Education: intellectual, moral, and physical. Spencer, Herbert, 1820-1903
WHAT KNOWLEDGE IS OF MOST WORTH?
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. The general problem which comprehends every special problem is—the right ruling of conduct in all directions under all circumstances. In what way to treat the body; in what way to treat the mind; in what way to manage our affairs; in what way to bring up a family; in what way to behave as a citizen; in what way to utilize those sources of happiness which nature supplies—how to use all our faculties to the greatest advantage of ourselves and others—how to live completely? And this being the great thing needful for us to learn, is, by consequence, the great thing which education has to teach.
Of the three phases through which human opinion passes—the unanimity of the ignorant, the disagreement of the inquiring, and the unanimity of the wise — it is manifest that the second is the parent of the third. They are not sequences in time only, they are sequences in causation. However impatiently, therefore, we may witness the present conflict of educational systems, and however much we may regret its accompanying evils, we must recognize it as a transition stage needful to be passed
through, and beneficent in its ultimate effects. Meanwhile, may we not advantageously take stock of our progress?
We are not among those who believe in Lord Palmerston's dogma, that "all children are born good." On the whole, the opposite dogma, untenable as it is, seems to us less wide
of the truth. Nor do we agree with those who think that, by skilful discipline, children may be made altogether what they should be. Contrariwise, we are satisfied that though imperfections of nature may be diminished by wise management, they cannot be removed by it.
No anatomist, no physiologist, no chemist, will for a moment hesitate to assert, that the general principles which are true of the vital processes in animals are equally true of
the vital processes in man. And a candid admission of this fact is not without its reward: namely, that the generalizations established by observation and experiment on brutes, become available for human guidance. Rudimentary as is the Science of Life, it has already attained to certain fundamental principles underlying the development of all organisms, the human included.
Both saccharine and fatty matters are eventually oxidized in the body; and there is an accompanying evolution of heat. Sugar is the form to which sundry other compounds
have to be reduced before they are available as heat-making food; and this formation of sugar is carried on in the body. Not only is starch changed into sugar in the course of digestion, but it has been proved by M. Claude Bernard that the liver is a factory in which other constituents of food are transformed into sugar: the need for sugar being so imperative that it is even thus produced from nitrogenous substances when no
others are given.
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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