Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/541

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

tion we are justly to consider the boundlessness of the opportunities, the vastness of the means, and stringency of the duties. Regarded under this light, and in spite of many notable examples to the contrary both in the past and in the present, it does not admit of a shadow of doubt but that on the whole these opportunities have been greatly wasted, these means wrongfully applied, and these duties wantonly neglected.

These universities were primarily intended for the teaching of those branches of knowledge which have since developed into science. I imagine that education as understood for instance by the Greek was mainly athletic, scientific, æsthetic, literary, and political; literature in its widest, politics in its narrowest sense. Their philosophers looked around, as all philosophers are bound to do, as most have done excepting Kant and Comte, whose philosophy, based upon insufficient scientific knowledge, crumbles to pieces when touched. The Greek philosopher got much of his honey from abroad; but the comb he built for it was geometric, universal.

It was for the purpose of understanding such scientific writers as Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, that the "schools" were founded and supported. Then we have Plato, who seems to me to be forever hanging on to the hem of the garment of the Great Master. Much of this of course came through the Latin language. But shortly the means became the end. The language was found to contain a literature. Then a curious but not unnatural event happened. The means of acquiring knowledge in a foreign language degenerated—I will use no other word—into the study of that language, redeemed by the simultaneous acquirement of its marvelous literary treasures. Hence arose the dreadful school of dogmatic grammarians and pseudophilologists. Their day is passing, because grammar and philology are becoming sciences as exact at least as geology or biology.

It is, I think, hopefully to be expected that we shall soon lose sight of those dreadful creatures who used to wobble their heads over what they in their ignorance conceived to be a false quantity, often mistaking accent for quantity, partly through want of scientific training, partly through ignorance of the knowledge acquired by other nations. Such creatures were, perhaps, the natural outgrowth of the state of transition between Aristotle and Darwin, between Archimedes and Joule.

The really frightful outcome of all this was that, for a time, information took the place of knowledge; and the culture of the university was little beyond that of the cabman, the postman, or at best that of the librarian.

Perhaps the very greatest revelations made to man in the historical past took place in the last quarter of the last century and