Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/568

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here, too, and doubtless if the question were pressed it would come; but how few among the scientifically trained take homo to themselves heartily and thoroughly the truth that if scientific method is good for anything it is good for everything! But no one can be a true and inspiring teacher of science who does not feel in his inmost consciousness this universal applicability of scientific method, and who, in so far as he has been initiated into that method, does not rejoice in a sense of glorious liberty and power. It must be acknowledged that not a few men of "mere letters," as they are sometimes called, have gained a fuller entrance into the intellectual freedom which science bestows than many who have made science their special study. Such men as teachers will be eminently successful; they will have an intuitive sense of the distinction between essentials and non-essentials; they will grasp the roots of their several subjects; their teaching will have a certain organic quality that will cause it to germinate in the minds of others.

If we were asked what is the most characteristically or typically scientific idea that the mind can entertain, we should answer, with little hesitation. The idea of utility. Why? Because it involves the two fundamental ideas of the connection between cause and effect, and of the adaptation of means to ends; and because it points to an object apart from which science becomes mere intellectual trifling. It is possible to take an unduly narrow view of utility, but it is in no way necessary. There is nothing in the word itself to call for a narrow interpretation. On the contrary, it suggests the widest possible range of advantage for the human race. The conception of utility is one which we must more and more apply to our systems of education. In regard to any and every branch of study, let us boldly ask, as it is our duty to do, What are its uses? What is it going to do for those who are exercised thereby? Has it a bearing on health of body or of mind, or are its uses exclusively social? In the latter case, do they refer to permanent or to transitory social conditions? If to transitory conditions, how far is it desirable that these should be allowed to mold the education of the rising generation? No harm can come of pressing these questions one and all; and till we have answers to them—careful and satisfactory answers—we shall have no true criticism of modern education. If there is anything in this wide world that should be able to give a most rigorous account of itself it is the education we give our children. We started by saying it should be scientific, and now with equal conviction we declare that the first step toward being scientific is that it should be useful. A useful education—one founded upon and justified by use—is itself a constant training in scientific method and the best possible introduction to the scientific spirit. On the contrary, an education that can not constantly plead the justification of utility makes so far for unscientific habits of thought; for what can possibly be more unscientific than effort without definite and justifiable purpose?

Some persons entertain a vague idea that a dominantly scientific education must be dogmatic intone, and therefore an unsuitable preparation for practical life, in which so many problems present themselves that require tact and a careful balancing of probabilities rather than the strict methods of the laboratory. Herein we see the fatal mistake of narrowing our idea of science too much. The logic of chemistry is one thing, the logic of politics is another; but each has its logic, each admits of scientific treatment. As we pass from one to the other we simply have to widen our methods of inquiry, and allow for somewhat less of absoluteness in our conclusions; but we need not lower the scientific ideal, and as to the scientific spirit, it can be seen to almost greater advan-