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Now, it goes without saying that there are many ways of making education hit the mark of utility in addition to those that I have mentioned. The teachers down in the lower grades who are teaching little children the arts of reading and writing and computation are doing vastly more in a practical direction than they are ever given credit for doing; for reading and writing and the manipulation of numbers are, next to oral speech itself, the prime necessities in the social and industrial world. These arts are being taught to-day better than they have ever been taught before,—and the technique of their teaching is undergoing constant refinement and improvement.
The school can do and is doing other useful things. Some schools are training their pupils to be well mannered and courteous and considerate of the rights of others. They are teaching children one of the most basic and fundamental laws of human life; namely, that there are some things that a gentleman cannot do and some things that society will not stand. How many a painful experience in solving this very problem of getting a living could be avoided if one had only learned this lesson passing well! What a pity it is that some schools that stand to-day for what we call educational progress are failing in just this particular—are sending out into the world an annual crop of boys and girls who must learn the great lesson of self-control and a proper respect for the rights of others in the bitter school of experience,—a school in which the rod will never be spared, but whose chastening scourge comes sometimes, alas, too late!
There is no feature of school life which has not its almost infinite possibilities of utility. But after all, are not the basic and fundamental things these ideals that I have named? And should not we who teach stand for idealism in its widest sense? Should we not ourselves subscribe an undying fidelity to those great ideals for which teaching must stand,—to the ideal of social service which lies at the basis of our craft, to the ideals of effort and discipline that make a nation great and its children strong, to the ideal of science that dissipates the black night of ignorance and superstition, to the ideal of culture that humanizes mankind?
[Footnote 11: An address before the Eastern Illinois Teachers’ Association, October 15, 1909. Published as a Bulletin of the Eastern Illinois Normal School, October, 1909.]
THE SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT IN EDUCATION
I know that I do not need to plead with this audience for a recognition of the scientific spirit in the solution of educational problems. The long life and the enviable record of this Society of Pedagogy testify in themselves to that spirit of free inquiry, to the calm and dispassionate search for the truth which lies at the basis of the scientific method. You have gathered here, fortnight after fortnight, to discuss educational problems in the light of your experience. You have reported your experience and listened to the results that others have gleaned in the course of their daily work. And experience is the corner stone of science.