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IRST among the evidences of an education I name correctness
and precision in the use of the mother-tongue. Important as this power is, and is admitted to be, it is a comparatively new thing in education. The modern European languages took on
educational significance only when the decentralization of culture began at the close of the Middle Ages. So late as 1549 Jacques de Bellay supported the study of French with the very mild assertion that it is “Not so poor a tongue as many think it."
Mulcaster, writing a little later, found it necessary to tell why his book on education was put in English rather than in Latin, and to defend the vernacular when he referred to its educational usefulness. Melanchton put German in a class with Greek and Hebrew, and contrasted all three unfavorably with Latin.
Indeed it was not until the present German Emperor plainly told the Berlin School Conference of 1890 that a national basis was lacking in German education; that the foundation of the gymnasium course of study must be German, that the duty of the schoolmasters was to train the young to become Germans, not Greeks and Romans, and that the German language must be made the center around which all other subjects revolved, that a revision of the official school program was brought about that made place for the really serious study of the German language and literature.
And to-day, where the influence of the English universities and of not a few American colleges is potent, the study of English is slight and insignificant indeed. The superstition that the best gate to English is thru Latin is anything but dead.
But for the great mass of the people the vernacular is not only the established medium of instruction, but fortunately also an important subject of
study. A chief measure of educational accomplishment is the ease, the correctness, and the precision with which one uses this instrument.
It is no disrespect to the splendid literatures which are embodied in the French and the German tongues and no lack of appreciation of the services of those great peoples to civilization and to culture, to point out that of modern languages the English is easily the first and the most powerful, for “it is the greatest instrument of communication that is now in use among men upon the earth."
It is the speech of an aggressive people among whom individual liberty and personal initiative are highly prized. It falls short, no doubt, of the philosophical pliability of the Greek and of the scientific ductility of the German; but what is there in the whole field of human passion and human action that it cannot express with freedom and with a power all its own?
Turn Othello into German or compare the verse of Shelley or of Keats with the graceful lines of some of their French contemporaries, and learn the peculiar power of the English speech. In simple word or sonorous phrase it is unequaled as a medium to reveal the thoughts, the feelings, and the ideas of humanity.
One's hold upon the English tongue is measured by his choice of words and by his use of idiom. The composite character of modern English offers a wide field for apt and happy choice of expression. The educated man, at home with his mother-tongue, moves easily about in its Saxon, Roman, and Latin elements, and has gained by long experience and wide reading a knowledge of the mental incidence of words as well as of their artistic effect. He is hampered by no set formulas, but manifests in his speech, spoken and written, the characteristic powers and appreciation of his nature.
The educated man is of necessity, therefore, a constant reader of the best written English. He reads not for conscious imitation, but for unconscious absorption and reflection. He knows the wide distinction between correct English on the one hand and pedantic, or, as it is sometimes called, “elegant English on the other. He is more likely to go to bed" than to retire,'' to get up” than to arise,” to have "legs” rather than limbs," to "dress” than to clothe himself," and to make a speech" rather than to deliver an oration."
He knows that “if you hear poor English and read pcor English, you will pretty surely speak poor English and write poor English,'' and governs himself accordingly. He realizes the power and place of idiom and its relation to grammar, and shows his skill by preserving a balance between the two in his style. He would follow with intelligent sympathy the scholarly discussions of idiom and of grammar by Professor Earle and would find therein the justification of much of his best practice. In short, in his use of his mother-tongue he would give sure evidence of an education.
AS A SECOND EVIDENCE of an education I name those refined and gentle manners which are the expression of fixed habits of thought and of action. "Manners are behavior and good breeding," as Addison said, but they are more. It is not without significance that the Latin language has but a
single word (mores) both for usages, habits, manners and for morals. Real manners, the manners of a truly educated man or woman, are an outward expression of intellectual and moral conviction. Sham manners are a veneer which falls away at the dampening touch of the first selfish suggestion.
Manners have a moral significance, and find their basis in that true and deepest self-respect which is built upon respect for others. An infallible test of character is to be found in one's manner toward those whom, for one reason or another the world may deem his inferiors. A man's manners towards his equals or his superiors are shaped by too many motives to render their interpretation either easy or certain. Manners do not make the man, but manners reveal the man.
It is by the amount of respect, deference, and courtesy shown to human personality as such that we judge whether one is on dress parade or whether he is so well trained, well educated, and so habitually ethical in thought and action that he realizes his proper relation to his fellows and reveals his realization in his manners.
As Kant insisted, more than a century ago, a man exists as an end in himself, and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will; and in all his actions. whether they concern himself alone or other rational beings, he must always be regarded as an end. True manners are based upon a recognition of this fact, and that is a poor education indeed which fails to inculcate the ethical principle and the manners that embody it.
AS A THIRD EVIDENCE of an education I name the power and habit of reflection. It is a frequent charge against us moderns, particularly against Americans, that we are losing the habit of reflection and the high qualities which depend upon it. We are told that this loss is a necessary result of our hurried and busy lives, of our diverse interests, and of the annihilation of space and time by steam and electricity.
The whole world and its happenings are brought to our very doors by the daily newspaper. Our attention leaps from Manila to Pekin, from Pekin to the Transvaal, and from the Transvaal to Havana. We are torn by conflicting or unconnected emotions, and our minds are occupied by ideas following each other with such rapidity that we fail to get a firm and deep hold of any one of the great facts that come into our lives. This is the charge which even sympathetic critics bring against us.
If it be true and there are some counts in the indictment which it is difficult to deny — then one of the most precious evidences of an education is slipping from us, and we must redouble our efforts to keep fast hold upon it. For an unexamined life, as Socrates unceasingly insisted, is not worth living. The life which asks no questions of itself, which traces events back to no causes and forward to no purposes, which raises no vital issues of principle, and which seeks no interpretation of what passes within and without, is not a human life at all; it is the life of an animal. The trained and untrained mind are perhaps in sharpest contrast at this very point.
An armory of insights and convictions always ready for applications to new conditions, and invincible save by deeper insights and more rational
convictions, is a mark of a trained and educated mind. The educated man has standards of truth, of human experience, and of wisdom by which new proposals are judged. These standards can be gained only through reflection. The undisciplined mind is a prey to every passing fancy and the victim of every plausible doctrinaire. He has no permanent forms of judgment which give him character.
Renan was right when he held that the first condition for the development of the mind is that it shall have liberty, and liberty for the mind means freedom from the unreasonable, and freedom to choose the reasonable in accordance with principle. A body of principles is a necessary possession of an educated man. His development is always with reference to his principles, and proceeds by evolution, not revolution.
Philosophy is, of course, the great single study by which the power of reflection is developed until it becomes a habit, but there is a philosophic study of literature, of politics, of natural science, which makes for the same end. The question how, whose answer is silence, and the question why, whose answer is philosophy, are the beginnings of reflection. A truly educated man asks both questions continually, and as a result is habituated to reflection.
AS A FOURTH EVIDENCE of an education I name the power of growth. There is a type of mind which, when trained to a certain point, crystallizes, as it were, and refuses to move forward thereafter. This type of mind fails to give one of the essential evidences of an education. It has perhaps acquired much and promised much; but somehow or other the promise is not fulfilled. It is not dead, but in a trance. Only such functions are performed as serve to keep it whére it is; there is no movement, no development, no new power or accomplishment. The impulse to continuous study, and to that self-education which are the conditions of permanent intellectual growth, is wanting. Education has so far failed of one of its chief purposes.
A human mind continuing to grow and develop throughout a long life is a splendid and impressive sight. It was that characteristic in Mr. Gladstone which made his personality so attractive to young and ambitious men. They were fired by his zeal and inspired by his limitless intellectual energy.
To have passed from being the rising hope of the stern and unbending Tories' in 1838 to the unchallenged leadership of the anti-Tory party in Great Britain a generation later, and to have continued to grow throughout an exceptionally long life, is no mean distinction; and it is an example of what, in less conspicuous ways, is the lot of every mind whose training is effective. Broadened views, widened sympathies, deepened insights, are the accompaniments of growth.
For this growth a many-sided interest is necessary, and this is why growth and intellectual and moral narrowness are eternally at war. There is much in our modern education which is uneducational because it makes growth difficult, if not impossible. Early specialization, with its attendant