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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/866

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Editor's Table.

 

SCIENCE AND CULTURE.

WE do not know from whom the philosopher Locke quotes the saying, "Non vitæ sed scholæ discimus" but he translates it well, "We learn not to live, but to dispute." The adage has reference to the old systems of education which had for their aim neither the discovery of truth nor the perfecting of the human faculties in any broad sense, but the fitting of the individual to take his place in a world of conventional ideas and discuss conventional topics upon conventional lines. In other words, the preparation was for school, not for life, the whole subsequent career of the individual being regarded simply as a prolongation of the intellectual influences and discipline of the school. That system, which was ecclesiastical in its origin, has now, save for strictly ecclesiastical purposes, passed away. We consider life as the end of school and not school as the end of life.

It may be questioned, however, whether we have as yet thoroughly adapted our educational methods to this change of standpoint. Do we as yet take a sufficiently broad view of life? If we conceive life narrowly as essentially a business struggle, and adapt our procedure to that conception, the results will show very little relation to the larger and truer conception according to which life means development of faculty, activity of function, and a harmonious adjustment of relations between man and man. If, again, we make too much of knowledge that has only a conventional value, having little or no bearing on the understanding of things or the accomplishment of useful work, we are so far falling into the old error of "learning for school." The address by Sir Archibald Geikie, which we published last month, gives a useful caution against undervaluing "the older learning." The older learning can certainly be made an effective instrument for the cultivation of taste, of sympathy, and of intellectual accuracy along certain lines. It tends further, we believe, to promote a certain intellectual self-respect, which is a valuable quality. In the study of language and literature the human mind surveys, as it were, its own peculiar possessions, and thus acquires a sense of proprietorship which a study of the external world can hardly give. Still, it is well to cultivate a consciousness of the essentially limited and arbitrary nature of such knowledge. It is important, we may admit, to have a good text of such an author as Chaucer; but the minutiae into which critics of his text enter can not be said to possess any broad human interest. Whether he wrote this word or that word, adopted this spelling or that, can not be a question on which much depends; and could one know the exact truth on a thousand such points, he would not really be much the wiser. Among Chaucer scholars he could speak with a good deal of confidence; but the knowledge of these details would not really help to round out any useful system of knowledge, nor could any single fact possess the illuminating' power which sometimes belongs to some single and, at first sight, unimportant fact in the realm of natural knowledge.

This is not said with any intention of disparaging the culture that