ND   Jacques Maritain Center : Religion, Agnosticism, Education / by J.L. Spalding

VI. Progress in Education.

Delivered before National Education Association, Detroit, July 9, 1901.

Our belief is that the Word shall prevail over the entire rational creation, and change every soul into His own perfection; in which state every one, by the mere exercise of his own power, will choose what he desires and obtain what he chooses. For although in the diseases and wounds of the body there are some which no medical skill can cure, yet we hold that in the mind there is no evil so strong that it may not be overcome by the Supreme Word and God.

PROGRESS is increase of the power and quality of life. It is this even when it seems to be but greater control of the forces of nature; for they are thus made serviceable to life. Education is the unfolding and unbuilding of life, and it is therefore essentially progress. All progress is educational, and all right education is progress.

The nineteenth century will be known as the century of progress -- the century in which mankind grew in knowledge and freedom more than in all preceding ages; in which the energies, not of a few only but of whole peoples, were aroused as never before. We have been brought into conscious contact with new worlds, infinitely great and infinitesimally small; we have formed hypotheses which explain the development of suns and planets; we have traced the course of life from the protoplasmic cell through all its endless varieties; we have followed the transformations of the earth, from its appearance as a crust on which nothing could live, through incalculable lapses of time down to the birth of man and the dawn of history; we have resolved all composite substances into their primal elements, and made new and useful combinations; we have discovered the causes of nearly all the worst diseases, and the means whereby they may be cured or prevented; we have learned how the many languages and dialects, with their wealth of vocabulary, have been evolved from a few families and a few thousand roots; we have traced the growth of customs, laws, and institutions from their most simple to their most complex forms. What control of natural forces we have gained! We have invented a thousand cunning machines, with which we compel steam and electricity to warm and light our cities, to carry us with great speed over earth and sea, to write or repeat our words from continent to continent, to spin and weave and forge for us. The face of the earth has been renewed, and we live in worlds of which our fathers did not dream. Filled with confidence and enthusiasm by this wonderful success, we hurry on to new conquests; and as the struggle becomes more intense, still greater demands are made upon us to put forth all our strength. Our fathers believed that matter was inert; but we know that all things are in motion, in process of transformation. The earth is whirling with incredible speed both on its own axis and around the sun. A drop of water that lies quietly in the palm if it could be sufficiently magnified would present a scene of amazing activity. We should see that it consists of millions of molecules, darting hither and thither, colliding and rebounding millions of times in a second. The universe is athrill with energy. There is everywhere attraction and repulsion, an endless coming and going, combining and dissolving; in the midst of which all things are changing, even those which appear to be immutable. The sun is losing its light, the mountains are wearing away. The consciousness to which we have attained that the universe is alive with energy has awakened in the modern man a feverish desire to exert himself, to be active in a world in which nothing can remain passive and survive; and as greater and greater numbers are mobilized and set thinking, it becomes more and more difficult for the individual to stand upright and make his way, unless he be awakened and invigorated in mind and body. The ideal doubtless is the co-operation of all for the good of each; but the fact is the effort of each to assert himself in the face of all, and if need be, at their cost. Nations, like individuals, are drawn into the world-wide conflict. The old cry of vae victis still applies, under conditions indeed seemingly less brutal, but more inexorably fixed.

In such a state of things whoever is not alert, intelligent, brave, and vigorous, falls, as the ancient civilizations fell before advancing armies filled with courage and the confidence of irresistible might. Hence not individuals alone, but nations, are driven to educate themselves, that they may be prepared for the competitive struggle, which is found everywhere as never before in the history of mankind. Hence, too, in such a society there is necessarily progress in education; for education is vastly more than the knowledge and discipline acquired in schools.

The institutions into which men are gathered by common needs and sympathies, and by which they are lifted out of savagery and barbarism into intelligence and freedom, are the family, the state, civil society, and the Church. By them the life of individuals and of peoples is evolved and moulded more fundamentally and thoroughly than it can be by any possible scholastic training and teaching. They not only provide and defend the things that are necessary to man's physical well-being, but they make possible the cultivation of his intellectual faculties. Schools are materially impeded in their work when they receive their pupils from vulgar or impure homes, or when these are born in a tyrannical or lawless state, or in a corrupt civil society, or belong to a church which lacks faith and authority; and much of the adverse criticism of schools is due to misconceptions which lead to the demand that they shall do what it is not in their province or their power to do. Indeed, where the cardinal institutions are at fault, what is needed is not so much schools, as reform of schools; and a reform school cannot possibly be a normal home of education. The rationalistic philosophy of the eighteenth century had as one of its results an exaggerated belief in what schools can accomplish. Kant, who in his views on this subject is chiefly influenced by Rousseau, holds that man is merely what education makes him; and to educate means for him little more than to enlighten the mind concerning the right use of human endowments. In his opinion, if all are made sufficiently intelligent, all will be just, helpful, and good. It is the idea of Socrates that wrong-doing is only the result of ignorance. Though we have largely outgrown this optimistic faith, it gave a mighty impulse to individual and national efforts to establish schools for the whole people, of which the national systems of the present day are, in great part, the outcome. The world-view, however, which has resulted from science and scientific theories of the universe, has led numbers of thinkers to attach comparatively little importance to enlightenment or mental culture, and to lay stress chiefly on heredity and environment. The opinion tends to prevail that the mind and character of man, like his body, like the whole organic world, is the product of evolution, working through fatal laws, wherewith human purpose and free will -- the possibility of which is denied -- cannot interfere in any real way.

No one who is occupied with education can accept this theory without losing faith in the efficacy of his efforts and enthusiasm for his work. Fortunately, one may admit the general prevalence of the law of evolution without ceasing to believe in God, in the soul, and in freedom.

This is the position of Kant and it is that which nearly all of us take. Without a thought of denying the power of heredity and environment in shaping man's life, we are certain that his free and purposive action is able to modify and to a large extent control their influence. It is, indeed, the tendency of right education to enable man to create his world, to teach him to live not merely in his material surroundings but in the spiritual realms of thought and love, of hope and aspiration, of beauty and goodness, until these become his proper and abiding home, for which climate and soil furnish merely the settings and foundations. And when we speak of progress in education, we think primarily not of a fatal evolution, but of the forces and institutions which the human spirit with free self-determination and deliberate aim makes use of for the uplifting of the race. Here too, of course, we have growth rather than creation -- growth of which certain races and peoples (especially favored by environment and heredity, we may suppose) have shown themselves more capable than others; and with our present knowledge of history we are able to assign, with some degree of accuracy, to each the part it has played in the education of mankind. The contributions of Israel, of Greece, and of Rome are known to all. We are less familiar with what geology and archaeology have done to throw light not merely on the structure and development of the globe, but on the course of human life in epochs of which we possess no written account. Wherever man has lived he has left traces of himself, which tell his story to the trained eye of the scientific student; and we are consequently able to investigate the earliest efforts of savages, in some remote stone age, to bend their rude minds to the conquest of nature. The darkness which overshadowed Egypt has been dispelled, and the rise and decay of the arts of civilization in the valley of the Nile are no longer a mystery. Archaeological research has done less for the valley of the Euphrates; but much, nevertheless, has been accomplished there also. We have learned to read the cuneiform characters, which for thousands of years were the only literary script of the world. Babylon, we have reason to believe, was the source of the civilization of China, the oldest now existing.

"Egypt and Babylon," says Rawlinson, "led the way and acted as the pioneers of mankind in the various untrodden fields of art, literature, and science. Alphabetic writing, astronomy, history, chronology, architecture, plastic art, sculpture, navigation, agriculture, textile industry, seem all to have had their origin in one or other of these two countries." The Turanian or Mongol tribes of the valley of the Euphrates were probably the first to invent written signs and to establish schools. Though we owe to them the original impulses which have led to civilization, they themselves never rose above the stage of barbarian culture, an ascent which only the Semitic and Aryan races have been able to make; and among them, in the pre-Christian ages, the Jews, who are Semites, and the Greeks and the Romans, who are Aryans, have been the chief creators and bearers of the spiritual treasures which constitute the essential wealth of humanity. To the first we owe the mighty educational force which lies in a living faith in One Supreme God, creator of all things, who demands of men that they love and serve Him with righteous hearts. In their schools they emphasized the necessity of religion and morality, which are indeed the permanent foundations whereon all genuine human culture must forever rest. From the Greeks we derive the vital elements of our intellectual life, our philosophy and science, our literature and art; and their educational ideals are the most potent mental stimulus in the modern world. The school, we may say, is not only a Greek word but a Greek institution.

The Romans excelled all other peoples in genius for law and the science and art of government; and hence they believed in discipline rather than in culture; and in their schools, until they were brought under the influence of Greek philosophy and literature, their chief concern was to make men courageous, dignified, obedient, enduring, and reverent.

When the civilizations of the Jew, the Greek, and the Roman declined and fell to ruin, when the Empire was broken to fragments by the barbarous hordes that century after century laid waste its fairest provinces, the world seemed destined to sink into the darkness and confusion out of which it had been struggling with infinite pains for thousands of years; and if a wider, juster, and more enduring social state has been built on the ruins of pagan culture and religion, this has been accomplished chiefly with the aid of the principles and ideals of Christianity. We possess a faith and insight, a depth and breadth of intellectual view, a grasp of the elements of human character, a largeness of sympathy and appreciativeness, to which no pre-Christian people or age ever attained; and after the most patient and conscientious investigation into the causes which have made the modern world what it is, the impartial and enlightened mind is driven to confess that as the civilized nations date their history from the birth of Christ, so He is the primary and vital impulse in all the most excellent things they have achieved. We are beyond doubt the heirs of all the past, and have become conscious of the debt we owe to Jew and Gentile, to barbarian and Greek; but the ideals which determine our views of God, of man, of the family, of the state, of the aim and end of all progress, are Christian ideals; and if this light should go out in darkness, it is not conceivable that our civilization should survive. The genius of Hellas, as it is manifested in her greatest philosophers, poets, artists, orators, and statesmen, we have not surpassed; in our own day some of the noblest minds are not consciously Christian. In the long conflicts with the barbarism which overwhelmed the Roman Empire, individuals and peoples who had been baptized into faith in Christ have not always, in the midst of the confusion and ignorance, of the lawlessness and violence, had a clear view of the divine truth, goodness, tolerance, and love which are revealed in him; have even at times been the foes of the godward march of humanity. Yet when all is said, the supreme fact remains, that with Him the new life of the race begins; that in Him its divinest hopes and aspirations are enrooted; and through Him its highest and most beneficent conquests have been made. It is to Christianity, not to science, that we are indebted for our faith in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of mankind; in the immortal and godlike nature of the soul; in the freedom of the will; in the paramount worth of character; in the duty of universal benevolence, having, as its implication, equality of laws and opportunities for all; in the progress which is marked by an ever-increasing domination of the spirit over matter, and the gradual spreading of the kingdom of heaven over earth.

With Christ a new and immense hope was born in the heart of man -- a hope of everlasting life and endless progress; a conception of a gradually developing divine purpose in history; of a return through labyrinthine and devious ways of the whole creation to God, from whom it springs. This hope and this conception are not found in the religions of paganism, nor can science inspire or justify them. In the individual and in the race, as in nature, growth and decay are simultaneous. When the one predominates there is progress; when the other, regress and final extinction. And as it would be absurd to imagine that a human being, in this present existence at least, might continue to grow forever, it would not be less extravagant to believe that a people or the race itself might continue indefinitely to make progress. Nations, like individuals, are born, grow, and perish; and mankind, to whatever heights they may rise, must rise but to fall. The monuments of the most glorious achievements are destined to become fragments of a globe on which no living thing can longer be found. As endless time preceded the appearance of man on earth, so endless time shall follow his disappearance from the visible universe. All that is possessed must be lost, since possession is a thing of time, and what time gives it takes again.

If it were possible to embrace in one view the entire history of our little planet, we should neither be disturbed by the failures nor made greatly glad by the successes of men, so inevitable and transitory it would all appear to be. This is the standpoint, this the conclusion of science, when it is accepted as the sole and sufficient test of reality. But we cannot take delight or find repose in such wisdom. Our thoughts wander through eternity; our hopes reach forth to infinity; we are akin to atoms and stars, to the worm and to the Eternal Spirit. The whole past has helped to make us what we are, and we in turn shall help to make the whole future. In the midst of a perishable universe, the soul dwells with the indestructible; in the midst of a world of shadows, it seeks repose with the all-real and abiding One. In all faith in progress, in all efforts to advance, we follow the light of an ideal, which, if we look closely, is found to be that of perfect truth, beauty, and goodness, wedded to absolute power. Whatever the means taken to approach it, this is the end which noble minds forever hold in view -- the ultimate goal of all our yearning and striving, which the laws of reason and the necessities of thought compel us to identify with the Supreme Being from whom and to whom all things move. Our way leads not from nothingness to nothingness, from death to death, but from life to more and higher life; from spirit to the Infinite Spirit, who is perfect truth, beauty, and love, wedded to absolute power. It is possible, even when there is question of things the most vital and indispensable to human welfare, to take opposite views and to defend with plausible arguments whatever opinion. One may or may not set store by money or pleasure or position or friendship or culture. He may hold that civilization awakens more wants than it can satisfy, creates more ills than it can cure; that art, like the tint and perfume of the flower, is but a symptom of decay; that all monuments are funeral monuments. One may deny free will; or accepting it, may think that license is the inevitable result of liberty, and that the best fortune for individuals and societies is to be governed by able tyrants. Our estimates depend so largely on what we ourselves are that agreement is hardly to be looked for. The light which visits young eyes is not that which falls on those who have been sobered by the contemplation of man's mortality. Serious minds have maintained that life, together with the means whereby it is propagated, preserved, and increased, is the sum of all evil; that the love of life is the supreme delusion in a universe where whoever feels and thinks necessarily suffers irremediable pain. Hence they believe not in progress but in regress; holding that as all life has sprung from the unconscious, the sooner it sinks back into it the more speedily shall all things be reduced into eternal order.

This is not merely a speculative view of a few exceptional individuals: it has been, and still is, the religion of millions in Eastern Asia, whose dream is everlasting repose in nothingness; who neither desire nor make progress. The ultimate standard of value is helpfulness to life; for except for the living nothing can have, nor be known to have, worth. But our belief in the goodness of life is the result of a primal feeling, not of philosophic or scientific demonstration. It is essentially a faith which arguments can neither create nor destroy -- a faith which draws its nourishment from the conviction that life is the first cause and last end of all that exists, the most real of things and therefore the most excellent; and this conviction has been begotten in the mind and heart of man by the Christian religion, with a power which has created a new world, and given to civilization an enduring vitality and an all-embracing scope of which the most divinely inspired minds of antiquity could have but visionary conceptions. Our Christian faith in God means belief in increase of life, in progress, which is His appeal and insistence bidding us win His kingdom and Himself. It is the ever-widening and deepening prevalence of His will, which is good-will to men, that they may grow in power of mind, heart, and conscience; that they may be made stronger and purer and more healthful in body and in soul. Thus progress, whether it be considered as inner development and purification or as enlarging mastery over the external world, becomes the most legitimate, the most fruitful, the most invigorating aspiration of our nature; becomes part of all our hoping, thinking, and striving. It lies at the heart of the divine discontent which makes it impossible for us to rest self-satisfied in any achievement; which turns us from whatever is won or accomplished to the better things and nobler men that are yet to be. It is a resistless urgency to growth, springing from an innermost need of freedom and light. It dispels ignorance, abolishes abuses, overthrows tyrannies, and bears us upward and onward along widening ways. It sweetens toil and gives the courage to bear bravely the worst that may befall.

Faith in the goodness of life, issuing in ceaseless efforts to develop it to higher and higher potencies, has determined our world-view and brought us to understand that the universe is a system of forces whose end is the education of souls; that the drama enacted throughout the whole earth and all the ages has for its central idea and guiding motive the progressive spiritual culture of mankind, which is the will of God as revealed in the conduct and teaching of Christ.

To sketch the history of the progress of education from the fall of the Roman Empire and the decay of pagan learning down to the present time would require a much larger canvas than is offered to one who makes an address. As a result of the ruin wrought by the barbarians, whose inroads and depredations continued through centuries, what had been the civilized world sank into deep ignorance and confusion. For a long period learning, banished from the continent of Europe, found an asylum chiefly in Ireland, in the schools of the monks, whence it slowly spread to Scotland and Northern England. When on the continent of Europe, at the end of the eighth century, Charles the Great began to foster education, he was forced to appeal for assistance to the religious teachers of the British Isles. In fact, the first revival of learning in mediaeval Europe may be said to have been due to the influence of Irish monks. They carried their knowledge and discipline even to Iceland. Later on they were followed by their Anglo-Saxon brethren, under the lead of men like Egbert, Wilfrid, Willibrord and Boniface. In 782 Alcuin, an Anglo-Saxon, who finally became Bishop of Tours, was placed by Charles at the head of the "Palace School" at Aix-la-Chapelle, the principal residence of the Emperor; and he and his pupils became the first teachers of Germany. It was a true revival of education; though, on account of the difficulties of the times and the lack of books, little progress was made. The impulse thus given continued to be felt all through the disorders which followed the dismemberment of the Empire of Charles and the fierce conflicts with the invading Norsemen and the fanatical Mohammedans. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries St. Anselm and St. Bernard, Roscellin and Abelard, Peter the Lombard, Arnold of Brescia, and John of Salisbury, rendered important service to the cause of enlightenment. The Muslims founded universities at Cordova, Toledo, and Seville about the beginning of the twelfth century, but these did not flourish more than a hundred years; while the Christian schools which had grown up around the cathedrals and monasteries in various parts of Europe began to develop new life and to enlarge the scope of their teaching so as to embrace theology, law, arts, and medicine. They also admitted to their classes and lecture halls students from every part of the world.

From 1200 to 1400 the number of these universities increased to about forty, and their students were counted by the thousand. "Thus," says Davidson, "in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries education rose in many European states to a height which it had not attained since the days of Seneca and Quintilian. This showed itself in many ways, but above all in a sudden outburst of philosophy, art, and literature. To these centuries belong Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon, Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura, Cimabue, Giotto, and the cathedral builders, Dante and Petrarch, Chaucer and Gower, the minnesänger of Germany and the trouvères and troubadours of France. Scholasticism," he continues, "saved Europe from moral suicide, ignorance, and fleshliness."

"In modern Europe," says Emerson, "the Middle Ages were called the Dark Ages. Who dares to call them so now? They are seen to be the feet on which we walk, the eyes with which we see. It is one of our triumphs to have reinstated them. Their Dante and Alfred and Wickliffe and Abelard and Bacon; their Magna Charta, decimal numbers, mariner's compass, gunpowder, glass, paper, and clocks; chemistry, algebra, astronomy; their Gothic architecture, their painting -- are the delight and tuition of ours."

The Renaissance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries marks a new advance in the educational history of mankind. The treasures of the classical literatures were revealed, America was discovered, the Copernican astronomy was divined, the printing press was invented, gunpowder and the compass were applied to the arts of warfare and navigation, and voyages and enterprises of many kinds were undertaken.

"All the light which we enjoy," says von Müller, "and which the active and eager genius of the European shall cause every part of the world to enjoy, is due to the fact that at the fall of the Empire of the Caesars there was a hierarchy which stood firm, and, with the help of the Christian religion, communicated to the mind of Europe, that hitherto had moved within a narrow circle, an electric thrill which has endowed it with an energy and power of expansion, whose results are the triumphs of which we are the spectators and beneficiaries."

In the sixteenth century Rabelais, Erasmus, and Montaigne take special interest in questions of education and propose important improvements in method and matter. Luther and Knox labored strenuously to establish popular schools in Germany and in Scotland.

The Jesuits devoted themselves with much success to education, establishing in various parts of the world grammar schools, colleges, and universities, in which they taught the classical learning and trained many of the greatest minds of the seventeenth century; among others Descartes, who is the true father of modern philosophy and science.

In the seventeenth century, also, Comenius, the Moravian bishop, propounded and arranged a course of instruction, extending from infancy to manhood -- from the home-school to the university; and his views have exercised a lasting influence on the development of educational theory and practice.

In the eighteenth century Rousseau awakened a widespread interest in questions of education, though his own views on the subject are generally false. He stimulated Kant and Goethe, Basedow and Pestalozzi, to occupy themselves with pedagogical problems; and they in turn compelled the attention of many others. Thus at the opening of the nineteenth century an enthusiasm for education such as had never before existed had been aroused. Hitherto the purpose of the school had been to teach the privileged classes and to prepare for the learned professions: henceforth the whole people are to receive instruction; for as the ideals of democracy impress themselves more distinctly on the general mind, it becomes more and more obvious that as all have the same rights, all should have the same opportunities,.the chief and most important of which is that of education. The State in consequence is led to establish free schools wherein all may be taught. Where there is a general political liberty, there must be a general enlightenment. To do this work an army of teachers is required; and as the principles on which all theories and methods of education rest are brought more fully into consciousness, greater and greater demands are made upon those to whom the office of teaching is entrusted. Education being a process of conscious evolution, they who assist and guide it must themselves continue to grow. The teacher's culture must broaden and deepen as knowledge increases. The more progress is made, the more difficult his task becomes. It is easier to train to obedience than to educate for freedom. This, however, is the only true education; for authority rests on liberty, and its chief end is to secure and enlarge the rights and opportunities which none but beings endowed with freedom can possess. To educate to the freedom which is truth it is not enough to strengthen and fill the memory, to discipline the practical understanding, or to accustom to observances; one must quicken the whole man, must raise and purify the imagination, the heart, and the conscience. When the purpose is to inspire piety, reverence, admiration, awe, enthusiasm, love, and devotion, it can be accomplished by those alone in whom these high and holy sentiments are a living power, whose thought and conduct create an atmosphere in which the soul breathes a celestial air and is made aware of God's presence. They who have no religious faith or feeling can no more teach religion than one who has no literary taste or knowledge can teach literature, than one who has no musical ear can teach music.

If in considering educational progress we limit our view to our own country, we cannot but recognize the advances which have been made. From the planting of the colonies, indeed, down to the War of Independence there was a gradual decline of popular interest in schools; and during the Revolutionary period there was so much else to occupy public attention that little was done to promote education. But in the early part of the nineteenth century there was a general revival of intellectual activity, and a new enthusiasm for whatever might diffuse enlightenment; and it has come to pass that now there is an almost universal belief among us that the greater the intelligence and virtue of the people, the safer will be our political and civil institutions, which we hold to be founded on permanent principles of reason and justice.

The work which has been accomplished in the last fifty years in organizing a great system of schools in which free elementary instruction is offered to all; in establishing in cities and towns free high schools in which secondary education is given to those who desire it; in creating for men and women universities, which are rapidly widening their scope and increasing their effectiveness, has never been equalled in the history of any other people. We have founded, also, free training schools for teachers all over the Union; and in nearly all the States there are schools for defectives and delinquents. In our white native population illiteracy has almost ceased to exist. All are readers of the newspapers at the least, and are thus impelled to some kind of mental self-activity concerning questions which are of interest to the whole world as well as to Americans. In this way the people of the different parts of the country are brought into intelligent communion; and in learning to understand one another they find that it is possible to adjust conflicts, whether of interest or opinion, by rational methods, without violence or bloodshed. Nowhere else is there such popular faith in education, such willingness to be taxed for the building and maintenance of schools. While the State provides elementary instruction for all, it has no thought of claiming an exclusive right to teach. The liberty of teaching is, in fact, as essentially part of our political and social constitution as the liberty of the press or the liberty of worship; and hence the State protects and encourages all educational institutions; although, on account of the special religious conditions of America, it has not been deemed wise to devote any portion of the public educational fund to the support of church schools.

Our progress in the higher education has been even greater and more rapid. The number of colleges and of students has doubled in little more than a quarter of a century, while the standard of admission has been raised in nearly all these institutions. The number of those who are doing post-graduate work has risen in the last thirty years from fewer than two hundred to five thousand. Original investigation in the various departments of physical, historical, archaeological, and political science has been introduced and developed. Stress is laid on the comparative method of study, and serious attempts are made in the best of our universities to make philosophy serve as a unifying principle for all the sciences, that the scholar may come to perceive that all the branches of knowledge form a whole, in which the parts combine as in an organism; and that having attained this insight and comprehensive grasp of mind he may be prepared to take up whatever specialty his talent may point out to him, without risk of becoming narrow, partial, and whimsical; of losing mental balance, breadth, and accuracy of view. In this way, it may be hoped, we shall create an aristocracy of culture, enlightened, reasonable, and benevolent, which shall help to counteract the baneful influence of an aristocracy founded merely upon wealth.

As a result of the diffusion of this more serious education, there is a widespread and increasing tendency to exact a higher degree of culture of candidates for the learned professions. In 1800 there were in the United States but three schools of theology, three of law, and three of medicine; in 1900 there were one hundred and sixty-five schools of theology, eighty-seven of law, and one hundred and fifty-six of medicine, with about eight thousand teachers and forty-four thousand students. When there is question of education, however, as of anything that is spiritual, numbers have but a minor significance. What is decisive is quality, not quantity. As one mind may outweigh a million, so one school may have higher worth than many. We have had, and we have, eminent men in the several professions, but the average is low -- lower than that found in the progressive nations of Europe; and the standard of professional attainment is no mean evidence of a people's civilization. One who has had no serious preparatory mental training cannot acquire a proper knowledge of theology or law or medicine; and the study of these sciences does not give the intellectual discipline which is needed for their comprehension. A profession is, after all, a specialty; and the inevitable tendency of specialties is to narrow and confine. Hence whatever profession one may take up, he should first pursue with seriousness the studies which enlarge the mind, which make it supple, open, strong, and many-sided. A professional man should be a gentleman, and a merely professional education cannot give the culture or develop the qualities which this ideal demands. These truths are gradually making their way among the observant and thoughtful, especially in the professions themselves. We have, of course, no national authority which has power to fix standards for degrees, and these standards vary from State to State. There is a general tendency, however, to demand more thorough preparation of those who seek admission or graduation in the professional schools; and in the last twenty-five years much has been done to increase the science and efficiency of practitioners and to protect the public from the incompetent and unscrupulous. But in many of the States the requirements are still wholly insufficient; and it is greatly to be desired that the professors of theology, law, and medicine should find some way of uniting with the National Education Association, that the professional schools may be brought into more vital contact with the educational movement of the country. It is altogether probable that the worst teaching is found not in our elementary schools, but in the institutions of higher education and professional learning, where there is but mechanical repetition of what might be better learned from books, and where the methods are those of a factory rather than of a school of life.

In scientific and technical education, in commercial, agricultural, and industrial education, we are making genuine and rapid progress. We are above all a practical people, and have the genius and the will to excel in matters of this kind; and the triumphs we have won incite us to more strenuous efforts to surpass not the rest of the world, -- for this we have done, -- but to surpass ourselves.

The aims and ends of practical education appeal to us with irresistible force: they have created our ideals. "We regard education," says Daniel Webster, "as a wise and liberal system of police, by which property and life and the peace of society are secured." Here is the paramount fact: both the school and the Church are, in our eyes, chiefly a superior kind of police by which property and the peace of society are secured. The highest good, therefore, is property and the peace of society. They are ends, and whatever else is valuable is so but as a means to acquire and preserve property and the peace of society.

Now, property and the peace of society are desirable, indispensable even, and must be kept in view in every right system of education; but those alone who look above property and the peace of society, and strive in all earnestness to live in the infinite and permanent world of truth, beauty, and goodness, can hope to rise to the full height of a noble manhood.

There is no inspiration in the ideals of plenty and stability. He who would rouse men to the noblest and most fruitful efforts must not make appeal to their love of money and love of ease, but must speak to their souls; must urge them to labor for enlargement and elevation of mind; to live for religion and culture, which alone have power to create free and Godlike personalities. He must make them know and feel that the whole social organism has worth but in so far as it is a means to fashion individual men into the divine image. This is the ideal of progress, the light which invites with irresistible fascination the best to toil for increase, not of riches but of life; for the inner freedom, which is life's finest flower and fruit; and not for comfort nor luxury nor art nor science. This is the ideal of religion which is infinite yearning and striving for God. This is the ideal of culture which develops endowment into faculty, which gives the mind possession of its powers, making it a self in a world it upbuilds and keeps symmetrical and fair.

Where man has no opportunity nor freedom to educate himself, we have social conditions such as those of India, with its castes; where education is merely formal and practical we have a world of arrested spiritual growth, as in China.

The fabric of the life of the individual is woven for him by society; and as he is a creature of society, he is drawn almost irresistibly to what has the greatest social influence and prestige -- to power, wealth, and fame. And since only the very few can hope for fame or great power, the multitude are driven to the pursuit of riches, in which there is an element of real power and of fictitious fame, as well as the means of procuring much else that all men hold to be valuable. Thus ideals are largely determined by environment. What circumstances appear to make most desirable we hold to be the best. Things carry their commands with them, and necessity knows no law.

In America our environment, our fortune, our success, have combined to make us practical, to urge us to the conquest of matter, to mechanical inventiveness, and to the accumulation of wealth; and hence we have been led to believe we may look on religion and culture as valuable chiefly for what they do for the protection of property and the peace of society. But the reverse of this is the true view. Property and the peace of society have as their end the fostering of religion and culture. To live for material things is to live to eat and drink, and not to eat and drink that we may live in the soul, may think and love and do righteously. Food, clothing, and shelter are necessaries of our animal nature; and since they cannot be possessed and at the same time communicated, the labor by which they are acquired tends to beget a selfish disposition, to become a struggle for existence, in which heartlessness and greed take the name of legality, and are sought to be justified by the plea of the force of circumstances, of the nature of things; and the final result is oppression, hatred, and general disorder, which bring about the loss of property and the destruction of the peace of society. Truth, goodness, and beauty are necessaries of man's spiritual nature; and they are not exclusive, but increase when they are shared. It is possible to attain them only by genuine and sympathetic communion, by loving God and the whole human brotherhood; and hence the striving for them produces an unselfish temper, a spirit of good-will and helpfulness, the final outcome of which should be a society whose constitutive principle is the co-operation of all with each and of each with all; and which shall lift the race above the conflicts of interests, whether those of individuals or those of nations, into the realms of eternal truth, goodness, and beauty. When these hopes are realized, the nation will become a kingdom of heaven on earth, where the aim and end of authority shall be to make men intelligent, virtuous, and free, capable of self-guidance and self-control; where whatever is true shall be also popular; where all shall lead a fair and holy life with God and in the company of their fellows.

Let those who will, believe that this can never be more than a dream. It is, at least, the ideal of the noblest souls, and should be that of all educators. But if they are to walk in its light they must have definite conceptions of the beings whom they seek to develop and fashion. What is man? What is his destiny? What consequently should those who deliberately influence him strive to make of him? These are the previous questions to which some definite answer must be found before teachers can know whether what they do is right or wrong. Without such knowledge they can hope at the best to build in the child's consciousness but a fragmentary, incoherent world, not a cosmic whole.

Now, if we are to take a deep and abiding interest in ourselves or in the race to which we belong, we must see ourselves and mankind in God, and not in matter merely. We cannot believe that this life is infinitely good and sacred, possibly we cannot believe it to be a good at all, unless we believe in immortal life. But the teacher derives his inspiration and enthusiasm from faith in the worth of life; and therefore from faith in God, as eternal essential life.

"Education," says Davidson, "should encourage true religion, but it should be free from sectarian bias." A religion free from sectarian bias can mean, I suppose, only a religion without a creed, without intellectual or moral principles; a religion, therefore, which can neither be taught nor loved nor lived. The phrase, to encourage religion, shows the weakness of the position. If religion is anything, it is the deepest, holiest, and highest; and should be, not encouraged, but striven for and cherished infinitely.

Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler affirms the necessity of religious education; and holds also that a religion without dogma, without intellectual and moral principles, is a meaningless religion. But, having a clear view of the obstacles to a denominational system of state schools in a country like ours, he throws the whole burden of religious instruction on the family and the Church. In America, however, a very large number of families have no positive religious belief or feeling. Again: It is the tendency of free schools to diminish the sense of parental responsibility. When the State or the Church assumes the labor and the expense of instructing children, fathers and mothers easily persuade themselves that in sending them to schools thus provided they are quit of further obligation, so far as their mental and moral instruction is concerned; and hence in our country the homes in which no serious religious education is given are increasingly numerous.

There are grave reasons for thinking that the churches are unable effectively to perform this all-important work. But a small part of the children attend Sunday-school; and if all attended, a lesson of an hour or two once in seven days can produce no deep or lasting impressions. The result, then, of our present educational methods and means can hardly be other than a general religious atrophy; and should this take place we shall be driven to confront the problem whether our ideals of manhood and womanhood, of the worth and sacredness of human life, whether our freedom, culture, and morality can survive. Religion and virtue are the most essential elements of humanity, and they can be taught; but they are the most difficult of things to teach, because those alone in whom they are a life principle bodying itself in a character which irresistibly inspires reverence, mildness, love, and devotion, can teach them.

This indeed is a truth of universal application; for whenever there is question of educational efficiency and progress, the primary and paramount consideration is not methods nor buildings nor mechanical agencies of whatever kind, but the teacher. "The proof that one has knowledge," says Aristotle, "is ability to teach." Whatever is a vital element of one's being, whether it be religion or virtue, or aesthetic or scientific proficiency, he can teach; and, in the proper sense, he can teach nothing else. We can teach what we know and love to those who know and love us. The rest is drill. They have done most for progress in education who have done most to enlighten and inspire teachers. It is work of this kind that has given Horace Mann his pre-eminence among American educators. Much of his success was due, doubtless, to his insistence on the practical value of education, on its influence upon "the worldly fortune and estates of men," on its economic worth, its power to improve the pecuniary condition of the commonwealth.

Half a century ago such an ideal had even greater attractiveness for Americans than at present. But Horace Mann made use of his reputation to inspire and enforce better things. He pleaded for the establishment of Normal schools, holding that in every system of education the principal need is competent teachers.

The Normal schools which have been founded all over the country have rendered important service; but we have passed the point of view of their early advocates, and see clearly that the training which even the best of them can give is insufficient. The teacher's profession, like every other, is a specialty; and if he have merely a professional knowledge and skill, he is necessarily narrow, partial, and unappreciative of the best. He lacks the philosophic mind, the comprehensive grasp of truth, which, whatever his subject, will enable him to keep in view the wide fields of life and knowledge, and so to guide his pupils to live with greater consciousness and power in their whole being. Hence we shall more and more demand of those who apply for admission into the Normal schools that they come with minds seriously cultivated. We have begun to establish teachers' colleges and to affiliate them with our universities, making education a faculty like law or medicine or theology. This university faculty will help us to form a race of professional teachers who shall possess the requisite literary, scientific, and pedagogical knowledge and skill: who shall walk in the light of the ideals of human perfection, and be sustained in their labors by the love of human excellence; who shall understand and practise the art of stimulating thought, awakening interest, steadying attention, and cultivating appreciativeness. "It would be a great step in advance," says Quick, " if teachers in general were as dissatisfied with themselves as they usually are with their pupils."

The divine discontent is that of great toilers who feel that to strive faithfully in a worthy cause is reward enough.

The best school fails in the case of many of its students; great men make themselves great, while the inferior remain what they are in spite of persistent efforts to raise them to higher planes. But such considerations do not discourage the teacher who has faith in the power of education to transform human life; and if hope deceive him, he cherishes at least a noble illusion, which is a source of joy and strength.

The mother's high thoughts of the future of her child may never be realized, but how much worse for her and for him would it not be if she had none of the heavenly dreams which the love-inspired imagination evokes to make life fair and fragrant! The wise take an exalted view of the teacher's office, and they know the difficulties by which he is beset. He is made to bear the sins of parents and the corruptions of society. His merit is little recognized, and his work is poorly paid. The ignorant take the liberty to instruct him, and they who care nothing for education become interested when he is to be found fault with. The results of his labors are uncertain and remote, and those he has most helped rarely think it necessary to be thankful. But if he knows how to do his work and loves it, he cannot be discouraged.

And, after all, both he and his work are appreciated now as never before. Teaching has become a profession; and the body of teachers, conscious of the general approval, are impelled to more serious efforts to acquire knowledge and skill; and in consequence they exercise an increasing influence in moulding public opinion and in shaping the destiny of the nation. Holding aloof from religious controversy and political strife, they are drawn more and more to give all their thought and energy to create schools which shall best develop, illumine, and purify man's whole being. To accomplish this, two things above all others are necessary: to enlighten and strengthen faith in the surpassing worth of education, not merely as a means to common success, but as an end in itself; and then to induce the wisest and noblest men and women to become teachers. We must help greater and greater numbers to understand and love the ideal of human perfection, and to believe in education for the transformation it is capable of working in man and in society. It doubtless equips for the struggle for existence, for the race for wealth and place; but it does better things also. It gives to human beings capacity for higher life, for purer pleasures, for more perfect freedom. It is the key which unlocks the secrets of nature; it is the password to the delightful world of best human thought and achievement, making the wisest and noblest who have lived or are now living the familiar acquaintances of all rightly cultivated minds. It makes us able to gain a livelihood; and, what is infinitely more precious, it inspires the wisdom which shows us how to live.

The more comprehensive our grasp of the meaning and power of education becomes, the easier shall it be to persuade the best men and women to devote themselves to teaching; for we shall make them feel that the teacher does not take up a trade, but the highest of arts -- the art of fashioning immortal souls in the light of the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty. "A teacher," says Thring, "is one who has liberty and time, and heart enough and head enough, to be a master in the kingdom of life." Education is furtherance of life; and instruction is educative only when the knowledge acquired gives truer ideas of the worth of life, and supplies motives for right living. The teacher's business -- his sole business, one might say -- is to awaken and confirm interest in the things which make for purer and richer life; for interest compels and holds attention; and interest and attention result in observation and accuracy, which are the characteristics of cultivated minds. If our interests were as manifold as the thoughts and labors of all men, we should all find it possible to approach to completeness of living; for it is easy to live in the things which interest us. He who is shut in the circle of his family or his business or his profession, is necessarily a partial and mechanical man, whose relations with God and men cannot be full and vital. The world of his consciousness is fragmentary and hard, not whole and fluid. He is alive but at points. When the flame of his existence is extinguished, it goes out in utter darkness; for he has kindled no celestial fire in other minds and hearts. Such a one cannot be a teacher, for he cannot illumine the mind or speak to the heart; and it is with minds and hearts that he must forever occupy himself. What is knowledge but a mind knowing? What is love but a heart loving? In books there are symbols of knowledge, but knowledge itself exists in minds alone. Hence whatever his matter, the teacher looks always to training of mind and building of character, and to the information he imparts chiefly in its bearing on this end of all education. From his point of view, a yearning for knowledge, faith in its worth, in the ability and delight it gives, is more important than knowledge itself. A taste for study, a passion for mental exercise, compels to self-education; whereas one who knows many things but is indifferent and indolent forgets what he has known. Information is, of course, indispensable; and the methods by which it may be best imparted must be understood and employed by the teacher; but the end is a cultivated mind, opening to the light as flowers to the morning rays, for rain and knowledge as the growing corn athirst for sunshine. In a rightly educated mind intellectual culture is inseparable from moral culture. They spring from the same root and are nourished by like elements. They are but different determinations of the one original feeling, which, so far as man may know, is the ultimate essence of life. Moral character is the only foundation on which the temple of life can stand symmetrical and secure; and hence there is a general agreement among serious thinkers that the primary aim and end of education is to form character.

As moral culture is the most indispensable, it is the most completely within the power of those who know how to educate. It is possible to make saints of sinners, heroes of cowards, truth-lovers of liars; to give magnanimity to the envious, and nobility to the mean and miserly; but it is possible only when we touch man's deepest nature and awaken within him a consciousness of God's presence in his soul; for it is only when he feels that he lives in the Eternal Father that he is made capable of boundless devotion, that his will lays hold on permanent principles and is determined by them to freedom and right.

When men lose the firm grasp of the eternal verities, character tends to disappear; for at such a time it becomes difficult to believe that any high or spiritual thing is true or worth while. Faith in the goodness of life is undermined, and the multitude are left to drift at the mercy of passions and whims, having lost the power to believe in the soul or to love aught with all their hearts. At such a time there is more urgent need that those who have influence and authority should consecrate themselves to the strengthening of the foundations of life; that the young especially may be made to feel that virtue is power and courage, wisdom and joy, sympathy and blessedness; that they may learn reverence and obedience; respect for others, without which self-respect is not possible; that they may come to understand that all genuine progress is progress of spirit; that in all relations, human and divine, piety is the indispensable thing, useful alike for the life which now is and for that which is to be. Such a fortune as ours has not been given to any other people. Our life sprang from the love of religion and liberty; and if it is to endure, it must be preserved by the principles from which it sprang; and if these principles are to remain with us as the vital force of all our hoping and striving, they must be implanted from generation to generation in the minds and hearts of the young.

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