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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/399

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

Editor's Table.

 

LIBERAL EDUCATION AND DEMOCRACY.

IN a most thoughtful article, in the Modern Education Series of The Cosmopolitan, President Hadley, of Yale, remarks that the conception of a liberal education changes as forms of government change. "It takes one shape," he proceeds to say, "in a military state, and quite another shape in a state ruled by public opinion. In the former case it will teach the sterner virtues of courage and pride. In the latter case it will teach respect for law, progressiveness, and human sympathy. But in either case a liberal education is an education for citizenship; a development of those distinguishing qualities moral, intellectual, and physical by which the people are to be ruled." It is a happy definition of "a liberal education" to say that it is "an education for citizenship." From this point of view the most liberally educated man will be he who is educated to be a citizen of the world and to feel his relation not only to the present but to the past, and the future as well. Comte had much the same idea when he taught that the moral and social education of the individual was accomplished first by the family, then by the state, and finally by the race. In other words, the egoism of the individual is first tamed by family life, then broadened by political life, and, lastly, humanized in the full sense by conscious participation in the age-long progress of mankind. President Hadley has well chosen the qualities which he says a liberal education under a democracy should aim at developing, but we think he might with much advantage have added another. He will remember that when the poet Horace would describe the character of a high-principled citizen, a man just and firm of purpose, he says that his mind is shaken neither by the lowering countenance of a tyrant nor by the frenzy of the populace commanding vicious courses of policy. In our land and time the vultus instantis tyranni is no longer, if it ever was, an object of terror, but the civium ardor prava jubentium is a danger, we fear, which has yet to be reckoned with.

In a state, therefore, which is ruled by public opinion one of the qualities which a liberal education should most distinctly aim to impart is firmness to resist popular pressure when exerted in a wrong direction. In like manner, under an aristocracy a truly liberal education would not be one that would tend to perpetuate in the rising generation the faults of the preceding one, or to shut out all criticism of the established régime; on the contrary, its tendency should be to temper whatever was extreme or one-sided in the views of the ruling class. The liberality of an education comes in just here, in opening out wider views than would probably be acquired in actual contact with private business or public affairs. When William Pitt, while Prime Minister of England, betook himself to the study of Adam Smith's recently published Wealth of Nations, and began to consider how he could apply the enlightened and philosophical views contained therein to the fiscal policy of the British Empire, he was converting his old-fashioned liberal education into a liberal education of the best kind.