Зображення сторінки

justifies us in designating the instruction received at the university professional education. It is true that in the present condition of our universities they also aim to produce liberal culture. But they are confessedly in a transitional state. And I find it impossible to describe their proper function, - a function which they really discharge in Germany, — without considering them as primarily devoted to the fostering of those uncommon studies by which men are fitted for the more intellectual vocations of society. The university is the most highly differentiated organ of the spiritual life of mankind; and its function in the body politic is like that of the brain in the economy of animal life. It secures insight, direction, and control to supplement the more or less automatic activities of the lower organs.

This delimitation of the scope and aims of the university, though it may run counter to existing facts and names in America, accords, I believe, with the latent thought and ideal of every reflecting educator. At any rate, it has brought out the contrast between professional and non-professional or (as it is more generally called) liberal education. And if it be admitted that specialism and professionalism are the ends of university teaching, the culture of man as man must be the object of the ideal college education. So far all is clear. But when we proceed to inquire how that culture shall be produced, or wherein this education shall consist, we find a variety of views which, though perhaps partly, is yet not altogether due to the standing confusion between professional and liberal education.

It would conduce to clearness upon this subject, if the end of a college education could be formulated with the same definiteness as the end of a legal, medical, or other technical education. To say that it is the culture of man as man may be true enough, but the statement is not free from vagueness. A common mode of escaping the difficulty is to put it behind the pictures of a mythological psychology. The mind, it is said, is a bundle of faculties ; and the training of these faculties is the object of a liberal education. In the language of common life, education sharpens our wits. The picture is graphic. And who would not be convinced by a vision of the professor as grinder, Homer as grindstone, and the freshman as dull-eyed blade ? Unfortunately for this pictorial explanation, modern psychology forbids our speaking of mental faculties, much less founding upon them a theory of education. If we must have a picture of our conscious life, it seems less to resemble a storehouse of powers, latent and active, than a continuous stream of variegated appearances which we call thoughts and feelings, or, in more technical language, psychoses. And from this point of view a liberal education ought to signify an enrichment of the actual contents of our mental life.

But this view of liberal education as a sharpening of faculties can be shown inadequate even from its own psychological standpoint. Is the faculty to be whetted observation? Then, for its cultivation, give me, not the student “ with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books,” but — the man-milliner. Or is it the power of correct reasoning you desire to foster? Apply yourself, then, not to the harmless manipulation of relations of abstract space and number, but to the living realities of business, in which the struggle for life and survival of the fittest will evoke all your originality in the framing of premises and all your insight and caution in making inferences from them. Or must the will be trained ? Is the strength of resolution, or self-control, or decision of character, the monopoly of the student? Rather, must we not confess that the strong in will are more apt to be found in those vocations whose exercise is attended with risks and dangers ? They are on the field of battle, in the hospital, on the captain's bridge, in the engine - room, on the exchange, in the countinghouse, and most of all, perhaps, in the council chamber, where rulers, who speculate in votes and men, play the high game of statecraft.

I conclude, then, that merely for the training of a boy's powers, a liberal education is not the most effective means nor the college the proper arena. Some other justification must be sought for requiring of youth protracted and arduous study which is not intended as a preparation for any profession, and which, in the great majority of cases, has no such indirect result. And to face this difficulty at once, I venture to assert that the only vindication of the outlay of energy, time, and money devoted to college education is that knowledge is a good in itself. The attempt to justify it as useful for some ulterior end — as, for example, success in life is not less preposterous than the defense of righteousness on the ground that it has the promise of the life to come. Virtue and knowledge approve themselves as Goods to the soul that has them. They have approved themselves as Goods to the countless generations that have labored in the moralization and civilization of mankind. And we only degrade them when, to stem that materialization of modern life which measures all worth in terms of money, we attempt to recommend them on other grounds than their own inherent excellence and adaptation to the noblest long. • ings of the soul. It is true we may express our thought of their absolute worth in different language. We may paint the low, brutish, and nasty condition of a vicious and ignorant race or individual. We may describe the ideally good man as a member of the kingdom of God, or the ideally educated man as a spectator of all time and all existence. Or we may define the particular kinds of excellence exhibited. The virtuous man is just, kind, truthful, temperate, and courageous. The educated man, as compared with the uneducated, sees more, feels more, wants more, is interested in a vastly greater variety of objects, and, in short, leads a larger, fuller, and richer life. He is touched by emotions, haunted by thoughts, and moved by ideals which are incommunicable to minds th#t have not been nourished at the breasts of human science and culture. The masses of men live on stimuli that come from the here and the now. But education multiplies objects of interest throughout the limitless expanse of space and the ever during course of time. It has been said that the object of education is to train men to think. It were truer to say it gives them something to think about. It is not in the activity of thinking (which seems to be evoked by all sorts of occasions), but by the abundance and excellence of material upon which thought operates, that the man of liberal education is the superior of his fellow thinkers.

If this be a right conception of the end of a liberal education, it would seem to imply a mastery of all human knowledge. And, indeed, I should assert that this would be the goal of education if a man lived long enough, and had no other duties than selfculture. The counterfeit presentment of the race, such an intellectual leviathan could be satisfied with nothing less than the contents of all human intellects. His own Highest Good, on the mental side, would consist in assimilating and reacting upon that aggregate of knowledge which now exists in the disjecta membra of individual minds. Even an infinitesimal approach to this ideal suffices to lift men to the rank of the immortals. Endowed with reflection besides, such men turn out Aristotles and Hegels; endowed with feeling and imagination, they become Dantes and Goethes. But we are here dealing with the education of ordinary mortals who, at the age of nineteen or twenty, shall be ready for business or the professional training of the university, which has been already described. And the question is, what, according to

our conception of the end of a liberal education, should be the training of such youth during the four years just preceding, that is to say, between the age of fifteen and nineteen, or sixteen and twenty? I assume — and the experience of European countries proves -- that at fifteen or sixteen a boy who has been properly trained can pass on the subjects (or the equivalents thereof) required for matriculation at Princeton, Cornell, or Yale ; and my inquiry is into the kind of education he should receive during the next four years of his life, whatever is to be his vocation or profession.

When we consider the multiplicity and extent of human knowledge, the attempt to determine what is essential to a liberal culture looks altogether hopeless. Yet, however numerous our sciences, there are, in a last analysis, only three objects of knowledge. These are man, nature, and God. But theology and philosophy, which treat of God and his relation to man and nature, are too abstract and technical for the juvenile minds whose education we are here discussing, though of course their moral and religious training ought by no means to be neglected. Conduct being, ás Mr. Arnold has said, three fourths of life, no sane theory of a boy's education can afford to overlook it. But formal instruction in the principles of virtue and piety seems to have little influence upon practice ; and it may well be doubted if the college can do more for a boy than surround him with the spiritual influences that emanate from its members. The whole subject is one of great practical difficulty. But it need not occupy us longer in this attempt to determine the constituents of a liberal education. Abstracting, then, from philosophy and theology, both theoretical and practical, the sole remaining objects of knowledge are man and the world external to him. If I may be allowed to designate naturalistic all the sciences that deal with nature in any of its aspects or divisions (including, therefore, chemistry, physics, and geometry, as well as botany, physiology, geology, and the rest), and if I may in the same way designate humanistic all the sciences that deal with the life, achievements, and products of humanity, the problem of the essentials of a liberal education will consist in making a right selection of humanistic and of naturalistic studies. That this cannot be done by the boy who has yet to be trained in both is a self-evident conclusion, however counter to much of our current practice. That way madness lies — a madness none the less fatal that it is well-nigh universal.

If, then, we attempt the selection, thus giving the boy the

benefit of the experience of his elders, we should, I suppose, all require both language and mathematics. We may call geometry, because it is a doctrine of space, a naturalistic science; but, along with algebra, trigonometry, etc., it occupies a unique position in our knowledge. Pure mathematics, in short, is the universal form of the naturalistic sciences; its formulæ are the terms in which their laws must be expressed in order to satisfy completely the demands of the scientific intellect. The goal of every science of nature is to become applied mathematics. And this goal has actually been attained by physics, which is the basal science of nature. Accordingly, we may regard mathematics as the portal of all scientific culture. And we must require our youth to master as much algebra, geometry, and trigonometry as is required for subsequent courses in mechanics, heat, electricity, magnetism, acoustics, and optics. To demand the mathematics and leave the physics optional would be much like building a house with the chance of its always remaining empty. It is true there would be, in both cases, a certain activity, from which, no doubt, discipline would come ; but in a world so full of actual problems, no one needs to invent occasions for the exercise of his powers. And, furthermore, whatever training comes from mathematical studies per se arises from insight into the nature of demonstrative reasoning, whose value is apt to be overestimated both by those who live in it and by those who are ignorant of it. But this gain, I apprehend, whatever may be its value, can be secured in a very short time, and from the study of geometry alone. “Now I know what reasoning is,” said Lincoln, on mastering the first book of Euclid; and it seems to me other boys have the same experience. If Plato allowed none ignorant of geometry to enter his academy, it must be remembered that the condition was easily satisfied. Altogether, then, I consider elementary mathematics an essential of a liberal education, not because, as is generally said, it is a good mental discipline, but because it is the indispensable condition of the study of the principal sciences of nature. By means of it we unlock the mysteries of the physical world, which is the one pole of our intellectual interest, as man himself is the other.

Somewhat the same prerogative rank must be assigned to language in the realm of humanistic studies. The use of speech, with all that speech implies, is what distinguishes man from the lower animals. And language is at once the instrument and the record of human thought. Whatever gives precision to our use of words gives precision to the thinking that goes on by means of

« НазадПродовжити »