Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/552

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
543
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

tion now assumes a position of greater importance than it held in former generations. Changed environment, crowded cities, more intensive and more scientific agriculture, quicker and more regular methods of transportation and communication are producing effects which are plainly noticeable in the life, thought and action of the entire nation. It is, however, extremely difficult for a people schooled for generations in the university of self-reliance and of individual liberty to graciously accept the restrictions and modifications which this new era makes necessary; but such acceptance is inevitable. If education lags behind, rather than precedes, this changing sentiment, if it is merely passively carried along with the stream, instead of actively aiding in controlling its progress and direction; it fails utterly to effectively perform one of its most important duties—that of minimizing the friction of readjustment to a new environment and a new set of social and industrial conditions. This need of adjustment should be recognized by educators, and intelligently dealt with.

The men of the present are not Robinson Crusoes, they live in a busy world peopled with millions of other similar fellow creatures. An individual is what he is because of the existence and influence of other men; he is distinctly a social product. Development of the individual is the resultant of individualistic and of social demands; but the latter are now beginning to take precedence over the former. Purely psychological and individualistic needs and desires must more and more be modified by those of a sociological character. Society is a complex and delicate organism or piece of mechanism; the wishes and ambitions of the individual must, in an increasing measure, be subordinated to and dovetailed into, the needs of society considered as a whole.

The disappearance of the frontier leads to the gradual elevation of the moral tone of the people. It is an important factor in assigning greater importance to questions of distribution and consumption. Business and political ideals are higher to-day than formerly. Many political methods which were in vogue as late as 1896, are not considered to be in good form to-day. The doctrine that property is a social trust is gaining ground as it could not have done twenty or forty years ago. We are examining closely the methods employed in wealth production. The monopolist and the men of great wealth are now put on the defensive. Each must justify the social utility of his industrial power or his amassed fortune. Race solidarity and the brotherhood of men are now shibboleths. This spirit of brotherhood is first manifested between members of the same trade or society—comparatively small groups; but gradually it enlarges its scope and becomes more inclusive. To-day the laboring man is found preaching the solidarity and mutual interest of all workers in the United States—skilled and unskilled alike. A great strike is conducted upon a clear recognition of this