Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/63

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THE NATIONAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION.

original application of acquired knowledge is best brought out. The acquisition of modern languages was in bygone generations almost entirely neglected. In many schools the time given to this subject is still inadequate, the method of teaching antiquated, the results unsatisfactory. But the absolute necessity of such knowledge in literature, in science and in commerce is already producing a most salutary reform.

The variety of types of secondary instruction demanded by the various needs and prospects of scholars requires a corresponding variety in the provision of schools. This cannot be settled by a rule of-three method, as is done in the case of primary instruction. We cannot say that such and such an area being of such a size and of such a population requires so many secondary schools of such a capacity. Account must be taken in every place of the respective demands for respective types and grades of secondary education; and existing provision must be considered.

It must not, however, be forgotten that a national system of education has its drawbacks as well as its advantages. The most fatal danger is the tendency of public instruction to suppress or absorb all other agencies, however long established, however excellent their work, and to substitute one uniform mechanical system, destructive alike to present life and future progress. In our country, where there are public schools of the highest repute carried on for the most part under ancient endowments, private schools of individuals and associations, and universities entirely independent of the Government, there is reasonable hope that with proper care this peril may be escaped. But its existence should never be forgotten. Universal efficiency in all establishments that profess to educate any section of the people may properly be required; but the variety, the individuality and the independence of schools of every sort, primary and secondary, higher and lower, should be jealously guarded. Such attributes once lost can never be restored.

There still remains for our consideration the second division of higher education, viz., the applied or technological side. It is in this branch of education that Great Britain is most behind the rest of the world; and the nation in its efforts to make up the lost ground fails to recognize the fact that real technical instruction (of whatever type) cannot possibly be assimilated by a student unless a proper foundation has been laid previously by a thorough grounding of elementary and secondary instruction. Our efforts at reform are abrupt and disconnected. A panic from time to time sets in as to our backwardness in some particular branch of commerce or industry. There is a sudden rush to supply the need. Classes and schools spring up like mushrooms, which profess to give instruction in the lacking branch of applied