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raised. When, on the other hand, such effort has
its origin in the desire of a few to overturn existing
institutions in order that they, perhaps, may receive
personal benefit — when such education ceases to
lead man to grapple with fundamental problems,
and becomes something superficial, and therefore
indifferent to the simplest principles of right and
wrong^a time has come for serious consideration,
and the question should be asked: What can be
done so to affect popular education that it shall be
controlled more generally by stronger and higher
principles of ethics ?

But we must not ask that popular education
shall cease because in depth and character it does
not at once assume a satisfactory form. It is
enough to note that there is, all the while, an im-
provement; and our faith in humanity and its future,
based upon the experience of the past, should enable


us to overlook the imperfections of the present,
even though they may be many.

But now let us ask ourselves: Granting that
popular education affects a large and larger number;
granted that it strikes deep and deeper; is it also
becoming more and more pervasive? This is not
a necessary conclusion from the other statements.
What do I mean by a growing pervasiveness?
That a spirit of eagerness, of interest, of ambition
is gradually transforming the activity of the masses;
that a spirit of intelHgence is everywhere more
apparent, the influence of which each year touches
more largely the life of every man among the mil-
lions who call America their home; and that the
force of this educational influence is felt in the
higher ideals which, as can easily be seen, are con-
troUing the thought and work of our country's
multitudes; felt likewise in their readiness to put
aside the narrow prejudices of a section, and take on
the name and spirit and strength of a nation. With
this interpretation of the word *' pervasiveness" we
see clearly that the proposition holds good : Popular
education is going deeper; it is also becoming more

A study of the agencies which, at the present
time, contribute to the education of the people in an
informal way reveals another interesting feature —
that the work in general is growing more and more
systematic, and to this end institutional. Until recent
years all influence of this kind was exerted in a hap-


hazard sort of fashion. It was, indeed, chaotic; there
was Uttle or no organization of any form. But out
of this disorder there is plainly coming something
like system.

Different classes now find special plans and meth-
ods of educational work adapted to their particular
needs. No better illustration of this fact can be
asked for than the organization involved in the
make-up of the typical daily newspaper, including,
as it does, not merely the news and the editorial
page, but also the pages devoted to instruction,
now in literature, again in history, still again in
technology, or poHtical science, or some other sub-
ject of equal educational value; the selections of
classical and standard poetry, the reading of which
will stimulate higher ideals along this line or that;
the reproduction in beautiful form of some flower,
bird, or perhaps some anthropological study. It
is not exaggeration to say that in its best type the
daily newspaper is not merely a popular educator;
it is a popular educational institution organized
to meet the demands of the millions who look to it
from morning to morning for help, stimulus, and
nourishment. If this be true of the da'ly paper,
how much more true of the magazine which for
ten cents gives its readers the results of expert work
in a score of departments, all brought together to
furnish information, to incite thought, to encourage
the cultivation of higher aspirations. Institutional
organization is seen even more definitely in the


countless reading circles of various kinds which
are taking form; in the gradual substitution of the
extension course of lectures systematically, arranged,
for the hit-or-miss lecture of the lyceum; in the
splendidly conceived programme of a Chautauqua
assembly; in the orderly presentation of educational
material from the pulpit; in the Christian Associa-
tions; and also in the system and organization which,
within a few years, have been developed in the
Sunday-school field. In some quarters traveling
has become an institutional affair, and in most
cases it is now undertaken with a definite purpose
and under organized guidance. This tendency
toward institutional organization, like all the others,
will certainly move very rapidly in the near future;
for, as experience shows, institutional effort, once
started, develops with irresistible momentum.

Still another characteristic of this new move-
ment in popular education is its scientific character.
We can all see that popular thinking is coming
to be more scientific. I mean this in the narrow
and also in the broad sense of the word "scientific."
The thinking of today has to do with what we call
science. A century ago there was really no such
thing as science. The laws of nature were still a
secret. There had been much observation, but
this was for the most part indefinite, imperfect,
unco-ordinated. The circle of scientific investi-
gation has now, however, gradually extended itself,
until it includes everything, from God himself to


the most insignificant atom of his creation. Laws
have been discovered, scientific methods established,
in the employment of which new laws will surely
come to fight; and all laws, new and old, are, or
are to be, the possession, the working capital, of
the people at large. The influence on farming of
the scientific work done in agricultural lines is an
example of what I mean. The readiness of men
and boys in all our cities to do night work in sub-
jects connected with electricity and mechanics bears
also upon this point. The introduction of the
manual-training idea into the lower forms of edu-
cation is still another example.

Nor is this all. Indirectly science has contributed
much more. Popular thinking, in reference to
matters outside the realm of science, has come to
have a scientific outward expression which was
before unknown. Accuracy of observation and
accuracy of statement, neither of which can exist
alone, have been introduced, and this introduction
has been attended with radical and fundamental
changes. In this there has been loss as well as
gain. The older, innocent, and childish ideahty
is giving place to a more mature but unimaginative
realism — a realism, indeed, which in some cases has
gone too far, and from which there will come a
reaction. This extreme tendency is seen in the
proposition to abolish Mother Goose from the
nursery. Science and the scientific method, there-
fore, now dominate, and their influence is to be


traced in popular as well as in more scholarly thought,
in moral as well as in intellectual life.

Popular education is growing scientific; not in
the sense that the people can ever learn much con-
cerning the facts of science in any of its departments ;
nor in the sense that the great principles of science
will enter largely into popular conceptions of Hfe
and truth; but rather in that simple sense that
accurate methods of thought will be inculcated ;
that truth as it is accepted will be something truer
than it would have been, something more absolute.

And, finally, the movement in popular education
is proceeding upon levels that are more ethical,
more spiritual. It is not merely the practical
that interests and occupies the public mind. The
ideal, in spite of the teachings of science, plays a
large part in the constantly shifting scenes of the
drama of human hfe.

This it is that gives us a faith based on hope, in
respect to the future of the race. There is a deal
of faith, coupled with despair, in the world. It is
not this that we would have, but rather that hopeful,
radiant, enthusiastic faith which carries one over
and through everything suggestive of difficulty. And
it is this tendency of education to reach up for the
ideal, I say, which gives ground for a faith in the future.

The people, in mass, occupy a plane far higher
than that occupied by any one generation in the
past; but something still higher is possible, and,
being possible, must be attained. Will this higher


achievement come from the employment of a more
scientific method in the educational work intended
for the people? Greater accuracy is still to be
attained; but the greatest degree of accuracy,
whether of method or of form, will not enable them
to accomplish what they desire. Is this thing to
be attained by leading them still deeper in the study
of the problems of Ufe and living ? This will help,
and from this great results will be secured; but the
thing desired will be found to lie still deeper. Mate-
rialism does not furnish the key to unlock the secrets
of the future, nor will it provide the foundation on
which the future welfare of the people can find any
sure resting-place. The visible world is great,
but the invisible is still greater. The popular
thought must rise above that which is merely
material; it must grapple the problems of the
unseen. This through all the ages has been the
teaching of the highest thought. It has been this
teaching which has made Christianity the mother
of progress and advancement. And when this
teaching is lost sight of, when the world is satisfied
with the things which it can touch or handle, then
there comes a halt in the onward march, a breaking
of ranks, and an abandonment of the campaign
for liberty and truth.

The idealism of the prophets of old led them to
paint a picture which is only now beginning to be
realized. It is the function and the duty of some
among the people of today to give to the world ideals


which a thousand years hence may not see fulfilled.
But this, you will say, is impractical; it is visionary.
My answer is, No ; for these same prophets of old were
among the world's greatest reformers, and they edu-
cated the nation to which they belonged until the
nation became, in turn, the leader of other nations.
The greatest piece of popular education the world
has ever seen accompHshed was the education by
prophet, priest, and sage of the Israelitish nation,
and their teaching was as our teaching today should
be — ethical in the highest and best sense. We must
confess that confusion exists in the minds of the
masses; confusion, on the part of some, in respect
to the most elementary principles underlying what
is conceived to be right and wrong. There is no
standard which men generally accept, and because
of a lack of such a standard even good men are
everywhere working havoc and ruin. There are
those who heap reproach upon the head of him
who professes to regulate his thinking in accordance
with ethical principles, such a thing being conceived
to be truly absurd. But patriots and poets, preachers
and reformers, prophets and apostles, even Jesus
himself, have labored quite in vain, if in this day of
advancing thought such doctrine shall prevail.
We may not forget the words of the Great Teacher,
or the example which he set ; and so long as these
words and this example are not forgotten, there will
be an incentive and stimulus to a higher and nobler
ethical training of the people.


It is quite unnecessary, then, to be despondent
as to the outcome of popular education in this
respect. The evidence is clear to him who will
but read it, that a higher spiritual element is indeed
present in the great movement of modern times.
We see it in the processes employed and in the
results already attained. We feel it in every cry
that comes from the heart of the masses; for these
are not the instinctive cries of animals sufifering
pain; they are rather prayers going forth to heaven
from souls whose faith, though perhaps clouded, is
nevertheless strong and sincere.



A UNIVERSITY founded and conducted by the
state, it is generally conceded, may not under any
circumstances devote its energy to subjects relating
to religion or theology. This question is entirely
separate from that other question of the Bible in
the public schools which has furnished an oppor-
tunity for so much meaningless as well as acrid dis-
cussion. At the same time, the principles under-
lying both questions are practically the same, and
sooner or later the state will be forced to consider
more definitely and scientifically than it has yet
done what shall be its policy in both of these great
fields of education, the lower and the higher, in re-
spect to that large and vital group of subjects which,
in theory as well as in practice, is indissolubly
associated with life itself, whatever aspect of life
may be considered. It is not, to be sure, so delicate
a task to take up this question from the point of
view of a university on private foundation; but if
one studies the attitude ordinarily assumed by col-
leges and by universities, he must infer that there
exist certain unfortunate difficulties which thus far
have been overcome, if overcome at all, only in
part; for it is probably true that those institutions



founded avowedly as Christian colleges all through
the states have done too little in the way of making
provision for a sound religious education of the stu-
dents committed to their care; while in the larger
institutions or universities on private foundation —
partly because of ignorance or uncertainty as to
the definite thing which should be done, partly also
from indifference, and partly because of that coward-
ly spirit which too frequently in these days charac-
terizes even good men and good institutions in con-
nection with anything that is religious — the entire
matter has been allowed to drift on and on with
nothing tangible to show in the form of result.

The undesirability of maintaining longer this
general attitude of indifference to these subjects;
or, to put it positively, the desirability of meeting
boldly the questions involved in this matter, has
been felt in more recent years by many institutions,
and by many of those who are concerned with the
development of higher education. The change of
attitude, if we may at this time call it change, is
due to several things, viz.: (i) The elevation of the
study of biblical history and literature to a level,
scientifically considered, with that of other history
and literature. We may frankly acknowledge that
the methods employed almost universally twenty-
five years ago in connection with the study of the
Scriptures — methods still in vogue in many quarters
— were unworthy, not only of the subject itself, but
of any place in an institution of higher learning.


(2) The work, moreover, which has in recent years
been accomplished by eminent psychologists, along
lines relating to the religious life, has done much
to lift the whole subject into a new and higher
realm. (3) The fact that the college curriculum
has been broadened to include subjects relating to
all the phases of human life makes it possible
to introduce subjects that have to do with the
religious phase. But it may not be said that these
things have thus far produced any considerable re-
sults; and no one for a moment would think that
the interest thus far shown, or any multiplication
of it which may come in the next years, will be
interpreted as a swinging of the pendulum back
toward the older conception of college training in
accordance with which it was for the most part re-
stricted to those preparing for the ministry. The
college of those early days was really not a college,
but a professional school planned and conducted
for the education of a certain profession. At the
present time, as a part of this change of feeling w^hich
seems to be manifesting itself, there exists a very
general sentiment that the time has come to go
forward more definitely and more strongly in the
direction that has been indicated.

But, in any work that has to do with religious
education, the university, it is evident, must partici-
pate. Such participation, all will grant, is strictly
in accordance with the general purpose of a uni-
versity. If the higher institutions of learning in


recent years have, with a remarkable degree of
unanimity, felt the demand made upon them to
undertake physical education as a necessary part
of the college and university work, it will hardly be
possible to draw a line that will shut out religious
education. And if, on the other hand, from the
earliest times, the college or university has engaged
in the technical work of religious and theological
education, in so far as that had to do with training
the chief agent of reHgious education, the minister,
it will be found even more difficult today to with-
draw from a work which has always been regarded
as legitimately that of the college or university.
Moreover, if the study of the Sacred Scriptures is
associated with the study of the philology and
literature of great nations of antiquity, as well as
with psychology, and with the history and sociology,
of the past, in a sense perhaps in which no other
subject has connection with these topics; if the sub-
ject of reHgious education from the pedagogical point
of view has come to be recognized as really a psycho-
logical subject and as an important factor in the his-
tory of every human being from a psychological
point of view; if, still further, the great discipHne
of theology is today inseparably associated with
philosophy and ethics and science, how is it pos-
sible for a university, if it is to have departments of
philology and Hterature and history and sociology,
departments of science and philosophy, ethics and
psychology, to ignore the consideration of these ques-


tions with which a sound religious education is con-
cerned? In all lines of intellectual inquiry — and
the subject of religious education may not be excluded
from this field — the university is confessedly the
leader in a community, there being assigned to it
the peculiar function of preparing the way in which
others shall tread.

At this point a word of explanation seems to be
called for. No one will suppose that the work of a
university in religious education shall be regarded in
any sense as a substitute, either, on the one hand,
for the fundamental work of the home, or, on the
other, for the more distinctly technical work of the
church. .Whatever the university may do in this
regard will sustain the same relationship to these
great agencies that it sustains to every other phase
of life and thought. The influence of the university
is felt today in every home in which books are read
or the problems of life are pondered. It is felt
likewise in every church in which there exists an
intelligent desire to throw off the superstitions of
the past and to take hold of the higher faith of
modern thought. The university can only co-operate
with these important agencies in doing work that will
be suggestive and helpful to those who find them-
selves called to labor in the relations of home and

The situation in general is somewhat discourag-
ing. The world at large remainSj^ for the most part,
in total ignorance of those laws of life which regu-


late and control the development of the religious
spirit. Just as in many individual cases and in
entire communities the laws of physical life or health
are unknown or ignored, and there follows, not of
course complete cessation of life, but the develop-
ment of disease or of some abnormal form of life,
so in individual cases and in entire communities,
in which the laws of religious life are for ..the most
part unknown or treated as unknown, there come
to be forms of that rehgious life so distorted, or per-
haps so stunted, as almost to be unrecognizable.
And it is also true that, as ignorance and. disregard
of physical laws frequently lead to loss of life itself,
or death, so ignorance or disregard of the laws of
religious life is surely followed by the giving up, for
all practical purposes, of a religious life; in other
words, abandonment of one great phase of life itself.
The analogy might be roughly pressed still farther.
In the lower orders of human intelligence, life is
preserved, in spite of ignorance of its laws, by a
certain sort of instinct which leads the individual to
see that which will be helpful, and to avoid that
which will be injurious. This instinct the animals
share with humanity. A kind Providence, one may
imagine, has provided a similar religious instinct in
man; and a rehgious life of low order continues to
exist even in an environment of darkness and in-
difference to all that really constitutes the higher
and stronger features of that life. We may not ^
forget that the different religions, the different sects


or divisions of a particular religion, represent differ-
ent strata in the development of the religious life.
Over against this condition of things in the world at
large there has come to exist, among those who
style themselves the more intelligent class, or per-
haps those who may be properly called the more
learned, a certain contempt for the lower mani-
festations of the rehgious life, and for the strange
and fantastic methods adopted in its cultivation.

At this point we may notice a strangelyin con-
sistent thing which sometimes presents itself. Men
and women of the highest intelligence in matters of
life and thought are discovered to be cultivating a
rehgious life far below the plane of their intellectual
life. In many of these cases this religious life is
cultivated most zealously, and sometimes it would
seem that the zeal was in proportion to the ignorance
involved. Methods which would be instantly re-
jected as unworthy in connection with other phases
oi life are accepted and followed by these persons
in connection with their reHgious life. A single
illustration will suffice. A teacher in the public
schools, trained in all the modern methods of peda-
gogy, will do work of a most modern and scientific
character through five days of the week. That same
teacher in a Sundafy school will give instruction
which is of an infinitely lower grade, and will
undertake the religious work with a lack of knowl-
edge of her subject which she would regard as
disgraceful in connection with her regular work


throughout the week. A company of intelligent
men, officers of a Sunday school, will intrust the
religious education of the children on Sunday to
persons whose average intelligence, not to speak of
speCfai preparation, would not entitle them to be
considered' as candidates for the regular work of
teaching. It. is not strange^ then, that those who
regard these matters from a strictly scientific point
of view hold in a sort of contempt, not only the
workers themselves, but the methods employed and
the work which is conducted according ta these

This, now, has been the poUcy of the universi-
ties, and in many cases of the colleges. In the col-
leges many men, entertaining a feeUng of this kind,
have, nevertheless, professed a greater or less inter-
est in the religious Hfe, because, situated as they
were in their community, this was a necessary thing
to do in order to be in harmony with the com-
munity. Unconsciously, and in many cases con-
sciously, they have permitted themselves, and indeed
forced themselves, to encourage and develop methods
of religious education which in their inner heart
they knew to be false and injurious. But in the
freer atmosphere of the larger institutions, as well
as in the freer atmosphere of city life, as distinguished
from country life, men have put aside what were
regarded as conventional obligations, and, with a
sigh of relief, have ceased to think or to act in co-
operation with what are known as the religious


forces of the community. Inasmuch as the uni-
versity, in the estimation of its representatives, could
not conscientiously do for the student along religious

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperThe trend in higher education → online text (page 4 of 24)