JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU began his famous Confessions by a
vehement appeal to the Deity: "I have shown myself as I was; contemptible and vile when I was
so; good, generous, sublime when I was so; I have unveiled my interior such as Thou thyself hast
seen it, Eternal Father! Collect about me the innumerable swarm
of my fellows; let them hear my confessions; let them groan at my unworthiness; let them blush
at my meannesses! Let each of them discover his heart in his turn at the foot of thy throne with
the same sincerity; and then let any one of them tell thee if he dares: 'I was a better man!' "
Jean Jacques was a very great educator in the manner of the eighteenth century, and has been
commonly thought to have had more influence than any other teacher of his time; but his peculiar
method of improving human nature has not been universally admired. Most educators of the
nineteenth century have declined to show themselves before their scholars as objects more vile
or contemptible than necessary, and even the humblest teacher hides, if possible, the faults with
which nature has generously embellished us all, as it did Jean Jacques, thinking, as most religious
minds are apt to do, that the Eternal Father himself may not feel unmixed pleasure at our thrusting
under his eyes chie fly the least agreeable details of his creation.
As an unfortunate result the twentieth century finds few recent guides to avoid, or to follow.
American literature offers scarcely one working model for high education. The student must go
back, beyond Jean Jacques, to Benjamin Franklin, to find a model even of self-teaching. Except in
the abandoned sphere of the dead languages, no one has discussed what part of education has, in
his personal experience, turned out to be useful, and what not. This volume attempts to discuss
As educator, Jean Jacques was, in one respect, easily first; he
erected a monument of warning against the Ego. Since his time, and largely thanks to him, the
Ego has steadily tended to efface itself, and, for purposes of model, to become a manikin on
which the toilet of education is to be draped in order to show the fit or misit of the clothes. The
object of study is the garment, not the figure. The tailor adapts the manikin as well as the clothes
to his patron's wants. The tailor's object, in this volume, is to fit young
men, in universities or elsewhere, to be men of
the world, equipped for any emergency; and the garment offered to them is meant to show the
faults of the patchwork fitted on their fathers.
At the utmost, the active-minded young man should ask of his teacher only mastery of his tools.
The young man himself, the subject of education, is a certain form of energy; the object to be
gained is economy of his force; the training is partly the clearing away of obstacles, partly the
direct application of efort. Once acquired, the tools and models may be thrown away.
The manikin, therefore, has the same value as any other geometrical figure of three or more
dimensions, which is used for the study of relation. For that purpose it cannot be spared; it is the
only measure of motion, of proportion, of human condition; it
must have the air of reality; must be taken for real; must be treated as though it had life. Who
knows? Possibly it had!
February 16, 1907