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Science & Education by Thomas H. Huxley

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of theorists will not venture to propound the doctrine, that the
physical disabilities under which women have hitherto laboured in the
struggle for existence with men are likely to be removed by even the
most skilfully conducted process of educational selection.

We are, indeed, fully prepared to believe that the bearing of children
may, and ought, to become as free from danger and long disability to
the civilised woman as it is to the savage; nor is it improbable that,
as society advances towards its right organisation, motherhood will
occupy a less space of woman's life than it has hitherto done. But
still, unless the human species is to come to an end altogether--a
consummation which can hardly be desired by even the most ardent
advocate of "women's rights"--somebody must be good enough to take the
trouble and responsibility of annually adding to the world exactly as
many people as die out of it. In consequence of some domestic
difficulties, Sydney Smith is said to have suggested that it would have
been good for the human race had the model offered by the hive been
followed, and had all the working part of the female community been
neuters. Failing any thorough-going reform of this kind, we see nothing
for it but the old division of humanity into men potentially, or
actually, fathers, and women potentially, if not actually, mothers. And
we fear that so long as this potential motherhood is her lot, woman
will be found to be fearfully weighted in the race of life.

The duty of man is to see that not a grain is piled upon that load
beyond what Nature imposes; that injustice is not added to inequality.




The business which the South London Working Men's College has
undertaken is a great work; indeed, I might say, that Education, with
which that college proposes to grapple, is the greatest work of all
those which lie ready to a man's hand just at present.

And, at length, this fact is becoming generally recognised. You cannot
go anywhere without hearing a buzz of more or less confused and
contradictory talk on this subject--nor can you fail to notice that, in
one point at any rate, there is a very decided advance upon like
discussions in former days. Nobody outside the agricultural interest
now dares to say that education is a bad thing. If any representative
of the once large and powerful party, which, in former days, proclaimed
this opinion, still exists in a semi-fossil state, he keeps his
thoughts to himself. In fact, there is a chorus of voices, almost
distressing in their harmony, raised in favour of the doctrine that
education is the great panacea for human troubles, and that, if the
country is not shortly to go to the dogs, everybody must be educated.

The politicians tells us, "You must educate the masses because they are
going to be masters." The clergy join in the cry for education, for
they affirm that the people are drifting away from church and chapel
into the broadest infidelity. The manufacturers and the capitalists
swell the chorus lustily. They declare that ignorance makes bad
workmen; that England will soon be unable to turn out cotton goods, or
steam engines, cheaper than other people; and then, Ichabod! Ichabod!
the glory will be departed from us. And a few voices are lifted up in
favour of the doctrine that the masses should be educated because they
are men and women with unlimited capacities of being, doing, and
suffering, and that it is as true now, as ever it was, that the people
perish for lack of knowledge.

These members of the minority, with whom I confess I have a good deal
of sympathy, are doubtful whether any of the other reasons urged in
favour of the education of the people are of much value--whether,
indeed, some of them are based upon either wise or noble grounds of
action. They question if it be wise to tell people that you will do for
them, out of fear of their power, what you have left undone, so long as
your only motive was compassion for their weakness and their sorrows.
And, if ignorance of everything which it is needful a ruler should know
is likely to do so much harm in the governing classes of the future,
why is it, they ask reasonably enough, that such ignorance in the
governing classes of the past has not been viewed with equal horror?

Compare the average artisan and the average country squire, and it may
be doubted if you will find a pin to choose between the two in point of
ignorance, class feeling, or prejudice. It is true that the ignorance
is of a different sort--that the class feeling is in favour of a
different class--and that the prejudice has a distinct savour of
wrong-headedness in each case--but it is questionable if the one is
either a bit better, or a bit worse, than the other. The old
protectionist theory is the doctrine of trades unions as applied by the
squires, and the modern trades unionism is the doctrine of the squires
applied by the artisans. Why should we be worse off under one _régime_
than under the other?

Again, this sceptical minority asks the clergy to think whether it is
really want of education which keeps the masses away from their
ministrations--whether the most completely educated men are not as open
to reproach on this score as the workmen; and whether, perchance, this
may not indicate that it is not education which lies at the bottom of
the matter?

Once more, these people, whom there is no pleasing, venture to doubt
whether the glory, which rests upon being able to undersell all the
rest of the world, is a very safe kind of glory--whether we may not
purchase it too dear; especially if we allow education, which ought to
be directed to the making of men, to be diverted into a process of
manufacturing human tools, wonderfully adroit in the exercise of some
technical industry, but good for nothing else.

And, finally, these people inquire whether it is the masses alone who
need a reformed and improved education. They ask whether the richest of
our public schools might not well be made to supply knowledge, as well
as gentlemanly habits, a strong class feeling, and eminent proficiency
in cricket. They seem to think that the noble foundations of our old
universities are hardly fulfilling their functions in their present
posture of half-clerical seminaries, half racecourses, where men are
trained to win a senior wranglership, or a double-first, as horses
are trained to win a cup, with as little reference to the needs of
after-life in the case of the man as in that of the racer. And, while
as zealous for education as the rest, they affirm that, if the
education of the richer classes were such as to fit them to be the
leaders and the governors of the poorer; and, if the education of the
poorer classes were such as to enable them to appreciate really wise
guidance and good governance, the politicians need not fear mob-law,
nor the clergy lament their want of flocks, nor the capitalists
prognosticate the annihilation of the prosperity of the country.

Such is the diversity of opinion upon the why and the wherefore of
education. And my hearers will be prepared to expect that the practical
recommendations which are put forward are not less discordant. There is
a loud cry for compulsory education. We English, in spite of constant
experience to the contrary, preserve a touching faith in the efficacy
of acts of Parliament; and I believe we should have compulsory
education in the course of next session, if there were the least
probability that half a dozen leading statesmen of different parties
would agree what that education should be.

Some hold that education without theology is worse than none. Others
maintain, quite as strongly, that education with theology is in the
same predicament. But this is certain, that those who hold the first
opinion can by no means agree what theology should be taught; and that
those who maintain the second are in a small minority.

At any rate "make people learn to read, write, and cipher," say a great
many; and the advice is undoubtedly sensible as far as it goes. But, as
has happened to me in former days, those who, in despair of getting
anything better, advocate this measure, are met with the objection that
it is very like making a child practise the use of a knife, fork, and
spoon, without giving it a particle of meat. I really don't know what
reply is to be made to such an objection.

But it would be unprofitable to spend more time in disentangling, or
rather in showing up the knots in, the ravelled skeins of our
neighbours. Much more to the purpose is it to ask if we possess any
clue of our own which may guide us among these entanglements. And by
way of a beginning, let us ask ourselves--What is education? Above all
things, what is our ideal of a thoroughly liberal education?--of that
education which, if we could begin life again, we would give
ourselves--of that education which, if we could mould the fates to our
own will, we would give our children? Well, I know not what may be your
conceptions upon this matter, but I will tell you mine, and I hope I
shall find that our views are not very discrepant.

* * * * *

Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every
one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or losing a
game at chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be a
primary duty to learn at least the names and the moves of the pieces;
to have a notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of
giving and getting out of check? Do you not think that we should look
with a disapprobation amounting to scorn, upon the father who allowed
his son, or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without
knowing a pawn from a knight?

Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the
fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of
those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something
of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than
chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man
and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her
own. The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the
universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature.
The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play
is always fair, just and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that
he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for
ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paid, with
that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight
in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated--without haste, but
without remorse.

My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which
Retzsch has depicted Satan playing at chess with man for his soul.
Substitute for the mocking fiend in that picture a calm, strong angel
who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose than win--and
I should accept it us an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty
game. In other words, education is the instruction of the intellect in
the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things and
their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the
affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in
harmony with those laws. For me, education means neither more nor less
than this. Anything which professes to call itself education must be
tried by this standard, and if it fails to stand the test, I will not
call it education, whatever may be the force of authority, or of
numbers, upon the other side.

It is important to remember that, in strictness, there is no such thing
as an uneducated man. Take an extreme case. Suppose that an adult man,
in the full vigour of his faculties, could be suddenly placed in the
world, as Adam is said to have been, and then left to do as he best
might. How long would he be left uneducated? Not five minutes. Nature
would begin to teach him, through the eye, the ear, the touch, the
properties of objects. Pain and pleasure would be at his elbow telling
him to do this and avoid that; and by slow degrees the man would
receive an education which, if narrow, would be thorough, real, and
adequate to his circumstances, though there would be no extras and very
few accomplishments.

And if to this solitary man entered a second Adam, or, better still, an
Eve, a new and greater world, that of social and moral phenomena, would
be revealed. Joys and woes, compared with which all others might seem
but faint shadows, would spring from the new relations. Happiness and
sorrow would take the place of the coarser monitors, pleasure and pain;
but conduct would still be shaped by the observation of the natural
consequences of actions; or, in other words, by the laws of the nature
of man.

To every one of us the world was once as fresh and new as to Adam. And
then, long before we were susceptible of any other mode of instruction,
Nature took us in hand, and every minute of waking life brought its
educational influence, shaping our actions into rough accordance with
Nature's laws, so that we might not be ended untimely by too gross
disobedience. Nor should I speak of this process of education as past
for any one, be he as old as he may. For every man the world is as
fresh as it was at the first day, and as full of untold novelties for
him who has the eyes to see them. And Nature is still continuing her
patient education of us in that great university, the universe, of
which we are all members--Nature having no Test-Acts.

Those who take honours in Nature's university, who learn the laws which
govern men and things and obey them, are the really great and
successful men in this world. The great mass of mankind are the
"Poll," who pick up just enough to get through without much discredit.
Those who won't learn at all are plucked; and then you can't come up
again. Nature's pluck means extermination.

Thus the question of compulsory education is settled so far as Nature
is concerned. Her bill on that question was framed and passed long ago.
But, like all compulsory legislation, that of Nature is harsh and
wasteful in its operation. Ignorance is visited as sharply as wilful
disobedience--incapacity meets with the same punishment as crime.
Nature's discipline is not even a word and a blow, and the blow first;
but the blow without the word. It is left to you to find out why your
ears are boxed.

The object of what we commonly call education--that education in
which man intervenes and which I shall distinguish as artificial
education--is to make good these defects in Nature's methods; to
prepare the child to receive Nature's education, neither incapably nor
ignorantly, nor with wilful disobedience; and to understand the
preliminary symptoms of her pleasure, without waiting for the box on
the ear. In short, all artificial education ought to be an anticipation
of natural education. And a liberal education is an artificial education
which has not only prepared a man to escape the great evils
of disobedience to natural laws, but has trained him to appreciate and
to seize upon the rewards, which Nature scatters with as free a hand as
her penalties.

That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained
in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with
ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of;
whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of
equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam
engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamers as
well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a
knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws
of her operations; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and
fire, but whose passions are trained to come to heel by a vigorous
will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all
beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to
respect others as himself.

Such an one and no other, I conceive, has had a liberal education; for
he is, as completely as a man can be, in harmony with Nature. He will
make the best of her, and she of him. They will get on together rarely:
she as his ever beneficent mother; he as her mouthpiece, her conscious
self, her minister and interpreter.

Where is such an education as this to be had? Where is there any
approximation to it? Has any one tried to found such an education?
Looking over the length and breadth of these islands, I am afraid that
all these questions must receive a negative answer. Consider our
primary schools and what is taught in them. A child learns:--

1. To read, write, and cipher, more or less well; but in a very large
proportion of cases not so well as to take pleasure in reading, or to
be able to write the commonest letter properly.

2. A quantity of dogmatic theology, of which the child, nine times out
of ten, understands next to nothing.

3. Mixed up with this, so as to seem to stand or fall with it, a few of
the broadest and simplest principles of morality. This, to my mind, is
much as if a man of science should make the story of the fall of the
apple in Newton's garden an integral part of the doctrine of
gravitation, and teach it as of equal authority with the law of the
inverse squares.

4. A good deal of Jewish history and Syrian geography, and perhaps a
little something about English history and the geography of the child's
own country. But I doubt if there is a primary school in England in
which hangs a map of the hundred in which the village lies, so that the
children may be practically taught by it what a map means.

5. A certain amount of regularity, attentive obedience, respect for
others: obtained by fear, if the master be incompetent or foolish; by
love and reverence, if he be wise.

So far as this school course embraces a training in the theory and
practice of obedience to the moral laws of Nature, I gladly admit, not
only that it contains a valuable educational element, but that, so far,
it deals with the most valuable and important part of all education.
Yet, contrast what is done in this direction with what might be done;
with the time given to matters of comparatively no importance; with the
absence of any attention to things of the highest moment; and one is
tempted to think of Falstaff's bill and "the halfpenny worth of bread
to all that quantity of sack."

Let us consider what a child thus "educated" knows, and what it does
not know. Begin with the most important topic of all--morality, as the
guide of conduct. The child knows well enough that some acts meet with
approbation and some with disapprobation. But it has never heard that
there lies in the nature of things a reason for every moral law, as
cogent and as well defined as that which underlies every physical law;
that stealing and lying are just as certain to be followed by evil
consequences, as putting your hand in the fire, or jumping out of a
garret window. Again, though the scholar may have been made acquainted,
in dogmatic fashion, with the broad laws of morality, he has had no
training in the application of those laws to the difficult problems
which result from the complex conditions of modern civilisation. Would
it not be very hard to expect any one to solve a problem in conic
sections who had merely been taught the axioms and definitions of
mathematical science?

A workman has to bear hard labour, and perhaps privation, while he sees
others rolling in wealth, and feeding their dogs with what would keep
his children from starvation. Would it not be well to have helped that
man to calm the natural promptings of discontent by showing him, in his
youth, the necessary connection of the moral law which prohibits
stealing with the stability of society--by proving to him, once for
all, that it is better for his own people, better for himself, better
for future generations, that he should starve than steal? If you have
no foundation of knowledge, or habit of thought, to work upon, what
chance have you of persuading a hungry man that a capitalist is not a
thief "with a circumbendibus?" And if he honestly believes that, of
what avail is it to quote the commandment against stealing, when he
proposes to make the capitalist disgorge?

Again, the child learns absolutely nothing of the history or the
political organisation of his own country. His general impression is,
that everything of much importance happened a very long while ago; and
that the Queen and the gentlefolks govern the country much after the
fashion of King David and the elders and nobles of Israel--his sole
models. Will you give a man with this much information a vote? In easy
times he sells it for a pot of beer. Why should he not? It is of about
as much use to him as a chignon, and he knows as much what to do with
it, for any other purpose. In bad times, on the contrary, he applies
his simple theory of government, and believes that his rulers are the
cause of his sufferings--a belief which sometimes bears remarkable
practical fruits.

Least of all, does the child gather from this primary "education" of
ours a conception of the laws of the physical world, or of the
relations of cause and effect therein. And this is the more to be
lamented, as the poor are especially exposed to physical evils, and are
more interested in removing them than any other class of the community.
If any one is concerned in knowing the ordinary laws of mechanics one
would think it is the hand-labourer, whose daily toil lies among levers
and pulleys; or among the other implements of artisan work. And if any
one is interested in the laws of health, it is the poor workman, whose
strength is wasted by ill-prepared food, whose health is sapped by bad
ventilation and bad drainage, and half whose children are massacred by
disorders which might be prevented. Not only does our present primary
education carefully abstain from hinting to the workman that some of
his greatest evils are traceable to mere physical agencies, which could
be removed by energy, patience, and frugality; but it does worse--it
renders him, so far as it can, deaf to those who could help him, and
tries to substitute an Oriental submission to what is falsely declared
to be the will of God, for his natural tendency to strive after a
better condition.

What wonder, then, if very recently an appeal has been made to
statistics for the profoundly foolish purpose of showing that education
is of no good--that it diminishes neither misery nor crime among the
masses of mankind? I reply, why should the thing which has been called
education do either the one or the other? If I am a knave or a fool,
teaching me to read and write won't make me less of either one or the
other--unless somebody shows me how to put my reading and writing to
wise and good purposes.

Suppose any one were to argue that medicine is of no use, because it
could be proved statistically, that the percentage of deaths was just
the same among people who had been taught how to open a medicine chest,
and among those who did not so much as know the key by sight. The
argument is absurd; but it is not more preposterous than that against
which I am contending. The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all
the other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write,
and you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom box. But
it is quite another matter whether he ever opens the box or not. And he
is as likely to poison as to cure himself, if, without guidance, he
swallows the first drug that comes to hand. In these times a man may as
well be purblind, as unable to read--lame, as unable to write. But I
protest that, if I thought the alternative were a necessary one, I
would rather that the children of the poor should grow up ignorant of
both these mighty arts, than that they should remain ignorant of that
knowledge to which these arts are means.

* * * * *

It may be said that all these animadversions may apply to primary
schools, but that the higher schools, at any rate, must be allowed to
give a liberal education. In fact they professedly sacrifice everything
else to this object.

Let us inquire into this matter. What do the higher schools, those to
which the great middle class of the country sends its children, teach,
over and above the instruction given in the primary schools? There is a
little more reading and writing of English. But, for all that, every
one knows that it is a rare thing to find a boy of the middle or upper
classes who can read aloud decently, or who can put his thoughts on
paper in clear and grammatical (to say nothing of good or elegant)
language. The "ciphering" of the lower schools expands into elementary
mathematics in the higher; into arithmetic, with a little algebra, a
little Euclid. But I doubt if one boy in five hundred has ever heard
the explanation of a rule of arithmetic, or knows his Euclid otherwise
than by rote.

Of theology, the middle class schoolboy gets rather less than poorer
children, less absolutely and less relatively, because there are so
many other claims upon his attention. I venture to say that, in the
great majority of cases, his ideas on this subject when he leaves
school are of the most shadowy and vague description, and associated
with painful impressions of the weary hours spent in learning collects
and catechism by heart.

Modern geography, modern history, modern literature; the English
language as a language; the whole circle of the sciences, physical,
moral and social, are even more completely ignored in the higher than
in the lower schools. Up till within a few years back, a boy might have
passed through any one of the great public schools with the greatest
distinction and credit, and might never so much as have heard of one of
the subjects I have just mentioned. He might never have heard that the
earth goes round the sun; that England underwent a great revolution in
1688, and France another in 1789; that there once lived certain notable
men called Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, Goethe, Schiller.
The first might be a German and the last an Englishman for anything he
could tell you to the contrary. And as for Science, the only idea the
word would suggest to his mind would be dexterity in boxing.

I have said that this was the state of things a few years back, for the
sake of the few righteous who are to be found among the educational
cities of the plain. But I would not have you too sanguine about the
result, if you sound the minds of the existing generation of public
schoolboys, on such topics as those I have mentioned.

Now let us pause to consider this wonderful state of affairs; for the
time will come when Englishmen will quote it as the stock example of
the stolid stupidity of their ancestors in the nineteenth century. The
most thoroughly commercial people, the greatest voluntary wanderers and
colonists the world has ever seen, are precisely the middle classes of
this country. If there be a people which has been busy making history
on the great scale for the last three hundred years--and the most
profoundly interesting history--history which, if it happened to be
that of Greece or Rome, we should study with avidity--it is the
English. If there be a people which, during the same period, has
developed a remarkable literature, it is our own. If there be a nation
whose prosperity depends absolutely and wholly upon their mastery over
the forces of Nature, upon their intelligent apprehension of, and
obedience to the laws of the creation and distribution of wealth, and
of the stable equilibrium of the forces of society, it is precisely
this nation. And yet this is what these wonderful people tell their
sons:--"At the cost of from one to two thousand pounds of our
hard-earned money, we devote twelve of the most precious years of your
lives to school. There you shall toil, or be supposed to toil; but
there you shall not learn one single thing of all those you will most
want to know directly you leave school and enter upon the practical
business of life. You will in all probability go into business, but you
shall not know where, or how, any article of commerce is produced, or
the difference between an export or an import, or the meaning of the
word "capital." You will very likely settle in a colony, but you shall
not know whether Tasmania is part of New South Wales, or _vice versâ_.

"Very probably you may become a manufacturer, but you shall not be
provided with the means of understanding the working of one of your own
steam-engines, or the nature of the raw products you employ; and, when
you are asked to buy a patent, you shall not have the slightest means
of judging whether the inventor is an impostor who is contravening the
elementary principles of science, or a man who will make you as rich as

"You will very likely get into the House of Commons. You will have to
take your share in making laws which may prove a blessing or a curse to
millions of men. But you shall not hear one word respecting the
political organisation of your country; the meaning of the controversy
between free-traders and protectionists shall never have been mentioned
to you; you shall not so much as know that there are such things as
economical laws.

"The mental power which will be of most importance in your daily life
will be the power of seeing things as they are without regard to
authority; and of drawing accurate general conclusions from particular
facts. But at school and at college you shall know of no source of
truth but authority; nor exercise your reasoning faculty upon anything
but deduction from that which is laid down by authority.

"You will have to weary your soul with work, and many a time eat your
bread in sorrow and in bitterness, and you shall not have learned to
take refuge in the great source of pleasure without alloy, the serene
resting-place for worn human nature,--the world of art."

Said I not rightly that we are a wonderful people? I am quite prepared
to allow, that education entirely devoted to these omitted subjects
might not be a completely liberal education. But is an education which
ignores them all a liberal education? Nay, is it too much to say that
the education which should embrace these subjects and no others would
be a real education, though an incomplete one; while an education which
omits them is really not an education at all, but a more or less useful
course of intellectual gymnastics?

For what does the middle-class school put in the place of all these
things which are left out? It substitutes what is usually comprised
under the compendious title of the "classics"--that is to say, the
languages, the literature, and the history of the ancient Greeks and
Romans, and the geography of so much of the world as was known to these
two great nations of antiquity. Now, do not expect me to depreciate the
earnest and enlightened pursuit of classical learning. I have not the
least desire to speak ill of such occupations, nor any sympathy with
those who run them down. On the contrary, if my opportunities had lain
in that direction, there is no investigation into which I could have
thrown myself with greater delight than that of antiquity.

What science can present greater attractions than philology? How can a
lover of literary excellence fail to rejoice in the ancient
masterpieces? And with what consistency could I, whose business lies so
much in the attempt to decipher the past, and to build up intelligible
forms out of the scattered fragments of long-extinct beings, fail to
take a sympathetic, though an unlearned, interest in the labours of a
Niebuhr, a Gibbon, or a Grote? Classical history is a great section of
the palaeontology of man; and I have the same double respect for it as
for other kinds of palaeontology--that is to say, a respect for the
facts which it establishes as for all facts, and a still greater
respect for it as a preparation for the discovery of a law of progress.

But if the classics were taught as they might be taught--if boys and
girls were instructed in Greek and Latin, not merely as languages, but
as illustrations of philological science; if a vivid picture of life on
the shores of the Mediterranean two thousand years ago were imprinted
on the minds of scholars; if ancient history were taught, not as a
weary series of feuds and fights, but traced to its causes in such men
placed under such conditions; if, lastly, the study of the classical
books were followed in such a manner as to impress boys with their
beauties, and with the grand simplicity of their statement of the
everlasting problems of human life, instead of with their verbal and
grammatical peculiarities; I still think it as little proper that they
should form the basis of a liberal education for our contemporaries, as
I should think it fitting to make that sort of palaeontology with which
I am familiar the back-bone of modern education.

It is wonderful how close a parallel to classical training could be
made out of that palaeontology to which I refer. In the first place I
could get up an osteological primer so arid, so pedantic in its
terminology, so altogether distasteful to the youthful mind, as to beat
the recent famous production of the head-masters out of the field in
all these excellences. Next, I could exercise my boys upon easy
fossils, and bring out all their powers of memory and all their
ingenuity in the application of my osteo-grammatical rules to the
interpretation, or construing, of those fragments. To those who had
reached the higher classes, I might supply odd bones to be built up
into animals, giving great honour and reward to him who succeeded in
fabricating monsters most entirely in accordance with the rules. That
would answer to verse-making and essay-writing in the dead languages.

To be sure, if a great comparative anatomist were to look at these
fabrications he might shake his head, or laugh. But what then? Would
such a catastrophe destroy the parallel? What, think you, would Cicero,
or Horace, say to the production of the best sixth form going? And
would not Terence stop his ears and run out if he could be present at
an English performance of his own plays? Would _Hamlet_, in the
mouths of a set of French actors, who should insist on pronouncing
English after the fashion of their own tongue, be more hideously

But it will be said that I am forgetting the beauty, and the human
interest, which appertain to classical studies. To this I reply that it
is only a very strong man who can appreciate the charms of a landscape
as he is toiling up a steep hill, along a had road. What with
short-windedness, stones, ruts, and a pervading sense of the wisdom of
rest and be thankful, most of us have little enough sense of the
beautiful under these circumstances. The ordinary schoolboy is
precisely in this case. He finds Parnassus uncommonly steep, and there
is no chance of his having much time or inclination to look about him
till he gets to the top. And nine times out of ten he does not get to
the top.

But if this be a fair picture of the results of classical teaching at
its best--and I gather from those who have authority to speak on such
matters that it is so--what is to be said of classical teaching at its
worst, or in other words, of the classics of our ordinary middle-class
schools? [1] I will tell you. It means getting up endless forms and
rules by heart. It means turning Latin and Greek into English, for the
mere sake of being able to do it, and without the smallest regard to
the worth, or worthlessness, of the author read. It means the learning
of innumerable, not always decent, fables in such a shape that the
meaning they once had is dried up into utter trash; and the only
impression left upon a boy's mind is, that the people who believed such
things must have been the greatest idiots the world ever saw. And it
means, finally, that after a dozen years spent at this kind of work,
the sufferer shall be incompetent to interpret a passage in an author
he has not already got up; that he shall loathe the sight of a Greek or
Latin book; and that he shall never open, or think of, a classical
writer again, until, wonderful to relate, he insists upon submitting
his sons to the same process.

These be your gods, O Israel! For the sake of this net result (and
respectability) the British father denies his children all the
knowledge they might turn to account in life, not merely for the
achievement of vulgar success, but for guidance in the great crises of
human existence. This is the stone he offers to those whom he is bound
by the strongest and tenderest ties to feed with bread.

* * * * *

If primary and secondary education are in this unsatisfactory state,
what is to be said to the universities? This is an awful subject, and
one I almost fear to touch with my unhallowed hands; but I can tell you
what those say who have authority to speak.

The Rector of Lincoln College, in his lately published valuable
"Suggestions for Academical Organisation with especial reference to
Oxford," tells us (p. 127):--

"The colleges were, in their origin, endowments, not for the elements
of a general liberal education, but for the prolonged study of special
and professional faculties by men of riper age. The universities
embraced both these objects. The colleges, while they incidentally
aided in elementary education, were specially devoted to the highest

"This was the theory of the middle-age university and the design of
collegiate foundations in their origin. Time and circumstances have
brought about a total change. The colleges no longer promote the
researches of science, or direct professional study. Here and there
college walls may shelter an occasional student, but not in larger
proportions than may be found in private life. Elementary teaching of
youths under twenty is now the only function performed by the
university, and almost the only object of college endowments. Colleges
were homes for the life-study of the highest and most abstruse parts of
knowledge. They have become boarding schools in which the elements of
the learned languages are taught to youths."

If Mr. Pattison's high position, and his obvious love and respect for
his university, be insufficient to convince the outside world that
language so severe is yet no more than just, the authority of the
Commissioners who reported on the University of Oxford in 1850 is open
to no challenge. Yet they write:--

"It is generally acknowledged that both Oxford and the country at large
suffer greatly from the absence of a body of learned men devoting their
lives to the cultivation of science, and to the direction of academical

"The fact that so few books of profound research emanate from the
University of Oxford, materially impairs its character as a seat of
learning, and consequently its hold on the respect of the nation."

Cambridge can claim no exemption from the reproaches addressed to
Oxford. And thus there seems no escape from the admission that what we
fondly call our great seats of learning are simply "boarding schools"
for bigger boys; that learned men are not more numerous in them than
out of them; that the advancement of knowledge is not the object of
fellows of colleges; that, in the philosophic calm and meditative
stillness of their greenswarded courts, philosophy does not thrive, and
meditation bears few fruits.

It is my great good fortune to reckon amongst my friends resident
members of both universities, who are men of learning and research,
zealous cultivators of science, keeping before their minds a noble
ideal of a university, and doing their best to make that ideal a
reality; and, to me, they would necessarily typify the universities,
did not the authoritative statements I have quoted compel me to believe
that they are exceptional, and not representative men. Indeed, upon
calm consideration, several circumstances lead me to think that the
Rector of Lincoln College and the Commissioners cannot be far wrong.

I believe there can be no doubt that the foreigner who should wish to
become acquainted with the scientific, or the literary, activity of
modern England, would simply lose his time and his pains if he visited
our universities with that object.

And, as for works of profound research on any subject, and, above all,
in that classical lore for which the universities profess to sacrifice
almost everything else, why, a third-rate, poverty-stricken German
university turns out more produce of that kind in one year, than our
vast and wealthy foundations elaborate in ten.

Ask the man who is investigating any question, profoundly and
thoroughly--be it historical, philosophical, philological, physical,
literary, or theological; who is trying to make himself master of any
abstract subject (except, perhaps, political economy and geology, both
of which are intensely Anglican sciences), whether he is not compelled
to read half a dozen times as many German as English books? And
whether, of these English books, more than one in ten is the work of a
fellow of a college, or a professor of an English university?

Is this from any lack of power in the English as compared with the
German mind? The countrymen of Grote and of Mill, of Faraday, of Robert
Brown, of Lyell, and of Darwin, to go no further back than the
contemporaries of men of middle age, can afford to smile at such a
suggestion. England can show now, as she has been able to show in every
generation since civilisation spread over the West, individual men who
hold their own against the world, and keep alive the old tradition of
her intellectual eminence.

But, in the majority of cases, these men are what they are in virtue of
their native intellectual force, and of a strength of character which
will not recognise impediments. They are not trained in the courts of
the Temple of Science, but storm the walls of that edifice in all sorts
of irregular ways, and with much loss of time and power, in order to
obtain their legitimate positions.

Our universities not only do not encourage such men; do not offer them
positions, in which it should be their highest duty to do, thoroughly,
that which they are most capable of doing; but, as far as possible,
university training shuts out of the minds of those among them, who are
subjected to it, the prospect that there is anything in the world for
which they are specially fitted. Imagine the success of the attempt to
still the intellectual hunger of any of the men I have mentioned, by
putting before him, as the object of existence, the successful mimicry
of the measure of a Greek song, or the roll of Ciceronian prose!
Imagine how much success would be likely to attend the attempt to
persuade such men that the education which leads to perfection in such
elegances is alone to be called culture; while the facts of history,
the process of thought, the conditions of moral and social existence,
and the laws of physical nature are left to be dealt with as they may
by outside barbarians!

It is not thus that the German universities, from being beneath notice
a century ago, have become what they are now--the most intensely
cultivated and the most productive intellectual corporations the world
has ever seen.

The student who repairs to them sees in the list of classes and of
professors a fair picture of the world of knowledge. Whatever he needs
to know there is some one ready to teach him, some one competent to
discipline him in the way of learning; whatever his special bent, let
him but be able and diligent, and in due time he shall find distinction
and a career. Among his professors, he sees men whose names are known
and revered throughout the civilised world; and their living example
infects him with a noble ambition, and a love for the spirit of work.

The Germans dominate the intellectual world by virtue of the same
simple secret as that which made Napoleon the master of old Europe.
They have declared _la carrière ouverte aux talents_, and every
Bursch marches with a professor's gown in his knapsack. Let him become
a great scholar, or man of science, and ministers will compete for his
services. In Germany, they do not leave the chance of his holding the
office he would render illustrious to the tender mercies of a hot
canvass, and the final wisdom of a mob of country parsons.

In short, in Germany, the universities are exactly what the Rector of
Lincoln and the Commissioners tell us the English universities are not;
that is to say, corporations "of learned men devoting their lives to
the cultivation of science, and the direction of academical
education." They are not "boarding schools for youths," nor clerical
seminaries; but institutions for the higher culture of men, in which
the theological faculty is of no more importance, or prominence, than
the rest; and which are truly "universities," since they strive to
represent and embody the totality of human knowledge, and to find room
for all forms of intellectual activity.

May zealous and clear-headed reformers like Mr. Pattison succeed in
their noble endeavours to shape our universities towards some such
ideal as this, without losing what is valuable and distinctive in their
social tone! But until they have succeeded, a liberal education will be
no more obtainable in our Oxford and Cambridge Universities than in our
public schools.

If I am justified in my conception of the ideal of a liberal education;
and if what I have said about the existing educational institutions of
the country is also true, it is clear that the two have no sort of
relation to one another; that the best of our schools and the most
complete of our university trainings give but a narrow, one-sided, and
essentially illiberal education--while the worst give what is really
next to no education at all. The South London Working-Men's College
could not copy any of these institutions if it would; I am bold enough
to express the conviction that it ought not if it could.

For what is wanted is the reality and not the mere name of a liberal
education; and this College must steadily set before itself the
ambition to be able to give that education sooner or later. At present
we are but beginning, sharpening our educational tools, as it were,
and, except a modicum of physical science, we are not able to offer
much more than is to be found in an ordinary school.

Moral and social science--one of the greatest and most fruitful of our
future classes, I hope--at present lacks only one thing in our
programme, and that is a teacher. A considerable want, no doubt; but it
must be recollected that it is much better to want a teacher than to
want the desire to learn.

Further, we need what, for want of a better name, I must call
Physical Geography. What I mean is that which the Germans call
"_Erdkunde_." It is a description of the earth, of its place and
relation to other bodies; of its general structure, and of its great
features--winds, tides, mountains, plains: of the chief forms of the
vegetable and animal worlds, of the varieties of man. It is the peg
upon which the greatest quantity of useful and entertaining scientific
information can be suspended.

Literature is not upon the College programme; but I hope some day to
see it there. For literature is the greatest of all sources of refined
pleasure, and one of the great uses of a liberal education is to enable
us to enjoy that pleasure. There is scope enough for the purposes of
liberal education in the study of the rich treasures of our own
language alone. All that is needed is direction, and the cultivation of
a refined taste by attention to sound criticism. But there is no reason
why French and German should not be mastered sufficiently to read what
is worth reading in those languages with pleasure and with profit.

And finally, by and by, we must have History; treated not as a
succession of battles and dynasties; not as a series of biographies;
not as evidence that Providence has always been on the side of either
Whigs or Tories; but as the development of man in times past, and in
other conditions than our own.

But, as it is one of the principles of our College to be
self-supporting, the public must lead, and we must follow, in these
matters. If my hearers take to heart what I have said about liberal
education, they will desire these things, and I doubt not we shall be
able to supply them. But we must wait till the demand is made.

* * * * *


[1] For a justification of what is here said about these
schools, see that valuable book, _Essays on a Liberal Education,




[Mr. Thackeray, talking of after-dinner speeches, has lamented that
"one never can recollect the fine things one thought of in the
cab," in going to the place of entertainment. I am not aware that
there are any "fine things" in the following pages, but such as
there are stand to a speech which really did get itself spoken, at
the hospitable table of the Liverpool Philomathic Society, more or
less in the position of what "one thought of in the cab."]

The introduction of scientific training into the general education of
the country is a topic upon which I could not have spoken, without some
more or less apologetic introduction, a few years ago. But upon this,
as upon other matters, public opinion has of late undergone a rapid
modification. Committees of both Houses of the Legislature have agreed
that something must be done in this direction, and have even thrown out
timid and faltering suggestions as to what should be done; while at the
opposite pole of society, committees of working men have expressed
their conviction that scientific training is the one thing needful for
their advancement, whether as men, or as workmen. Only the other day,
it was my duty to take part in the reception of a deputation of London
working men, who desired to learn from Sir Roderick Murchison, the
Director of the Royal School of Mines, whether the organisation of the
Institution in Jermyn Street could be made available for the supply of
that scientific instruction the need of which could not have been
apprehended, or stated, more clearly than it was by them.

The heads of colleges in our great universities (who have not the
reputation of being the most mobile of persons) have, in several cases,
thought it well that, out of the great number of honours and rewards at
their disposal, a few should hereafter be given to the cultivators of
the physical sciences. Nay, I hear that some colleges have even gone so
far as to appoint one, or, maybe, two special tutors for the purpose of
putting the facts and principles of physical science before the
undergraduate mind. And I say it with gratitude and great respect for
those eminent persons, that the head masters of our public schools,
Eton, Harrow, Winchester, have addressed themselves to the problem of
introducing instruction in physical science among the studies of those
great educational bodies, with much honesty of purpose and
enlightenment of understanding; and I live in hope that, before long,
important changes in this direction will be carried into effect in
those strongholds of ancient prescription. In fact, such changes have
already been made, and physical science, even now, constitutes a
recognised element of the school curriculum in Harrow and Rugby, whilst
I understand that ample preparations for such studies are being made at
Eton and elsewhere.

Looking at these facts, I might perhaps spare myself the trouble of
giving any reasons for the introduction of physical science into
elementary education; yet I cannot but think that it may be well if I
place before you some considerations which, perhaps, have hardly
received full attention.

At other times, and in other places, I have endeavoured to state the
higher and more abstract arguments, by which the study of physical
science may be shown to be indispensable to the complete training of
the human mind; but I do not wish it to be supposed that, because I
happen to be devoted to more or less abstract and "unpractical"
pursuits, I am insensible to the weight which ought to be attached
to that which has been said to be the English conception of
Paradise--namely, "getting on." I look upon it, that "getting on" is a
very important matter indeed. I do not mean merely for the sake of the
coarse and tangible results of success, but because humanity is so
constituted that a vast number of us would never be impelled to those
stretches of exertion which make, us wiser and more capable men, if it
were not for the absolute necessity of putting on our faculties all the
strain they will bear, for the purpose of "getting on" in the most
practical sense.

Now the value of a knowledge of physical science as a means of getting
on is indubitable. There are hardly any of our trades, except the
merely huckstering ones, in which some knowledge of science may not be
directly profitable to the pursuer of that occupation. As industry
attains higher stages of its development, as its processes become more
complicated and refined, and competition more keen, the sciences are
dragged in, one by one, to take their share in the fray; and he who can
best avail himself of their help is the man who will come out uppermost
in that struggle for existence, which goes on as fiercely beneath the
smooth surface of modern society, as among the wild inhabitants of the

But in addition to the bearing of science on ordinary practical life,
let me direct your attention to its immense influence on several of the
professions. I ask any one who has adopted the calling of an engineer,
how much time he lost when he left school, because he had to devote
himself to pursuits which were absolutely novel and strange, and of
which he had not obtained the remotest conception from his instructors?
He had to familiarise himself with ideas of the course and powers of
Nature, to which his attention had never been directed during his
school-life, and to learn, for the first time, that a world of facts
lies outside and beyond the world of words. I appeal to those who know
what engineering is, to say how far I am right in respect to that
profession; but with regard to another, of no less importance, I shall
venture to speak of my own knowledge. There is no one of us who may not
at any moment be thrown, bound hand and foot by physical incapacity,
into the hands of a medical practitioner. The chances of life and death
for all and each of us may, at any moment, depend on the skill with
which that practitioner is able to make out what is wrong in our bodily
frames, and on his ability to apply the proper remedy to the defect.

The necessities of modern life are such, and the class from which the
medical profession is chiefly recruited is so situated, that few
medical men can hope to spend more than three or four, or it may be
five, years in the pursuit of those studies which are immediately
germane to physic. How is that all too brief period spent at present? I
speak as an old examiner, having served some eleven or twelve years in
that capacity in the University of London, and therefore having a
practical acquaintance with the subject; but I might fortify myself by
the authority of the President of the College of Surgeons, Mr. Quain,
whom I heard the other day in an admirable address (the Hunterian
Oration) deal fully and wisely with this very topic. [1]

A young man commencing the study of medicine is at once required to
endeavour to make an acquaintance with a number of sciences, such as
Physics, as Chemistry, as Botany, as Physiology, which are absolutely
and entirely strange to him, however excellent his so-called education
at school may have been. Not only is he devoid of all apprehension of
scientific conceptions, not only does he fail to attach any meaning to
the words "matter," "force," or "law" in their scientific senses, but,
worse still, he has no notion of what it is to come into contact with
Nature, or to lay his mind alongside of a physical fact, and try to
conquer it, in the way our great naval hero told his captains to master
their enemies. His whole mind has been given to books, and I am hardly
exaggerating if I say that they are more real to him than Nature. He
imagines that all knowledge can be got out of books, and rests upon the
authority of some master or other; nor does he entertain any misgiving
that the method of learning which led to proficiency in the rules of
grammar will suffice to lead him to a mastery of the laws of Nature.
The youngster, thus unprepared for serious study, is turned loose among
his medical studies, with the result, in nine cases out of ten, that
the first year of his curriculum is spent in learning how to learn.
Indeed, he is lucky if, at the end of the first year, by the exertions
of his teachers and his own industry, he has acquired even that art of
arts. After which there remain not more than three, or perhaps four,
years for the profitable study of such vast sciences as Anatomy,
Physiology, Therapeutics, Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, and the like,
upon his knowledge or ignorance of which it depends whether the
practitioner shall diminish, or increase, the bills of mortality. Now
what is it but the preposterous condition of ordinary school education
which prevents a young man of seventeen, destined for the practice of
medicine, from being fully prepared for the study of Nature; and from
coming to the medical school, equipped with that preliminary knowledge
of the principles of Physics, of Chemistry and of Biology, upon which
he has now to waste one of the precious years, every moment of which
ought to be given to those studies which bear directly upon the
knowledge of his profession?

There is another profession, to the members of which, I think, a
certain preliminary knowledge of physical science might be quite as
valuable as to the medical man. The practitioner of medicine sets
before himself the noble object of taking care of man's bodily welfare;
but the members of this other profession undertake to "minister to
minds diseased," and, so far as may be, to diminish sin and soften
sorrow. Like the medical profession, the clerical, of which I now
speak, rests its power to heal upon its knowledge of the order of the
universe--upon certain theories of man's relation to that which lies
outside him. It is not my business to express any opinion about these
theories. I merely wish to point out that, like all other theories,
they are professedly based upon matters of fact. Thus the clerical
profession has to deal with the facts of Nature from a certain point of
view; and hence it comes into contact with that of the man of science,
who has to treat the same facts from another point of view. You know
how often that contact is to be described as collision, or violent
friction; and how great the heat, how little the light, which commonly
results from it.

In the interests of fair play, to say nothing of those of mankind, I
ask, Why do not the clergy as a body acquire, as a part of their
preliminary education, some such tincture of physical science as will
put them in a position to understand the difficulties in the way of
accepting their theories, which are forced upon the mind of every
thoughtful and intelligent man, who has taken the trouble to instruct
himself in the elements of natural knowledge?

Some time ago I attended a large meeting of the clergy, for the purpose
of delivering an address which I had been invited to give. I spoke of
some of the most elementary facts in physical science, and of the
manner in which they directly contradict certain of the ordinary
teachings of the clergy. The result was, that, after I had finished,
one section of the assembled ecclesiastics attacked me with all the
intemperance of pious zeal, for stating facts and conclusions which no
competent judge doubts; while, after the first speakers had subsided,
amidst the cheers of the great majority of their colleagues, the more
rational minority rose to tell me that I had taken wholly superfluous
pains, that they already knew all about what I had told them, and
perfectly agreed with me. A hard-headed friend of mine, who was
present, put the not unnatural question, "Then why don't you say so in
your pulpits?" to which inquiry I heard no reply.

In fact the clergy are at present divisible into three sections: an
immense body who are ignorant and speak out; a small proportion who
know and are silent; and a minute minority who know and speak according
to their knowledge. By the clergy, I mean especially the Protestant
clergy. Our great antagonist--I speak as a man of science--the Roman
Catholic Church, the one great spiritual organisation which is able to
resist, and must, as a matter of life and death, resist, the progress
of science and modern civilisation, manages her affairs much better.

It was my fortune some time ago to pay a visit to one of the most
important of the institutions in which the clergy of the Roman Catholic
Church in these islands are trained; and it seemed to me that the
difference between these men and the comfortable champions of
Anglicanism and of Dissent, was comparable to the difference between
our gallant Volunteers and the trained veterans of Napoleon's Old

The Catholic priest is trained to know his business, and do it
effectually. The professors of the college in question, learned,
zealous, and determined men, permitted me to speak frankly with them.
We talked like outposts of opposed armies during a truce--as friendly
enemies; and when I ventured to point out the difficulties their
students would have to encounter from scientific thought, they replied:
"Our Church has lasted many ages, and has passed safely through many
storms. The present is but a new gust of the old tempest, and we do not
turn out our young men less fitted to weather it, than they have been,
in former times, to cope with the difficulties of those times. The
heresies of the day are explained to them by their professors of
philosophy and science, and they are taught how those heresies are to
be met."

I heartily respect an organisation which faces its enemies in this way;
and I wish that all ecclesiastical organisations were in as effective a
condition. I think it would be better, not only for them, but for us.
The army of liberal thought is, at present, in very loose order; and
many a spirited free-thinker makes use of his freedom mainly to vent
nonsense. We should be the better for a vigorous and watchful enemy to
hammer us into cohesion and discipline; and I, for one, lament that the
bench of Bishops cannot show a man of the calibre of Butler of the
"Analogy," who, if he were alive, would make short work of much of the
current _à priori_ "infidelity."

I hope you will consider that the arguments I have now stated, even if
there were no better ones, constitute a sufficient apology for urging
the introduction of science into schools. The next question to which I
have to address myself is, What sciences ought to be thus taught? And
this is one of the most important of questions, because my side (I am
afraid I am a terribly candid friend) sometimes spoils its cause by
going in for too much. There are other forms of culture beside physical
science; and I should be profoundly sorry to see the fact forgotten, or
even to observe a tendency to starve, or cripple, literary, or
aesthetic, culture for the sake of science. Such a narrow view of the
nature of education has nothing to do with my firm conviction that a
complete and thorough scientific culture ought to be introduced into
all schools. By this, however, I do not mean that every schoolboy
should be taught everything in science. That would be a very absurd
thing to conceive, and a very mischievous thing to attempt. What I mean
is, that no boy nor girl should leave school without possessing a grasp
of the general character of science, and without having been
disciplined, more or less, in the methods of all sciences; so that,
when turned into the world to make their own way, they shall be
prepared to face scientific problems, not by knowing at once the
conditions of every problem, or by being able at once to solve it; but
by being familiar with the general current of scientific thought, and
by being able to apply the methods of science in the proper way, when
they have acquainted themselves with the conditions of the special

That is what I understand by scientific education. To furnish a boy
with such an education, it is by no means necessary that he should
devote his whole school existence to physical science: in fact, no one
would lament so one-sided a proceeding more than I. Nay more, it is not
necessary for him to give up more than a moderate share of his time to
such studies, if they be properly selected and arranged, and if he be
trained in them in a fitting manner.

I conceive the proper course to be somewhat as follows. To begin with,
let every child be instructed in those general views of the phaenomena
of Nature for which we have no exact English name. The nearest
approximation to a name for what I mean, which we possess, is "physical
geography." The Germans have a better, "Erdkunde" ("earth knowledge" or
"geology" in its etymological sense), that is to say, a general
knowledge of the earth, and what is on it, in it, and about it. If any
one who has had experience of the ways of young children will call to
mind their questions, he will find that so far as they can be put into
any scientific category, they come under this head of "Erdkunde." The
child asks, "What is the moon, and why does it shine?" "What is this
water, and where does it run?" "What is the wind?" "What makes this
waves in the sea?" "Where does this animal live, and what is the use of
that plant?" And if not snubbed and stunted by being told not to ask
foolish questions, there is no limit to the intellectual craving of a
young child; nor any bounds to the slow, but solid, accretion of
knowledge and development of the thinking faculty in this way. To all
such questions, answers which are necessarily incomplete, though true
as far as they go, may be given by any teacher whose ideas represent
real knowledge and not mere book learning; and a panoramic view of
Nature, accompanied by a strong infusion of the scientific habit of
mind, may thus be placed within the reach of every child of nine or

After this preliminary opening of the eyes to the great spectacle
of the daily progress of Nature, as the reasoning faculties of the
child grow, and he becomes familiar with the use of the tools of
knowledge--reading, writing, and elementary mathematics--he should pass
on to what is, in the more strict sense, physical science. Now there
are two kinds of physical science: the one regards form and the
relation of forms to one another; the other deals with causes and
effects. In many of what we term sciences, these two kinds are mixed up
together; but systematic botany is a pure example of the former kind,
and physics of the latter kind, of science. Every educational advantage
which training in physical science can give is obtainable from the
proper study of these two; and I should be contented, for the present,
if they, added to our "Erdkunde," furnished the whole of the scientific
curriculum of school. Indeed, I conceive it would be one of the
greatest boons which could be conferred upon England, if henceforward
every child in the country were instructed in the general knowledge of
the things about it, in the elements of physics, and of botany. But I
should be still better pleased if there could be added somewhat of
chemistry, and an elementary acquaintance with human physiology.

So far as school education is concerned, I want to go no further just
now; and I believe that such instruction would make an excellent
introduction to that preparatory scientific training which, as I have
indicated, is so essential for the successful pursuit of our most
important professions. But this modicum of instruction must be so given
as to ensure real knowledge and practical discipline. If scientific
education is to be dealt with as mere bookwork, it will be better not
to attempt it, but to stick to the Latin Grammar which makes no
pretence to be anything but bookwork.

If the great benefits of scientific training are sought, it is
essential that such training should be real: that is to say, that the
mind of the scholar should be brought into direct relation with fact,
that he should not merely be told a thing, but made to see by the use
of his own intellect and ability that the thing is so and no otherwise.
The great peculiarity of scientific training, that in virtue of which
it cannot be replaced by any other discipline whatsoever, is this
bringing of the mind directly into contact with fact, and practising
the intellect in the completest form of induction; that is to say, in
drawing conclusions from particular facts made known by immediate
observation of Nature.

The other studies which enter into ordinary education do not discipline
the mind in this way. Mathematical training is almost purely deductive.
The mathematician starts with a few simple propositions, the proof of
which is so obvious that they are called self-evident, and the rest of
his work consists of subtle deductions from them. The teaching of
languages, at any rate as ordinarily practised, is of the same general
nature,--authority and tradition furnish the data, and the mental
operations of the scholar are deductive.

Again: if history be the subject of study, the facts are still taken
upon the evidence of tradition and authority. You cannot make a boy see
the battle of Thermopylae for himself, or know, of his own knowledge,
that Cromwell once ruled England. There is no getting into direct
contact with natural fact by this road; there is no dispensing with
authority, but rather a resting upon it.

In all these respects, science differs from other educational
discipline, and prepares the scholar for common life. What have we to
do in every-day life? Most of the business which demands our attention
is matter of fact, which needs, in the first place, to be accurately
observed or apprehended; in the second, to be interpreted by inductive
and deductive reasonings, which are altogether similar in their nature
to those employed in science. In the one case, as in the other,
whatever is taken for granted is so taken at one's own peril; fact and
reason are the ultimate arbiters, and patience and honesty are the
great helpers out of difficulty.

But if scientific training is to yield its most eminent results, it
must, I repeat, be made practical. That is to say, in explaining to a
child the general phaenomena of Nature, you must, as far as possible,
give reality to your teaching by object-lessons; in teaching him
botany, he must handle the plants and dissect the flowers for himself;
in teaching him physics and chemistry, you must not be solicitous to
fill him with information, but you must be careful that what he learns
he knows of his own knowledge. Don't be satisfied with telling him that
a magnet attracts iron. Let him see that it does; let him feel the pull
of the one upon the other for himself. And, especially, tell him that
it is his duty to doubt until he is compelled, by the absolute
authority of Nature, to believe that which is written in books. Pursue
this discipline carefully and conscientiously, and you may make sure
that, however scanty may be the measure of information which you have
poured into the boy's mind, you have created an intellectual habit of
priceless value in practical life.

One is constantly asked, When should this scientific education be
commenced? I should say with the dawn of intelligence. As I have
already said, a child seeks for information about matters of physical
science as soon as it begins to talk. The first teaching it wants is an
object-lesson of one sort or another; and as soon as it is fit for
systematic instruction of any kind, it is fit for a modicum of science.

People talk of the difficulty of teaching young children such matters,
and in the same breath insist upon their learning their Catechism,
which contains propositions far harder to comprehend than anything in
the educational course I have proposed. Again: I am incessantly told
that we, who advocate the introduction of science in schools, make no
allowance for the stupidity of the average boy or girl; but, in my
belief, that stupidity, in nine cases out of ten, "_fit, non
nascitur_," and is developed by a long process of parental and
pedagogic repression of the natural intellectual appetites,
accompanied by a persistent attempt to create artificial ones for food
which is not only tasteless, but essentially indigestible.

Those who urge the difficulty of instructing young people in
science are apt to forget another very important condition of
success--important in all kinds of teaching, but most essential, I am
disposed to think, when the scholars are very young. This condition is,
that the teacher should himself really and practically know his
subject. If he does, he will be able to speak of it in the easy
language, and with the completeness of conviction, with which he talks
of any ordinary every-day matter. If he does not, he will be afraid to
wander beyond the limits of the technical phraseology which he has got
up; and a dead dogmatism, which oppresses, or raises opposition, will
take the place of the lively confidence, born of personal conviction,
which cheers and encourages the eminently sympathetic mind of

I have already hinted that such scientific training as we seek for may
be given without making any extravagant claim upon the time now devoted
to education. We ask only for "a most favoured nation" clause in our
treaty with the schoolmaster; we demand no more than that science shall
have as much time given to it as any other single subject--say four
hours a week in each class of an ordinary school.

For the present, I think men of science would be well content with such
an arrangement as this: but speaking for myself, I do not pretend to
believe that such an arrangement can be, or will be, permanent. In
these times the educational tree seems to me to have its roots in the
air, its leaves and flowers in the ground; and, I confess, I should
very much like to turn it upside down, so that its roots might be
solidly embedded among the facts of Nature, and draw thence a sound
nutriment for the foliage and fruit of literature and of art. No
educational system can have a claim to permanence, unless it recognises
the truth that education has two great ends to which everything else
must be subordinated. The one of these is to increase knowledge; the
other is to develop the love of right and the hatred of wrong.

With wisdom and uprightness a nation can make its way worthily, and
beauty will follow in the footsteps of the two, even if she be not
specially invited; while there is perhaps no sight in the whole world
more saddening and revolting than is offered by men sunk in ignorance
of everything but what other men have written; seemingly devoid of
moral belief or guidance; but with the sense of beauty so keen, and the
power of expression so cultivated, that their sensual caterwauling may
be almost mistaken for the music of the spheres.

At present, education is almost entirely devoted to the cultivation of
the power of expression, and of the sense of literary beauty. The
matter of having anything to say, beyond a hash of other people's
opinions, or of possessing any criterion of beauty, so that we may
distinguish between the Godlike and the devilish, is left aside as of
no moment. I think I do not err in saying that if science were made a
foundation of education, instead of being, at most, stuck on as cornice
to the edifice, this state of things could not exist.

In advocating the introduction of physical science as a leading element
in education, I by no means refer only to the higher schools. On the
contrary, I believe that such a change is even more imperatively called
for in those primary schools, in which the children of the poor are
expected to turn to the best account the little time they can devote to
the acquisition of knowledge. A great step in this direction has
already been made by the establishment of science-classes under the
Department of Science and Art,--a measure which came into existence
unnoticed, but which will, I believe, turn out to be of more importance
to the welfare of the people than many political changes over which the
noise of battle has rent the air.

Under the regulations to which I refer, a schoolmaster can set up a
class in one or more branches of science; his pupils will be examined,
and the State will pay him, at a certain rate, for all who succeed in
passing. I have acted as an examiner under this system from the
beginning of its establishment, and this year I expect to have not
fewer than a couple of thousand sets of answers to questions in
Physiology, mainly from young people of the artisan class, who have
been taught in the schools which are now scattered all over great
Britain and Ireland. Some of my colleagues, who have to deal with
subjects such as Geometry, for which the present teaching power is
better organised, I understand are likely to have three or four times
as many papers. So far as my own subjects are concerned, I can
undertake to say that a great deal of the teaching, the results of
which are before me in these examinations, is very sound and good; and
I think it is in the power of the examiners, not only to keep up the
present standard, but to cause an almost unlimited improvement. Now
what does this mean? It means that by holding out a very moderate
inducement, the masters of primary schools in many parts of the country
have been led to convert them into little foci of scientific
instruction; and that they and their pupils have contrived to find, or
to make, time enough to carry out this object with a very considerable
degree of efficiency. That efficiency will, I doubt not, be very much
increased as the system becomes known and perfected, even with the very
limited leisure left to masters and teachers on week-days. And this
leads me to ask, Why should scientific teaching be limited to

Ecclesiastically-minded persons are in the habit of calling things they
do not like by very hard names, and I should not wonder if they brand
the proposition I am about to make as blasphemous, and worse. But, not
minding this, I venture to ask, Would there really be anything wrong in
using part of Sunday for the purpose of instructing those who have no
other leisure, in a knowledge of the phaenomena of Nature, and of man's
relation to Nature?

I should like to see a scientific Sunday-school in every parish, not
for the purpose of superseding any existing means of teaching the
people the things that are for their good, but side by side with them.
I cannot but think that there is room for all of us to work in helping
to bridge over the great abyss of ignorance which lies at our feet.

And if any of the ecclesiastical persons to whom I have referred,
object that they find it derogatory to the honour of the God whom they
worship, to awaken the minds of the young to the infinite wonder and
majesty of the works which they proclaim His, and to teach them those
laws which must needs be His laws, and therefore of all things needful
for man to know--I can only recommend them to be let blood and put on
low diet. There must be something very wrong going on in the instrument
of logic if it turns out such conclusions from such premises.

* * * * *


[1] Mr. Quam's words (_Medical Times and Gazette_, February 20)
are:--"A few words as to our special Medical course of instruction
and the influence upon it of such changes in the elementary schools as
I have mentioned. The student now enters at once upon several
sciences--physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, botany, pharmacy,
therapeutics--all these, the facts and the language and the laws of
each, to be mastered in eighteen months. Up to the beginning of the
Medical course many have learned little. We cannot claim anything
better than the Examiner of the University of London and the Cambridge
Lecturer have reported for their Universities. Supposing that at school
young people had acquired some exact elementary knowledge in physics,
chemistry, and a branch of natural history--say botany--with the
physiology connected with it, they would then have gained necessary
knowledge, with some practice in inductive reasoning. The whole studies
are processes of observation and induction--the best discipline of the
mind for the purposes of life--for our purposes not less than any. 'By
such study (says Dr. Whewell) of one or more departments of inductive
science the mind may escape from the thraldom of mere words.' By that
plan the burden of the early Medical course would be much lightened,
and more time devoted to practical studies, including Sir Thomas
Watson's 'final and supreme stage' of the knowledge of Medicine."




Six years ago, as some of my present hearers may remember, I had the
privilege of addressing a large assemblage of the inhabitants of this
city, who had gathered together to do honour to the memory of their
famous townsman, Joseph Priestley; [1] and, if any satisfaction
attaches to posthumous glory, we may hope that the manes of the
burnt-out philosopher were then finally appeased.

No man, however, who is endowed with a fair share of common sense, and
not more than a fair share of vanity, will identify either contemporary
or posthumous fame with the highest good; and Priestley's life leaves
no doubt that he, at any rate, set a much higher value upon the
advancement of knowledge, and the promotion of that freedom of thought
which is at once the cause and the consequence of intellectual

Hence I am disposed to think that, if Priestley could be amongst us
to-day, the occasion of our meeting would afford him even greater
pleasure than the proceedings which celebrated the centenary of his
chief discovery. The kindly heart would be moved, the high sense of
social duty would be satisfied, by the spectacle of well-earned wealth,
neither squandered in tawdry luxury and vainglorious show, nor
scattered with the careless charity which blesses neither him that
gives nor him that takes, but expended in the execution of a
well-considered plan for the aid of present and future generations of
those who are willing to help themselves.

We shall all be of one mind thus far. But it is needful to share
Priestley's keen interest in physical science; and to have learned, as
he had learned, the value of scientific training in fields of inquiry
apparently far remote from physical science; in order to appreciate, as
he would have appreciated, the value of the noble gift which Sir Josiah
Mason has bestowed upon the inhabitants of the Midland district.

For us children of the nineteenth century, however, the establishment
of a college under the conditions of Sir Josiah Mason's Trust, has a
significance apart from any which it could have possessed a hundred
years ago. It appears to be an indication that we are reaching the
crisis of the battle, or rather of the long series of battles, which
have been fought over education in a campaign which began long before
Priestley's time, and will probably not be finished just yet.

In the last century, the combatants were the champions of ancient
literature on the one side, and those of modern literature on the
other; but, some thirty years [2] ago, the contest became complicated
by the appearance of a third army, ranged round the banner of Physical

I am not aware that any one has authority to speak in the name of this
new host. For it must be admitted to be somewhat of a guerilla force,
composed largely of irregulars, each of whom fights pretty much for his
own hand. But the impressions of a full private, who has seen a good
deal of service in the ranks, respecting the present position of
affairs and the conditions of a permanent peace, may not be devoid of
interest; and I do not know that I could make a better use of the
present opportunity than by laying them before you.

* * * * *

From the time that the first suggestion to introduce physical science
into ordinary education was timidly whispered, until now, the advocates
of scientific education have met with opposition of two kinds. On the
one hand, they have been pooh-poohed by the men of business who pride
themselves on being the representatives of practicality; while, on the
other hand, they have been excommunicated by the classical scholars, in
their capacity of Levites in charge of the ark of culture and
monopolists of liberal education.

The practical men believed that the idol whom they worship--rule of
thumb--has been the source of the past prosperity, and will suffice for
the future welfare of the arts and manufactures. They were of opinion
that science is speculative rubbish; that theory and practice have
nothing to do with one another; and that the scientific habit of mind
is an impediment, rather than an aid, in the conduct of ordinary

I have used the past tense in speaking of the practical men--for
although they were very formidable thirty years ago, I am not sure that
the pure species has not been extirpated. In fact, so far as mere
argument goes, they have been subjected to such a _feu d'enfer_
that it is a miracle if any have escaped. But I have remarked that your
typical practical man has an unexpected resemblance to one of Milton's
angels. His spiritual wounds, such as are inflicted by logical weapons,
may be as deep as a well and as wide as a church door, but beyond
shedding a few drops of ichor, celestial or otherwise, he is no whit
the worse. So, if any of these opponents be left, I will not waste time
in vain repetition of the demonstrative evidence of the practical value
of science; but knowing that a parable will sometimes penetrate where
syllogisms fail to effect an entrance, I will offer a story for their

Once upon a time, a boy, with nothing to depend upon but his own
vigorous nature, was thrown into the thick of the struggle for
existence in the midst of a great manufacturing population. He seems to
have had a hard fight, inasmuch as, by the time he was thirty years of
age, his total disposable funds amounted to twenty pounds.
Nevertheless, middle life found him giving proof of his comprehension
of the practical problems he had been roughly called upon to solve, by
a career of remarkable prosperity.

Finally, having reached old age with its well-earned surroundings of
"honour, troops of friends," the hero of my story bethought himself of
those who were making a like start in life, and how he could stretch
out a helping hand to them.

After long and anxious reflection this successful practical man of
business could devise nothing better than to provide them with the
means of obtaining "sound, extensive, and practical scientific
knowledge." And he devoted a large part of his wealth and five years of
incessant work to this end.

I need not point the moral of a tale which, as the solid and spacious
fabric of the Scientific College assures us, is no fable, nor can
anything which I could say intensify the force of this practical answer
to practical objections.

* * * * *

We may take it for granted then, that, in the opinion of those best
qualified to judge, the diffusion of thorough scientific education is
an absolutely essential condition of industrial progress; and that the
College which has been opened to-day will confer an inestimable boon
upon those whose livelihood is to be gained by the practise of the arts
and manufactures of the district.

The only question worth discussion is, whether the conditions, under
which the work of the College is to be carried out, are such as to give
it the best possible chance of achieving permanent success.

Sir Josiah Mason, without doubt most wisely, has left very large
freedom of action to the trustees, to whom he proposes ultimately to
commit the administration of the College, so that they may be able to
adjust its arrangements in accordance with the changing conditions of
the future. But, with respect to three points, he has laid most
explicit injunctions upon both administrators and teachers.

Party politics are forbidden to enter into the minds of either, so far
as the work of the College is concerned; theology is as stonily
banished from its precincts; and finally, it is especially declared
that the College shall make no provision for "mere literary instruction
and education."

It does not concern me at present to dwell upon the first two
injunctions any longer than may be needful to express my full
conviction of their wisdom. But the third prohibition brings us face to
face with those other opponents of scientific education, who are by no
means in the moribund condition of the practical man, but alive, alert,
and formidable.

It is not impossible that we shall hear this express exclusion of
"literary instruction and education" from a College which,
nevertheless, professes to give a high and efficient education, sharply
criticised. Certainly the time was that the Levites of culture would
have sounded their trumpets against its walls as against an educational

How often have we not been told that the study of physical science is
incompetent to confer culture; that it touches none of the higher
problems of life; and, what is worse, that the continual devotion to
scientific studies tends to generate a narrow and bigoted belief in the
applicability of scientific methods to the search after truth of all
kinds? How frequently one has reason to observe that no reply to a
troublesome argument tells so well as calling its author a "mere
scientific specialist." And, as I am afraid it is not permissible to
speak of this form of opposition to scientific education in the past
tense; may we not expect to be told that this, not only omission, but
prohibition, of "mere literary instruction and education" is a patent
example of scientific narrow-mindedness?

I am not acquainted with Sir Josiah Mason's reasons for the action
which he has taken; but if, as I apprehend is the case, he refers to
the ordinary classical course of our schools and universities by the
name of "mere literary instruction and education," I venture to offer
sundry reasons of my own in support of that action.

For I hold very strongly by two convictions--The first is, that neither
the discipline nor the subject-matter of classical education is of such
direct value to the student of physical science as to justify the
expenditure of valuable time upon either; and the second is, that for
the purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively scientific
education is at least as effectual as an exclusively literary

I need hardly point out to you that these opinions, especially the
latter, are diametrically opposed to those of the great majority of
educated Englishmen, influenced as they are by school and university
traditions. In their belief, culture is obtainable only by a liberal
education; and a liberal education is synonymous, not merely with
education and instruction in literature, but in one particular form of
literature, namely, that of Greek and Roman antiquity. They hold that
the man who has learned Latin and Greek, however little, is educated;
while he who is versed in other branches of knowledge, however deeply,
is a more or less respectable specialist, not admissible into the
cultured caste. The stamp of the educated man, the University degree,
is not for him.

I am too well acquainted with the generous catholicity of spirit, the
true sympathy with scientific thought, which pervades the writings of
our chief apostle of culture to identify him with these opinions; and
yet one may cull from one and another of those epistles to the
Philistines, which so much delight all who do not answer to that name,
sentences which lend them some support.

Mr. Arnold tells us that the meaning of culture is "to know the best
that has been thought and said in the world." It is the criticism of
life contained in literature. That criticism regards "Europe as being,
for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound
to a joint action and working to a common result; and whose members
have, for their common outfit, a knowledge of Greek, Roman, and Eastern
antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, and temporary advantages
being put out of account, that modern nation will in the intellectual
and spiritual sphere make most progress, which most thoroughly carries
out this programme. And what is that but saying that we too, all of us,
as individuals, the more thoroughly we carry it out, shall make the
more progress?" [3]

We have here to deal with two distinct propositions. The first, that a
criticism of life is the essence of culture; the second, that
literature contains the materials which suffice for the construction of
such a criticism.

I think that we must all assent to the first proposition. For culture
certainly means something quite different from learning or technical
skill. It implies the possession of an ideal, and the habit of
critically estimating the value of things by comparison with a
theoretic standard. Perfect culture should supply a complete theory of
life, based upon a clear knowledge alike of its possibilities and of
its limitations.

But we may agree to all this, and yet strongly dissent from the
assumption that literature alone is competent to supply this knowledge.
After having learnt all that Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity have
thought and said, and all that modern literatures have to tell us, it
is not self-evident that we have laid a sufficiently broad and deep
foundation for that criticism of life, which constitutes culture.

Indeed, to any one acquainted with the scope of physical science, it is
not at all evident. Considering progress only in the "intellectual and
spiritual sphere," I find myself wholly unable to admit that either
nations or individuals will really advance, if their common outfit
draws nothing from the stores of physical science. I should say that an
army, without weapons of precision and with no particular base of
operations, might more hopefully enter upon a campaign on the Rhine,
than a man, devoid of a knowledge of what physical science has done in
the last century, upon a criticism of life.

* * * * *

When a biologist meets with an anomaly, he instinctively turns to the
study of development to clear it up. The rationale of contradictory
opinions may with equal confidence be sought in history.

It is, happily, no new thing that Englishmen should employ their wealth
in building and endowing institutions for educational purposes. But,
five or six hundred years ago, deeds of foundation expressed or implied
conditions as nearly as possible contrary to those which have been
thought expedient by Sir Josiah Mason. That is to say, physical science
was practically ignored, while a certain literary training was enjoined
as a means to the acquirement of knowledge which was essentially

The reason of this singular contradiction between the actions of men
alike animated by a strong and disinterested desire to promote the
welfare of their fellows, is easily discovered.

At that time, in fact, if any one desired knowledge beyond such as
could be obtained by his own observation, or by common conversation,
his first necessity was to learn the Latin language, inasmuch as all
the higher knowledge of the western world was contained in works
written in that language. Hence, Latin grammar, with logic and
rhetoric, studied through Latin, were the fundamentals of education.
With respect to the substance of the knowledge imparted through this
channel, the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, as interpreted and
supplemented by the Romish Church, were held to contain a complete and
infallibly true body of information.

Theological dicta were, to the thinkers of those days, that which the
axioms and definitions of Euclid are to the geometers of these. The
business of the philosophers of the middle ages was to deduce from the
data furnished by the theologians, conclusions in accordance with
ecclesiastical decrees. They were allowed the high privilege of
showing, by logical process, how and why that which the Church said was
true, must be true. And if their demonstrations fell short of or
exceeded this limit, the Church was maternally ready to check their
aberrations; if need were by the help of the secular arm.

Between the two, our ancestors were furnished with a compact and
complete criticism of life. They were told how the world began and how
it would end; they learned that all material existence was but a base
and insignificant blot upon the fair face of the spiritual world, and
that nature was, to all intents and purposes, the play-ground of the
devil; they learned that the earth is the centre of the visible
universe, and that man is the cynosure of things terrestrial; and more
especially was it inculcated that the course of nature had no fixed
order, but that it could be, and constantly was, altered by the agency
of innumerable spiritual beings, good and bad, according as they were
moved by the deeds and prayers of men. The sum and substance of the
whole doctrine was to produce the conviction that the only thing really
worth knowing in this world was how to secure that place in a better
which, under certain conditions, the Church promised.

Our ancestors had a living belief in this theory of life, and acted
upon it in their dealings with education, as in all other matters.
Culture meant saintliness--after the fashion of the saints of those
days; the education that led to it was, of necessity, theological; and
the way to theology lay through Latin.

That the study of nature--further than was requisite for the
satisfaction of everyday wants--should have any bearing on human life
was far from the thoughts of men thus trained. Indeed, as nature had
been cursed for man's sake, it was an obvious conclusion that those who
meddled with nature were likely to come into pretty close contact with
Satan. And, if any born scientific investigator followed his instincts,
he might safely reckon upon earning the reputation, and probably upon
suffering the fate, of a sorcerer.

Had the western world been left to itself in Chinese isolation, there
is no saying how long this state of things might have endured. But,
happily, it was not left to itself. Even earlier than the thirteenth
century, the development of Moorish civilisation in Spain and the great
movement of the Crusades had introduced the leaven which, from that day
to this, has never ceased to work. At first, through the intermediation
of Arabic translations, afterwards by the study of the originals, the
western nations of Europe became acquainted with the writings of the
ancient philosophers and poets, and, in time, with the whole of the
vast literature of antiquity.

Whatever there was of high intellectual aspiration or dominant capacity
in Italy, France, Germany, and England, spent itself for centuries in
taking possession of the rich inheritance left by the dead
civilisations of Greece and Rome. Marvellously aided by the invention
of printing, classical learning spread and flourished. Those who
possessed it prided themselves on having attained the highest culture
then within the reach of mankind.

And justly. For, saving Dante on his solitary pinnacle, there was no
figure in modern literature at the time of the Renascence to compare
with the men of antiquity; there was no art to compete with their
sculpture; there was no physical science but that which Greece had
created. Above all, there was no other example of perfect intellectual
freedom--of the unhesitating acceptance of reason as the sole guide to
truth and the supreme arbiter of conduct.

The new learning necessarily soon exerted a profound influence upon
education. The language of the monks and schoolmen seemed little better
than gibberish to scholars fresh from Virgil and Cicero, and the study
of Latin was placed upon a new foundation. Moreover, Latin itself
ceased to afford the sole key to knowledge. The student who sought the
highest thought of antiquity, found only a second-hand reflection of it
in Roman literature, and turned his face to the full light of the
Greeks. And after a battle, not altogether dissimilar to that which is
at present being fought over the teaching of physical science, the
study of Greek was recognised as an essential element of all higher

Thus the Humanists, as they were called, won the day; and the great
reform which they effected was of incalculable service to mankind. But
the Nemesis of all reformers is finality; and the reformers of
education, like those of religion, fell into the profound, however
common, error of mistaking the beginning for the end of the work of

The representatives of the Humanists, in the nineteenth century, take
their stand upon classical education as the sole avenue to culture, as
firmly us if we were still in the age of Renascence. Yet, surely, the
present intellectual relations of the modern and the ancient worlds are
profoundly different from those which obtained three centuries ago.
Leaving aside the existence of a great and characteristically modern
literature, of modern painting, and, especially, of modern music, there
is one feature of the present state of the civilised world which
separates it more widely from the Renascence, than the Renascence was
separated from the middle ages.

This distinctive character of our own times lies in the vast and
constantly increasing part which is played by natural knowledge. Not
only is our daily life shaped by it, not only does the prosperity of
millions of men depend upon it, but our whole theory of life has long
been influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general
conceptions of the universe, which have been forced upon us by physical

In fact, the most elementary acquaintance with the results of
scientific investigation shows us that they offer a broad and striking
contradiction to the opinion so implicitly credited and taught in the
middle ages.

The notions of the beginning and the end of the world entertained by
our forefathers are no longer credible. It is very certain that the
earth is not the chief body in the material universe, and that the
world is not subordinated to man's use. It is even more certain that
nature is the expression of a definite order with which nothing
interferes, and that the chief business of mankind is to learn that
order and govern themselves accordingly. Moreover this scientific
"criticism of life" presents itself to us with different credentials
from any other. It appeals not to authority, nor to what anybody may
have thought or said, but to nature. It admits that all our
interpretations of natural fact are more or less imperfect and
symbolic, and bids the learner seek for truth not among words but among
things. It warns us that the assertion which outstrips evidence is not
only a blunder but a crime.

The purely classical education advocated by the representatives of the
Humanists in our day, gives no inkling of all this. A man may be a
better scholar than Erasmus, and know no more of the chief causes of
the present intellectual fermentation than Erasmus did. Scholarly and
pious persons, worthy of all respect, favour us with allocutions upon
the sadness of the antagonism of science to their mediaeval way of
thinking, which betray an ignorance of the first principles of
scientific investigation, an incapacity for understanding what a man of
science means by veracity, and an unconsciousness of the weight of
established scientific truths, which is almost comical.

There is no great force in the _tu quoque_ argument, or else the
advocates of scientific education might fairly enough retort upon the
modern Humanists that they may be learned specialists, but that they
possess no such sound foundation for a criticism of life as deserves
the name of culture. And, indeed, if we were disposed to be cruel, we
might urge that the Humanists have brought this reproach upon
themselves, not because they are too full of the spirit of the ancient
Greek, but because they lack it.

The period of the Renascence is commonly called that of the "Revival of
Letters," as if the influences then brought to bear upon the mind of
Western Europe had been wholly exhausted in the field of literature. I
think it is very commonly forgotten that the revival of science,
effected by the same agency, although less conspicuous, was not less

In fact, the few and scattered students of nature of that day picked up
the clue to her secrets exactly as it fell from the hands of the Greeks
a thousand years before. The foundations of mathematics were so well
laid by them, that our children learn their geometry from a book
written for the schools of Alexandria two thousand years ago. Modern
astronomy is the natural continuation and development of the work of
Hipparchus and of Ptolemy; modern physics of that of Democritus and of
Archimedes; it was long before modern biological science outgrew the
knowledge bequeathed to us by Aristotle, by Theophrastus, and by Galen.

We cannot know all the best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks unless
we know what they thought about natural phaenomena. We cannot fully
apprehend their criticism of life unless we understand the extent to
which that criticism was affected by scientific conceptions. We falsely
pretend to be the inheritors of their culture, unless we are
penetrated, as the best minds among them were, with an unhesitating
faith that the free employment of reason, in accordance with scientific
method, is the sole method of reaching truth.

Thus I venture to think that the pretensions of our modern Humanists to
the possession of the monopoly of culture and to the exclusive
inheritance of the spirit of antiquity must be abated, if not
abandoned. But I should be very sorry that anything I have said should
be taken to imply a desire on my part to depreciate the value of
classical education, as it might be and as it sometimes is. The native
capacities of mankind vary no less than their opportunities; and while
culture is one, the road by which one man may best reach it is widely
different from that which is most advantageous to another. Again, while
scientific education is yet inchoate and tentative, classical education
is thoroughly well organised upon the practical experience of
generations of teachers. So that, given ample time for learning and
destination for ordinary life, or for a literary career, I do not think
that a young Englishman in search of culture can do better than follow
the course usually marked out for him, supplementing its deficiencies
by his own efforts.

But for those who mean to make science their serious occupation; or who
intend to follow the profession of medicine; or who have to enter early
upon the business of life; for all these, in my opinion, classical
education is a mistake; and it is for this reason that I am glad to see
"mere literary education and instruction" shut out from the curriculum
of Sir Josiah Mason's College, seeing that its inclusion would probably
lead to the introduction of the ordinary smattering of Latin and Greek.

Nevertheless, I am the last person to question the importance of
genuine literary education, or to suppose that intellectual culture can
be complete without it. An exclusively scientific training will bring
about a mental twist as surely as an exclusively literary training. The
value of the cargo does not compensate for a ship's being out of trim;
and I should be very sorry to think that the Scientific College would
turn out none but lop-sided men.

There is no need, however, that such a catastrophe should happen.
Instruction in English, French, and German is provided, and thus the
three greatest literatures of the modern world are made accessible to
the student.

French and German, and especially the latter language, are absolutely
indispensable to those who desire full knowledge in any department of
science. But even supposing that the knowledge of these languages
acquired is not more than sufficient for purely scientific purposes,
every Englishman has, in his native tongue, an almost perfect
instrument of literary expression; and, in his own literature, models
of every kind of literary excellence. If an Englishman cannot get
literary culture out of his Bible, his Shakespeare, his Milton,
neither, in my belief, will the profoundest study of Homer and
Sophocles, Virgil and Horace, give it to him.

Thus, since the constitution of the College makes sufficient provision
for literary as well as for scientific education, and since artistic
instruction is also contemplated, it seems to me that a fairly complete
culture is offered to all who are willing to take advantage of it.

But I am not sure that at this point the "practical" man, scotched but
not slain, may ask what all this talk about culture has to do with an
Institution, the object of which is defined to be "to promote the
prosperity of the manufactures and the industry of the country." He may
suggest that what is wanted for this end is not culture, nor even a
purely scientific discipline, but simply a knowledge of applied

I often wish that this phrase, "applied science," had never been
invented. For it suggests that there is a sort of scientific knowledge
of direct practical use, which can be studied apart from another sort
of scientific knowledge, which is of no practical utility, and which is
termed "pure science." But there is no more complete fallacy than this.
What people call applied science is nothing but the application of pure
science to particular classes of problems. It consists of deductions
from those general principles, established by reasoning and
observation, which constitute pure science. No one can safely make
these deductions until he has a firm grasp of the principles; and he
can obtain that grasp only by personal experience of the operations of
observation and of reasoning on which they are founded.

Almost all the processes employed in the arts and manufactures fall
within the range either of physics or of chemistry. In order to improve
them, one must thoroughly understand them; and no one has a chance of
really understanding them, unless he has obtained that mastery of
principles and that habit of dealing with facts, which is given by
long-continued and well-directed purely scientific training in the
physical and the chemical laboratory. So that there really is no
question as to the necessity of purely scientific discipline, even if
the work of the College were limited by the narrowest interpretation of
its stated aims.

And, as to the desirableness of a wider culture than that yielded by
science alone, it is to be recollected that the improvement of
manufacturing processes is only one of the conditions which contribute
to the prosperity of industry. Industry is a means and not an end; and
mankind work only to get something which they want. What that something
is depends partly on their innate, and partly on their acquired,

If the wealth resulting from prosperous industry is to be spent upon
the gratification of unworthy desires, if the increasing perfection of
manufacturing processes is to be accompanied by an increasing
debasement of those who carry them on, I do not see the good of
industry and prosperity.

Now it is perfectly true that men's views of what is desirable depend
upon their characters; and that the innate proclivities to which we
give that name are not touched by any amount of instruction. But it
does not follow that even mere intellectual education may not, to an
indefinite extent, modify the practical manifestation of the characters
of men in their actions, by supplying them with motives unknown to the
ignorant. A pleasure-loving character will have pleasure of some sort;
but, if you give him the choice, he may prefer pleasures which do not
degrade him to those which do. And this choice is offered to every man,
who possesses in literary or artistic culture a never-failing source of
pleasures, which are neither withered by age, nor staled by custom, nor
embittered in the recollection by the pangs of self-reproach.

If the Institution opened to-day fulfils the intention of its founder,
the picked intelligences among all classes of the population of this
district will pass through it. No child born in Birmingham,
henceforward, if he have the capacity to profit by the opportunities
offered to him, first in the primary and other schools, and afterwards
in the Scientific College, need fail to obtain, not merely the
instruction, but the culture most appropriate to the conditions of his

Within these walls, the future employer and the future artisan may
sojourn together for a while, and carry, through all their lives, the
stamp of the influences then brought to bear upon them. Hence, it is
not beside the mark to remind you, that the prosperity of industry
depends not merely upon the improvement of manufacturing processes, not
merely upon the ennobling of the individual character, but upon a third
condition, namely, a clear understanding of the conditions of social
life, on the part of both the capitalist and the operative, and their
agreement upon common principles of social action. They must learn that
social phaenomena are as much the expression of natural laws as any
others; that no social arrangements can be permanent unless they
harmonise with the requirements of social statics and dynamics; and
that, in the nature of things, there is an arbiter whose decisions
execute themselves.

But this knowledge is only to be obtained by the application of the
methods of investigation adopted in physical researches to the
investigation of the phaenomena of society. Hence, I confess, I should
like to see one addition made to the excellent scheme of education
propounded for the College, in the shape of provision for the teaching
of Sociology. For though we are all agreed that party politics are to
have no place in the instruction of the College; yet in this country,
practically governed as it is now by universal suffrage, every man who
does his duty must exercise political functions. And, if the evils
which are inseparable from the good of political liberty are to be
checked, if the perpetual oscillation of nations between anarchy and
despotism is to be replaced by the steady march of self-restraining
freedom; it will be because men will gradually bring themselves to deal
with political, as they now deal with scientific questions; to be as
ashamed of undue haste and partisan prejudice in the one case as in the

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