Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/769

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cultivation adapted to their own natures and needs. The higher education as embodied in existing institutions cannot meet this requirement. It is, in fact, under indictment for non-adaptation to the present wants of men; and one of the most profound and important of the reforms of our age is that thorough modification of collegiate methods of study that shall bring them up to the demands of modern life. That they now answer to these demands, but very few will maintain. There are many, and the number is increasing, who do not go to college because the education there obtained is thought to be of little use to the possessor, if not indeed a hindrance to him in his future experience with the world. Thousands ignore all considerations of the usefulness of what is to be learned, and go or are sent to college because it is the proper thing, a fashion of society, and has its social benefits; and many undoubtedly go because they have been made to believe that the old education is the perfection of human wisdom for mental discipline, and is, after all, the best thing even for practical life. Yet the distrust of the system is deep, and has already made itself so powerfully felt, that the colleges have been compelled to yield to it, and in many cases to modify their methods of instruction and create supplemental schools devoted to modern knowledge. The higher education of men is thus in a state of conflict and transition; the old education is giving way, and a New Education is rising in its place.

It seems to us that this is the first fact for women to consider in their efforts to attain a higher education. The question that is forced upon men, What shall the higher education be? has even a graver concern for women, for it is not only an open one, but it is an experiment which must be submitted to the test of time, and if mismanaged may be full of peril. It behooves women not to be so carried away by the current clamor about the advantages of education, that they are willing to accept any thing under that name that is dispensed from the schools. Education, like every thing else, may be good or bad, worthless or valuable; but it differs from most other things in this, that, if bad and worthless, it cannot be got rid of. We have yet to realize the important fact that much so-called education is worse than none at all; and that it is better to leave the mind to its spontaneous forces and its self-development under the action of the surrounding influences of Nature and life, rather than to meddle with it inconsiderately, to burden it with worthless knowledge, or to violate its proportions by an extravagant over-culture of some faculties and a total neglect of others. Were the doors of all the colleges of the country to be opened to-morrow to woman, in good faith, and in obedience to a public sentiment that would lead her to avail herself of the opportunity as men do, we believe that the result could not be otherwise than in a high degree disastrous to woman and to society; and this because the education which she would get would be not what she requires, would be put in the place of what she requires, and would indefinitely postpone the attainment of what she requires.

It is well for woman that, in awakening to the necessity of a higher cultivation of her faculties, she is free in the choice of means; but it remains to be seen what she will do with her chance. There is superabounding knowledge, the ripening of all the past––wheat and chaff; there is the world's long experience with education for help or for warning; what, then, will woman do toward constructing a higher education for herself? Will she follow blindly the old traditions, content with any thing, and accept the culture that man has outgrown and is rejecting; or will she be equal to the occasion, and form