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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/129

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

needed for life, he was pointed to the brilliant men who had come from the forms and the playgrounds of Eton and Winchester and Harrow; and the discussion was considered closed. The fact is that the radical insufficiency of the system was masked to a great extent hy the circumstance that it was mainly applied to a ruling class, who early in life obtained a more practical training in public affairs. Pitt was educated, as has been remarked, by that great statesman, his father, the Earl of Chatham, and Peel by a great manufacturer who took a keen interest in politics. Robert Walpole, leaving the university at an early age, had the society of his father, a most practical-minded country squire, whose original ambition had been to make him the greatest grazier in the kingdom. Many similar cases could be cited in which early introduction to society and to practical life made up for the deficiencies of scholastic training, and reflected, or seemed to reflect, on that training a much greater credit than it deserved.

It may be admitted, however, that as a preparation for a political or forensic career an old-fashioned classical education was not wholly without efficacy. It was systematic and orderly; it was rigid in its requirements; it presented difficulties which had to be overcome, and afforded the means for unmasking looseness and inaccuracy of thought; finally, it called into constant activity, though in a narrow field, the discriminative and analytical faculties. Its weakness lay in this, that it did not reveal the nature of things, but promoted a dangerous habit of "moving about in worlds not realized," and of giving to words an importance which should only be conceded to verified and comprehended facts.

Nowadays we mix, or try to mix, a modicum of scientific knowledge with the education we impart. This is so far good. It affords a training in observation and verification, and opens up to the young sources of interest of which they may increasingly avail themselves in later years. Moreover, as the scientific instruction generally embraces more or less of physiology and hygiene, it places them on their guard against the formation of injurious habits, and shows them the conditions on which health depends. These are advantages which, so far as they go, it is impossible to appreciate too highly. It takes more, however, than the admixture of a little physical science in a school curriculum to make, in a wide sense, the education that is required for life. What is further required is a proper adjustment of the mind toward life with its varied activities and its infinite possibilities of good and evil. When we see men of fine literary gifts growing more cynical as they advance in years, and treating the world to stronger and stronger doses of pessimism in their writings, we are compelled to believe that their adjustment to life must have been wrong. When we see men of science who year by year appear to have less and less in common with their fellow creatures, and whose studies only develop on the intellectual side an ever-increasing passion for the infinitely minute and the vastly unimportant, and, on the moral, a morbid sensitiveness to all kinds of personal questions, we find it difficult to think that they were properly oriented at the start. It may not be given to every one to "see life steadily and see it whole"; but it ought to be possible for a well-trained mind to see it with an eye of calm, tolerant, and sympathetic contemplation. No education is complete which leaves out such knowledge of the world, and of the relation which the indi-