College Education -- By: W. G. T. Shedd
BSac 7:25 (Jan 1850) p. 132
The general and growing interest in the subject of education is one of the most hopeful features of the present age. Throughout the country the popular mind is becoming increasingly awake to the importance of knowledge, and the nation as a body is coming to regard Education as one of the great natural interests. Already is it provided for and protected, as commerce, and manufactures, and agriculture are provided for; and the number is already large who clearly see and feel that it is of more importance and exerts a far greater influence upon the perpetuity of the Republic than any or all of the economical interests united.
There is, however, one characteristic attending this general interest upon the subject of Education which cannot but strike the eye of a thoughtful observer. It is a characteristic which, as history shows, invariably attends the movement of the popular mind in proportion as it becomes more extensive and far-reaching, and one that is deleterious in its influence if it does not find its counterpart and corrective.
We refer to the tendency to popularize knowledge in an excessive and injurious degree. By this is not meant the disposition to diffuse knowledge among the greatest number possible, but the disposition to render all knowledge superficial and in this form to diffuse it through society. If we mistake not, there are signs of a disposition to destroy the distinction between popular and scientific knowledge, and while en-
BSac 7:25 (Jan 1850) p. 133
gaged in the laudable effort to spread information as widely as possible among all classes, to do it at the expense of that profound and scientific culture which must exist somewhere, in some portion of the community at least, in order to the perpetuity and vitality of even the common information of society.
There is no surer way of correcting this and kindred errors, than by establishing and diffusing profound and comprehensive views respecting the whole subject and the subject as a whole. It is a defective view of knowledge as a whole, an incomplete view of the system of education which lies at the bottom of the error in question. It is forgotten that the body of knowledge which is sought to be diffused is an organization with central and superficial parts, and that the complete system of instruction which proposes to impart this knowledge is an organized system, of which no better definition can be given than that all its parts are vitally connected and are reciprocally means and ends. Popular knowledge therefore cannot be diffused separated from scientific knowledge, and this latter again requires to pass through the tests of popularization ...
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