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up in conformity with this ideal. The early effect of grading was to fix and consolidate imperfect methods. The sciences were assimilated to the old practice, and the science teaching falls short at just the points where it was inevitable that it should fall short. The methods of school-teaching, and the habits of the teachers, had grown rigid under the régime of book-studies. As a consequence the science teaching in the public schools is generally carried on by instruction. Through books and teachers the pupil is filled up with information in regard to science. Its facts and principles are explained as far as possible, and then left in the memory with lis other school acquisitions. He learns the sciences much as he learns geography and history. Only in a few exceptional schools is he put to any direct mental work upon the subjectmatter of science, or taught to think for himself.
As thus treated the sciences have but little value in education. They fall below other studies as means of mental cultivation. Arithmetic rouses mental reaction. The rational study of language, by analytical and constructive tasks and the mastery of principles, strengthens the mental processes; but the sciences are not employed to train the faculties in the various ways to which they are severally adapted. They are not made the means of cultivating the observing powers, stimulating inquiry, exercising the judgment in weighing evidence, nor of forming original and independent habits of thought. The pupil does not know the subjects he professes to study by actual acquaintance with the facts, and he therefore becomes a mere passive accumulator of second-hand statements. But it is the first requirement of the scientific method, alike in education and in research, that the mind shall exercise its activity directly upon the subject-matter of study. Otherwise scientific knowledge is an illusion and a cheat. As science is commonly pursued in book descriptions the learners cannot even identify the things they read about. As remarked by Agassiz " the pupil studies Nature in the school-room and when he goes out of doors he cannot find her.” This mode of teaching science, which is by no means confined to the public schools, has been condemned in the most unsparing manner by all eminent scientific men as a “deception,” a “ fraud,” an “outrage upon the minds of the young," and "an imposture in education."
Nor has this criticism of bad practices been without its effect. We are met by the statement that much has been done in the
public schools to escape the evils of mere book science. The method of object lessons has been extensively introduced into primary schools with the professed purpose of cultivating the powers of observation in childhood. It is claimed that this is a beginning in science; and, as it brings the mind into action upon things, is a corrective of the inordinate study of words. But object teaching has not yielded what was expected of it; and is in no true sense a first step in science. Nothing is gained educationally by barely having an object in hand when it is talked about. Myriads of objects are present to the senses of people but no insiglit follows. The observing faculties must be tasked if they are to be trained. The pupil is not to have the properties of objects pointed out, but he is to find them out. Science will do its work of educating the observing faculties only as they are quickened and sharpened by exercise in discrimination. The scientific aim is to replace vague confused impressions by clear and accurate ideas. Skill in the detection of nice distinctions is only gained by prolonged and careful practice. Object lessons afford no such cultivation. We do not say that they are useless, but they are not the A B C of science and do not as a matter of fact open the way to the proper study of the special sciences. This is their test and their condemnation. When the primary pupils have gone over their prescribed course of object lessons and are passed on to a higher grade, strange to say the “ objects" are suddenly dropped as if the objective method had been exhausted. In the technical phrase perceptive education is to be replaced by conceptive education. Instruction in elementary science is now to be carried on by what is known as oral-teaching. This method as extensively practised in the grammar grades of the public schools is everywhere growing in favor and we are once more told that it is a successful revolt against book-studies. It is chiefly applicable to the sciences and its cardinal idea is instruction without a text-book. This looks fair but it is delusive. The method does not remove the book that the pupil may come at the phenomena, but it removes the book that the teacher may take its place. Oral-teaching is class instruction, in which information is imparted in a familiar manner with the view of awakening the interest of the class. But so far as real science is concerned it is doubtful if this method is not worse than the one it replaces. Following the maxim of certain German educators that " the teacher is the school,” it was assumed that when apathy prevails in the school-room it is solely the teacher's fault. Oral exercises enable them to escape this reproach by giving animation to school work. It is said that this is a “live system” in contrast to the old humdrum routine of lessons and recitations. But science gets no real help. There is only the substitution of a superficial class-activity for the more cleliberate work of the individual pupil. More mental effort is required on his part to get a lesson from a book than to listen to a lesson given by the teacher. The teacher is to do everything and stands in the place not only of the book but of the pupil also. Is this not a step backward in education? The teacher is magnified at the expense of close study, and science is cheapened hy the method. Oral-teaching implies a fertility, a versatility, and a proficiency in scientific knowledge on the part of teachers which that class of persons does not possess. It is a premium on tutorial smattering and cramming by which the voluble teacher with superficial acquisitions and a ready memory becomes the model teacher.
There may be benefits in this method but science does not gain them. Judicious oral assistance, as in the physical, chemical, or natural history laboratory, given by a competent master to a pupil at work, is invaluable for stimulus and guidance; but the aid must be discreet and the skilful teacher will not talk too much. But where it is all talk and no work, and textbooks are filtered through the very imperfect medium of the ordinary teacher's mind, and the pupil has nothing to do but to be instructed, every sound principle of education is outraged and science is only made ridiculous.
This failure to gain the benefits of real scientific study has its source deep in the constitution of the public schools. In dealing with masses of children, classification became necessary which gave rise, as we have seen, to grading and an elaborate mechanical system. The working of children in lots seems to be a necessity of the public schools but it strengthens the practice of verbal instruction recitations and lesson-giving. It is well fitted to impress the public with the idea that there is much done in the schools. There is a prescribed routine of operations and a display of order that is admired. But teacher and learner are subordinated to the system. It is machine work and machines
Gradation assumes and enforces a uniformity among pupils which is not according to the facts. Wide
make no allowances.
personal differences of capacity, aptitude, attainment and opportunity, not only exist among children but they are the prime data of all efficient mental cultivation. In the graded schools, just in proportion to the perfection of the mechanical arrangements, individuality disappears. Special original capacity, the main thing, counts for nothing. The mind cannot be trained in such circumstances to originate its own judgments. The exercise of original mental power or independent inquiry is the very essence of the scientific method and with this the practice of the public schools is at war. Moreover, a system which deals with the average mind and does not get at the individual mind breaks down at the point where all true education really begins, that is, in promoting selfculture. The value of educational systems consists simply in what they do to incite the pupil to help himself. Mechanical school-work can give instruction, but it cannot develop faculty because this depends upon self-exertion. Science, if rightly pursued, is the most valuable school of self-instruction. From the beginning men of science bave been self-dependent and selfreliant because self-taught; and it is a question whether they have been most hindered or helped by the schools. De Candolle, in his valuable book on the conditions which favor the production of scientific men, says that the discoverers, the masters of scientific method have chiefly appeared in small towns where educational resources have been scanty; and that they have often been most helped by the very poorness of their teaching which threw them back upon themselves. It was to their advantage that the schools were not so perfect as to extinguish individuality and thus destroy originality.
Our strictures are here upon the general working of the public school system; but we recognize that there are many exceptional teachers who do what they can to deal with science in the true spirit, while multitudes of instructors are chafing under present restrictions and groping after something better. The bad system is moreover continued chiefly from the lack of knowledge as to the possibilities of a better. But the better method of teaching science has been proved entirely practicable. The institution where we meet and many other science schools have shown it. A large number of teachers have demonstrated that various branches of science can be taught to the young by the true as well as by the false method. What is now most urgently needed
is to gather from these experiences practical plans of improvement in science teaching for the benefit of those who desire better guidance than they now have.
In his address as Rector of the University of Aberdeen, Professor Huxley said: “I would not raise a finger to introduce more book-work into every art curriculum in the country.” We concur in this view as applied to the present science teaching in our public schools. We would not raise a finger to extend it.
President Barnard of Columbia College, in a public address reprobating in severe terms the common method of teaching science as being an inversion of the true order of cultivating the mental faculties, referred to the great benefits which must arise " when our systems of education shall have been remodelled from top to bottom.” That result may come about in the fulness of time but it is wise to expect only a slow and gradual improvement. Vice President Grote, in his St. Louis address, pointed out the guiding principle in this case as a substitution of real knowledge for second-hand information by a necessary law of mental advancement. In obedience to this principle, the cultivators of original science should do what they may to raise the standard of our prevalent science teaching; and we respectfully ask that the Association will assign to a committee the duty of reporting at our next meeting on the best modes of improving the teaching of science in our public schools.