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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/572

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these and all other sections of the Christian community would have to be very vague and non-committal indeed. The whole merit and force of a religious system consist in its teaching authoritatively that which would not otherwise be conveyed to the mind at all; while the essential character of any religious instruction which the state could give would be found in its vagueness and conventionality.

Well, therefore, did the Rev. Dr. W. H. Ward declare that "we may consider it as settled that religion is not to be taught in the public schools—that the American people will not trust the state to teach religion." Manifestly, to give a thing in a weak and diluted form which, to have any virtue, must be given in a strong and concentrated form, is to do more harm than good; and it may safely be said that, if through unwise legislation the formal teaching of religion were begun in the schools by such agencies as the state can command, the result would be disastrous to the cause of religion itself. Dr. Ward took what probably most of his hearers must have regarded as an extreme and dangerous position when he said that "morals do not depend on God"; but, as he meant it, we do not doubt that he expressed a truth. His meaning we take to be that the principles of morality are as capable of formulation without the help even of the theistic hypothesis as those of any other subject of human study. What, after all, are our ideas of God but the highest ideas which our human experience has enabled us to frame? There is no difficulty, then, in teaching morals in the schools without theology—no difficulty, that is to say, in laying down the rules of right conduct as a thing to be practiced here and now for reasons of present validity. But, as Dr. Ward judiciously observed, the best moral teaching will result from the observance of order and discipline, honor and justice, in the management of the school itself. Direct preaching is of doubtful utility; but example tells, and facts are powerful persuaders.

It is possible the late conference may lead some to perceive, as they never did before, the disadvantages connected with making education a branch of politics. In discussing education we should not have to canvass a political situation, but at present that is just what we have to do. And when we engage teachers for our public schools we engage them to follow a prescribed routine, not to throw all their original force and all their deepest convictions into their work. That the highest type of education is not to be had on this plan is evident; and whether the wider diffusion of education, due to state agency, is sufficient to make up for the deterioration in the quality of the article is a most serious question, which we believe the experience of each succeeding year will force more and more on the attention of the community.




Every day is adding to the number of those who believe that ethical standards are the safest guides in the conduct of men's affairs. All such will find good reason to rejoice at the evidence of a dawning conscience in political circles afforded by the recent passage of the copyright bill in the House of Representatives. For nearly a century those citizens of the United States who believed in honest government have been more or less actively striving to obtain for the foreign author some sort of effective recognition of the principle embodied in this measure. Property in ideas, when these have been materialized in the form of books, has long been practically recognized, as well in the copyright laws of our own as in those of other countries. Yet for years, and in the face of this fact, we have suffered the disgrace of being about the only civilized nation on earth mean enough to refuse to make the principle interna-