Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

glimpses of the pure ideas. Some obtained longer glimpses than did the others. When incarnated, those who had secured the longer glimpses were likely to live more spiritual lives than the short-glimpsing souls. No one has ever been able to determine exactly whether Plato, in this story, is philosophizing, poetizing, or joking; but, for the scholars, the the theory was too pat to be wasted. They developed it to show that the laws and ideas of mind existed prior to earthly experience, and might, under proper spiritual diet, be kept entirely free from earthly mixture. If Plato had not died a heathen, the scholar monks would certainly have gratefully canonized him for the philosophy, the poem, or the joke, or whatever it was, for he relieved them from a most embarrassing predicament. Their psychologists set to work and made a system of the idea; they made it appear that the mind was made up of compartments or faculties-reasoning, memory, imagination, observation, judgment, etc. Since these faculties existed spiritually, prior to earthly experience, it was an easy step to conceive of them, when properly trained by non-earthly material, as free from earth taints. This plan fitted mediaeval notions of life like a glove. The pedagogues borrowed the conception and set to work to frame a course of study composed entirely of unworldly material, such as a geometry of unfilled space; number without any worldly things numbered; grammar, treating of language without its meaning; rhetoric, dealing with the abstract forms of language expression; music, having to do with the mere rhythms of sound; and dialectics, having to do with the disembodied forms of argument without the bones in it preserved even for contentional purposes. About this course of study there grew up, by the aid of tradition, the dogmas that mathematics trained the faculty of reasoning; grammar, the faculty of observation; rhetoric and dialectic, the faculty of judgment: and music developed a sense of harmony of all the faculties constituting the soul.

Thus, to meet the requirements of an age the goal of which was to train the youth to ignorance of the world in which their bodies lived, a pedagogy was developed which had for its content the spectral forms enclosing world knowledge, but without the accursed earthly substances; and, for the exercises, the training of the formless and ghastly faculties of thinking, without thoughts to fill them. It was a fitting and legitimate education for the mediaeval world, for it exactly filled necessities of mediaeval notions of living.

That mediaeval philosophy of life has been reversed in modern times. The world we live in, accursed by mediaevalism, is sacred to us. The mediaeval problem was how to live out and away from the world; ours, how to live in it, for it, and by it. Yet, by a dramatic turn of fate, out of the grave of the mediaeval world, there extends a dead hand-the hand of the scholar monk, passing down his pedagogy to the schools of the twentieth century. By this withered hand our children's destinies are guided in the schools. They are compelled to study the unincarnated forms of knowledge, not world knowledge itself. They are still drilled in exercises constructed to train formless faculties of mind, although the existence of such general powers is now recognized as a primitive psychological fable. Thus all the powers of traditional scholars lead away from life's problems, though every other force of the modern world is centred upon the task of leading men into them.

Such is the tragedy in the history of education.

To map, to diagram, to picture the human mind; to analyze, to schematize, to catalogue the processes of principles or laws of thinking; to represent education by formulas; to invent theories of mental control; to name the steps of its training; to assert, to dogmatize, to reason deductively or inductively from unsupported premises and to build air-castlesthese have been the all-absorbing goals of the best energy of the human intellect since man began to reflect. Upon this baffling question, for more than three thousand years, the meta-physicians, the poets, the psychologists, the religionists, the scientists, and the pedagogues have been beating out their brains, breaking their promises, losing their tempers, deceiving themselves and their neighbors, lying and dying. The total products of all these frenzied endeavors have been hypotheses, theories, dogmas, illusions, fancies, and dreamseach supported, perhaps, for a time, by a cult and maintained by superstitions, prejudices, or traditions. Reputable modern psychology claims for itself no general principles. There is not enough really known of the mind, as yet, upon which to rest an air-blown theory. We would not knowingly entrust our children's physical health to the care of the ancient medicine men who sought to cure by incantations and witches' herbs. Yet seriously we have entrusted our children's education to "scholarly" pedagogy, the sole support of which is a dogma conceived and formulated in the Middle Ages, when chemistry was alchemy, astronomy was astrology, and

psychology was soothsaying. Upon this, as a cornerstone, our pedagogy was built by metaphysicians, ascetics, and soothsayers. It was constructed for the open and avowed purpose of training men to live apart from worldly affairs. Yet, by one of the most remarkable reversals in philosophic history, this same theory has, without change of structure, been retained in modern education as a preparation for worldly life. The dogma has been popularized by repetition and assumption, and the pedagogic dogmas built on it have lived and flourished, in the halls of scholarship, despite common sense, by virtue of their tradition and currency.

[blocks in formation]

In our storied school system, from kindergarten through the university, there is scarcely a thing upon which the youths exercise their minds that world life will ever give them occasion to use. This was the very purpose for which the monastery scholars invented the exercises, for their scholarship was to serve as a shield from world influences.

It is only during the past decade that the bankruptcy of our pedagogy was really suspected. The Report of the Committee of Ten, published some fifteen years ago, in its effort to nail the principle forever, drove the nails through the bottom of the ship. In 1894, the late Professor B. A. Hinsdale, of Ann Arbor, published an unanswerable article questioning the theory, as axiomatically presented by the report, and thus raised an issue which should have been settled centuries ago. Throughout the land, here and there, shivering groups of pedagogues have since been discussing the situation, in hushed whisperings, wondering if it really can be true that, after all, the foundations of pedagogy, as Hume said of all psychology, are merely figments of the imagination. Few, as yet, realize the completeness of the wreck. More are trying to conceal the disaster from others and themselves, by contending that it can't be true, simply because it can't. Others are trying to laugh the discovery down, without letting themselves think about it. Still others have seized weapons of sophistry, and are brandishing them in self-defense of their time-dried exercises. Thus far, open discussion of the matter has not penetrated the pedagogical crust of our educational forms. But, in truth, it is not a matter which can be eternally concealed, however dear and beloved the structures reared upon it have become, as all the daughters of metaphysics are learning by bitter experience.

ALFALFA A LEGUME

By Louisa McDermott

Alfalfa is the most extensively cultivated forage crop in the United States and of all the legumes it has the most points in its favor. It is suited to a wide variety of soil and climate and it produces abundantly, a hay rich in protein. The amount of alfalfa hay produced from an acre of land is greatly in excess of the amount produced by any other forage plant. From three to five cuttings are had in a year and under extremely favorably conditions as high as seven cuttings have been obtained.

The original home of alfalfa seems to have been in south western Asia. The Persians took alfalfa with them when they invaded Greece about 400 B. C. From Greece it was introduced into Rome. Virgil and Pliny give excellent instructions for handling alfalfa hay.

In the Eastern States the colonists made repeated attempts to grow it but were for the most part unsuccessful. It has been grown successfully in the lime stone regions of central New York. Throughout the east and as far west as Utah, it was known under the name of "lucern." In 1854 it was brought to San Francisco from Chile and from that time it extended rapidly over the irrigated sections of the Western States. Its successful cultivation dates from that time. And so by virtue of that it has been called a California crop and every where the name lucern has given way to the Spanish term, alfalfa, under which name it came to California.

California then has given this queen of forage plants to the United States. The title of queen is given to alfalfa by her loyal subjects throughout the Middle West. Where "Corn is King," "Alfalfa is Queen," a royal and radiant lady. At the great "Corn Show" in Omaha in 1908 the honors were to corn as king of the cereals and to alfalfa as queen of the forage plants.

Alfalfa is a word of Arabic origin and it means "the best of fodder." The meaning of the word lucern is not known. It is believed that the Moors introduced alfalfa into Spain, but that is not surely known. At any rate, this great forage plant comes from Asia.

Now alfalfa belongs to a large and very respectable plant family, the legumes. The well known legumes that are used as forage crops are the vetches, the clovers red and crimson, soy beans, and cow peas. These plants grow luxuriantly and

produce crops rich in protein. A thrifty field of legumes has a luxuriant beauty all its own and there is a reason for this. The legumes are a family that have special advantages.

It was long known that clover made a good rotation crop with wheat but the reason was not clearly understood. In some way the clover left the soil richer in nitrogen than it found it. The real source of the fertilizing power of the legumes was clearly set forth by Helriegel when he published the results of his investigations in 1888.

The story is like this: The roots of all the commonly cultivated legumes are infested with a kind of bacteria that causes protuberances or nodules to form on the roots. Each of these nodules is a colony of bacteria. They take their food from the juices of the plant they infest, but they are not parasites for they make a return for what they get.

These free nitrogen fixing bacteria can take the free nitrogen from the air and form it into soluble nitrates. The roots of the plants then absorbs these soluble nitrates. The legumes require a great deal of nitrogen but under favorable conditions their bacteria furnish them more than they need. Thus the soil is left richer in nitrogenous compounds than when the legume was planted.

The legume is under unfavorable conditions when it must get along without its bacteria. Then it is puny and yellow. If the soil does not contain bacteria of the right kind it should be inoculated. The subject of bacteria I will treat more fully in the next paper.

The root systems of the legumes are well worth our careful study. The commonly cultivated legumes all have or can have free nitrogen fixing bacteria on their roots. They are specially valuable because of these bacteria.

Do all legumes have nodules of free nitrogen fixing bacteria on their roots? Help to answer this question and you are contributing to the sum of human knowledge and contributing a vitally important item too. So far as the uncultivated legumes are concerned this is certainly not known. I have Professor Jepson's word for that. The locust and acacia trees have nodules on their roots. Professor Osterhout contributed this information. A legume may nodules on its roots at one season of the year and not have them at another. These nodules drop off. Professor Roberts observed this in an alfalfa field at Cornell.

Do any other plnats than the legumes have free nitrogen fixing bacteria on their roots? So far as is now known the

« AnteriorContinuar »