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EDUCATIONAL EXTRAVAGANCE





OUR public educational system is made up of a grammar and a high school
course, the latter consisting of a four years term of studies, devoted
in part, to a more thorough grounding in the essentials of education;
the other part--by far the more considerable, according to the
consensus of opinion--is expended on educational frills and vanities.
These "trimmings" are given gratis, the public bearing the burden of
expense, which foots up to a very respectable total.

For a certain class of people--the people of means--this sort of a
thing has not many disadvantages; it is in a line with the future
occupation or profession of their offspring. But for the bulk of the
children who attend our free schools and on whose parents educational
taxes are levied, it has serious inconveniences, is not in line with
their future occupation or profession, is not only superfluous, but
detrimental. It is for them so much time lost--precious time, that were
better spent learning a trade or otherwise fitting themselves for their
life work. Herein therefore we discover a double extravagance: that of
parents who provide unwisely for their children's future and that of
the municipality which offers as popular an education that is anything
but popular, since only the few can enjoy it while all must bear the
burden alike.

There is much in getting a start in life, in beginning early; a delay
is often a handicap hard to overcome. With very few exceptions, our
children gain their livelihood with their hands and eyes and ears, and
not solely with their brains; they therefore require title most
practical education imaginable. They need intellectual tools to work
with, and not a smattering of science, botany, drawing and political
philosophy to forget as soon as possible. Pure culture studies are not
a practical gain for them, while the time consumed in pursuing these is
so much taken away from a thorough training in the essentials. Lectures
on science, elementary experiments in chemistry, kindergarten
instructions in water color painting, these are as much in their place
in the education of the average child as an ivory-handled gold pen in
the hand that wields the pick-ax.

A boy is better off learning a trade than cramming his head full of
culture fads; he is then doing something useful and profitable on which
the happiness and success of his life will depend. By the time his
companions have done dabbling in science and have come to the
conclusion that they are simply being shown how ignorant they are--not
a very consoling conclusion after all--he will have already laid the
foundation of his career and be earning enough to settle down in life.
He may not be able to talk on an infinity of subjects about which he
knows nothing at all, but he will be able to earn his own living, which
is something worth while.

If the free high school were more of a business school, people would
get better returns for their money. True, some would then be obliged to
pay for the expensive fads that would be done away with; but since they
alone enjoy these things, why should others be made to pay for them who
cannot enjoy them? Why should the poor be taxed to educate the rich?
Why not give the poor full value for their share of the burden? Why not
provide them with intellectual tools that suit their condition, just as
the rich are being provided for in the present system? The parochial
high school has, in several places we know of, been made to serve as a
protest against such evils and as an example that has already been
followed in more than one instance by the public schools. Intelligent
and energetic pastors, knowing full well the conditions and needs of
their people, offer the children a course in business methods as being
more suitable, more profitable and less extravagant than four years
spent in acquiring a smattering of what they will never possess
thoroughly and never need in their callings in life. It is better to
fill young minds with the useful than with the agreeable, when it is
impossible to furnish both. Results already bespeak the wisdom of this
plan and reflect no small honor on its originators.

Parents therefore should see to it that their children get the kind of
education they need, the kind that will serve them best in after life.
They should not allow the precious time of youth to be whiled' away in
trifles and vanities. Children have a right: to be educated in a manner
in keeping with their conditions in life, and it is criminal in parents
to neglect the real needs of their children while trying: to fit them
for positions they will never occupy.

In the meantime, let them protest against the extravagance of
educational enthusiasts and excessive State paternalism. Let them ask
that the burden of culture studies be put where it belongs, that is, on
the shoulders of those who are the sole beneficiaries; and that free
popular education be made popular, that is, for all, and not for an
elite of society. The public school system was called into existence to
do one work, namely, to educate the masses: it was never intended to
furnish a college education for the benefit of the rich men's sons at
the expense of the poor. As it stands to-day, it is an unadulterated
extravagance.





Next: GODLESS EDUCATION

Previous: EDUCATE THE CHILDREN



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