EDUCATION OF THE NATURAL FACULTIES.
From: The True Citizen How To Become One
Every man stamps his value on himself.--Schiller
No capital earns such interest as personal culture.--President Eliot
The end and aim of all education is the development of character.
--Francis W. Parker
One of the best effects of thorough intellectual training is a
knowledge of our own capacities.--Alexander Bain
Education is a growth toward intellectual and moral perfection.
--Nicholas Murray Butler
Education begins in the home, is continued through the public school
and college, and finds inviting and ever-widening opportunities and
possibilities throughout the entire course of life. The mere
acquisition of knowledge, or the simple development of the intellect
alone, may be of little value. Many who have received such imperfect or
one-sided education, have proved to be but ciphers in the world; while,
again, intellectual giants have sometimes been found to be but
intellectual demons. Indeed, some of the worst characters in history
have been men of scholarly ability and of rare academic attainments.
The true education embraces the symmetrical development of mind, body
and heart. An old and wise writer has said, "Cultivate the physical
exclusively, and you have an athlete or a savage; the moral only, and
you have an enthusiast or a maniac; the intellectual only, and you have
a diseased oddity,--it may be a monster. It is only by wisely training
all of them together that the complete man may be found."
To cultivate anything--be it a plant, an animal, or a mind--is to make
it grow. Nothing admits of culture but that which has a principle of
life capable of being expanded. He, therefore, who does what he can to
unfold all his powers and capacities, especially his nobler ones, so as
to become a well-proportioned, vigorous, excellent, happy being,
practices self-culture, and secures a true education.
It is a commonplace remark that "a man's faculties are strengthened by
use, and weakened by disuse." To change the form of statement, they
grow when they are fed and nourished, and decay when they are not fed
and nourished. Moreover, every faculty demands appropriate food. What
nourishes one will not always nourish another. Accordingly, one part of
man's nature may grow while another withers; and one part may be fed
and strengthened at the expense of another.
In Hawthorne's beautiful allegory, the "Great Stone Face," you remember
how the man Ernest, by daily and admiring contemplation of the face,
its dignity, its serenity, its benevolence, came, all unconsciously to
himself, to possess the same qualities, and to be transformed by them,
until at last he stood revealed to his neighbors as the long promised
one, who should be like the Great Stone Face. So in every human life,
the unrealized self is the unseen but all-powerful force that brings
into subjection the will, guides the conduct, and determines the
"The early life of Washington is singularly transparent as to the
creation and influence of the ideal. We see how one quality after
another was added, until the character became complete. Manly strength,
athletic power and skill, appear first; then, courtesy and refined
manners; then, careful and exact business habits; then, military
qualities; then, devotion to public service."
Steadily, but rapidly, the transforming work went on, until the man was
complete; the ideal was realized. Henceforth, the character, the man,
appears under all the forms of occupation and office. Legislator,
commander, president; the man is in them all, though he is none of them.
Half the blunders of humanity come from not knowing one's self. If we
overrate our abilities, we attempt more than we can accomplish; if we
underrate our abilities we fail to accomplish much that we attempt. In
both cases the life loses just so much from its sum of power.
He who might wield the golden scepter of the pen, never gets beyond the
plow; or perhaps he who ought to be a shoemaker attempts the artistic
career of an Apelles. When a life-work presents itself we ought to be
able from our self-knowledge to say, "I am, or am not, fitted to be
useful in that sphere."
Sydney Smith represents the various parts in life by holes of different
shapes upon a table--some circular, some triangular, some square, some
oblong--and the persons acting these parts, by bits of wood of similar
shapes, and he says, "we generally find that the triangular person has
gotten into the square hole, the oblong into the triangular, and a
square fellow has squeezed into the round hole."
A fundamental need is to find out the elements of power within us, and
how they can be trained to good service and yoked to the chariot of
influence. We need to know exactly for what work or sphere we are best
fitted, so that when opportunities for service open before us, we may
invest our mental capital with success and profit.
Self-knowledge must not be confused with self-conceit; for it implies
no immodesty or egotism. Even if the faithful study of one's self
reveals a high order of natural gifts, it is not needful to imitate the
son of the Emerald Isle who always lifted his hat and made an
obsequious bow when he spoke of himself or mentioned his own name.
George Eliot hits off pompous self-conceit happily when she likens its
possessor to "a cock that thinks the sun rises in the morning to hear
Margaret Fuller wrote: "I now know all the people in America worth
knowing, and I have found no intellect comparable with my own." Even if
she did not overrate herself, such self-estimate implied no little
boldness in expression. We also read in Greek history, how, when the
commanders of the allied fleets gave in, by request, a list of the
names of those who had shown the highest valor and skill at the battle
of Salamis, each put his own name first, graciously according to
Themistocles, the real hero of the day, the second rank.
Not a few come to know themselves only through failures and
disappointments. Strangers to their own defects--perhaps also to their
own powers--they see how they might have succeeded only when success is
finally forfeited. Their eyes open too late. A Southern orator tells of
a little colored lad who very much wished to have a kitten from a
newborn litter, and whose mistress promised that, as soon as they wer
old enough, he should take one. Too impatient to wait, he slyly carried
one off to his hut. Its eyes were not open, and, in disgust, he drowned
it. But, subsequently finding the kitten lying in the pail dead, but
with open eyes, he exclaimed, "Umph! When you's alive, you's blind. Now
you's dead, you see!" It will be a real calamity to us if our eyes only
open when it is too late to make our life of any use.
All true life-power has a basis of high _moral integrity_. Far higher in
the scale than any life of impulse, passion, or even opinion,
is the life regulated by principle. The end of life is something more
than pleasure. Man is not a piece of vitalized sponge, to absorb all
into himself. The essentials of happiness are something to love,
something to hope for, something to do--affection, aspiration, action.
We must also educate our dispositions. Some one has said: "Disposition
is a lens through which men and things are seen. A fiery temper, like a
red glass, gives to all objects a lurid glare; a melancholic temper,
like a blue lens, imparts its own hue; through the green spectacles of
jealousy every one else becomes an object of distrust and dislike; and
he who looks through the black glass of malice, finds others wearing the
aspect of his own malevolence. Only the cheerful and charitable soul
sees through a clear and colorless medium, whose transparency shows the
world as it is."
Disposition has also its concave and convex lenses, which magnify some
things and minify others. The self-satisfied man sees every one's
faults in giant proportions; and every one's virtues, but his own,
dwarfed into insignificance. To the fretful man others seem fretful; to
the envious man, envious; and so with the well-disposed, gentle, and
generous; sunshine prevails over shadows. The world is different to
different observers, largely because they have different media through
which they look at it.
Cheerful tempers manufacture solace and joy out of very unpromising
material. They are the magic alchemists who extract sweet essences out
of bitter herbs, like the old colored woman in the smoky hut, who was
"glad of anything to make a smoke with," and, though she had but two
teeth, thanked God they were "_opposite each other!_"
Goodness outranks even uprightness, because the good man aims to do
good to others. Uprightness is the beauty of integrity; goodness is the
loveliness of benevolence. The good man visits the hut of misery, the
hovel of poverty, leaving in a gentle and delicate way, a few comforts
for the table or wardrobe, dainties for the fevered palate of the sick,
or such other helps as the case may call for, as far as his means and
circumstances will allow.
A true education should cover all these points, and many others also;
but it must never be allowed to destroy the pupil's individuality. It
must teach that a person can be himself, and study all the models he
pleases. Webster studied the orations of Cicero so thoroughly that he
could repeat most of them by heart; but they did not destroy or
compromise his individuality, because he did not try to be Cicero. It
has been said that Michael Angelo, who was the most original of ancient
or modern artists, was more familiar with the model statues and
paintings of the world than any other man. He studied the excellences
of all the great works of art, not to copy or imitate them, but to
develop his powers. "As the food he consumed became bone and muscle by
assimilation; so, by mental assimilation, the knowledge he acquired by
art-models entered into the very composition of his mind."
The more thoroughly a man's nature is developed under the influences of
a good education, the more justly does he claim the liberty of thought
and action, and a suitable field whereon to think and act. The
materials of useful and honorable life--of life aiming at great and
noble ends--are within him. He feels it, he knows it to be so; and a
denial uttered by ten thousand voices would not check the ardor of his
pursuit, or induce him to surrender one atom of his claim. His claim
involves a right. He is as conscious of it as of his existence. His
mind has acquired the power of observing, reasoning, reflecting,
judging, and acting; and he feels that, like a pendulum, the action of
his mind is capable of giving activity, force, and value, to a large
body of well-compacted machinery, of which he is a part.
It is the mind that acts as the universal pendulum; and if its liberty
of action be circumscribed, and its vibrations consequently fall short
of the mark, then its power will be crippled, and the life, as a whole
will be imperfect and incomplete.