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of its scientific character, and made as dry and uninteresting as it is possible to make it, by teaching it as mere topography.
It is this exclusion of natural science chiefly that takes the very life out of education, and renders it so dry and wearisome. The grand reform in education is to be made just at this point.
The principal studies may be considered as making three classes, the linguistic, the mathematical, and what are included under the general term, natural science. Education is mostly confined to the two first in schools, and even in our colleges for the first two years of their course. In academies and high-schools the studies of the third class are more or less introduced, generally rather sparingly, from the fact that the colleges do not require a knowledge of them as one of the conditions of admission. In many of these institutions there is a classical department especially for preparation for college, natural science being excluded from this, but not from what is called the English department.
This is all wrong. The three classes of studies should be begun together at the outset, and should go along pari passu through the whole course of education, whether this end in the common school or reach through the academy or the college. There should be the same gradations in teaching natural science as we now have in teaching language and mathematics.
What I some will exclaim, teach the ologies even to scholars in primary schools? Precisely so, we say, if you only do it right. But how is right? you will ask. It is not by loading down the memory with dry, stiff and cumbersome technicalities. These should be scrupulously avoided in the beginning, and should be introduced gradually as the pupil advances to the higher gradations. This subject will be illustrated fully when in another article I shall treat of gradations in instruction.
I pass now to consider the importance of natural science in relation to the three points mentioned in the commencement of this article.
1. Mental discipline. It is a common error that this must be effected almost entirely by linguistic and mathematical studies. This is even taught as established doctrine by the presidents and professors of our colleges, and it is upon this theory that they omit
to require any knowledge of natural science in the admission of the student, and shut him out from its study during the first half of the college course. With all due deference to their wisdom, we consider them to be maintaining an error that is retarding largely at the present time improvements in education. An apologist for the col. leges once said to me, “ You must not find too much fault with them, for their system of instruction was framed when there was no science — you must let them have time to make changes." “ Time ! time !” said I, 4 is that what they want — while physical
. science is making such rapid strides, are they so slow that they must take an age to consider whether they will admit it to its proper place in their system !"
The study of natural science worth nothing in disciplining the mind I Can this be gravely maintained ? The acquisition of knowledge of any kind disciplines the mind — that is, gives it exercise and so strengthens it, as muscular exercise strengthens the body. Each study has its own peculiar kind of discipline. And that which comes from the study of natural science is quite as useful as that which comes from either linguistic or mathematical study. I cannot go into a full comparison of the three classes of study in this respect, but can only throw out here a few hints.
It is said that the study of mathematics makes a good reasoner. That it helps to do so is true, but it cannot do it alone. The mere mathematician is a poor reasoner on ordinary subjects, for he finds in them a lack of that definiteness which belongs to straight lines and angles. Accustomed to few points in each mathematical proposition, he is bewildered by the many points presented in the problems of life; and in attempting an exactness that cannot be had, he commits many an error in his reasonings. The remedy, or rather preventive, is in a training in language and natural science, especially the latter. This would combine with the exactness of mathematical reasoning the power of extended comparison and observation, adding to the definiteness of thought, range and variety. It is especially in the training of the observing powers that the study of natural science is valuable as a means of discipline. I use the word “observing” in its largest sense, meaning by it the reasoning use of the senses in the gathering and arranging of facts, so as to educe general facts or principles from individual facts. Now if it be true, as I think every one will admit, that it is generally quick, accurate and wide observation that makes one man excel another in most of the activities of life, the estimate which should be put upon the study of natural science as a means of mental training is readily seen. Without stopping to point out minutely the difference between the discipline obtained from natural science and that from the study of language, I would simply remark that the former is more effective by far in the culture of the observing powers.
The study of natural science is peculiarly fitted for children, for it falls in with their natural disposition. The child may be emphatically called an observer. His senses are very busy; and he is ever asking why things are so. And, to deny him the learning of the things, the phenomena which he is so much inclined to observe, is to deprive his mind of the food which is specially suited to it; while the drilling'in words and forms of expression and processes to which it is subjected is feeding it upon little else than husks. So much does this sort of feeding repress the natural observation of the child, that most children under our present prevalent mode of education, are not as good observers at twelve as they are at eight or nine years of age.
2. The acquisition of knowledge. In the mere word-learning, which is so predominant in education as generally pursued, there is a great show of knowledge, but it is for the most part show without substance. The idea seems to be — indeed, it is often distinctly
. expressed – to lodge a great deal in the memory which can be understood as the child grows older. While this must inevitably be done to some extent, it certainly should not be the general plan of early education. On the contrary, the awakening of thought about actual things should be the main object of the teacher. And, if it be so, the teaching of natural science must be quite prominent. The material for this is all around us in the familiar objects and facts to which children are so ready to apply that little word, why. The world is all a museum to such inquirers if they have the guidance of a suitable teacher, - air, water, and earth are full of curi. osities to them.
3. Relation of what is learned to the business of life. I would not
go so far as to say that pupils should learn nothing but what can obviously be put to practical use. Much must be learned simply for mental discipline, especially when the course of education is a long one. But when the course is short, when education is crowded into the space of a few years, it is necessary to have much regard to the use which can be made of knowledge in after life. This point is much neglected. The principles of natural science lie at the basis of the various arts and trades, and yet most lads who leave the school to go into them are utterly ignorant of these principles. A great omission this, if it be the object of education to fit for the business of life. Suppose one becomes an engineer, such a knowledge of mechanics as ought to be given him in the common school would be of essential service to him. Suppose another is to be a farmer, he would be aided in his business by a knowledge of chemistry, vegetable physiology and zoology. And this knowledge is of more importance to him, and the knowledge of mechanics to the engineer, than great skill in mathematics. Though I think much of mathematical drilling as discipline, I submit the question, whether there is not, generally, too much time spent in it, considering how very large a majority of the pupils follow such occupations in after life that they have little use for anything of mathematics beyond the simplest arithmetical processes ? Would not some of the time be more profitably employed if devoted to the teaching of natural science? Is it necessary to drill all the scholars as if the business of every one were to be that of an accountant ?
But there is much in life, on which education bears, that is separate from, mere business. There are influence and enjoyment in the family, among friends, and in the community at large. These are proportioned, to a great extent, to the degree of information which is possessed. It should be a great object in education, then, to make the pupil well-informed. But there is ordinarily a signal failure in this respect in relation to natural science, which has to do with such a multitude of things around and within us, that we may pronounce it to be the most abundant of all the sources of material for knowledge. This failure is seen even in the liberally educated, — their knowledge of such subjects as chemistry, zoology, geology, etc., so far from being liberal, is miserably scanty, and it is only in mathematics and language that they can be said to be liberally educated.
I remark, in conclusion, that we know almost nothing of the extent of the benefits which would result to society from such a diffusion of natural science as would come from a proper introduction of it into our common system of education. I should like to indulge in some anticipations at this point, but this article is already sufficiently long.
W. H. New HAVEN.
A TEACHER'S VACATION.
BERNE, SWITZERLAND, August 20, 1866. Into many a school-room where the summer sun shines not, and the air lies heavy and sultry in spite of the open windows, would I like to send a cool, fresh breeze as it blows over the Chamouni valley from the white slopes of Mt. Blanc. How much should I enjoy giving to the ears that are tired with the never ceasing hum of children repeating their lessons, while the noise of a busy city goes on daily past their windows, the rest of the silence that reigns over the Mer de Glace, where only the sound of distant waterfalls is heard, unless a stone or a huge block of ice, loosened from its support, drops down a crevasse with a dull, hollow sound, and then all is silent again! For eyes that are weary of books, would I paint the pyramids of the Matterhorn, rising inaccessible with its steep sides, holding only here and there the snow, in sharp relief against the clear blue sky of Zermatt, and catching the first rays of the unrisen sun on its summit, till they shine down its side into the waiting valley. Feet that are tired of the city pavements should walk over Alpine slopes, fragrant and warm in the rays of the afternoon sun, and gay with all the colors of the rainbow; where the bluest of gentians should smile up to the sky, and the most beautiful of violets should arrest the passer and great handfuls of pink flowered moss should seem to say, "here I was placed in this little cleft where I can scarcely cling, but where the sun warms me and the breezes fan me, and I am taken care of, and do