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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/862

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844
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ures are necessary to mend them. If we see whence our trouble has come, we shall not be at any serious loss as to remedies. The faults of our political system, or rather the vices which attend its practical working, are closely connected, in our opinion, with a defective system of popular education. The public-school system is a gigantic creation of law. It did not grow any more than the tariff; it was made, and made under the influence of arbitrary conceptions as to what a school system for the whole people should be. Being made for the whole people, special adaptations could not be thought of. Consequently, the work it does is like mill work, and all who come out of it show one uniform pattern. There is no cultivation of individuality, and, broadly speaking, all ideal elements are banished from the education imparted. The result is that the one really dominant trait in the swarms of youths sent out year after year from the public schools is a consuming desire to make money, and to make it in the easiest way possible. What the state has done is not so much to educate in any worthy sense, as to increase the keenness of competition by promoting an unnatural uniformity of tastes and aims. And, as the universal ambition is not only to make money but to make it fast and easily, it is not surprising that those who do not see how they are going to do this by honest means betake themselves to means that are not honest. It would be an interesting and instructive thing to know how many school-bred young men are at this moment engaged in various forms of "fake" business. What these individuals learned at school was that education was chiefly useful as a means of making money, and now they are trying to turn their education to such account as they find possible.

If habits of industry were taught in the schools, that alone would be a great gain; but in general it is not so. The idle have ample opportunity to idle, and even those who have no natural propensity that way are more or less habituated to idleness, owing to the simple fact that the teachers are not able to keep their classes fully occupied. That much moral harm is thus wrought to thousands of boys we have no doubt whatever. Then education is not valued, simply because it is apparently so cheap; and this again has a vulgarizing and demoralizing effect. Education ought to be valued, and, if it is not, it will be lacking in the moral virtue which it ought to possess. It may further be asked whether the drill of school renders those who are subjected to it more resourceful or less resourceful. Is there not a danger lest a habit be formed of looking for direction and not exercising individual powers of thought and will? We have no wish to dogmatize on such a question, but the conclusion to us is irresistible that the public-school system, as a whole, is a vast attack on the individuality of the rising generation, and that by destroying natural dissimilarities between the units of the population, and thus making competition fiercer, it throws a great number out of adjustment to their environment, either as destitute of employment or as in a manner compelled to some more or less criminal means of making a living.

It is a most unpopular thing, we are aware, to hint at the possibility of "over-education," but might we venture to suggest that there may be, and is in a multitude of cases, misplaced or superfluous education? A man not only does not need a university degree to enable him to drive a street car, but the possession of a university training is not likely to sweeten for him that particular kind of toil. We hold it to be entirely possible to supersaturate a community with university "advantages"; money liberally, vigorously, and unwisely applied will do it.

We fully believe that other elements than those we have indicated enter into