Full text: Problems in eugenics

164Section IIa. F. C. S. Schiller. 
vitally necessary. Such attempts, we have seen, must rely largely on a 
proper treatment of education : for it would be vain to provide the right 
men if they could not be rightly trained. I will try, therefore, to show 
how education can be made to help eugenics, believing that if we struggle 
manfully against some of the most popular, but unscientific, of educational 
nostrums, we may conserve and improve some eugenically valuable 
institutions, and implant in the young eugenical sentiments which in due 
course will bear fruit in better morals and more serviceable citizens. 
No system of education has ever been perfect; but in our new-born zeal 
to educate every one, we have rather forgotten that the great failure of 
education has always lain in its dealings with the powerful and rich. Not 
even men of genius have succeeded in educating princes. Nero was no 
credit to the pedagogical skill of Seneca, nor Dionysius to Plato’s, nor 
Christina to Descartes’, while Aristotle and Alexander seem to have gone 
each his own way by mutual consent. Nor at the present day can it be 
said that Eton, though its King’s Scholars are selected from the pick of 
British intellect, contributes in like proportion to our intellectual achieve­ 
ment. It may, therefore, be suggested that it is precisely because of the 
difficulty of educating them that the highest classes have failed to maintain 
themselves. It seems at first a paradox that it is precisely those for whom 
most is done, who achieve least, that those classes whom society 
endows with all the human heart desires and all that makes life 
worth living should find it most difficult to keep alive and should be in 
greatest danger of extinction. Satire has often noted that the sole merit 
of the grand seigneurs was merely de se donner la peine de naître; and 
nowadays even this appears to be becoming too much trouble for them—or 
for their parents. Yet a psychologist has no difficulty in resolving this 
paradox : it is precisely because these favourites of fortune already have 
what most desire, and have to work for, that they degenerate. To inherit 
wealth, rank, power and honour without effort of their own, deprives them 
of the ordinary objects of human ambition, and the chief motives to 
exertion. Even if they desired to lead a life of social service, democratic 
jealousy would distrust, and often baffle them. So they are driven into an 
idle life of frivolous amusement, succumb to its manifold temptations, and, 
often pleasantly enough, eliminate themselves. But shoulld not those 
responsible for our social order reflect that if it is right to reward ability 
in one generation by wealth and power, it cannot be right to render wealth 
and power the instruments for destroying this same hereditary merit in the 
next? Should they not reflect upon the problem of equipping the young 
of the upper classes with an adequate motive to make the best of them­ 
selves physically, mentally and morally, to prevent them from succumbing 
to the extra moral strains of their position? To abolish inheritance would 
not do this. It would (i) diminish the output of valuable work which is 
now due to the desire to support one’s family, and (2) it would diminish

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