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If we contrast the intelligence of a country, such as France for instance, in the thirteenth century and to-day, we see no evidence that the actual capacity or content of the mind has greatly altered. What we do perceive is that there has been a substitution of truth for error in many of the divisions of human thought and experience. The main distinction between France under the Capetians and under Millerand and Poincaré is not the different minds of the Frenchmen of the two periods but the different thoughts they are thinking. This is the major achievement of the six hundred years. Part of the change is due to the searcher for truth who has enlarged the realm of the known: part of it is due to the educators who have endeavored to admit to this realm more and more individuals of each generation. This we may ask of education, and perhaps no more; not that she give all the truth to each of us, but that she everywhere substitute truth for error within the bounds of what it is possible for us to know.
Our hope lies in being released from the despotism of the untrue, from the terrible fears and apprehensions to which our ignorance of the facts of existence has left us an easy prey throughout our long history on earth. A democracy which has for its function the freeing of the individual for service must free him not alone from the tyranny of kings but from the tyranny of half-knowledge, the fatal incompleteness, which has been our heritage from the day of that interrupted feast of Adam and Eve “whence cometh all our woe".
Lincoln's faith in the common man was based, not on his admiration for his intellect but on his conviction that in the great moral issues the judgment of the man in the street was sound, less subject than that of his social or intellectual superiors to perturbing secondary considerations and so truer to the heart of the problem. These were indeed the people who revolted against the iniquity of slavery, and early in the World War determined the national attitude of condemnation of the German outrages. It is such people who rise up periodically in our communities, throw out the forces of corruption and take back their own. They give meaning to the theory of democracy. Their existence is the real justification for the creation of democracies. It is
to the people, “that great multitude through whom speaks the Voice of the Almighty Power that makes for righteousness, we must give trusteeship for the irreplaceable treasures of the democratic ideals: respect for the will of the majority and the rights of the minority; respect for the law; respect for other men's opinions and beliefs; respect for the processes of evolution as against those of revolution; respect for the dignity of labor; and respect for the truth.
A nation which cherishes and protects with its last ounce of strength the sacred contents of this Ark of the Covenant is safeguarded from the worst dangers that beset the builders of a people's government.
CORNELIA J. CANNON.
CHANGES IN READING
BY JOHN COTTON DANA
The effect of recent social and economic changes upon reading, and, conversely, the effect of reading upon those changes, will be a profitable theme for consideration by both those interested in literature and those interested in sociology and the progress of the world.
Of these changes the growth of newspaper reading is perhaps the most important. Before printing with movable type was invented, about 1457, few could read. Printing multiplied books. Readers thereupon increased in number; knowledge came to thousands where before it was the property of hundreds; knowledge promoted observation; observation led to thinking; ideas concerning oppression, serfdom and submission and concerning privilege and dominance of either birth or wealth swept through the European world; governments were modified and society was recast. It is now being recast more rapidly than ever before, and the
process was in large degree born of printing and is today accelerated by printing.
The rapid development in recent times of all the sciences, with accompanying inventions, whereby is gained a mastery of the forces of nature and a utilization of its resources, all followed the wide diffusion of printed words. And the growth of the use of print is not an economic change which ceased its work after it had, in a few years, modified relations between man and man, between race and race, between nation and nation and between man and nature. It is a change which broadens and deepens its influence every day, every year, every decade and every century. Print and the growth thereof are now more potent in their influence on society than they ever were before, and that influence increases daily. The
power press, with revolving cylinders of type faces stereotyped in machines, was not in active use until after 1900. Paper suitable for printing newspapers was not used in great quantity in rolls, ready to be fed automatically into a press, until 1880. Effective automatic type-casting and type-setting machines were not in general use until 1890. Cheap and good methods of producing pictures on rapid presses were not widely adopted until after 1890. Offset printing and the rotogravures of the Sunday supplement pictures are products of the last decade. Briefly put, one may say that the newspaper as we know it today is scarcely a generation old; and one need only turn the pages of a few journals on printing to learn that invention creates almost daily new devices and methods for making print cheaper, more legible, and with better pictorial accompaniments.
That all adults should be able to read is with us a conviction, having the quality of religious dogma. The wise man knows that the universal acquisition of ability to read is not a factor which can save a civilization from the destruction which other factors may prepare for it. But one need not be wise to know that whatever may be the destiny of the present civilization of Europe and America, it will soon be a reading civilization. If it goes to destruction, it will go with print in its hand!
The kind of print which comes next to the newspaper in importance, is perhaps the “casual". It includes, to mention a few only, the label on the omnipresent food container, roadside posters, car cards, and telephone directories. A few years ago food stuffs were bought in bulk by retail merchants, and weighed out and wrapped or bagged as called for. Today well nigh all the things the grocer of 1870 sold in the meaningless wrapper of the time, and many other things not then thought of as daily food for millions, come to the grocer in packages ready for delivery. On these packages is much reading matter, such as names, descriptions, directions, recipes, and suggestions on cleanliness, health and hygiene. From the grocer these printed messages go
into millions of homes, and form the most homely and elementary reading, and are read daily by millions. Of the other groups
of casual print just mentioned, it is enough to say that they do not simply compel us to become better readers; they make us each day better informed.
It may herebesuggested that all this print merely makes us super
ficially informed, breeds no manner of thinking, tends to make us all alike and all equally indifferent to new ideas, and helps us to become more intolerant of change and more hostile to the new than we as a race have ever been. Perhaps that is true; but if it be true then in that growing indifference and intolerance lies one of the very changes which the printing press is working in us; making us idly recipient to impressions, like a bed of plaster which is not hardened by time and remains a sodden bed of plaster, no matter how many are the impresses that impinging bits of information make upon it.
But, that increasing knowledge tends to dull the brain and to impede thought and to make for hostility to the new, is not what common sense tells us. The empty mind is not inclined to work, if only because it has nothing to work upon. The active, inventive, forecasting brain never suffers from a surfeit of knowledge and does not find knowledge a burden or a hindrance to cerebration. Its joy is in thinking; and as it goes on along the open roads of thought, it casually absorbs whatsoever facts may give it aid or pleasure or both, and rejects what it does not care for. It seems to be part of the method of human progress that it goes on with knowledge; not necessarily because of knowledge, but, inevitably, with knowledge. And here, in a time of knowledge-gaining, knowledge-saving and knowledge-absorbing,-all through and by the printed word,-such as could not have been conceived of a few centuries ago, and did not lie in the realms of the wisest prophecy even a hundred years ago, it is astonishing to note that the peculiar character of this reading period in human history, and of the effects of it on society, seem not to be thought worth discussion by students of society.
Returning to the growth of print using: The increase of control over the powers of nature gained by man in recent years, and the development of machines which has accompanied that growth, have so increased our capacity for production that many more persons than ever before find themselves with time for other work than that of gaining a livelihood, and with a surplus of energy which makes that non-working time seem irksome. Out of all this came recently a humanitarian outburst, a fever of altruistic activity.