Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/61

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THE NATIONAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION.

a child to earn its living should in the interest of the community receive prompt attention and the most skilful treatment available. Special schools for children who are crippled, blind, deaf, feeble-minded or otherwise afflicted should be provided at the public cost, from motives, not of mere philanthropy, but of enlightened self-interest. So far as they improve the capacity of such children they lighten the burden on the community.

I make no apology for having dwelt thus long upon the necessity of a sound system of primary instruction: that is the only foundation upon which a national system of advanced education can be built. Without it our efforts and our money will be thrown away. But while primary instruction should be provided for, and even enforced upon, all, advanced instruction is for the few. It is the interest of the commonwealth at large that every boy and girl showing capacities above the average should be caught and given the best opportunities for developing those capacities. It is not its interest to scatter broadcast a huge system of higher instruction for any one who chooses to take advantage of it, however unfit to receive it. Such a course is a waste of public resources. The broadcast education is necessarily of an inferior character, as the expenditure which public opinion will at present sanction is only sufficient to provide education of a really high calibre for those whose ultimate attainments will repay the nation for its outlay on their instruction. It is essential that these few should not belong to one class or caste, but should be selected from the mass of the people, and be really the intellectual élite of the rising generation. It must, however, be confessed that the arrangements for selecting these choice scholars to whom it is remunerative for the community to give advanced instruction are most imperfect. No 'capacity-catching machine' has been invented which does not perform its function most imperfectly: it lets go some it ought to keep, and it keeps some it ought to let go. Competitive examination, besides spoiling more or less the education of all the competitors, fails to pick out those capable of the greatest development. It is the smartest, who are also sometimes the shallowest, who succeed. 'Whoever thinks in an examination,' an eminent Cambridge tutor used to say, 'is lost.' Nor is position in class obtained by early progress in learning an infallible guide. The dunce of the school sometimes becomes the profound thinker of later life. Some of the most brilliant geniuses in art and science have only developed in manhood. They would never in their boyhood have gained a county scholarship in a competitive examination.

In primary schools, while minor varieties are admissible, those, for instance, between town and country, the public instruction provided is mainly of one type; but any useful scheme of higher education