And so I repeat that the true test of the teacher’s fidelity to this vow of service is the degree in which he loses himself in his pupils,—the degree in which he lives and toils and sacrifices for them just for the pure joy that it brings him. Once you have tasted this joy, no carping sneer of the cynic can cause you to lose faith in your calling. Material rewards sink into insignificance. You no longer work with your eyes upon the clock. The hours are all too short for the work that you would do. You are as light-hearted and as happy as a child,—for you have lost yourself to find yourself, and you have found yourself to lose yourself.
And the final vow that I would have these graduates take is the vow of idealism,—the pledge of fidelity and devotion to certain fundamental principles of life which it is the business of education carefully to cherish and nourish and transmit untarnished to each succeeding generation. These but formulate in another way what the vows that I have already discussed mean by implication. One is the ideal of social service, upon which education must, in the last analysis, rest its case. The second is the ideal of science,—the pledge of devotion to that persistent unwearying search after truth, of loyalty to the great principles of unbiased observation and unprejudiced experiment, of willingness to accept the truth and be governed by it, no matter how disagreeable it may be, no matter how roughly it may trample down our pet doctrines and our preconceived theories. The nineteenth century left us a glorious heritage in the great discoveries and inventions that science has established. These must not be lost to posterity; but far better lose them than lose the spirit of free inquiry, the spirit of untrammeled investigation, the noble devotion to truth for its own sake that made these discoveries and inventions possible.
It is these ideals that education must perpetuate, and if education is successfully to perpetuate them, the teacher must himself be filled with a spirit of devotion to the things that they represent. Science has triumphed over superstition and fraud and error. It is the teacher’s duty to see to it that this triumph is permanent, that mankind does not again fall back into the black pit of ignorance and superstition.