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the words. Ignorance of language entails obscurity of thought. But not only is the study of language conducive to exact thinking, it also enlarges the area over which our thoughts may range. For the knowledge of mankind is embodied in their vocabulary : the study of the words and forms of our own or other languages furnishes us with information about the things they represent. To say that we should investigate things, and not words, is to ignore the connection between them. Watch the child assimilating the knowledge of the race through successive additions to his infantile vocabulary, or reflect how the man of science embodies his observations and experiments in a new word or sentence. Words are not dead things; they are quick with the mental life of mankind. The man whose vocabulary is limited to three hundred words remains an ignorant peasant, but in thrice three thousand words lie the possibilities of his son becoming a Milton or a Burke.
This vindication of the study of language as a part of a liberal education leaves unsettled the question what language or languages should be studied. We should all be disposed to put English first. But owing to the psychological law that nothing can be studied in isolation, that all knowledge is obtained by making comparisons and distinctions, we must hold it to be true that the man who knows only one language does not know even that. What other language should be taken along with English cannot, I think, be doubtful. For illustrating the science of grammar and the principles of language generally, no modern tongue is so effective as Latin. In its inflectional and synthetic structure Latin is a complete contrast to English. Yet, as its vocabulary has been a large tributary to our own speech, it is not, like other dead languages, removed from the region of our practical interest and sympathy. Furthermore, as it was once the universal medium of communication throughout the civilized world, it is still indispensable to the lawyer, the doctor, the clergyman, and the teacher. And though not directly necessary in the practice of other professions, the knowledge of it is the best introduction to its daughters, — French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, – one or more of which are nowadays required in every curriculum of technical education. For these reasons I should prescribe Latin throughout the entire college course, — say three recitations a week. And as, apart from its utility, its reflex action on the understanding of language in general, and of our own in particular, is (along with the literary culture to be
described hereafter) the ground of this requirement, it would follow that, in the teaching of Latin, English should be kept constantly in view. But this will not, of course, supersede direct instruction in our own language, which is still too much neglected. We have the evidence of Professor March that college juniors make more mistakes about the exact meaning of English than of Greek words. A liberal education certainly implies an accurate knowledge of the meaning of the words of our own tongue. And, more than this, it should imply skill in the art of putting them together into sentences and paragraphs. This acquisition is the fruit of practice and of a minute study of the typical productions of our classic writers of prose. Linguistic and rhetorical training is thus scarcely separable from literary culture, of which I shall have next to speak.
Language is the vestibule of the humanities, as mathematics of the science of nature. But the great humanistic disciplines are history and literature : the one a sober exhibition of what has happened to, and been achieved by, man ; the other an artistic picture of his deepest thoughts and feelings. Wordsworth has described poetry (which is the quintessence of literature) as " the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.” Certainly poetry gives us our most perfect knowledge of man; for the poet's insight reveals to us depths of the human soul invisible to all but the seer. We know Macbeth better than we know our nearest friend. And not only so, but our knowledge of Shakespeare's men and women has an intuitiveness and a universality that are wanting in our knowledge of actual persons. This is because, as Coleridge has well said, Shakespeare's characters are individualizations of the type. Such is the truth we find in the poetry of Sophocles and of Goethe and of all the choice and master spirits who have sung for the race. Yet the glory of the poet is not his message but the manner of its delivery. His words are winged with images and associations that arouse in other minds a wave of responsive emotion, driving their “ dead thoughts over the universe like withered leaves to quicken a new birth.” And we may say that the aim of poetry is to produce just this emotion. But in awakening within us sympathy and love for what is exalted, beautiful, and good, poetry ennobles our lives, while at the same time it gives them a rare stimulus and enlargement. The culture to which it ministers is so invaluable because it is at once intellectual, æsthetic, and practical. To a certain extent this has always been recognized. Among the Greeks, the study of Homer and the poets was an indispensable part of a liberal education. And when in the modern world Latin and Greek were made the essentials of all learning, it was because the literatures of Greece and Rome were the only means then in existence for the attainment of a literary culture. That old curriculum will be for our children a thing of the past. But at present it seems to me to be modified very unwisely. For if one or both of the classical languages are nowadays required in a course of study, they are dropped before the student has sufficiently mastered them as instruments of literary culture ; while, on the other hand, no equivalent substitute is demanded in English literature. This is all the more deplorable in the New World where, in the general absence of the fine arts, literature is the sole fountain that might nourish ideal aspiration in our youth and save them from the remorseless grip of an all too materialistic civilization. The love and appreciation of literature is not the privilege of the few, but, in capability at least, a common heritage. And to awaken this dormant capacity, which our present training generally ignores, seems to me one of the highest functions of a liberal education. The boon survives through life, to which it is a daily benediction. And for such a return I cannot think a training in rhetoric and English language and literature extending over four years at the rate of three recitations a week a disproportionate expenditure of the student's time. So much, at all events, I should like to see required of every boy in college.
But with this, as it seems to me, most effective provision for linguistic and literary culture, it will be impossible to maintain Greek as a required study in the college. I have come to this conclusion with a regret akin to remorse, because I am deeply sensible of our indebtedness to Greek art, Greek literature, and Greek philosophy for much that is refining and ennobling in our modern civilization. But Latin we cannot omit; and as between the Greek and the English language and literature, I consider the latter the more important constituent in the education of our boys. For the English-speaking nations it is the natural and the best source of literary culture. And scarcely an argument can be advanced for the current practice of supplanting it by Greek which would not equally apply to Hebrew. Nevertheless, many boys, for very proper reasons, will be advised by their parents and tutors to undertake the study of Greek. Others, the great majority, will turn to French or German, because of their practical utility in almost every one of the higher spheres of life. And in our ideal college I should provide instruction, elementary and advanced, in all three languages, but require on entrance as much knowledge of one of them as is now required in Greek. The language so selected should be studied for the next two years, — say with two recitations a week, – after which, if not continued, another of the remaining two should be taken in its place. In this way a boy who, on reaching the middle of his course, came to feel that the omission of some one language (say Greek) had been a mistake, would still have an opportunity of rectifying it.
Besides literature, the other great humanistic discipline is history. So long as the proper study of mankind is man, our boys will need to know something of the doings and achievements and sufferings of the generations that have gone before us. An educated youth has his mind open to the past and the distant as well as to the present and the near. A lover of his own people, he is yet interested in the destinies of the nations. Devoted to his own household, his heart yet expands to the range of the entire family of mankind. His sympathy stirs his knowledge, and his knowledge broadens his sympathy. And as his studies proceed, a sense of the continuity of human life comes over him, timemarks fade away, and past and present are precipitated as an indistinguishable unity. The dead, he feels, are not wholly dead; they live, where moths cannot corrupt, in the spiritual heritage of their descendants. In studying the lives they lived and the institutions they established, he sees he is analyzing the historical and political atmosphere in which we live and have our being. And, in fact, there is no other way of knowing what we are except by studying how we came to be what we are. As then no American boy should be called liberally educated who has not had a course in American history, our ideal curriculum would prescribe at least two years of previous work in European history, the whole to be followed by a final course in Economics and Finance. And for these studies there would be needed at least two recitations a week throughout the four years of the college training. Why history is nowadays seldom required for a liberal education is easier to explain than to justify. When the old curriculum arose, students mastered the classical languages so thoroughly that they were able to read the Greek and Roman historians, who had then no rivals among the moderns. In relaxing the classical requirements we have allowed history as well as literature to slip out of the course, at least to all practical intents. Thus boys leave our colleges and universities without knowing enough of history
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and political science to exercise intelligently the duties of citizenship.
I have already spoken of philosophy. In general, it is too abstract and speculative for a requirement in the curriculum of a college intended for boys under twenty years of age. On the other hand, the study of the laws and phenomena of mind seems as essential in a liberal education as the study of the laws and phenomena of matter. Besides, the modern science of psychology is as little speculative as physics, chemistry, or biology. It is also an indispensable supplement to these sciences of which it is the natural sequent in a complete curriculum of study. Much the same might be said for logic in its relation to mathematics. And though there is a good deal in ethics beyond the range of boys of nineteen, at least its analytical and practical portions should by no means be omitted. In fine, while I should prescribe for the first three years of the college course three recitations a week in mathematics and physics, I would reserve that time in the senior year for an elementary course in logic, psychology, and ethics.
To mathematics, physics, and the humanities we have now assigned thirteen recitations a week. The remaining two or three must be devoted to the inductive sciences of nature. And of these, chemistry, as doctrine of the elements of matter, should come in the freshman year, to be followed in the sophomore by physiology, the science of the functions of living beings. These sciences will be studied for the sake of acquiring knowledge only. But for the next two years the student should be required to select one of a number of continuous courses arranged for the purpose of giving him some experience of scientific work, some insight into scientific methods, and, what is the end of all, some glimpse of nature's workings from the point of view of the man of science. I can imagine such a course in geology, mineralogy, and paleontology. But to particularize these parallel lines of allied subjects is a matter of no moment at present. It is enough to have indicated their scope and object.
Indeed, it may be objected that I have, in the last paragraph and throughout, already particularized and formulated too much. I have, however, a deep conviction that the more or less random courses taken by students in our higher institutions of learning are not those best adapted to give a liberal education. No doubt the evil is explicable. Perhaps the chief cause, apart from our imitation of the German university in the absence of the German gymnasium, is that two or three years are generally lost in the