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The natural sciences were greatly de

veloped in education

during the
latter half of
the nine-
teenth cen-
tury, and
the changed

was crystallized by Herbert Spencer.

Spencer was reared amid intellectual



THE latter half of the nineteenth century witnessed a great development in the natural sciences and in the part they should play in the curricula of various educational institutions. At the beginning of this period, Greek and Latin had everywhere an almost unbroken monopoly in secondary and higher education, and stubbornly resisted the admission of any training in science; while, by the close of the century, not only was the power of the classical fetish greatly diminished, but a constant struggle and a complete revision of methods to maintain these subjects at all had become necessary. This general change of attitude grew largely out of the material development of the times, the increasing popularity of evolutionary doctrine, and the work of the educational reformers that had preceded. But while it was in the spirit of the times, it was first crystallized and defended by the English philosopher, Spencer.

Spencer's Education and Other Writings

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was the descendant of educators, and during all his youth was surrounded by

and early

interest in science.

intellectual and literary traditions. He never went to traditions, the university, possibly on account of the poor health showed an from which he suffered all his life, but he engaged in a wide range of miscellaneous studies at home. He began early to read on natural science and mathematics, perform experiments and make inventions, and show remarkable ability in working out original problems. In his young manhood he wrote on economic and social subjects with great force and clearness. By the time he was thirty he had produced his Social Statics, in which he treats the evolution of society through natural laws, and during the next quarter of a century he devoted himself to a systematic development of his ideas. He elaborated and applied the laws of evolution to important questions in biology, psychology, ethics, politics, and sociology, and issued a monumental series of works. During his thirties he also worked out his ideas on education with much enthusiasm. His treatises were originally con- At forty he tributions to magazines, but in 1860 they were collected his treatise and published in book form as Education, Intellectual, tion. Moral, and Physical.


on Educa

"What Knowledge Is of the Most Worth?”

Spencer did not read widely upon educational subjects, and his conceptions are largely his own, but in his Education he has apparently been affected by the atmosphere of the times, and has combined with his principles some

The first essay in this book is of

most importance.

Here he argues that to decide What

of the ideas previously expressed by Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Herbart. Of the four essays in the book, the first has been by far the most influential, and called forth the greatest amount of comment. This part of the work, which seeks to investigate What Knowledge Is of Most Worth, raises the whole question of the purpose of education, and is completely subversive of the old classical traditions. Spencer's argument runs as follows: 1




"In order of time decoration precedes dress. And in our universities and schools at the present moment the like antithesis Knowledge Is holds. As the Orinoco Indian puts on his paint before leaving of Most his hut, not with a view to any direct benefit, but because he 'preparation would be ashamed to be seen without it; so a boy's drilling in for complete living' must Latin and Greek is insisted on, not because of their intrinsic be taken as a value, but that he may not be disgraced by being found ignorant of them. The comparative worths of different kinds of knowledge have been as yet scarcely even discussed- much less discussed in a methodic way with definite results. Before there can be a rational curriculum, we must decide which things it most concerns us to know. To this end, a measure of value is the first requisite. How to live? — that is the essential question for us. Not how to live in the mere material sense only, but in the widest sense. To prepare us for complete living is the function which education has to discharge; and the only rational mode of judging of any educational course is, to judge in what degree it discharges such function. Our first step must obviously be to classify, in the order of their importance, the leading kinds of activity which constitute human life. They may be arranged into: 1. Those activities which directly minister to self-preserva

1 In the quotation everything not essential to the argument is omitted.

He then

classifies the leading

activities in life,

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tion; 2. Those activities which, by securing the necessaries of life, indirectly minister to self-preservation; 3. Those activities which have for their end the rearing and discipline of offspring; 4. Those activities which are involved in the maintenance of proper social and political relations; 5. Those miscellaneous activities which make up the leisure part of life, devoted to the gratification of the tastes and feelings. We do not mean that these divisions are definitely separable. We do not deny that they are intrinsically entangled with each other in such way that there can be no training for any that is not in some measure a training for all. Nor do we question that of each division there are portions more important than certain portions of the preceding divisions. But after making all qualifications, there still remain these broadly marked divisions; and these divisions subordinate one another in the foregoing order. The ideal of education is complete preparation in all these divisions. But failing this ideal, as in our phase of civilization every one must do more or less, the aim should be to maintain a due proportion between the degrees of preparation in each, greatest where the value is greatest, less where the value is less, least where the value is least."

The 'Sciences' Most Useful in All Life Activities

Applying this test, Spencer finds that a knowledge of the sciences is always most useful in life, and therefore of most worth. He considers each one of the five groups of activities and demonstrates the need of the knowledge of some science or sciences to guide it rightly. An acquaintance with physiology is necessary to the maintenance of health, and so for self-preservation; any form of industry or other means of indirect self-preservation

and holds

that a knowl

edge of the

sciences is a

most valu

able prepa

ration for


will require some understanding of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology; to care for the physical, intellectual, and moral training of their children, parents should know the general principles of physiology, psychology, and ethics; a man is best fitted for citizenship through a knowledge of the science of history in its political, economic, and social aspects; and even the æsthetic or leisure side of life depends upon physiology, mechanics, and psychology as a basis for art, music, and poetry, and "science opens up realms of poetry where to the unscientific all is a blank." 1

Besides the

This argument for the sciences on the ground that their value, he also 'content' is so much superior for the activities of life



would seem to be sufficient. But Spencer now shifts his whole point of view, and attempts to anticipate the defense of the classics on the score of 'formal discipline' by meeting them on their own ground. He admits that "besides its use for guidance in conduct, the acquisition of each order of facts has also its use as mental exercise, and its effects as a preparative for complete living have to be considered under both these heads." But he holds that by "the beautiful economy of Nature those classes of facts which are most useful for regulating conduct are best for strengthening the mental faculties, and the edu

that, on the side of 'discipline,' science trains

the memory, judgment, and morals.

1 Spencer even undertakes to show that a systematic knowledge of facts and the laws of science in the physical and psychological worlds is essential to the best æsthetic production and enjoyment.

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