The best way in this world to be definite is to know our goal and then strive to attain it. In the lack of definite standards based upon the lessons of the past, our dominant national ideals shift with every shifting wind of public sentiment and popular demand. Are we satisfied with the individualistic and self-centered idealism that has come with our material prosperity and which to-day shames the memory of the men who founded our Republic? Are we negligent of the serious menace that confronts any people when it loses its hold upon those goods of life that are far more precious than commercial prestige and individual aggrandizement? Are we losing our hold upon the sterner virtues which our fathers possessed,—upon the things of the spirit that are permanent and enduring?
A study of history cannot determine entirely the dominant ideals of those who pursue it. But the study of history if guided in the proper spirit and dominated by the proper aim may help. For no one who gets into the spirit of our national history,—no one who traces the origin and growth of these ideals and institutions that I have named,—can escape the conviction that the elemental virtues of courage, self-reliance, hardihood, unselfishness, self-denial, and service lie at the basis of every forward step that this country has made, and that the most precious part of our heritage is not the material comforts with which we are surrounded, but the sturdy virtues which made these comforts possible.
[Footnote 15: An address delivered March 18, 1910, before the Central Illinois Teachers’ Association.]
SCIENCE AS RELATED TO THE TEACHING OF LITERATURE
The scientific method is the method of unprejudiced observation and induction. Its function in the scheme of life is to furnish man with facts and principles,—statements which mirror with accuracy and precision the conditions that may exist in any situation of any sort which man may have to face. In other words, the facts of science are important and worthy because they help us to solve the problems of life more satisfactorily. They are instrumental in their function. They are means to an end. And whenever we have a problem to solve, whenever we face a situation that demands some form of adjustment, the more accurate the information that we possess concerning this situation, the better we shall be able to solve it.
Now when I propose that we try to find out some facts about the teaching of English, and that we apply the scientific method in the discovery of these facts, I am immediately confronted with an objection. My opponent will maintain that the subject of English in our school curriculum is not one of the sciences. Taking English to mean particularly English literature rather than rhetoric or composition or grammar, it is clear that we do not teach literature as we teach