Education has thus to struggle, like government or philanthropy, beneath the burdens imposed by the injustice of our economic order. We must make educational provision for social conditions which ought not to exist—night schools for illiterate foreigners, specialized vocational training for factory workers and shopgirls who ought to have at least the time for a much extended general education in addition to their preparation for work. We must also be content to see the high privilege of general education seized by boys and girls whose easy lives make them careless of its value and inconstant in its pursuit. These conditions schools themselves cannot change. But by public provision and by scholarships the opportunity for prolonged education may be kept open to the able and ambitious. The spirit of teaching and school administration may help to prevent the formation of social caste. By precept and example democratic ideals and the will to serve may be encouraged in those who are in danger of losing them. And no academic bars need be hastily and blindly set up—as in the narrow interpretation of college entrance requirements or in failure to provide a reasonable opportunity for higher education of some desirable sort—against those who seek further training after mistaken choice of a high-school course or the early disadvantages of having to earn a living. In a democracy the educational system must at least guard jealously against the perpetuation of special privilege. Schools must discourage the advance of the unfit, not of the unfortunate.

Obviously there is need for wise guidance of individuals into the kind of schooling which will best fit them for the life they can best lead. Vocational guidance is but part of the larger problem of “the redistribution of human talent” (a phrase recently and aptly coined by Professor Carver) and it is often best to be accomplished as a part of an educational guidance which takes account of the need for liberal culture as well as for vocational training. Transcendent ability is doubtless seldom obscured through lack of counsel or of privilege; educational guidance will not discover many a mute inglorious Milton nor send to schools of pharmacy many a discouraged Keats. It may prevent, however, less disastrous misfittings in a thousand cases, and therein is its sufficient sanction. But guidance will be futile if there are no proper paths to tread. The money now provided for schools must be increased many fold, if schools are to become for all men the gates of opportunity and the highways to service. We must remember, to be sure, that there are many educational agencies besides schools; libraries often do far more toward education. But any systematic education is schooling, and if the interests of society are to be adequately met, all valuable forms of educational activity must be organized, supported, and made available to the individuals who seek to use them.

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