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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/132

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Editor's Table.

 

SOCIAL NEEDS.

IF the word "socialist" could be defined as one who concerns himself with the interests of society, who makes those interests his own, then it would be well if we were all "socialists." So long, however, as it means a person who wishes to transfer to everybody the authoritative direction of everybody else's business and the control of everybody else's property, we must leave the use of the term to those who accept responsibility for the advocacy of such ideas. Meantime, it is a matter for the daily consideration of all men of good will what are the most pressing social needs of the hour, and how they can best be met.

Among the phenomena of our time in this country there is none, we think, more striking than the great development of our institutions of learning. Partly through public grants and partly through private donations, the means available for higher education have within the last quarter of a century, even within the last dozen years, been enormously increased; and, as has lately been remarked, there will shortly be little need for American youths to repair to foreign universities in order to obtain the latest and best results of research in almost any department of knowledge. In other words, this country is already well equipped for the formation of a cultured and learned class, and is yearly increasing its facilities and resources in that direction. This is true even in regard to branches of scholarship, such as the classical languages and philology, which might be thought less likely to awaken interest in a new and democratic community. Whatever advantage, therefore, can come to us from a liberal provision for the higher learning we may consider as already assured.

That culture and learning are delightful and profitable possessions no one, we think, but an extremely uncultivated and narrow-minded person would deny: but, taking what may be called a sociological view of the subject, we have sometimes been led to wonder whether the immense sums of money which have been appropriated of late to university purposes have really been bestowed in the manner most useful to the country at large. A day or two ago our eye fell upon the following observations in one of our most valued contemporaries: "In truth, one of the most startling things in connection with our collegiate education is its failure, as a rule, to prevent the graduate, when he enters politics, from sinking mentally to the existing political level. This has been the history of the larger number of what are called our 'gentlemen in politics.' They rarely spend a year with politicians without adopting their standards and their view of civilization." Most persons, we imagine, can confirm this from their own experience. But, if the scholar sinks through contact with the politician, how are we to explain the low level at which the latter lives? With whom is he in contact on the other side? There is only one answer: With "the people."

This makes us reflect. Millions are being given for the endowment of the higher learning—that is, for the creation of a learned class. What is that learned class going to do for the rest of the community? The members of it will make, no doubt,