Scientific Versus Literary Education Speech


  • A controversy of recent origin
  • Advantages of literary education
  • Advantages of scientific education
  • Controversy settled: supreme lav of necessity: the craze for scientific education
  • Need for synthesis

The contest between scientific and literary education is of comparatively- recent origin. For centuries after the idea of education was born, education was understood to mean literary education, concerned entirely with the study of the various branches of arts. In those days man had no knowledge of Science, much less any sense of its utility. Even for years after its inception, Science had only a minor place in the curriculum of studies, the privileged position still belonging to Literature and Language, History and Philosophy. But in the middle of the 19th century, the balance of the scale began to change rapidly. As a result of spectacular developments in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, the study of Science assumed growing importance day by day. And since the dawn of the 20th century, Science came to occupy such a prominent place in human life, foreign her way into every hearth and home, that the study of Science became an inescapable necessity. Here a controversylı arose: To what extent should Science be allowed to take precedence over Literature and other branches of Arts. The dispute raged or over a quarter of a century and was participated in by a wide range of educationists and scholars all over the world.

The advocates of Arts, that is to say, of literary education-based their stand primarily on what has been known as the ultimate purpose of education, namely, the flowering of the mind’. They argued that the mind can never receive adequate means of expression without the study of Literature and allied subjects. In their opinion, Literature stimulates the imagination, refines the thoughts, humanizes the outlook, widens the vision, ennobles the spirit and ultimately gives to the mind the priceless gift of peace and bliss. Its study, they claim, makes man rational, humane and cultured. The dividing line between civilization and savagery is also claimed to be maintained by the pursuit of Arts. Literature is further said to secure mastery over language and make expression forceful, vivid and picturesque. The advocates of Arts go to the extent of accusing Science of turning men into machines, before of human feelings and consideration. A world dominated by scientists, they say, would, therefore, be unfit for man to live in. Hence, according to them, it would be disastrous to sacrifice the study of Literature on the altar of Science.

The advocates of scientific education, on the other hand, starts with pointing out the outstanding position already occupied by Science and goes on to assert that it is the supreme law of necessity that has installed Science in that eminent position. According to them mankind, in the face of mounting economic problems of the world, can be saved from extinction only by the extensive study of Science and its application in harnessing the resources of Nature to the service of humanity. To these, they add, in reply to the accusation of their opponents, that far from turning men into machines, Science makes them human beings in the real sense by setting their souls free from the bondage of age-old prejudice and superstitions. While Literature, they argue, serves to make man credulous, passive and acquiescent, it is science that makes him critical, observant, inquisitive and assertive. Literature may give his speech the mist of rhetoric but Science imparts to it the clarity of logic.

The dispute between Science and Arts has practically subsided, though a verdict as to the superiority of the one on the other has not yet been pronounced. It is not necessary either. Due to its tidal expansion in various directions, so powerful has been the force of circumstances in favor of Science in the last two decades that Literature had to give way quietly. Driven by the supreme law of necessity, man has dislodged literature from its pride of place and elevated. Science to the present state of unquestionable superiority over any other branch of study. Hence it is impossible to conceive of education to-day in which Science has not only a place but also the most dominant place. The craze for scientific education has become so extensive that in the course of the next one-decade arts subjects may find their place by the side of classical subjects like Arabic and Sanskrit.

But, we are afraid, Science is being overdone. No ultimate good can lie in this unusual emphasis on Science to the exclusion of Arts. Man is, after all, a psychic animal, a combination of the body and the mind. He needs food for both in an equal measure. There is no deniało that Science can help him most in securing the means of his existence. But existence alone is not all that he lives and strives for. He must, therefore, study Literature, taken in its entirety, to feed his mind. He cannot build his future without a thorough knowledge of the past. He must; therefore, study History. As an enlightened citizen, he has to know the laws and forces that guide and regulate the political and economic systems of the world. This calls for the study of Political Science and Economics. He must as well read Philosophy to pry into the working of the metaphysical world. In short, an ideal scheme of education must be built upon a careful synthesis of the sciences and the arts blended together. It is then and then only that we can hope for the birth of a new human race whose mastery over science coupled with a robust idealism born of arts will make the world a better place to live in.

There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.

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