Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/282

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form in school, perhaps from the same household, one will rise to honor and another sink to dishonor; one will become conspicuous in society, another will never emerge from obscurity. But what education will do, if we work on natural lines, if we are not too fussy over it, and are careful not to give it in too large doses, will be to liberate and more or less wisely direct a vast amount of intellectual power which at present we confine and almost paralyze. Good and sensible people are often heard groaning over the vulgar and frivolous enjoyments which alone seem to afford any pleasure to the multitude; and there is some reason for the plaint, though the multitude may not be so much to blame as is supposed. It is a question of intellectual energy. The man or woman who has much of it to spare will not be a frequenter of the mere spectacular drama, nor a devourer of coarsely sensational novels. What excuse is sometimes given by our busy men for their very inferior taste in literary, dramatic, and other matters? Oh, that they are so fagged out by their day's work that they want the stimulus of something sensational. The excuse is worked for all that it is worth; but in some cases there is something in it. As regards a much larger number, however, both of men and of women, the trouble probably is that their intellectual faculties were not only not strengthened or invigorated by their early education, but were more or less dwarfed and numbed. If a youth were to go through an alleged course of athletic training and were to come away with dwindled muscles and a more languid condition of body than he had when he began, we could at once, on the evidence of our senses, pronounce the whole thing a fraud. The mind, unfortunately, does not admit of the same simple measurements as the muscles, and we can not therefore so easily detect the fraud when, after from five to ten years of schooling, a young person steps out into the world with less of intellectual apprehensiveness and less of available mental vigor than he or she had as a little child. Yet, that this has been, and still is, a not infrequent result, who will deny?

There are great possibilities of good in education if we will but recognize our proper rôle in the matter, and not try to usurp the place of the one consummate teacher—Nature. There are vast possibilities of evil in it if, planting ourselves on dogmas, traditions, and classicisms, or attaching too absolute an authority to our own generalizations, we seek to dominate the minds whose gradual evolution we should patiently watch and cautiously and tenderly assist. Most of us probably have more or less teaching to do: let us remember that, so far as this is the case, our art is not that of the taxidermist or constructor of lay figures, but that we have living tissue to deal with; and let us respect the mysteries of life and growth.


Some weeks ago a prominent clergyman of this city was reported to have expressed the opinion that the "society" of to-day is vulgar. Reporters called upon him to ascertain if he really had said anything so dreadful, and he was obliged to confess that he had, and that he really thought he had spoken the truth. It is evident that whether he did speak the truth or not depends on the sense we attach to the word vulgar. If to be vulgar means to live plainly and without ostentation, then society is not vulgar, but very much the opposite. If to be vulgar means to take unconventional views of things, and to estimate men and women more according to their intellectual and moral qualities than by the wealth they possess and the figure they are able to cut in the world of fashion, then to say that society is vulgar is a cruel slander. If to be vulgar is to be unversed in social forms, but sincere in friendship,