Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/553

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
549
EDUCATIONAL ADVANCE

principle, one which could hardly have risen into consciousness if a great mass of fertile and easily accessible land was still our national heritage. Such a change as this calls insistently for new ideals in education.

America is an enormous assimilative cauldron. Here are gathered nearly all the tribes and peoples of the earth in one great heterogeneous mass; and the public-school system is the official assimilator. It deals with the young and plastic. Excepting those who attend private and parochial schools, our laws bring all the children of the entire country under the influence of the public school system. The immigrant comes to us from an entirely different environment; he has developed under different influences. His home life is not the same as ours; his child possesses other concepts, traits and ideals than those of the American boy or girl. The process of assimilation usually means the molding of this people in conformity to the so-called Anglo-Saxon cast. It is forgotten that these people have many characteristics and traits which might well be grafted into our civilization and thus perpetuated. Miss Jane Addams has done much to emphasize this important fact. She points out that it is characteristic American "complacency" to utterly ignore the past experience of the immigrant who comes to our shores. Earnest Crosby makes the indictment more sweeping and severe: "And not content with stifling the originality of the immigrant, we must needs carry our missionary zeal for uniformity to foreign lands in the hope of destroying all individuality. In Anglo-Saxonizing India and Japan we are crushing out the most wonderful of arts beyond a possibility of resurrection. We are the Goths and Vandals of the day. We are the Tartars and the Turks. And the countries which we overrun have each their own priceless heritage of art and legend which we ruthlessly stamp underfoot." Some attempt certainly should be made to preserve and continue the desirable traits and gifts of the different alien peoples who crowd to our shores; and to assimilate these traits into the sum total of our national characteristics. Few educators have as yet seen the possibilities and the desirability of progress in this direction.

It should be noticed that not until after our frontier was practically a thing of historical significance only, did the immigration from Southern Europe begin. These people lack individual initiative; they live in little communities. With the rise of modern industrialism and of urban life, our civilization took on aspects which were attractive to the more docile and less individualistic emigrant of many sections of Europe. The traits of these people are more nearly consonant with the life of to-day than that of the early individualistic Anglo-Saxon frontiersman. The assimilation of these races and of their culture may modify our civilization and traits in a very desirable manner. A Greek