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sued in such a way as to teach their methods as well as their
results. The latter may be imparted as information in very
large quantities without the student's having attained any real
acquaintance with the facts; he may have got no more than a
mass of memorized definitions and statements, and, in spite of


Bacon and all who have followed him, may mistake these for the
facts. He may have learnt not a whit of the patience, self-
distrust, humility, and loyalty to fact, that characterize the true
man of science, the original investigator. His powers of attention,
observation and accuracy may have been left dormant under it

These objections hold with great force against the branch of
physical science most taught in our schools, and the method by
which it is taught. From the lowest to the highest schools, and
by a series of graded text-books, the attention of the pupil is
concentrated upon geography , with no result save the overloading
the memory with a mass of statements which constitute no real
knowledge of the earth's surface. They are true in detail, but
the whole is false as professing to be an adequate account of our
planet. They are a hindrance, therefore, to real knowledge, as
they render the student content with what is a mere phantasm
knowledge. He mostly learns them by heart without any reali-
zing sense of their meaning, and a question out of the usual run
of questions often displays the vacuity of his mind on the

For this earth-lore it would be well to substitute neighborhood-
lore — or the study of those facts that actually fall under the
scholar's observation, and their scientific explanation. The
student might learn the geology of his native district; its rela-
tion to all the large geographical facts, such as the isothermal
lines, the continental formations, the sea and the tides ; its
meteorology especially, its weather-lore; its natural history in all
its branches, with incitement to collect specimens for the school
museums; its social history and progress from the days of the
red man's wigwam to the present time. Such a training would
be in the line of the providential purpose that ordinarily connects
each single life with a single spot of earth; it would give t lie
mind the sense of a hold upon the world, a definite place and
starting-point. It would be more likely, by connecting life with
knowledge, to be the first stage in a life devoted to knowledge,
than if its youth had been spent in loading the memory with


notions that, however real in the knowledge of the scientist,
possess no reality for the scholar.

And to come still more close to the student, he should be
taught the elements of practical hygiene in connection with the
broader physiological laws that govern health and disease. There
are few of us but would live longer and more healthfully for
such self-knowledge ; it would save men from grave mistakes such
as often embitter a lifetime by disease, and would thereby add
greatly to the industrial power of the nation.

§ 339. Secondly, to fit a man for his place in the jural state,
education will implant in his mind the convictions of righteous-
ness, of justice, that underlie the national order and the laws by
which it is prescribed and enforced. The. state is the organiza-
tion of the whole people for the purpose of securing justice;
this is the common vocation of all states, and except as they
recognise it and act on it, they are unworthy of the name and
forfeit the rights of nations. The elevation of the individual
citizen into the true national consciousness is therefore an edu-
cation in righteousness, in uprightness, — and the means of re-
straint upon unrighteousness, prohibitions and punishments, are
but secondary political agencies. The state must seek first of
all to plant the right seed, and secondarily to root out the tares.

This is, thus far, only incidentally attempted in our modern
system, through the influence of school discipline, the enforce-
ment of order, and the operation upon the mind of studies that
aim at other ends, but do effect something towards this end, by
familiarizing the mind with the conception of law as the under-
lying principle in every sphere of life and observation. And
indeed it is by indirect teaching, rather than by the imparting
of moral information, that most can be effected. The study of
the lives of gi-eat and good men may do much ; such as those
biographies in which Plutarch has preserved for us the life and
spirit of the great heroes of the Greek and Roman world. And
out of biographies already at hand, a corresponding book might
be compiled for the modern period and written with the same
" universal sympathy with genius " (Emerson), in the same spirit


of genuine enthusiasm and admiration, and convey the same in-
spiration of enthusiasm to its students. Both in its selection
and its method, it should contemplate men in the relation of
their lives to the life of the state, showing how their virtues
contributed to its strength and its freedom, and even how their
vices, faults and weaknesses tended to weaken and enslave it.
It should he, like Plutarch's, a book " crammed with life," with
"genial facility" of style, the embalming of noble lives. It
should stand higher than his. as modern society stands above
ancient, in the clearer knowledge that "righteousness is of the
essence of the state " (Plato), aud in the firmer purpose to edu-
cate students into that devotion to it which is the truest and
highest form of the national consciousness.

The best text-books for this training are wisely written histo-
ries, and of these the finest is the Old Testament history of the
Jewish nation, which is especially fitted to exemplify the
great principle that is to be here inculcated, — that the divine
call laid upon every nation is a call to righteousness. The
national literature of that people tells how a family became
a tribe, a cluster of tribes, a nation ; that the law of righteous-
ness was disclosed to them as the foundation of their national
life; that their experiences, both light and dark, disclosed to
them the truth that they were a strong, united and living people
when they lived by it, but weak, divided and dying when they
lost sight of it. Espc^ally the prophets of the nation stand out
prominently as the interpreters of the meaning of their nation's
history, — as pointing out the moral order, the moral " constitu-
tion and course of nature," upon which the nation's life, free-
dom and prosperity depended. Their function was not specially
" the prediction of future events;" some of their books contain
no predictions whatever, and those that occur in others for the
most part flow naturally from that perception of " the laws that
circle under the outer shell and skin of daily life," — laws at once
ethical and social — which they were trained to observe in " the
schools of the prophets." Their power of prediction was but


the test of the reality of their science of the moral order of
society, as of all other science (§ 2).

The Old Testament has been so overlaid with allegorizing, "edifying,"'
and other unhistorical sorts of commentaries, that its political significance
has been obscured. One of the best expositions of its political side is
given in Prof. E. D. Maurice's Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament,
(Am. Ed., Boston, 1854). In the same spirit Sir Edward Straehey has
treated the prophecies of Isaiah in his Hebrew Politics in the Times of
Sargon and Sennacherib, (2d Ed., London, 1S74), and Matthew Arnold
has published the last twenty-six chapters of that book as a text-book for
schools ( The Great Prophecy of Israel's Restoration).

The most instructive history of any modern nation will be the
one that most closely approaches to that Hebrew method of his-
toriography, — not by any affectation of style or the lifeless repeti-
tion of Bible phrases, but by the application of the same princi-
ples in the selection of the representative facts, and in its severe
and faithful, though friendly, judgmeuts of all national trans-
actions. It will start from essentially the same conception of
the nature and the calling of the nation, and will trace the same
divine hand "shaping" men's " ends" for purposes that they
had not foreseen. It will give a lasting importance, an inex-
haustible significance to the transactions of temporal affairs, by
connecting them with the eternal principles of right. It will
make the student feel that his calling, as a member of a nation,
is a lofty and solemn thing, and will awake him not only to the
consciousness, but also to the conscience of freedom. It will
show him that the privileges and franchises of citizenship are a
divine trust, a stewardship, and his abuse of them a crime of a
very high nature.

It will not be claimed that our present school histories are
written on any such plan as this. They have been, for the most
part, modelled more after the Fourth of July oration than the
Hebrew prophets. They teach too often the silly vanity of
national boastfulness, instead of any mere ethical lesson. As
the sense of humor has been developed among us, such teaching
and such speech-making have turned our brief but honorable
history into a theme of jest and popular merriment, which no


longer excites the imagination or rouses patriotic enthusiasm.
Our educated classes now seek in other lauds the scenes of
historic association which they no longer find at home.

§ 340. The mere instruction in righteousness is not in itself
sufficient for the formation of a human character according to
the standard of our own country. The legal maxim, Swmmum
jus, summa injuria, has its truth in this connection ; the merely
righteous man, the just man whose justice is a hard insisting on
all his rights, an exacting of his own, comes short of perfect
rightness or righteousness, and is often guilty of acts which the
popular conscience pronounces to be simply wrong, though not
technically so. This is so because we are, however imperfectly,
a Christian nation, — because the national standard of character
is derived from the Sermon on the Mount as well as from the
Ten Commandments. That Sermon does not set aside the old
code ; it only complements it by enjoining upon the individual
heart and conscience a spirit of meekness, of self-sacrifice, and
of forgiveness, that counteracts the spirit of self-assertion and
hard legalism, which would bring the law itself into contempt by
making it the instrument of men's selfishness and rapacity. The
old basis of national order, the stern righteousness that demands
M an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," it leaves un-
touched ; but it guards that order against a peril involved in its
own nature as applied to the affairs of imperfect men. And it
announces these injunctions, not as applicable to some special
class of saintly characters, but as laws of the kingdom of God —
of God's government of men.

The New Testament, therefore, either in or out of the public
schools, should form an essential part of the education of the
young for their places as members of a Christian nation. Its
exclusion from those schools, even if it be taught sufficiently
elsewhere, may have the effect of sundering its lessons from his
practical life, and lead him to suppose that the book is a mere
"religious" or churchly text-book, whose precepts of Christian
courtesy, forbearance and self-sacrifice, concern but slightly
his relations to society at large. The chief objections to its in-


troduction are, we believe, based on misconceptions of its real
character, many of which are due to those who have come to be
regarded as its especial custodians and interpreters.

Even as a literary work, the English Bible holds such a place
as a master-piece that no course of education can be complete
if it exclude it. Its phrases have become the proverbs and
household words of the people ; ignorance of the broad outlines
of its history and teachings, even of the letter of some especial
parts, consigns a man to social contempt. And it has become
entwined with all the other classical literature of the language.
Not only Milton, Bunyan and Cowper, but even Shakespeare,
Scott and Byron would be in places unintelligible to those who
have acquaintance with it. For this reason, among others, the
Hindoos prefer to study English in the missionary schools where
it is read, rather than in the government schools from which it is
excluded. They also resent its exclusion from the latter as a
piece of jealousy similar to that with which they once kept the
Vcdas from the knowledge of Europeans.

A Roman Catholic writer, the late Father F. W. Faber, says of the Eng-
lish Bible : " Who will say that the uncommon beauty and marvellous
English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the great strongholds of
heresy in this country ? It lives on the ear like a music that can never
be forgotten, like the sound of church-bells, which the convert hardly
knows how he can forego. Its felicities often seem to be almost things
rather than mere words. It is part of the national mind, the anchor of
the national seriousness. Nay, it is worshipped with a positive idolatry,
in extenuation of whose grotesque fanaticism its intrinsic beauty pleads
arailingly with the man of letters and the scholar. The memory of the
dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped
in its verses. The power of all the griefs and trials of a man is hidden
beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments, and all
that there has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent,
and good, speaks to him for ever out of his English Bible. It is his sacred
thing, which doubt has never dimmed and controversy never soiled. It
has been to him all along as the silent but intelligible voice of his guardian
angel ; and in the length and breadth of the land there is not a Protestant
with one spark of religiousness about him, whose spiritual biography is
not in his Protestant Bible" (Preface to Life <f St. Francis of Assist',

§ 341. Thirdly, The state should give in its public schools


such general instruction, and should offer in special technical
schools such opportunity of special and technical teaching, as
will fit its members for their places in the industrial state.

How far this should include the training of the members of
the learned professions, including teachers in public schools, we
will not stop to inquire. We will confine ourselves to the edu-
cation of the persons engaged in the two productive industries,
agriculture and manufacturing.

A scientific agriculture is one of the last attainments of even
enlightened and progressive nations. As we have seen, nations
that have made rapid advances in all the other arts, lag behind
in this, importing food for large numbers of their people from
abroad, when they could easily have raised enough and to spare
at home. In some cases this is partly the effect of a bad system
of land tenure, but in all cases the defective intelligence and the
superannuated methods employed in farming are chiefly to blame.
Since Liebig's great discoveries in agricultural chemistry, it has
become perfectly possible to greatly increase the yield of any
given area of soil by scientific methods, and to bring under profita-
ble cultivation the most unpromising lands, wherever the local
market for food makes it worth while to employ those methods.
But even in such situations as this, the farming class cling to old
ways, refuse to employ the same foresight and enterprise as are
essential to success in manufacturing, and jest at " book farmers "
as a set of enthusiasts. Nor are they so much to blame ; their
comparatively isolated situation, their distance from the great
centres of intelligence, and the imperfections of their daily edu-
cation by contact with other minds, render them a very con-
servative class. They cling to old traditions with great tenacity.
Two bad consequences result. (1) A divorce of experience
and enterprise. The experimental farming of the country is
left to editors, lawyers, clergymen, and the like, who have far
less practical knowledge than is needed for the undertaking.
Their enterprises very often — but by no means always — are need-
less failures; i. e. they might have been brilliant successes in
the hands of men who united a large intelligence with a large


experience. (2) The young people, who grow up on the farm,
learn to regard agriculture as a soulless, mindless routine of hard
work, with no chances of using any higher power than the
muscles. They carry their brains to the best market. Some
become preachers, others politicians, others professional men,
others merchants. All these Hues of activity are crowded with
men of more or less intelligence and mental power, who began
life in a farm-house, and might have been more successful and
useful in life had sufficient inducements been offered them to
end it there.

The technical education of the farming class should begin
in the public schools, and with the earliest years of study. The
neighborhood-knowledge proposed above would form a good
introduction to it. In country schools that teaching should take
this direction. The useful branches of natural history, the
nature, history and habits of the domestic animals, and of the
cultivated vegetables and the agricultural geology of the district,
should be among its themes. The child should be taught at
once the rightful respect for his father's mode of life as concerned
with the most valuable of human sciences, and also to thirst for
a more extensive acquaintance with those sciences, as bearing on
that occupation. In a word, the school should be, on this side
of its life, the preparation for the agricultural college.

In the college the students should receive at once the liberal
culture that will fit them to associate on terms of equality with
educated men, and the special scientific and technical training,
that will enable them to practise a scientific agriculture. Of
course the college should be, at the same time, a farm, sufficient
in its extent and its variety of soil and of situation to represent
the lands upon which its pupils are to be employed. Study and
work should be associated in its management. — each to give
direction, dignity and practical worth to the other. The best
stock, the most improved instruments, the most thorough methods
of tillage, should be exemplified on the farm ; and a system of
experimental agriculture should be carried on as part of its
activities. Above all, the pupils should be impressed with a


sense of a vocation, firstly as farmers, and secondly as farmers
of education — as therefore in some degree intrusted with the
education of their class. And no pains should he spared to
impress upon the farming class the importance of such a patron-
age of the institution, as will make it a power to promote intelli-
gence and enterprise in the community.

Farmers should be incited by state and county fairs, agricul-
tural institutes and associations, and the like, to meet periodi-
cally to compare past results and devise better methods for the
future. Their occupation gives them leisure enough for the
purpose at some seasons of the year. In such meetings tho-
roughly educated farmers would soon hold a prominent place,
and become themselves the educators of others. The influence
of the technical school of agriculture would be thus multiplied,
and would leaven the whole mass.

The order of the Grangers, or Patrons of Husbandry, recently organized
in this country some years ago, and already very widely extended,
promises very excellent results in this direction of mutual education, pro-
vided that its constitution be rigidly adhered to, anil the undertaking be
perscveringly sustained. But mere association will not work immediate
wonders, nor change at once the material thus united, and there seems In
be danger of the order being used for political purposes by ambitious
men, or smothered under the meaningless mummery of a secret association.

A governmental department of agriculture may render great
services to the farming class, not only by the collection and accli-
matization of foreign plants, seeds and animals, and their distri-
bution at government expense; but also by investigating through
consuls, and special agents, the methods of foreign agriculture,
and by undertaking investigations and publishing information
which private publishers would find too expensive. There arc
very clear limits to the range of its educational activities, but
within those limits there is much that can be done to great

§ 342. Of hardly less importance is the technical education of
the other classes engaged in productive industry. The era of
the application of science to manufacturing industry may lie said
to have begun with Napoleon and the Continental system, when


upon the French and German sava?is was imposed the task of
discovering substitutes for substances which could no longer be
obtained from abroad. Up to that time the arts had taken the
lead of the sciences; Watts and Arkwright rather furnished
problems for scientific investigation, than acted on the guidance
of scientific teaching. But now science began to point out new
industrial methods, and suggest improvements of those that were
traditional. From the study and the laboratory came forth dis-
discoveries that revolutionized the workshop. Every progressive
and intelligent nation is emulating every other in their adoption,
and changes continually occur in great industries, by which
old methods are at once abandoned and new substituted. Work-
ingmen of a low and unintelligent grade have not the power of
adaptation needed in those who are thus giving up old traditions
and adopting new ways. The onward march of the industrial army
will be greatly hindered if its troops have not the drill and the
mental equipment that fit them for it. And that equipment is
twofold. The man must have received such general training as
has developed his judgment and his powers of observation, and
must have a large measure of specific knowledge as to the nature
of his work, and the materials he deals with.

So rapid are these changes, that there are, for instance, sugar refine-
ries in our own country, lull of machinery which is far from being worn
out, but which is simply rusting out in idleness, because the discovery
of new processes for the extraction of sugar from molasses has rendered
it useless. The owners could not afford to go on using it, and will finally
sell it as old iron.

§ 343. The complexity of modern manufacturing, even if it
were thoroughly unprogressive, makes such technical training
highly desirable. Things are attempted in modern industry that
would once have been voted impossible, and the people who can
do the most of these impossible things takes the industrial lead
of all others. The resources of the old workshop were as limited
in kind as in extent; its workmen plodded on in a dull routine
that demanded little more than a slight cultivation of hand and
eye. But a walk through a modern watch factory, will show what
a vast number of technical educations have been expended upon


the several workmen, and to what thoroughness these have been
carried in each case. It is true that training of this sort is
chiefly the work of active life, and can never be obtained tho-
roughly in any other way. But it is also true that very much
may be done indirectly to qualify the man for his work ; much
knowledge may be given him that practice will transform into
technical expertness. And above all, by showing him the rea-
son of his work, as well as its method, is he not only qualified
to act intelligently in any unforeseen circumstances, or to apply
the same principles in any new method, but he is also led to take
a deeper interest in his work, and to do it with more diligence,
— more love for it.

And all this applies with tenfold force to the foremen of the
workshop, the non-commissioned officers of industry. They
hold a place to which- every workman should be taught to look
forward as the end of his labors, — as a place of honor as well as

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 37 of 38)