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The Public Pedagogue
by [?]

The public pedagogue does not go out every morning before breakfast and, with ferula for Archimedean lever and Three R’s for fulcrum, prize open the gates of day. The organization of infants of every conceivable degree of intellectuality into classes, and their formal elevation through successive “grades” by means of cunningly devised educational jack-screws or block-and-tackle, does not constitute the complete dynamics of the universe, President Winston to the contrary, notwithstanding. Knowledge must exist somewhere before there be any pedagogue to impart it; and though, under the name of Truth, it hide in Ymir’s Well, those whose souls are athirst therefore will assuredly find it, though denied all mechanical furtherance. Education is simply the acquirement of useful information, it matters not how nor where nor when. Deprive any man–even a ‘varsity president–of all knowledge but that obtained in the schools and he were helpless as an infant abandoned in mid-ocean. He could not so much as distinguish between peas and beans, between dogs and wolves, by the descriptions furnished by naturalists. That man who has lived to learn wisely and well has reached the Ultima Thule of terrestrial knowledge, the ne plus ultra of human understanding. More can no college professor or ‘varsity president impart. If he know not this he is uneducated, though he be graduate of every university from Salamanca to the Sorbonne, and from Oxford to Austin.

Organization connotes mutual interdependence of the component parts, limitation of individualism, the circumscription of personal liberty. To a certain extent this is advantageous to man–without it civilization, human progress, were impossible; but to draw a line between wise use and abuse were a task of some difficulty. President Winston assures us that the British Government is the best in the world, yet it is a chaos compared to the organization of the Russian autocracy. Because we find beneficial that organization which makes cooperation possible, would he carry it to the extent of communism? Because concentration of capital reduces cost of production, does he approve of that organization which enables trusts to juggle prices? When organization has reached that point where one-third of our wealth-producers must stand idle because denied the privilege of producing the wherewithal to feed and clothe and house themselves, it might be well for ‘varsity presidents to apply the soft pedal to their paean of praise and inquire diligently whether it be possible to get entirely too much of a good thing. Too many accept St. Paul’s concession of a little wine for the stomach’s sake for license to become sots.

Thomas Carlyle, who could see almost as far into a millstone as the average ‘varsity president, was of the opinion that the tendency to ever more compact organization was transforming both education and religion into farces, blighting the spiritual and intellectual life of man and precipitating in the world of industry the most important and complex question with which political economists had ever been called upon to deal. That was nearly seventy years ago, when vast organization of capital had just begun–when the age of machinery, both for the grinding of corn and the inculcation of knowledge, was but nascent. Hear him growl:

“Though mechanism, wisely contrived, has done much for man, we cannot be persuaded that it has ever been the chief source of his worth or happiness. . . . We have machines for education. Instruction, that mysterious communing of Wisdom and Ignorance, is no longer an indefinable, tentative process, requiring a study of individual aptitude, and a perpetual variation of means and methods to attain the same end; but a secure, universal, straightforward business to be conducted in the gross, by proper mechanism, with such intellect as comes to hand. . . . Philosophy, Science, Art, Literature, all depend on machinery. No Newton, by silent meditation, now discovers the system of the world by the falling of an apple; but some quite other than Newton stands in his Museum, his Scientic Institution, and behind whole batteries of retorts, digesters and galvanic piles imperatively ‘interrogates nature’–who, however, shows no haste to answer. In defect of Raphaels, and Angelos, and Mozarts, we have Royal Academies of Painting, Sculpture, Music; whereby the languishing spirit of Art may be strengthened by the more generous diet of a Public Kitchen. . . . Hence the Royal and Imperial Societies, the Bibliotheques, Glypthotheques, Technotheques, which front us in all capital cities, like so many well-finished hives, to which it is expected the stray agencies of Wisdom will swarm of their own accord, and hive and make honey! . . . Men have grown mechanical in head and heart as well as in hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavor and in natural force of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combination and arrangement, for institutions, constitutions–for Mechanism of one sort or another, do they hope and struggle. . . . Science and Art have derived only partial help from the culture or manuring of institutions– often have suffered damage.”