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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/101

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SCIENCE STUDY AND NATIONAL CHARACTER.

enlightenment and education make for peace and not for war, then our law of direct and inverse proportion has lately been scandalously dishonored.

If we have expended so much for education and at the same time have lowered our ideal of national greatness, something must be wrong with that education. If the sharpening and quickening of the intellect are accompanied by a blunting and atrophy of the moral sense, the best and the worst thing that can be said of our school system is that it gives daily rations to hundreds of thousands of teachers. Evidence of disease of the national conscience must raise in the minds of thoughtful men grave doubts as to the sufficiency of our education to "insure national progress, prosperity, and honor," whether because of inherent weakness of the system or because of the strength of the forces opposed to it.

Has our system of education, then, failed to elevate our national character? He who would answer this question in the affirmative would be a pessimist indeed: Incalculable "general good" has come to us, we think, by the agency of our schools. Without them our civilization could not be so far advanced as it is; our national life might have ended long since. In every crisis, however black has been the storm, however fierce and ominous the lightning flash, there has followed in good time the gentle rain, soothing and allaying our fear, and giving renewed promise of prosperity and peace. It is the sober second thought, we are in the habit of saying, which saves us, which takes the helm and sheers us away from the half-hidden reefs in our first mad course. It is not. It is the sober first thought which has redeemed us from destruction time after timeā€”the sober first thought of the few who are truly educated, who have looked below the surface of things and considered the hidden and obscure results, who have weighed the right and wrong and stood immovable for the right. It is the counsel of such men which has fallen like the rain that follows the first bursting of the storm, and has given us courage and power to restrain ourselves and to face our hardest duty. For such men in our national affairs we may reverently offer thanks, and for an educational system which is partly, at least, responsible for them we may have sincere praise. But our safety must always depend upon the presence of such men, strong enough in numbers and in influence to control each difficult and dangerous situation which may threaten us. Our work as teachers is not faithful if we do not increase this number and strengthen this influence. And if such men have been overpowered in the important events of the past two years, if they have been entirely ignored, or if they have been taunted and ridiculed, we have reached a danger-