"But how do schools help matters?"
"They give the peasant fresh wants."
"Well, that's a thing I've never understood," Levin replied with
heat. "In what way are schools going to help the people to
improve their material position? You say schools, education,
will give them fresh wants. So much the worse, since they won't
be capable of satisfying them. And in what way a knowledge of
addition and subtraction and the catechism is going to improve
their material condition, I never could make out. The day
before yesterday, I met a peasant woman in the evening with a
little baby, and asked her where she was going. She said she was
going to the wise woman; her boy had screaming fits, so she was
taking him to be doctored. I asked, 'Why, how does the wise
woman cure screaming fits?' 'She puts the child on the hen-roost
and repeats some charm....' "
"Well, you're saying it yourself! What's wanted to prevent her
taking her child to the hen-roost to cure it of screaming fits is
just..." Sviazhsky said, smiling good-humoredly.
"Oh, no!" said Levin with annoyance; "that method of doctoring I
merely meant as a simile for doctoring the people with schools.
The people are poor and ignorant--that we see as surely as the
peasant woman sees the baby is ill because it screams. But in
what way this trouble of poverty and ignorance is to be cured by
schools is as incomprehensible as how the hen-roost affects the
screaming. What has to be cured is what makes him poor."
"Well, in that, at least, you're in agreement with Spencer, whom
you dislike so much. He says, too, that education may be the
consequence of greater prosperity and comfort, of more frequent
washing, as he says, but not of being able to read and write..."
"Well, then, I'm very glad--or the contrary, very sorry, that
I'm in agreement with Spencer; only I've known it a long while.
Schools can do no good; what will do good is an economic
organization in which the people will become richer, will have
more leisure--and then there will be schools."