Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/381

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THE progress of scientific education is slow, but the evidences of its reality are unmistakable. Among the recent and most encouraging illustrations of it, we note the various arrangements in different colleges for making excursions and expeditions for observation and the collection of specimens by students who are sufficiently interested to extend their studies in these directions. The excursions are to be in charge of competent professors, and the time of vacation is to be devoted to the work. The idea is excellent, as it will combine the pleasure of travel and out-of-door activity with valuable mental acquisition, which need not be so close or severe as to neutralize the advantages of vacation. It is especially in geology and natural history that the benefits of such excursions will be most obvious. In the former of these sciences, field-observation and the inspection of rocks, minerals, and landscape features in different localities, are requisite to give reality to knowledge and redeem the study from the illusiveness and unreality of its pursuit in mere text-books. Botany and zoölogy also are subjects which call their devotees into field and forest, mountain and valley, and require a kind of peripatetic cultivation. These vacation excursions, half for pleasure and half for profit, are valuable indications both of the increasing interest of this class of mental pursuits, and of an increasing appreciation of the only proper method of carrying them forward; while the friends of science have reason for congratulation at these signs of improvement in rational scientific culture.

But the obverse of this picture should not be overlooked. We cannot conceal from ourselves that these excursions are things to be thankful for, very much because of the defects of normal study throughout the year. Of course the vacation is a season of liberty, and allows a range of wandering which school confinement does not permit; and it is possible that excursion-work may be nothing more than a freer extension of the habitual practice in the school—which, of course, is the way it should be. Yet the open study of Nature, in her living objects, is undoubtedly, in most cases, rather a contrast to college experience than a continuation of it. It is to be remembered that the college has still a definite somewhere in Nature, from which the student can have an outlook upon realities, although the traditional scholarship makes little account of this circumstance. There are natural objects enough at hand, and crowding the collegiate environment, to illustrate a wide range of scientific study, if it were the policy of these institutions to make such objects available for this purpose. It is well to go away to find and examine new things, where that is convenient, or where it may be specially necessitated; but it should not be held to imply that there are not abundant facilities all around and everywhere for securing the same general object. The study of Nature is beginning to be recognized as an important part of common education, but it remains yet to be organized for this end.


It has been suggested that, if Dr. Draper had entitled his book "A History of the Conflict between Ecclesiasticism and Science," instead of "between