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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/494

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

our educational institutions! It was a natural consequence of the misleading because partial doctrine that the great purpose of the public school was to teach "the three R's." It can not be too much insisted on that the great purpose of all education is to furnish a favorable environment (using that term in the widest sense) for the development of the highest type of human beings consistent with the innate inherited tendencies. We can not make silk purses out of sows' lugs, but we must take care that we do not convert silk purses into lugs by our bungling and lack of insight, all the more likely if we place undue confidence in our educational systems which we call great because according to the tendencies of the day they affect vast numbers.

A study of heredity tends to prevent and mitigate discouragement, and it also shows us how great is the power of the organism to vary with changes of environment. In other words, education, in the true sense, can do much to modify. The world has passed from stages of almost bestial degradation to the present state of civilization through this tendency to vary under environment by some processes which we can appreciate and possibly by others that we do not fully understand. We have every reason to hope for the future; but this hope should be a rational one founded on the adaptation of means to an end, and in this the organisms must first of all be considered.

Regarding the human race in this light, it becomes clear to me that, after the parents themselves, the teacher may become the most potent factor in the development of the human being. He can not radically alter hereditary tendencies, but it is his great privilege to guide and modify them. In some cases he may require to steer so as to avoid Scylla and not fall into Charybdis; in others to develop energy in weak natures that only tend to drift along in life. But one thing is certain, that to attain these truly great results the teacher must himself be very much of a man; and the public would do well if it could but stop long enough in the race for wealth, power, or distinction to consider whether it is taking the right means to find and retain such people. Mankind must study and observe the laws of the heredities if the race is to make the greatest possible progress; and next to that the race must seek out and cherish in every way those that, after the parents themselves, have the greatest influence in molding and developing—the teachers of youth.

All other questions are subordinate. My colleagues in this noble work, let us in our day and generation realize our great opportunity and seize it.