EVERYMAN, I will go with thee, and be thy guide, In thy most need to go by thy side
Born at Derby in 1820, the son of a teacher, from whom he received most of his education. Obtained employment on the London and Birmingham Railway. After the strike of 1846 he devoted himself to journalism, and in 1848 was sub-editor of The Economist.
He died in 1903.
Essays on Education AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
INTRODUCTION BY CHARLES W. ELIOT
DENT: LONDON EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY DUTTON: NEW YORK
Made in Great Britain at the Aldine Press . Letchworth . Herts for J.M. DENT & SONS LTD Aldine House . Bedford Street . London First published in Everyman's Library 1911 Last reprinted 1963
The four essays on education which Herbert Spencer published in a single volume in 1861 were all written and separately published between 1854 and 1859. Their tone was aggressive and their proposals revolutionary; although all the doctrines—with one important exception—had already been vigorously preached by earlier writers on education, as Spencer himself was at pains to point out. The doctrine which was comparatively new ran through all four essays; but was most amply stated in the essay first published in 1859 under the title "What Knowledge is of Most Worth?" In this essay Spencer divided the leading kinds of human activity into those which minister to self-preservation, those which secure the necessaries of life, those whose end is the care of offspring, those which make good citizens, and those which prepare adults to enjoy nature, literature, and the fine arts; and he then maintained that in each of these several classes, knowledge of science was worth more than any other knowledge. He argued that everywhere throughout creation faculties are developed through the performance of the appropriate functions; so that it would be contrary to the whole harmony of nature "if one kind of culture were needed for the gaining of information, and another kind were needed as a mental gymnastic." He then maintained that the sciences are superior in all respects to languages as educational material; they train the memory better, and a superior kind of memory; they cultivate the judgment, and they impart an admirable moral and religious discipline. He concluded that "for discipline, as well as for guidance, science is of chiefest value. In all its effects, learning the meaning of things is better than learning the meaning of words." He answered the question "what knowledge is of most worth?" with the one word—science.
This doctrine was extremely repulsive to the established profession of education in England, where Latin, Greek, and mathematics had been the staples of education for many generations, and were believed to afford the only suitable preparation for the learned professions, public life, and cultivated society. In proclaiming this doctrine with ample illustration, ingenious argument, and forcible reiteration, Spencer was a true educational pioneer, although some of his scientific contemporaries were really preaching similar doctrines, each in his own field.
The profession of teaching has long been characterised by certain habitual convictions, which Spencer undertook to shake rudely, and even to deride. The first of these convictions is that all education, physical, intellectual, and moral, must be authoritative, and need take no account of the natural wishes, tendencies, and motives of the ignorant and undeveloped child. The second dominating conviction is that to teach means to tell, or show, children what they ought to see, believe, and utter. Expositions by the teacher and books are therefore the true means of education. The third and supreme conviction is that the method of education which produced the teacher himself and the contemporary or earlier scholars, authors, and publicists, must be the righteous and sufficient method. Its fruits demonstrate its soundness, and make it sacred. Herbert Spencer, in the essays included in the present volume, assaulted all three of these firm convictions. Accordingly, the ideas on education which he put forth more than fifty years ago have penetrated educational practice very slowly—particularly in England; but they are now coming to prevail in most civilised countries, and they will prevail more and more. Through him, the thoughts on education of Comenius, Montaigne, Locke, Milton, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and other noted writers on this neglected subject are at last winning their way into practice, with the modifications or adaptations which the immense gains of the human race in knowledge and power since the nineteenth century opened have shown to be wise.
For teachers and educational administrators it is interesting to observe the steps by which Spencer's doctrines—and especially his doctrine of the supreme value of science—have advanced towards acceptance in practice. In general, the advance has been brought about through the indirect effects of the enormous industrial, social, and political changes of the last fifty years. The first practical step was the introduction of laboratory teaching of one or more of the sciences into the secondary schools and colleges. Chemistry and physics were the commonest subjects selected. These two subjects had been taught from books even earlier; but memorising science out of books is far less useful as training than memorising grammars and vocabularies. The characteristic discipline of science can be imparted only through the laboratory method. The schoolmasters and college faculties who took this step by no means admitted Spencer's contention that science should be the universal staple at all stages of child development. On the contrary, they believed, as most people do to-day, that the mind of the young child cannot grasp the processes and generalisations of science, and that science is no more universally fitted to develop mental power than the classics or mathematics. Indeed, experience during the past fifty years seems to have proved that fewer minds are naturally inclined to scientific study than to linguistic or historical study; so that if some science is to be learnt by everybody, the amount of such study should be limited to acquiring in one or two sciences knowledge of the scientific method in general. So much scientific training is indeed universally desirable; because good training of the senses to observe accurately is universally desirable, and the collecting, comparing, and grouping of many facts teach orderliness in thinking, and lead up to something which Spencer valued highly in education—"a rational explanation of phenomena."
Science having obtained a foothold in secondary schools and colleges, an adequate development of science-teaching resulted from the introduction of options or elections for the pupils among numerous different courses, in place of a curriculum prescribed for all. The elaborate teaching of many sciences was thus introduced. The pupil or student saw and recorded for himself; used books only as helps and guides in seeing, recording, and generalising; proceeded from the known to the unknown; and in short, made numerous applications of the doctrines which pervade all Spencer's writings on education. In the United States these methods were introduced earlier and have been carried farther than in England; but within the last few years the changes made in education have been more extensive and rapid in England than in any other country;—witness the announcements of the new high schools and the re-organised grammar schools, of such colleges as South Kensington, Armstrong, King's, the University College (London), and Goldsmiths', and of the new municipal universities such as Victoria, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds. The new technical schools also illustrate the advent of instruction in applied science as an important element in advanced education. Such institutions as the Seafield Park Engineering College, the City Guilds of London Institute, the City of London College, and the Battersea Polytechnic are instances of the same development. Some endowed institutions for girls illustrate the same tendencies, as, for example, the Bedford College for Women and the Royal Holloway College. All these institutions teach sciences in considerable variety, and in the way that Spencer advocated,—not so much because they have distinctly accepted his views, as because modern industrial and social conditions compel the preparation in science of young people destined for various occupations and services indispensable to modern society. The method of the preparation is essentially that which he advocated.
Spencer's propositions to the effect that the study of science was desirable for artisans, artists, and, in general, for people who were to get their livings through various skills of hand and eye, were received with great incredulity, not to say derision—particularly when he maintained that some knowledge of the theory which underlies an art was desirable for manual practitioners of the art; but the changes of the last fifty years in the practice of the arts and trades may be said to have demonstrated that his views were thoroughly sound. The applications of science in the arts and trades have been so numerous and productive, that widespread training in science has become indispensable to any nation which means to excel in the manufacturing industries, whether of large scale or small scale. The extraordinary popularity of evening schools and correspondence schools in the United States rests on the need which young people employed in the various industries of the country feel of obtaining more theoretical knowledge about the physical or chemical processes through which they are earning a livelihood. The Young Men's Christian Associations in the American cities have become great centres of evening instruction for just such young persons. The correspondence schools are teaching hundreds of thousands of young people at work in machine-shops, mills, mines, and factories, who believe that they can advance themselves in their several occupations by supplementing their elementary education with correspondence courses, taken while they are at work earning a livelihood in industries that rest ultimately on applications of science.
Spencer's objection to the constant exercise of authority and compulsion in schools, families, and the State is felt to-day much more widely than it was in 1858, when he wrote his essay on moral education. His proposal that children should be allowed to suffer the natural consequences of their foolish or wrong acts does not seem to the present generation—any more than it did to him—to be applicable to very young children, who need protection from the undue severity of many natural penalties; but the soundness of his general doctrine that it is the true function of parents and teachers to see that children habitually experience the normal consequences of their conduct, without putting artificial consequences in place of them, now commands the assent of most persons whose minds have been freed from the theological dogmas of original sin and total depravity. Spencer did not expect the immediate adoption of this principle; because society as a whole was not yet humane enough. He admitted that the uncontrollable child of ill-controlled adults might sometimes have to be scolded or beaten, and that these barbarous methods might be "perhaps the best preparation such children can have for the barbarous society in which they are presently to play a part." He hoped, however, that the civilised members of society would by and by spontaneously use milder measures; and this hope has been realised in good degree, with the result that happiness in childhood is much commoner and more constant than it used to be. Parents and teachers are beginning to realise that self-control is a prime object in moral education, and that this self-control cannot be practised under a regime of constant supervision, unexplained commands, and painful punishments, but must be gained in freedom. Some large-scale experience with American secondary schools which prepare boys for admission to college has been edifying in this respect. The American colleges, as a rule, do not undertake to exercise much supervision over their students, but leave them free to regulate their own lives in regard to both work and play. Now it is the boys who come from the secondary schools where the closest supervision is maintained that are in most danger of falling into evil ways when they first go to college.
Spencer put very forcibly a valuable doctrine for which many earlier writers on the theory of education had failed to get a hearing—the doctrine, namely, that all instruction should be pleasurable and interesting. Fifty years ago almost all teachers believed that it was impossible to make school-work interesting, or life-work either; so that the child must be forced to grind without pleasure, in preparation for life's grind; and the forcing was to be done by experience of the teacher's displeasure and the infliction of pain. Through the slow effects of Spencer's teaching and of the experience of practical teachers who have demonstrated that instruction can be made pleasurable, and that the very hardest work is done by interested pupils because they are interested, it has gradually come to pass that his heresy has become the prevailing judgment among sensible and humane teachers. The experience of many adults, hard at work in the modern industrial, commercial, and financial world, has taught them that human beings can make their intensest application only to problems in which they are personally interested for one reason or another, and that freemen work much harder than slaves, because they feel within themselves strong motives for exertion which slaves cannot possibly feel. So, many intelligent adults, including many parents and teachers, have come to believe it possible that children will learn to do hard work, both in school and in after life, through the free play of interior motives which appeal to them, and prompt them to persistent exertion.
The justice of Spencer's views about training through pleasurable sensation and achievement in freedom rather than through uninterested work and pain inflicted by despotic government, is well illustrated by the recent improvements in the discipline of reformatories for boys and girls and young men and women. It has been demonstrated that the only useful reformatories are those which diminish the criminal's liberty of action as little as possible, require him to perform productive labour, educate him for a trade or other useful occupation, and offer him the reward of an abridgment of sentence in return for industry and self-control. Repression and compulsion under penalties however severe fail to reform, and often make bad moral conditions worse. Instruction, as much freedom as is consistent with the safety of society, and an appeal to the ordinary motives of emulation, satisfaction in achievement, and the desire to win credit, can, and do, reform.
Many schools, both public and private, have now adopted—in most cases unconsciously—many of Spencer's more detailed suggestions. The laboratory method of instruction, for example, now common for scientific subjects in good schools, is an application of his doctrines of concrete illustration, training in the accurate use of the senses, and subordination of book-work. Many schools realise, too, that learning by heart and, in general, memorising from books are not the only means of storing the mind of a child. They should make parts of a sound education, but should not be used to the exclusion of learning through eye, ear, and hand. Spencer pointed out with much elaboration that children acquire in their early years a vast amount of information exclusively through the incessant use of their senses. To-day teachers know this fact, and realise much better than the teachers of fifty years ago did, that all through the school and college period the pupils should be getting a large part of their new knowledge through the careful application of their own powers of observation, aided, indeed, by books and pictures which record the observations, old and new, of other people. The young human being, unlike the puppy or the kitten, is not confined to the use of his own senses as sources of information and discovery; but can enjoy the fruits of a prodigious width and depth of observation acquired by preceding generations and adult members of his own generation. A recent illustration of this extension of the method of observation in teaching to observations made by other people is the new method of giving moral instruction to school children through photographs of actual scenes which illustrate both good morals and bad, the exhibition of the photographs being accompanied by a running oral comment from the teacher. In this kind of moral instruction it seems to be possible to interest all kinds of children, both civilised and barbarous, both ill-bred and well-bred. The teaching comes through the eye, for the children themselves observe intently the pictures which the lantern throws on the screen; but the striking scenes thus put before them probably lie in most instances quite outside the region of their own experiences.
The essay on "What Knowledge is of Most Worth?" contains a hot denunciation of that kind of information which in most schools used to usurp the name of history. It is enough to say of this part of Spencer's educational doctrine that all the best historical writers since the middle of the nineteenth century seem to have adopted the principles which he declared should govern the writing of history. As a result, the teaching of history in schools and colleges has undergone a profound change. It now deals with the nature and action of government, central, local, and ecclesiastical, with social observances, industrial systems, and the customs which regulate popular life, out-of-doors and indoors. It depicts also the intellectual condition of the nation and the progress it has made in applied science, the fine arts, and legislation, and includes descriptions of the peoples' food, shelters, and amusements. To this result many authors and teachers have contributed; but Spencer's violent denunciation of history as it was taught in his time has greatly promoted this important reform.
Many twentieth-century teachers are sure to put in practice Spencer's exhortation to teach children to draw with pen and pencil, and to use paints and brush. He maintained that the common omission of drawing as an important element in the training of children was in contempt of some of the most obvious of nature's suggestions with regard to the natural development of human faculties; and the better recent practice in some English and American schools verifies his statement; nevertheless some of the best secondary schools in both countries still fail to recognise drawing and painting as important elements in liberal education.
Modern society as yet hardly approaches the putting into effective practice of the sound views which Spencer set forth with great detail in his essay on "Physical Education." The instruction given in schools and colleges on the care of the body and the laws of health is still very meagre; and in certain subjects of the utmost importance no instruction whatever is given, as, for example, in the normal methods of reproduction in plants and animals, in eugenics, and in the ruinous consequences of disregarding sexual purity and honour. In one respect his fundamental doctrine of freedom, carried into the domain of physical exercise, has been extensively adopted in England, on the Continent, and in America. He taught that although gymnastics, military drill, and formal exercises of the limbs are better than nothing, they can never serve in place of the plays prompted by nature. He maintained that "for girls as well as boys the sportive activities to which the instincts impel are essential to bodily welfare." This principle is now being carried into practice not only for school-children, but for operatives in factories, clerks, and other young persons whose occupations are sedentary and monotonous. For all such persons, free plays are vastly better than formal exercises of any sort.
The wide adoption of Spencer's educational ideas has had to await the advent of the new educational administration and the new public interest therein. It awaited the coming of the state university in the United States and of the city university in England, the establishment of numerous technical schools, the profound modifications made in grammar schools and academies, and the multiplication in both countries of the secondary schools called high schools. In other words, his ideas gradually gained admission to a vast number of new institutions of education, which were created and maintained because both the governments and the nations felt a new sense of responsibility for the training of the future generations. These new agencies have been created in great variety, and the introduction of Spencer's ideas has been much facilitated by this variety. These institutions were national, state, or municipal. They were tax-supported or endowed. They charged tuition fees, or were open to competent children or adults without fee. They undertook to meet alike the needs of the individual and the needs of the community; and this undertaking involved the introduction of many new subjects of instruction and many new methods. Through their variety they could be sympathetic with both individualism and collectivism. The variety of instruction offered is best illustrated in the strongest American universities, some of which are tax-supported and some endowed. These universities maintain a great variety of courses of instruction in subjects none of which was taught with the faintest approach to adequacy in American universities sixty years ago; but in making these extensions the universities have not found it necessary to reduce the instruction offered in the classics and mathematics. The traditional cultural studies are still provided; but they represent only one programme among many, and no one is compelled to follow it. The domination of the classics is at an end; but any student who prefers the traditional path to culture, or whose parents choose that path for him, will find in several American universities much richer provisions of classical instruction than any university in the country offered sixty years ago. The present proposals to widen the influence of Oxford University do not mean, therefore, that the classics, history, and philosophy are to be taught less there, but only that other subjects are to be taught more, and that a greater number and variety of young men will be prepared there for the service of the nation.
The new public interest in education as a necessary of modern industrial and political life has gradually brought about a great increase in the proportional number of young men and women whose education is prolonged beyond the period of primary or elementary instruction; and this multitude of young people is preparing for a great variety of callings, many of which are new within sixty years, having been brought into being by the extraordinary advances of applied science. The advent of these new callings has favoured the spread of Spencer's educational ideas. The recent agitation in favour of what is called vocational training is a vivid illustration of the wide acceptance of his arguments. Even the farmers, their farm-hands, and their children must nowadays be offered free instruction in agriculture; because the public, and especially the urban public, believes that by disseminating better methods of tillage, better seed, and appropriate manures, the yield of the farms can be improved in quality and multiplied in quantity. In regard to all material interests, the free peoples are acting on the principle that science is the knowledge of most worth. Spencer's doctrine of natural consequences in place of artificial penalties, his view that all young people should be taught how to be wise parents and good citizens, and his advocacy of instruction in public and private hygiene, lie at the roots of many of the philanthropic and reformatory movements of the day.
On the whole, Herbert Spencer has been fortunate among educational philosophers. He has not had to wait so long for the acceptance of his teachings as Comenius, Montaigne, or Rousseau waited. His ideas have been floated on a prodigious tide of industrial and social change, which necessarily involved wide-spread and profound educational reform.
This introduction deals with Spencer's four essays on education; but in the present volume are included three other famous essays written by him during the same period (1854-59) which produced the essays on education. All three are germane to the educational essays, because they deal with the general law of human progress, with the genesis of that science which Spencer thought to be the knowledge of most worth, and with the origin and function of music, a subject which he maintained should play an important part in any scheme of education.
CHARLES W. ELIOT.
WORKS. The Proper Sphere of Government, 1843; Social Statics, 1850; Theory of Population (Westminster Review), April 1852; The Development of Hypothesis (The Leader), 20th March 1852; The Ultimate Laws of Physiology (National Review), April 1857; Essays, Scientific, Political and Speculative, 2 vols., 1858-63; Education, 1861; A System of Synthetic Philosophy (12 vols., 1862-96), made up as follows: First Principles, 1862; Principles of Biology, 2 vols., 1864-7; Principles of Psychology, 2 vols., 1870-2; Principles of Sociology, 3 vols., 1876-96; Ceremonial Institutions, 1879; Principles of Morality, 2 vols., 1879-93 (vol. i, part I published as Data of Ethics, 1879; part 4 as Justice, 1891); Political Institutions, 1882. Meanwhile the following works were also published: The Classification of the Sciences, 1864; The Study of Sociology, 1872; Descriptive Sociology, 1873; The Man versus the State, 1884; The Factors of Organic Evolution, 1887; The Inadequacy of Natural Selection, 1893. Spencer's Autobiography appeared posthumously, 2 vols., 1904.
COLLECTED EDITION. Nineteen volumes, 1861-1902.
BIOGRAPHY AND CRITICISM. T. Funk-Brentano, Les Sophistes grecs et les Sophistes contemporains (Mill and Spencer), 1879; F.H. Collins, An Epitome of the Synthetic Philosophy, 1889; H. Sidgwick, Lectures on the Ethics of Green, Spencer and Martineau, 1902; 'The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer' (in The Philosophy of Kant and Other Lectures, 1905); D. Duncan, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Spencer, 1904; Life and Letters of Herbert Spencer, 1908; J. Royce, Herbert Spencer. An Estimate and a Review, 1904; J.A. Thomson, Herbert Spencer, 1906; W.H. Hudson, Herbert Spencer, 1916; J. Rumney, Herbert Spencer's Sociology, 1934; R.C.K. Ensor, Some Reflections on Herbert Spencer's Doctrine, 1946.
PAGE Introduction by Charles W. Eliot vii
EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL, MORAL, AND PHYSICAL
WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH? 1
INTELLECTUAL EDUCATION 45
MORAL EDUCATION 84
PHYSICAL EDUCATION 116
ESSAYS ON KINDRED SUBJECTS
PROGRESS: ITS LAW AND CAUSE 153
ON MANNERS AND FASHION 198
ON THE GENESIS OF SCIENCE 239
ON THE PHYSIOLOGY OF LAUGHTER 298
ON THE ORIGIN AND FUNCTION OF MUSIC 310
EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL, MORAL, AND PHYSICAL
The four chapters of which this work consists, originally appeared as four Review-articles: the first in the Westminster Review for July 1859; the second in the North British Review for May 1854; and the remaining two in the British Quarterly Review for April 1858 and for April 1859. Severally treating different divisions of the subject, but together forming a tolerably complete whole, I originally wrote them with a view to their republication in a united form; and they would some time since have thus been issued, had not a legal difficulty stood in the way. This difficulty being now removed, I hasten to fulfil the intention with which they were written.
That in their first shape these chapters were severally independent, is the reason to be assigned for some slight repetitions which occur in them: one leading idea, more especially, reappearing twice. As, however, this idea is on each occasion presented under a new form, and as it can scarcely be too much enforced, I have not thought well to omit any of the passages embodying it.
Some additions of importance will be found in the chapter on Intellectual Education; and in the one on Physical Education there are a few minor alterations. But the chief changes which have been made, are changes of expression: all of the essays having undergone a careful verbal revision.
H.S. LONDON, May 1861
PART I—ON EDUCATION
WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH?
It has been truly remarked that, in order of time, decoration precedes dress. Among people who submit to great physical suffering that they may have themselves handsomely tattooed, extremes of temperature are borne with but little attempt at mitigation. Humboldt tells us that an Orinoco Indian, though quite regardless of bodily comfort, will yet labour for a fortnight to purchase pigment wherewith 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 unpainted. Voyagers find that coloured 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 coats are given, savages turn them to some ludicrous display, show how completely the idea of ornament predominates over that of use. Nay, there are still more extreme illustrations: witness the fact narrated by Capt. 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 life 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 convenience—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 curious that the like relations hold with the mind. Among mental as among bodily 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 arts 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 something like a platitude when we say that throughout his after-career, a boy, in nine cases out of ten, applies 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 acquire—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 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 intrinsic value, but that he may not be disgraced by being found ignorant of them—that he may have "the education of a gentleman"—the badge marking a certain social position, and bringing a consequent 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 continued 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 civilisation, however, 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 earrings, finger-rings, bracelets; the elaborate dressings of the hair; the still occasional use of paint; the immense labour bestowed in making habiliments sufficiently attractive; and the great discomfort that will be submitted to for the sake of conformity; show how greatly, in the attiring of women, the desire of approbation overrides the desire for warmth and convenience. And similarly 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 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 ladylike. It is not that the books written in them may be utilised, which they scarcely ever are; but that Italian and German songs may be sung, and that the extent of attainment may bring whispered admiration. The births, deaths, and marriages of kings, and other like historic trivialities, are committed to memory, not because 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. When we have named reading, writing, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, and sewing, we have named about all the things a girl is taught with a view to their actual uses in life; and even some of these have more reference to the good opinion of others than to immediate personal welfare.
Thoroughly to realise the truth that with the mind as with the body the ornamental precedes the useful, it is requisite to glance at its rationale. This lies in the fact that, from the far past down even to the present, social needs have subordinated individual needs, and that the chief social need has been the control of individuals. It is not, as we commonly suppose, that there are no governments but those of monarchs, and parliaments, and constituted authorities. These acknowledged governments are supplemented by other unacknowledged ones, that grow up in all circles, in which every man or woman strives to be king or queen or lesser dignitary. To get above 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 expended. By the accumulation of wealth, by style of living, by beauty of dress, by display of knowledge 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 elaborate toilet, polished manners, and numerous accomplishments, strives to "make conquests;" but the scholar, the historian, the philosopher, use their acquirements to the same end. We are none of us content with quietly unfolding our own individualities to the full in all directions; but have a restless craving to impress our individualities upon others, and in some way subordinate them. And this it is which determines the character of our education. Not what knowledge is of most real worth, is the consideration; but what will bring most applause, honour, 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 being our dominant idea, direct utility is scarcely more regarded than by the barbarian when filing his teeth and staining his nails.
* * * * *
If there requires 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 existence of any such standard has not been conceived in a clear manner. And not only is it that the existence of such a 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 children shall be instructed 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 hear occasional remarks on the importance of this or the other order of information. But whether the degree of its importance justifies the expenditure of the time needed to acquire it; and whether there are not things of more importance to which such time might be better devoted; are queries which, if raised at all, are disposed of quite summarily, according to personal predilections. It is true also, that now and then, we hear revived the standing controversy respecting the comparative merits of classics and mathematics. This controversy, however, is carried on in an empirical manner, with no reference to an ascertained criterion; and the question at issue is 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 ascertaining whether or not bread is more nutritive than potatoes!
The question which we contend is of such transcendent 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. 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 labour and the probable benefit. No one would tolerate the proposal to 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 here the test of relative value is appealed to and held conclusive, then should it be appealed to and held 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 day would endure As of old, for a thousand long years, What things might he know! What deeds might he do! And all without hurry or care.
"But we that have but span-long lives" must ever bear in mind our limited time for acquisition. And remembering how narrowly this time is limited, not 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 advantage. 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 might bring if otherwise applied.
In education, then, this is the question of questions, 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 curriculum, we must settle which things it most concerns us to know; or, to use a word of Bacon's, now unfortunately obsolete—we must determine the relative values of knowledges.
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To this end, a measure of value is the first requisite. And happily, respecting the true measure of 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 showing its bearing upon some part of life. In reply to the question—"Of what use is it?" the mathematician, linguist, naturalist, or philosopher, explains the way in which his learning beneficially influences action—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 business—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 facts can produce on human welfare, he is obliged to admit that they are comparatively valueless. All then, either directly or by implication, 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 ruling of conduct in all directions under all circumstances. 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 utilise those sources of happiness which nature supplies—how to use all our faculties to the greatest advantage of ourselves and others—how to live completely? And this being the great thing needful for us to learn, is, by consequence, the great thing which education has to teach. To prepare us for complete living is the function which education has to discharge; and the only rational mode of judging of an educational 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, methodically, and throughout all cases. It behoves us to set before ourselves, and ever to keep clearly in view, complete living as the end to be achieved; so that in bringing up our children we may choose subjects and methods of instruction, with deliberate reference 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 overseeing 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 estimating 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, considering 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 mastery. 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 order of their importance, the leading kinds 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 rearing and discipline of offspring; 4. those activities which are involved in the maintenance of proper social and political relations; 5. those miscellaneous activities which fill 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 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; notwithstanding any amount of learning he might have on other matters. And as entire ignorance in all other directions would be less promptly fatal than entire ignorance in this direction, it must be admitted that knowledge immediately conducive to self-preservation 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 discharge 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 before 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 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 conducing 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 without a long-established social union; but their very subject-matter consists in great part of social sentiments and sympathies. Not only does society supply the conditions to 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 prepares for direct self-preservation; that which prepares for indirect self-preservation; that which prepares for parenthood; that which prepares for citizenship; that which prepares for the miscellaneous refinements of 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 question 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 below the standard of complete living than one of but moderate ability in money-getting but great judgment 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 share of the one joined with some of the other. But, after making due qualifications, there still remain these broadly-marked divisions; and it still continues substantially true that these divisions subordinate one another in the foregoing order, because the corresponding divisions of life make one another possible in that order.
Of course the ideal of education is—complete preparation in all these divisions. But failing this ideal, as in our phase of civilisation every one must do more or less, the aim should be to maintain a due proportion between the degrees of preparation in each. Not exhaustive cultivation in any one, supremely important though it may be—not even an exclusive attention to the two, three, or four divisions 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 which peculiar aptitude for some one department of knowledge, rightly makes pursuit of that one the bread-winning occupation)—for the average man, we say, the desideratum is, a training that approaches nearest to perfection in the things which most subserve complete living, 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 be ever 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 commonly precede paralysis, that the resistance of water to a body moving through it varies as the square 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 given by an acquaintance with Latin and Greek, may be considered to have a value that is quasi-intrinsic: it must exist for us and for other races 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 conventional value only: it has not the remotest bearing on any of our actions; and is of use only for the avoidance of those unpleasant criticisms which current opinion passes upon its absence. Of course, as those facts which concern all mankind throughout all time must be held of greater moment than those which concern only a portion of them during a limited era, and of far greater moment than those which concern only a portion of them during the continuance of a fashion; it follows that in a rational estimate, knowledge of intrinsic worth must, other things equal, take precedence of knowledge that is of quasi-intrinsic or conventional worth.
One further preliminary. Acquirement of every kind has two values—value as knowledge and value as discipline. Besides its use for guiding conduct, the acquisition of each order of facts has also its use as mental exercise; and its effects as a preparative for complete living have to be considered under both these heads.
These, then, are the general ideas with which we must set out in discussing a curriculum:—Life as divided into several kinds of activity of successively decreasing importance; the worth of each order of facts as regulating these several kinds of activity, intrinsically, quasi-intrinsically, and conventionally; and their regulative influences estimated both as knowledge and discipline.
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Happily, that all-important part of education which goes to secure direct self-preservation, is in great part already provided for. Too momentous to be left to our blundering, Nature takes it into her own hands. While yet in its nurse's arms, the infant, by hiding its face and crying at the sight of a stranger, shows the dawning instinct to attain safety by flying from that which is unknown and may be dangerous; and when it can walk, the terror it manifests if an unfamiliar dog comes near, or the screams with which it runs to its mother after any startling sight or sound, shows this instinct further developed. Moreover, knowledge subserving direct self-preservation is that which it is chiefly busied in acquiring from hour to hour. How to balance its body; how to control its movements so as to avoid collisions; what objects are hard, and will hurt if struck; what objects are heavy, and injure if they fall on the limbs; which things will bear the weight of the body, and which not; the pains inflicted by fire, by missiles, by sharp instruments—these, and various other pieces of information needful for the avoidance of death or accident, it is ever learning. And when, a few years later, the energies go out in running, climbing, and jumping, in games of strength and games of skill, we see in all these actions by which the muscles are developed, the perceptions sharpened, and the judgment quickened, a preparation for the safe conduct of the body among surrounding objects and movements; and for meeting those greater dangers that occasionally occur in the lives of all. Being thus, as we say, so well cared for by Nature, this fundamental education needs comparatively little care from us. What we are chiefly called upon to see, is, that there shall be free scope for gaining this experience and receiving this discipline—that there shall be no such thwarting of Nature as that by which stupid schoolmistresses commonly prevent the girls in their charge from the spontaneous physical activities they would indulge in; and so render them comparatively incapable of taking care of themselves in circumstances of peril.
This, however, is by no means all that is comprehended in the education that prepares for direct self-preservation. Besides guarding the body against mechanical damage or destruction, it has to be guarded against injury from other causes—against the disease and death that follow breaches of physiologic law. For complete living it is necessary, not only that sudden annihilations of life shall be warded off; but also that there shall be escaped the incapacities and the slow annihilation which unwise habits entail. As, without health and energy, the industrial, the parental, the social, and all other activities become more or less impossible; it is clear that this secondary kind of direct self-preservation is only less important than the primary kind; and that knowledge tending to secure it should rank very high.
It is true that here, too, guidance is in some measure ready supplied. By our various physical sensations and desires, Nature has insured a tolerable conformity to the chief requirements. Fortunately for us, want of food, great heat, extreme cold, produce promptings too peremptory to be disregarded. And would men habitually obey these and all like promptings when less strong, comparatively few evils would arise. If fatigue of body or brain were in every case followed by desistance; if the oppression produced by a close atmosphere always led to ventilation; if there were no eating without hunger, or drinking without thirst; then would the system be but seldom out of working order. But so profound an ignorance is there of the laws of life, that men do not even know that their sensations are their natural guides, and (when not rendered morbid by long—continued disobedience) their trustworthy guides. So that though, to speak teleologically, Nature has provided efficient safeguards to health, lack of knowledge makes them in a great measure useless.
If any one doubts the importance of an acquaintance with the principles of physiology, as a means to complete living, let him look around and see how many men and women he can find in middle or later life who are thoroughly well. Only occasionally do we meet with an example of vigorous health continued to old age; hourly do we meet with examples of acute disorder, chronic ailment, general debility, premature decrepitude. Scarcely is there one to whom you put the question, who has not, in the course of his life, brought upon himself illnesses which a little information would have saved him from. Here is a case of heart-disease consequent on a rheumatic fever that followed reckless exposure. There is a case of eyes spoiled for life by over-study. Yesterday the account was of one whose long-enduring lameness was brought on by continuing, spite of the pain, to use a knee after it had been slightly injured. And to-day we are told of another who has had to lie by for years, because he did not know that the palpitation he suffered under resulted from overtaxed brain. Now we hear of an irremediable injury which followed some silly feat of strength; and, again, of a constitution that has never recovered from the effects of excessive work needlessly undertaken. While on every side we see the perpetual minor ailments which accompany feebleness. Not to dwell on the pain, the weariness, the gloom, the waste of time and money thus entailed, only consider how greatly ill-health hinders the discharge of all duties—makes business often impossible, and always more difficult; produces an irritability fatal to the right management of children; puts the functions of citizenship out of the question; and makes amusement a bore. Is it not clear that the physical sins—partly our forefathers' and partly our own—which produce this ill-health, deduct more from complete living than anything else? and to a great extent make life a failure and a burden instead of a benefaction and a pleasure?
Nor is this all. Life, besides being thus immensely deteriorated, is also cut short. It is not true, as we commonly suppose, that after a disorder or disease from which we have recovered, we are as before. No disturbance of the normal course of the functions can pass away and leave things exactly as they were. A permanent damage is done—not immediately appreciable, it may be, but still there; and along with other such items which Nature in her strict account-keeping never drops, it will tell against us to the inevitable shortening of our days. Through the accumulation of small injuries it is that constitutions are commonly undermined, and break down, long before their time. And if we call to mind how far the average duration of life falls below the possible duration, we see how immense is the loss. When, to the numerous partial deductions which bad health entails, we add this great final deduction, it results that ordinarily one-half of life is thrown away.
Hence, knowledge which subserves direct self-preservation by preventing this loss of health, is of primary importance. We do not contend that possession of such knowledge would by any means wholly remedy the evil. It is clear that in our present phase of civilisation, men's necessities often compel them to transgress. And it is further clear that, even in the absence of such compulsion, their inclinations would frequently lead them, spite of their convictions, to sacrifice future good to present gratification. But we do contend that the right knowledge impressed in the right way would effect much; and we further contend that as the laws of health must be recognised before they can be fully conformed to, the imparting of such knowledge must precede a more rational living—come when that may. We infer that as vigorous health and its accompanying high spirits are larger elements of happiness than any other things whatever, the teaching how to maintain them is a teaching that yields in moment to no other whatever. And therefore we assert that such a course of physiology as is needful for the comprehension of its general truths, and their bearings on daily conduct, is an all-essential part of a rational education.
Strange that the assertion should need making! Stranger still that it should need defending! Yet are there not a few by whom such a proposition will be received with something approaching to derision. Men who would blush if caught saying Iphigenia instead of Iphigenia, or would resent as an insult any imputation of ignorance respecting the fabled labours of a fabled demi-god, show not the slightest shame in confessing that they do not know where the Eustachian tubes are, what are the actions of the spinal cord, what is the normal rate of pulsation, or how the lungs are inflated. While anxious that their sons should be well up in the superstitions of two thousand years ago, they care not that they should be taught anything about the structure and functions of their own bodies—nay, even wish them not to be so taught. So overwhelming is the influence of established routine! So terribly in our education does the ornamental over-ride the useful!
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We need not insist on the value of that knowledge which aids indirect self-preservation by facilitating the gaining of a livelihood. This is admitted by all; and, indeed, by the mass is perhaps too exclusively regarded as the end of education. But while every one is ready to endorse the abstract proposition that instruction fitting youths for the business of life is of high importance, or even to consider it of supreme importance; yet scarcely any inquire what instruction will so fit them. It is true that reading, writing, and arithmetic are taught with an intelligent appreciation of their uses. But when we have said this we have said nearly all. While the great bulk of what else is acquired has no bearing on the industrial activities, an immensity of information that has a direct bearing on the industrial activities is entirely passed over.
For, leaving out only some very small classes, what are all men employed in? They are employed in the production, preparation, and distribution of commodities. And on what does efficiency in the production, preparation, and distribution of commodities depend? It depends on the use of methods fitted to the respective natures of these commodities; it depends on an adequate acquaintance with their physical, chemical, or vital properties, as the case may be; that is, it depends on Science. This order of knowledge which is in great part ignored in our school-courses, is the order of knowledge underlying the right performance of those processes by which civilised life is made possible. Undeniable as is this truth, there seems to be no living consciousness of it: its very familiarity makes it unregarded. To give due weight to our argument, we must, therefore, realise this truth to the reader by a rapid review of the facts.
Passing over the most abstract science, Logic, on the due guidance by which, however, the large producer or distributor depends, knowingly or unknowingly, for success in his business-forecasts, we come first to Mathematics. Of this, the most general division, dealing with number, guides all industrial activities; be they those by which processes are adjusted, or estimates framed, or commodities bought and sold, or accounts kept. No one needs to have the value of this division of abstract science insisted upon.
For the higher arts of construction, some acquaintance with the more special division of Mathematics is indispensable. The village carpenter, who lays out his work by empirical rules, equally with the builder of a Britannia Bridge, makes hourly reference to the laws of space-relations. The surveyor who measures the land purchased; the architect in designing a mansion to be built on it; the builder when laying out the foundations; the masons in cutting the stones; and the various artizans who put up the fittings; are all guided by geometrical truths. Railway-making is regulated from beginning to end by geometry: alike in the preparation of plans and sections; in staking out the line; in the mensuration of cuttings and embankments; in the designing and building of bridges, culverts, viaducts, tunnels, stations. Similarly with the harbours, docks, piers, and various engineering and architectural works that fringe the coasts and overspread the country, as well as the mines that run underneath it. And now-a-days, even the farmer, for the correct laying-out of his drains, has recourse to the level—that is, to geometrical principles.
Turn next to the Abstract-Concrete sciences. On the application of the simplest of these, Mechanics, depends the success of modern manufactures. The properties of the lever, the wheel-and-axle, etc., are recognised in every machine, and to machinery in these times we owe all production. Trace the history of the breakfast-roll. The soil out of which it came was drained with machine-made tiles; the surface was turned over by a machine; the wheat was reaped, thrashed, and winnowed by machines; by machinery it was ground and bolted; and had the flour been sent to Gosport, it might have been made into biscuits by a machine. Look round the room in which you sit. If modern, probably the bricks in its walls were machine-made; and by machinery the flooring was sawn and planed, the mantel-shelf sawn and polished, the paper-hangings made and printed. The veneer on the table, the turned legs of the chairs, the carpet, the curtains, are all products of machinery. Your clothing—plain, figured, or printed—is it not wholly woven, nay, perhaps even sewed, by machinery? And the volume you are reading—are not its leaves fabricated by one machine and covered with these words by another? Add to which that for the means of distribution over both land and sea, we are similarly indebted. And then observe that according as knowledge of mechanics is well or ill applied to these ends, comes success or failure. The engineer who miscalculates the strength of materials, builds a bridge that breaks down. The manufacturer who uses a bad machine cannot compete with another whose machine wastes less in friction and inertia. The ship-builder adhering to the old model is out-sailed by one who builds on the mechanically-justified wave-line principle. And as the ability of a nation to hold its own against other nations, depends on the skilled activity of its units, we see that on mechanical knowledge may turn the national fate.
On ascending from the divisions of Abstract-Concrete science dealing with molar forces, to those divisions of it which deal with molecular forces, we come to another vast series of applications. To this group of sciences joined with the preceding groups we owe the steam-engine, which does the work of millions of labourers. That section of physics which formulates the laws of heat, has taught us how to economise fuel in various industries; how to increase the produce of smelting furnaces by substituting the hot for the cold blast; how to ventilate mines; how to prevent explosions by using the safety-lamp; and, through the thermometer, how to regulate innumerable processes. That section which has the phenomena of light for its subject, gives eyes to the old and the myopic; aids through the microscope in detecting diseases and adulterations; and, by improved lighthouses, prevents shipwrecks. Researches in electricity and magnetism have saved innumerable lives and incalculable property through the compass; have subserved many arts by the electrotype; and now, in the telegraph, have supplied us with an agency by which for the future, mercantile transactions will be regulated and political intercourse carried on. While in the details of in-door life, from the improved kitchen-range up to the stereoscope on the drawing-room table, the applications of advanced physics underlie our comforts and gratifications.
Still more numerous are the applications of Chemistry. The bleacher, the dyer, the calico-printer, are severally occupied in processes that are well or ill done according as they do or do not conform to chemical laws. Smelting of copper, tin, zinc, lead, silver, iron, must be guided by chemistry. Sugar-refining, gas-making, soap-boiling, gunpowder-manufacture, are operations all partly chemical; as are likewise those which produce glass and porcelain. Whether the distiller's wort stops at the alcoholic fermentation or passes into the acetous, is a chemical question on which hangs his profit or loss; and the brewer, if his business is extensive, finds it pay to keep a chemist on his premises. Indeed, there is now scarcely any manufacture over some part of which chemistry does not preside. Nay, in these times even agriculture, to be profitably carried on, must have like guidance. The analysis of manures and soils; the disclosure of their respective adaptations; the use of gypsum or other substance for fixing ammonia; the utilisation of coprolites; the production of artificial manures—all these are boons of chemistry which it behoves the farmer to acquaint himself with. Be it in the lucifer match, or in disinfected sewage, or in photographs—in bread made without fermentation, or perfumes extracted from refuse, we may perceive that chemistry affects all our industries; and that, therefore, knowledge of it concerns every one who is directly or indirectly connected with our industries.
Of the Concrete sciences, we come first to Astronomy. Out of this has grown that art of navigation which has made possible the enormous foreign commerce that supports a large part of our population, while supplying us with many necessaries and most of our luxuries.
Geology, again, is a science knowledge of which greatly aids industrial success. Now that iron ores are so large a source of wealth; now that the duration of our coal-supply has become a question of great interest; now that we have a College of Mines and a Geological Survey; it is scarcely needful to enlarge on the truth that the study of the Earth's crust is important to our material welfare.
And then the science of life—Biology: does not this, too, bear fundamentally on these processes of indirect self-preservation? With what we ordinarily call manufactures, it has, indeed, little connection; but with the all-essential manufacture—that of food—it is inseparably connected. As agriculture must conform its methods to the phenomena of vegetal and animal life, it follows that the science of these phenomena is the rational basis of agriculture. Various biological truths have indeed been empirically established and acted upon by farmers, while yet there has been no conception of them as science; such as that particular manures are suited to particular plants; that crops of certain kinds unfit the soil for other crops; that horses cannot do good work on poor food; that such and such diseases of cattle and sheep are caused by such and such conditions. These, and the every-day knowledge which the agriculturist gains by experience respecting the management of plants and animals, constitute his stock of biological facts; on the largeness of which greatly depends his success. And as these biological facts, scanty, indefinite, rudimentary, though they are, aid him so essentially; judge what must be the value to him of such facts when they become positive, definite, and exhaustive. Indeed, even now we may see the benefits that rational biology is conferring on him. The truth that the production of animal heat implies waste of substance, and that, therefore, preventing loss of heat prevents the need for extra food—a purely theoretical conclusion—now guides the fattening of cattle: it is found that by keeping cattle warm, fodder is saved. Similarly with respect to variety of food. The experiments of physiologists have shown that not only is change of diet beneficial, but that digestion is facilitated by a mixture of ingredients in each meal. The discovery that a disorder known as "the staggers," of which many thousands of sheep have died annually, is caused by an entozoon which presses on the brain, and that if the creature is extracted through the softened place in the skull which marks its position, the sheep usually recovers, is another debt which agriculture owes to biology.
Yet one more science have we to note as bearing directly on industrial success—the Science of Society. Men who daily look at the state of the money-market glance over prices current; discuss the probable crops of corn, cotton, sugar, wool, silk; weigh the chances of war; and from these data decide on their mercantile operations; are students of social science: empirical and blundering students it may be; but still, students who gain the prizes or are plucked of their profits, according as they do or do not reach the right conclusion. Not only the manufacturer and the merchant must guide their transactions by calculations of supply and demand, based on numerous facts, and tacitly recognising sundry general principles of social action; but even the retailer must do the like: his prosperity very greatly depending upon the correctness of his judgments respecting the future wholesale prices and the future rates of consumption. Manifestly, whoever takes part in the entangled commercial activities of a community, is vitally interested in understanding the laws according to which those activities vary.
Thus, to all such as are occupied in the production, exchange, or distribution of commodities, acquaintance with Science in some of its departments, is of fundamental importance. Each man who is immediately or remotely implicated in any form of industry (and few are not) has in some way to deal with the mathematical, physical, and chemical properties of things; perhaps, also, has a direct interest in biology; and certainly has in sociology. Whether he does or does not succeed well in that indirect self-preservation which we call getting a good livelihood, depends in a great degree on his knowledge of one or more of these sciences: not, it may be, a rational knowledge; but still a knowledge, though empirical. For what we call learning a business, really implies learning the science involved in it; though not perhaps under the name of science. And hence a grounding in science is of great importance, both because it prepares for all this, and because rational knowledge has an immense superiority over empirical knowledge. Moreover, not only is scientific culture requisite for each, that he may understand the how and the why of the things and processes with which he is concerned as maker or distributor; but it is often of much moment that he should understand the how and the why of various other things and processes. In this age of joint-stock undertakings, nearly every man above the labourer is interested as capitalist in some other occupation than his own; and, as thus interested, his profit or loss often depends on his knowledge of the sciences bearing on this other occupation. Here is a mine, in the sinking of which many shareholders ruined themselves, from not knowing that a certain fossil belonged to the old red sandstone, below which no coal is found. Numerous attempts have been made to construct electromagnetic engines, in the hope of superseding steam; but had those who supplied the money understood the general law of the correlation and equivalence of forces, they might have had better balances at their bankers. Daily are men induced to aid in carrying out inventions which a mere tyro in science could show to be futile. Scarcely a locality but has its history of fortunes thrown away over some impossible project.
And if already the loss from want of science is so frequent and so great, still greater and more frequent will it be to those who hereafter lack science. Just as fast as productive processes become more scientific, which competition will inevitably make them do; and just as fast as joint-stock undertakings spread, which they certainly will; so fast must scientific knowledge grow necessary to every one.
That which our school-courses leave almost entirely out, we thus find to be that which most nearly concerns the business of life. Our industries would cease, were it not for the information which men begin to acquire, as they best may, after their education is said to be finished. And were it not for this information, from age to age accumulated and spread by unofficial means, these industries would never have existed. Had there been no teaching but such as goes on in our public schools, England would now be what it was in feudal times. That increasing acquaintance with the laws of phenomena, which has through successive ages enabled us to subjugate Nature to our needs, and in these days gives the common labourer comforts which a few centuries ago kings could not purchase, is scarcely in any degree owed to the appointed means of instructing our youth. The vital knowledge—that by which we have grown as a nation to what we are, and which now underlies our whole existence, is a knowledge that has got itself taught in nooks and corners; while the ordained agencies for teaching have been mumbling little else but dead formulas.
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We come now to the third great division of human activities—a division for which no preparation whatever is made. If by some strange chance not a vestige of us descended to the remote future save a pile of our school-books or some college examination papers, we may imagine how puzzled an antiquary of the period would be on finding in them no sign that the learners were ever likely to be parents. "This must have been the curriculum for their celibates," we may fancy him concluding. "I perceive here an elaborate preparation for many things; especially for reading the books of extinct nations and of co-existing nations (from which indeed it seems clear that these people had very little worth reading in their own tongue); but I find no reference whatever to the bringing up of children. They could not have been so absurd as to omit all training for this gravest of responsibilities. Evidently then, this was the school-course of one of their monastic orders."
Seriously, is it not an astonishing fact, that though on the treatment of offspring depend their lives or deaths, and their moral welfare or ruin; yet not one word of instruction on the treatment of offspring is ever given to those who will by and by be parents? Is it not monstrous that the fate of a new generation should be left to the chances of unreasoning custom, impulse, fancy—joined with the suggestions of ignorant nurses and the prejudiced counsel of grandmothers? If a merchant commenced business without any knowledge of arithmetic and book-keeping, we should exclaim at his folly, and look for disastrous consequences. Or if, before studying anatomy, a man set up as a surgical operator, we should wonder at his audacity and pity his patients. But that parents should begin the difficult task of rearing children, without ever having given a thought to the principles—physical, moral, or intellectual—which ought to guide them, excites neither surprise at the actors nor pity for their victims.
To tens of thousands that are killed, add hundreds of thousand that survive with feeble constitutions, and millions that grow up with constitutions not so strong as they should be; and you will have some idea of the curse inflicted on their offspring by parents ignorant of the laws of life. Do but consider for a moment that the regimen to which children are subject, is hourly telling upon them to their life-long injury or benefit; and that there are twenty ways of going wrong to one way of going right; and you will get some idea of the enormous mischief that is almost everywhere inflicted by the thoughtless, haphazard system in common use. Is it decided that a boy shall be clothed in some flimsy short dress, and be allowed to go playing about with limbs reddened by cold? The decision will tell on his whole future existence—either in illnesses; or in stunted growth; or in deficient energy; or in a maturity less vigorous than it ought to have been, and in consequent hindrances to success and happiness. Are children doomed to a monotonous dietary, or a dietary that is deficient in nutritiveness? Their ultimate physical power, and their efficiency as men and women, will inevitably be more or less diminished by it. Are they forbidden vociferous play, or (being too ill-clothed to bear exposure) are they kept indoors in cold weather? They are certain to fall below that measure of health and strength to which they would else have attained. When sons and daughters grow up sickly and feeble, parents commonly regard the event as a misfortune—as a visitation of Providence. Thinking after the prevalent chaotic fashion, they assume that these evils come without causes; or that the causes are supernatural. Nothing of the kind. In some cases the causes are doubtless inherited; but in most cases foolish regulations are the causes. Very generally, parents themselves are responsible for all this pain, this debility, this depression, this misery. They have undertaken to control the lives of their offspring from hour to hour; with cruel carelessness they have neglected to learn anything about these vital processes which they are unceasingly affecting by their commands and prohibitions; in utter ignorance of the simplest physiologic laws, they have been year by year undermining the constitutions of their children; and have so inflicted disease and premature death, not only on them but on their descendants.
Equally great are the ignorance and the consequent injury, when we turn from physical training to moral training. Consider the young mother and her nursery-legislation. But a few years ago she was at school, where her memory was crammed with words, and names, and dates, and her reflective faculties scarcely in the slightest degree exercised—where not one idea was given her respecting the methods of dealing with the opening mind of childhood; and where her discipline did not in the least fit her for thinking out methods of her own. The intervening years have been passed in practising music, in fancy-work, in novel-reading, and in party-going: no thought having yet been given to the grave responsibilities of maternity; and scarcely any of that solid intellectual culture obtained which would be some preparation for such responsibilities. And now see her with an unfolding human character committed to her charge—see her profoundly ignorant of the phenomena with which she has to deal, undertaking to do that which can be done but imperfectly even with the aid of the profoundest knowledge. She knows nothing about the nature of the emotions, their order of evolution, their functions, or where use ends and abuse begins. She is under the impression that some of the feelings are wholly bad, which is not true of any one of them; and that others are good however far they may be carried, which is also not true of any one of them. And then, ignorant as she is of the structure she has to deal with, she is equally ignorant of the effects produced on it by this or that treatment. What can be more inevitable than the disastrous results we see hourly arising? Lacking knowledge of mental phenomena, with their cause and consequences, her interference is frequently more mischievous than absolute passivity would have been. This and that kind of action, which are quite normal and beneficial, she perpetually thwarts; and so diminishes the child's happiness and profit, injures its temper and her own, and produces estrangement. Deeds which she thinks it desirable to encourage, she gets performed by threats and bribes, or by exciting a desire for applause: considering little what the inward motive may be, so long as the outward conduct conforms; and thus cultivating hypocrisy, and fear, and selfishness, in place of good feeling. While insisting on truthfulness, she constantly sets an example of untruth by threatening penalties which she does not inflict. While inculcating self-control, she hourly visits on her little ones angry scoldings for acts undeserving of them. She has not the remotest idea that in the nursery, as in the world, that alone is the truly salutary discipline which visits on all conduct, good and bad, the natural consequences—the consequences, pleasurable or painful, which in the nature of things such conduct tends to bring. Being thus without theoretic guidance, and quite incapable of guiding herself by tracing the mental processes going on in her children, her rule is impulsive, inconsistent, mischievous; and would indeed be generally ruinous were it not that the overwhelming tendency of the growing mind to assume the moral type of the race usually subordinates all minor influences.