Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/67

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CAUSE AND EFFECT IN EDUCATION.

And yet this very obvious thing has not been done. One can not honestly say that the education of to-day rests upon a scientific basis. It seems to us absurd now that Kepler should have referred the planetary motions to an indwelling will. But we are doing things even more absurd in the name of education. We observe tendencies in children: we refer them to false causes. We desire a certain development: we set in motion the wrong machinery. In a word, as scientists we are causationists; as educators we are not.

Now, what is to be done about it? Modern educators are for the most part sincere, enthusiastic, devoted. Even to those who teach simply for the salary, there must come occasionally an altruistic thrill. Why then do we fail so dismally? Why are we all so blind?

It is easier to ask questions than to answer them; to declare one's self a sinner than to become a saint. But the world is old. It has met many sorrows. We ought from these to be able to learn some lessons. We ought to be able to reach some fertile thought capable of transforming education into a science.

Few problems have had greater play of thought about them than this very problem of education, and it has been thought of a high character. The various lines which this thought has taken are to be found in the histories of education. It is noticeable in glancing over this curious history that all lines converge in this one point, that each system of education which they represent is the somewhat retarded reflection of the Zeitgeist—the belated product of the great time-spirit of the age in which they happened to be born. Resting, as education does, upon all the other sciences, it is inevitable that its fruition should follow theirs. With religion and ethics and sociology and biology in a state of incoherence and empiricism, it was manifestly impossible for education to be rational. It was first necessary that the foundation sciences should be reduced to order, and the sequence of cause and effect established within their own borders. This has been done in part. It is the peculiar glory of these closing years of the nineteenth century that they have witnessed a unification of knowledge such as previous ages had not the power even to dream of. These many sciences upon which education rests have been shown to be but so many manifestations of one science, and the phenomena which they study but the operations of one law. And this law expresses the orderly sequence of the universe, the inviolable following of cause and effect, the exclusion of exterior, unmeasurable agencies, the uniform unfolding of the present out of the past—in a word, it is the great law of evolution. The system of education which is the proper flower and fruit of this