Herbert Spencer.

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HERBERT SPENCEK.



* EDUCATION <



Intellectual, Moral and Physical



By HERBERT SPENCER

Author of FIRST PRINCIPLES,"
"DATA OF ETHICS," etc, etc. ^




A. L. HURT COMPANY, PUBLISHERS,



CONTENTS.



I. WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST VfOBTH? .... 5

II. INTELLECTUAL EDUCATIOK . 94

[II. MORAL EDUCATION .... 169

IV. PHYSICAL EDUCATION . . . ...... 296



2234758



EDUCATION.



CHAPTER I.

WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH.

IT has been truly remarked that, in order of time,
decoration precedes dress. Among people who sub-
mit to great physical suffering that they may have
themselves handsomely tattooed, extremes of tern,
perature are borne with but little attempt at mitiga-
tion. Humboldt tells us that an Orinoco Indian,
though quite regardless of bodily comfort, will yet
labor for a fortnight to purchase pigment where-
with to make himself admired ; and that the same
woman who would not hesitate to leave her hut
without a fragment of clothing on, would not dare
to commit such a breach of decorum as to go out un-
painted. Voyagers uniformly find that colored beads
and trinkets are much more prized by wild tribes
than are calicoes or broadcloths. And the anecdotes

we have of the ways in which, when shirts and coat*

(5)



8 EDUCATION.

are given, they turn them to some ludicrous display,
show how completely the idea of ornament predomi
nates over that of use. Nay, there are still more ex-
treme illustrations: witness the iaci narrated by
Qapt. Speke of his African attendants, who strutted
about in their goat-skin mantles when the weather
was fine, but when it was wet, took them off, folded
them up, and went about naked, shivering in the
rain ! Indeed, the facts of aboriginal Iif3 seem to
indicate that dress is developed out of decorations.
And when we remember that even among ourselves
most think more about the fineness of the fabric than
its warmth, and more about the cut than the con-
venience when we see that the function is still in
great measure subordinated to the appearance we
have further reason for inferring such an origin.

It is not a little curious that the like relations
hold with the mind. Among mental as among bod-
ily acquisitions, the ornamental comes before the
useful. Not only in times past, but almost as much
in our own era, that knowledge which conduces to
personal well-being has been postponed to that which
brings applause. In the Greek schools, music, poetry,
rhetoric, and a philosophy which, until Socrates
taught, had but little bearing upon action, were the
dominant subjects ; while knowledge aiding the arta



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTHt 7

of life had a very subordinate place. And in our
own universities and schools at the present moment
the like antithesis holds. We are guilty of some-
thing like a platitude when we say that throughout
his after-career a boy, in nine cases out of ten, ap-
plies his Latin and Greek to no practical purposes.
The remark is trite that in his shop, or his office, in
managing his estate or his family, in playing his part
as director of a bank or a railway, he is very little
aided by this knowledge he took so many years to ac-
quire so little, that generally the greater part of it
drops out of his memory ; and if he occasionally vents
a Latin quotation, or alludes to some Greek myth, it is
less to throw light on the topic in hand than for the
sake of effect. If we inquire what is the real motive
for giving boys a classical education, we find it to be
simply conformity to public opinion. Men dress
their children's minds as they do their bodies, in the
prevailing fashion. As the Orinoco Indian puts on
'ais paint before leaving his hut, not with a view to
any direct benefit, but because he would be ashamed
to be seen without it ; so, a boy's drilling in Latin
and Greek is insisted on, not because of their in-
trinsic value, but that he may not be disgraced by
being found ignorant of them that he may have
14 the education of a gentleman " the bado-e mart



a EDUCATION

ing a certain social position, and bringing a conse
quent respect.

This parallel is still more clearly displayed in the
case of the other sex. In the treatment of both
mind and body, the decorative element has contin-
ued to predominate in a greater degree among
women than among men. Originally, personal
adornment occupied the attention of both sexes
equally. In these latter days of civilization, how-
ever, we see that in the dress of men the regard for
appearance has in a considerable degree yielded to
the regard for comfort ; while in their education the
useful has of late been trenching on the ornamental.
In neither direction has this change gone so far with
women. The wearing of ear-rings, finger-rings,
bracelets; the elaborate dressings of the hair; the
still occasional use of paint ; the immense labor be-
stowed in making habiliments sufficiently attractive ;
and the great discomfort that will be submitted to for
the sake of conformity ; show how greatly in the at-
tiring of women, the desire of approbation overrides
the desire for warmth and convenience. And simi-
larly in their education, the immense preponderance
of " accomplishments " proves how here, too, use is
subordinated to display. Dancing, deportment, the
piano, singing, drawing what a large space do these



WHAT KNOWLEDGE 18 OF MOST WORTH* 9

occupy ! If you ask why Italian and German are
learnt, you will find that under all the sham reasons
given, the real reason is, that a knowledge of those
tongues is thought lady like. It is not that the
books written in them may be utilized, which they
scarcely ever are ; but that Italian and German
songs may be sung, and that the extent of attain-
ment may bring whispered admiration. The births,
deaths and marriages of kings, and other like his-
toric trivialities, are committed to memory, not be-
cause of any direct benefits that can possibly result
from knowing them ; but because society considers
them parts of a good education because the absence
of such knowledge may bring the contempt of others.
Wh a n we have named reading, writing, spelling, gram-
mar, arithmetic, and sewing, we hare named about all
the things a girl is taught with a view to their direct
uses in life ; and even some of these have more ref-
erence to the good opinion of others than to im-
mediate personal welfare.

Thoroughly to realize the truth that with the
mind as with the body the ornamental precedes the
useful, it is needful to glance at its rationale. This
lies in the fact that, from the far past down even to
the present, social needs have subordinated individ-
ual needs, and that the chief social need has been



10 EDUCATION.

the control of individuals. It is not, as we com-
monly suppose, that there are no governments but
those of monarehs, and parliaments, and constituted
authorities. These acknowledged governments are
supplemented by other unacknowledged ones, that
grow up in all circles, in which svery man or woman
strives to be king or queen or lesser dignitary. To
get aoove some and be reverenced by them, and to
propitiate those who are above us, is the universal
struggle in which the chief energies of life are ex-
pended. By the accumulation of wealth, by style
of living, by beauty of dress, by display of knowl-
edge or intellect, each tries to subjugate others;
and so aids in weaving that ramified network of
restraints by which society is kept in order. It is
not the savage chief only, who, in formidable war-
paint, with scalps at his belt, aims to strike awe into
his inferiors ; it is not only the belle who, by elab
orate toilet, polished manners, and numerous accom-
plishments, strives to " make conquests ; " but the
scholar, the historian, the philosopher, use their ac-
quirements to the same end. We are none 01 us
content with quietly unfolding our own individual-
> to the full in all directions . but have a restless
.uving to impress our individualities upon others,
and in some wav subordinate them. And this it is



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH f 11

which determines the character of our education.
Not what knowledge is of most real worth, is the
considerate.: 'i ; but what will bring most applause,
honor, respect what will most conduce to social
position and influence what will be most imposing.
As, throughout life, not what we are, but what we
shall be thought, is the question ; so in education,
the question is, not the intrinsic value of knowledge,
so much as its extrinsic effects on others. And this
oeiug our dominant idea, direct utility is scarcely
more regarded than by the barbarian when filing his
teeth and staining his nails.

If there needs any further evidence of the rude,
undeveloped character of our education, we have it
in the fact that the comparative worths of different
kinds of knowledge have been as yet scarcely even
discussed much less discussed in a methodic way
With definite results. Not only is it that no standard
of relative values has yet been agreed upon ; but the
3xistence of any such standard has not been con-
ceived in any clear manner. And not only is it that
the existence of any such standard has not been
clearly conceived ; but the need for it seems to have
been scarcely even felt. Men read books on this
topic, and attend lectures on that ; decide that their



12 EDUCATION.

children shall be initructed in these branches of
knowledge, and shall not be instructed in those,
and all under the guidance of mere custom, or liking,
or prejudice ; without ever considering the enormous
importance of determining in some rational way
what things are really most worth learning. It is
true that in all circles we have occasional remarks
on the importance of this or the other order of in
formation. But whether the degree of its import-
ance justifies the expenditure of the time needed to
acquire it ; and whether there are not things of more
importance to which the time might be better de-
voted ; are queries which, if raised at all, are dis
posed of quite summarily, according to personal
predilections. It is true also, that from time to
time, we hear revived the standing controversy re-
specting the comparative merits of classics and
mathematics. Not only, however, is this controversy
carried on in an empirical manner, with no reference
to an ascertained criterion ; but the question at issue
is totally insignificant when compared with the
general question of which it is part. To suppose
that deciding whether a mathematical or a classical
education is the best, is deciding what is the proper
curriculum^ is much the same thing as to suppose
that the whole of dietetics lies in determining



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH? 13

whether or not bread is more nutritive than pota-
toes '

The question which we contend is of such trani-
cendent moment, is, not whether such or such
knowledge is of worth, but what is its relative
worth ? When they have named certain advantages
which a given course of study has secured them,
persons are apt to assume that they have justified
themselves : quite forgetting that the adequateness
of the advantages is the point to be judged. There
is, perhaps, not a subject to which men devote
attention that has not some value. A year diligently
spent in getting up heraldry, would very possibly
give a little further insight into ancient manners
and morals, and into the origin of names. Any one
who should learn the distances between all the
towns in England, might, in the course of his life
find one or two of the thousand facts he had acquired
of some slight service when arranging a journey.
Gathering together all the small gossip of a county,
profitless occupation as it would be, might yet
occasionally help to establish some useful fact say,
a good example of hereditary transmission. But in
these cases, every one would admit that there was
no proportion between the required labor and the
probable benefit. No one would tolerate the pro-



14 EDUCATION.

posal tc devote some years of a boy's time to getting
such information, at the cost of much more valuable
information which he might else have got. And if
her? the test of relative value is appealed to and
held conclusive, then should it be appealed to and
heid conclusive throughout. Had we time to master
all subjects we need not be particular. To quote
the old song :

Could a man be secure

That his days would endure

As of old for a thousand long yean,

What things might he know :

What deeds might he do !

And all without hurry or care.

u But we that have but span-long lives w must ever
bear m mind our limited time for acquisition. And
remembering how narrowly this time is limited, net
only by the shortness of life, but also still more by the
business of life, we ought to be especially solicitous to
employ what time we have to the greatest ad vantage.
Before devoting years to some subject which fashion
or fancy suggests, it is surely wise to weigh with
great care the worth of the results, as compared
with the worth of various alternative results which
the same years mi^ht bring if otherwise applied.

In education, iue this is the question of ques



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH f 15

tions, which it is high time we discussed in some
methodic way. The first in importance, though the
last to be considered, is the problem how to decide
among the conflicting claims of various subjects on
our attention. Before there can be a rational curric-
ulum, we must settle which things it most concerns
us to know ; or to use a word of Bacon's, now unfor*
innately obsolete we must determine the relative
values of knowledges.

To this end, a measure of value is the first requis
ite. And happily, respecting the true measure oi
value, as expressed in general terms, there can be no
dispute. Every one in contending for the worth of
any particular order of information, does so by show-
ing its bearing upon some part of life. In reply to
the question, " Of what use is it ? " the mathemati-
cian, linguist, naturalist, or philosopher, explains the
way in which his learning beneficially influences ac-
tion saves from evil or secures good conduces to
happiness. When the teacher of writing has pointed
out how great an aid writing is to success in busi-
ness that is, to the obtainment of sustenance that
is, to satisfactory living ; he is held to have proved
his case. And when the collector of dead facts (say
a numismatist) fails to make clear any appreciable
effects which these fact? can produce on human wei



16 EDUCATION.

fare, he is obliged to admit that they are compare
Mvely valueless. All then, either directly or by im
plication, appeal to this as the ultimate test.

How to live ? that is the essential question for us.
Not how to live in the mere material sense only, but
in the widest sense. The general problem which
comprehends every special problem is the right rul
ing of conduct in all directions under all circum
stances. In what way to treat the body ; in what
way to treat the mind ; in what way to manage our
affairs ; in what way to bring up a family ; in what
way to behave as a citizen ; in what way to utilize
all those sources of happiness which nature supplies
how to use all our faculties to the greatest advant-
age of ourselves and others how to live completely ?
And this being the great thing needful for us tc
learn, is, by consequence, the great thing which edu-
cation has to teach. To prepare us for complete liv-
ing is the function which education has to discharge ;
and the only rational mode of judging of any educa-
tional course is, to judge in what degree it discharges
such function.

This test, never used in its entirety, but rarely
even partially used, and used then in a vague, half
conscious way, has to be applied consciously, method-
ic.. !\y, and throughout all cases. It behooves us to



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH? 1?

et before ourselves, and ever to keep clearly in view,
complete living ac the end to be achieved ; so that
in bringing up our children we may choose subjects
and methods of instruction, with deliberate refer-
ence to this end. Not only ought we to cease from
the mere unthinking adoption of the current fashion
in education, which has no better warrant than any
other fashion ; but we must also rise above that rude,
empirical style of judging displayed by those more
intelligent people who do bestow some care in over-
seeing the cultivation of their children's minds. It
must not suffice simply to think that such or such
information will be useful in after life, or that this
kind of knowledge is of more practical value than
that ; but we must seek out some process of estimat-
ing their respective values, so that as far as possible
we may positively know which are most deserving
of attention.

Doubtless the task is difficult perhaps never to
be more than approximately achieved. But, con-
sidering the vastness of the interests at stake, its
difficulty is no reason for pusillanimously passing it
by ; but rather for devoting every energy to its mas-
tery. And if we only proceed systematically, we
may very soon get at results of no small moment.

Our first step must obviously be to classify, in the



18 EDUCATION.

order of their importance, the leading kincio of
activity which constitute human life. They may
be naturally arranged into : 1. Those activities
which directly minister to self-preservation ; 2.
Those activities which, by securing the necessaries
of life, indirectly minister to self-preservation ; 3.
Those activities which have for their end the rear-
ing and discipline of offspring; 4. Those activities
which are involved in the maintenance of proper,
social and political relations ; 5. Thoss miscellaneous
activities which make up the leisure part of life,
devoted to the gratification of the tastes and feelings.
That these stand in something like their true order
of subordination, it needs no long consideration to
show. The actions and precautions by which, from
moment to moment, we secure personal safety, must
clearly take precedence of all others. Could there
be a man, ignorant as an infant of all surrounding
objects and movements, or how to guide himself
among them, he would pretty certainly lose his life
the first time he went into the street : notwithstand-
ing any amount of learning he might have on other
matters. And as entire ignorance in all other direc-
tions -would be less promptly fatal than entire igno-
rance in this direction, it must be admitted that



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH) 19

knowledge immediately conducive to self-preserva-
tion is of primary importance.

That next after direct self-preservation comes the
indirect self-preservation which consists in acquiring
the means of living, none will question. That a
man s industrial functions must be considered before
his parental ones, is manifest from the fact that|
speaking generally, the discharge of the parental
functions is made possible only by the previous dis-
charge of the industrial ones. The power of self-
maintenance necessarily preceding the power of
maintaining offspring, it follows that knowledge
needful for self-maintenance has stronger claims than
knowledge needful for family welfare is second in
value to none save knowledge needful for immediate
self-preservation.

As the family comes before the State in order of
time as the bringing up of children is possible be-
fore the State exists, or when it has ceased to be,
whereas the State is rendered possible only by the
bringing up of children ; it follows that the duties
of the parent demand closer attention than those of
the citizen. Or, to use a further argument since
the goodness of a society ultimately depends on the
nature of its citizens ; and since the nature of its
citizens is more modifiable by early training than by



ID EDUCATION

anything else; we must conclude that the welfare
of the family underlies the welfare of society. And
hence knowledge directly conducing to the first,
must take precedence of knowledge directly con
ducing to the last.

Those various forms of pleasurable occupation
<which fill up the leisure left by graver occupations-
the enjoyments of music, poetry, painting, etc. -
manifestly imply a pre-existing society. Not only is
a considerable development of them impossible with-
out a long-established social union ; but theii very
subject-matter consists in great part of social senti-
ments and sympathies. Not only does society supply
the conditions of their growth ; but also the ideas
and sentiments they express. And, consequently,
that part of human conduct which constitutes good
citizenship is of more moment than that which goes
out in accomplishments or exercise of the tastes*,
and, in education, preparation for the one must rank
before preparation for the other.

Such then, we repeat, is something like the rational
order of subordination : That education which pre-
pares for direct self-preservation ; that which prepare?
for indirect self-preservation ; that which prepares
for parenthood ; that which prepares for citizenship
that which prepares for the miscellaneous refinements



WHAT RSOWLEQDE 18 Of MOST frO&TBt 21

ur life. We do not mean to say that these divisions
are definitely separable. We do not deny that they
are intricately entangled with each other in such
way that there can be no training for any that is not
in some measure a training for alL Nor do we ques-
tion that of each division there are portions more
important than certain portions of the preceding
divisions : that, for instance, a man of much skill in
business but little other faculty, may fall further be-
low the standard of complete living than one of but
moderate power of acquiring money but great judg-
ment as a parent ; or that exhaustive information
bearing on right social action, joined with entire
want of general culture in literature and the fine
arts, is less desirable than a more moderate snare of
the one joined with some of the other. But, after
making all qualifications, there still remain these
broadly-marked divisions, and it still continues sub-
stantially true that these divisions subordinate one
another in the foregoing order, because the corres-
ponding divisions of life make one another possible in
that ot-der.

Of course the ideal of education is complete
preparation in all these divisions. But failing this
ideal, as in our phase of civilization every one must
do more or less, the aim should be to maintain a due



29 EDUCATION.

proportion between the degrees of preparation in
each. Not exhaustive cultivation in any one, sr
premely important though it may be not even a?.
exclusive attention to the two, three, or four divi-
sions of greatest importance ; but an attention to
all, greatest where the value is greatest, less where
the value is less, least where the value is least. For
the average man (not to forget the cases in whick
peculiar aptitude for some one department of knowl-
edge rightly makes that one the bread winning occu-
pation) for the average man, we say, the desider-
atum is, a training that approaches nearest to perfec-
tion in the things which most subserve complete liv
ing, and falls more and more below perfection in the
things that have more and more remote bearings on
complete living.

In regulating education by this standard, there are
some general considerations that should l>; evei
present to us. The worth of any kind of culture
as aiding complete living, may be either necessary
or more or less contingent. There is knowledge of
Intrinsic value ; knowledge of quasi-intrinsic value
and knowledge of conventional value. Such facts
as that sensations of numbness and tingling com-
monly precede paralysis, that the resistance of water
to a body moving through it varies as the square



WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH? 23

of the velocity, that chlorine is a disinfectant,
these, and the truths of Science in general, are of
intrinsic value : they will bear on human conduct
ten thousand years hence as they do now. The
extra knowledge of our own language, which is
^iven by an acquaintance with Latin and Greek v
may be considered to have a value that is quasi-in
trinsic ; it must exist for us and for other race&
whose languages owe much to these sources; but
will last only as long as our languages last. While
that kind of information which, in our schools,
usurps the name History the mere tissue of names
and dates and dead unmeaning events has a con-
ventional value only : it has not the remotest bear-


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Online LibraryHerbert SpencerEducation : intellectual, moral and physical → online text (page 1 of 18)