Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/29

This page has been validated.

and masters,' in learning what he has now forgotten, and to recall which he would not now take the trouble to raise his little finger."[1] I was the docile and diligent receiver of such training as, in my youth, a "classical school" and our oldest New-England college had to give, and surely it is from no vanity that I say that I was also a recipient of their honors; and it is from the melancholy feeling that my formal education was so barren and empty when looked at from the standpoint of real life, and real thought, and real mental training, that I am so earnest an advocate of changes that I believe will give to future generations the reality instead of the pretense of an education.

I come now to the study of Physical Science, as from this time forward destined to play a wholly new part in our system of liberal education. Nowhere, save in that astonishing document, the Syllabus of his holiness Pope Pius IX., can any education-philosophy be found so benighted as not to recognize its value and importance. Yet I am far from believing that its true place, as a factor in the new education, has yet been determined. While, on the one hand, among the old high-and-dry advocates of the grindstone-system, certain merits and a subordinate place are beginning to be grudgingly allowed it, we are in danger, on the other hand, in this new country of ours, whose vast material resources are waiting for development through its instrumentality, rather of overrating than underrating its purely educational function. It is not as an economical instrument for the development of material wealth that I have here to deal with it, though that is a very important aspect, but considered as a factor in a system of education, and, as such, I claim for it no monopoly, but only a place as the indispensable complement to those ethical and linguistic studies which have heretofore monopolized the title of a liberal education, and which, from the absence of science from that form of education, have been reduced to their present effete and impotent condition. It is to the incorporation into it of the study of science that we are to look as the source of new life-blood.

You will not expect me to attempt to deal here with the great subject which forever occupies the minds of speculative thinkers, and never more than at the present moment—the true relations of the world of matter and the world of mind. That is too large a subject to be dealt with, though upon right views regarding it will greatly depend the correctness even of our educational theories. I will only say, that though I am as far as possible from being an adherent of any form of materialism, yet I believe that physical science is destined to be the great instrument of these modern days to give new forms to our philosophy and our theology—to give new forms to the same everlasting problems, but not to give us new philosophy or new theology. It will but cast old truths in new moulds, while it explodes old super-

  1. Mountstuart, E. Grant Duff, Inaugural Address as Rector of the University of Aberdeen, p. 22.