Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/207

This page has been validated.
195
SCIENTIFIC COURSES OF STUDY.

ables him to represent pictorially what he sees. All three studies give him power, and two of them help to train his sense of beauty.

Now for the main features of the course—the natural and physical sciences. How shall they be taught, and with what purposes in view?

It is a proposition of self-evident truth that a scientific course which gives the student no real insight into the aims and methods of scientific research and scientific thought is a failure. Certainly, a Bachelor of Science ought to clearly understand what science is, what it has accomplished, and what it is trying to do. He should be able to appreciate both its capacities and its limitations, and have some idea of the relations which connect its several branches. He must see that Nature is an organized whole, with all its parts dependent upon one another, governed by inviolable laws, subject to no caprices. If he fails to gain these broad, general conceptions, his work will remain incomplete, and of little intellectual value. Such statements as these are undoubtedly truisms; and yet there are many colleges in which their force is seemingly never recognized.

In order that these general purposes may be properly carried out, it is best that every student should choose some one science as a specialty. Close and exact work can hardly be done otherwise. He who divides his time equally among all the sciences will not catch the real spirit of any one. He will merely pick up information empirically, without gaining genuine insight into anything, or acquiring much intellectual power. Not that he should confine himself to a single branch alone, for that would not be in accordance with the principles already laid down; but he ought, in his special science, to do as much work as in all the others collectively.[1]

We often hear a great outcry against the danger of making specialists. This outcry is only in part well-founded. A man who is so trained as to be blind to everything beyond his own department is indeed weak—whether that department be a science, art, music, theology, or commerce. A certain amount of versatility is essential to breadth of view; but it is not necessary that the student should be superficial. It is of the utmost importance that there shall be thoroughness somewhere; and yet this fact, of all others, is the one most frequently overlooked in our smaller colleges. If a student in classics were to ask the privilege of continuing both Latin and Greek through the whole four years of his college course, his teachers would probably regard the desire as eminently praiseworthy, and deserving of encouragement. And yet he would be in a measure becoming a specialist in those languages. Why, then, should it not be considered equally

  1. In the University of Cincinnati every regular student, whether classical or scientific, is obliged to choose a specialty. This study must be announced to the faculty at the beginning of the sophomore year, and is to be continued to the end of the course. This modification of the elective system insures thoroughness in something, and bids fair to yield most excellent results.