Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/36

This page has been validated.

danger of becoming a practical one. Yet, in the shape of elementary drawing, the rudiments of art are beginning to take their proper place in our schools as a necessary and indispensable element of all real education, and the art galleries and the foreign musicians of a few of our older cities are beginning to exert their influence, if a slight one, in introducing higher ideas of the importance of art into our new country. They will have but a limited influence, however, till the study of the fine arts takes its proper place among us as a necessary element in every conception of true education.

There is one form of art-study, and that, perhaps, the highest, which is open to all, even to the humblest student, and the most elementary school, and that is, the study of poetry. It is a prime element in any conception of a liberal education, which shall take as its chief instrument of language-training the mother-tongue, that the real study of English poetry will take the place of the pretended study of classical poetry. When that time comes, we may expect to see the great poets of our native tongue exerting the same influence in the culture and training of our children that Homer and Æschylus really exercised over that of the Greeks. We shall not know what that influence is capable of becoming till we have a real study of English, in place of a sham study of classical literature. The great Greek philosopher says that poetry is truer than history. Sure I am that we shall one day come to see that in neglecting to train and cultivate the imagination, we are neglecting the most powerful of all the faculties.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have thus given you, very feebly and imperfectly, an outline of a scheme of liberal education, applicable to a whole free people, which shall use that people's own language on the one hand, and the great instrument of modern science on the other, as its chief disciplinary instruments, in lieu of the obsolescent scheme for a liberal class education, based upon the study of dead languages as its chief educating instrument. As a means for realizing that scheme for the liberal education of the whole people, I believe that we must sooner or later have in this our republic one homogeneous system of free schools, from the lowest to the highest. The first step of that education will be taken from the benches of the primary school, its last lessons learned in the lecture-rooms and laboratories of universities, free from all trammels of sectarian narrowness or class distinctions. It will be from first to last a homogeneous, logically compacted, consistent training in all available knowledge, to all attainable wisdom, free to all men and all women to pursue to the extent the faculties God has endowed them with will carry them. It is a Utopian vision, you will say, this of popular liberal education. Say rather it is the necessary safeguard and supplement of free institutions; to despair of it is to despair of the republic.