difficult if one goes