Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/559

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BRAIN-POWER IN EDUCATION.

strengthened. We may know what C├Žsar did under certain conditions; how Alfred the Great organized his police so that he could hang bracelets of value on sign-posts without fearing that highwaymen would steal them; and a multitude of other similar facts may have been stored in our minds; but any quantity of such stores would not enable an individual to solve the present Irish difficulty, unless he could find in the past an exactly similar case which had been treated successfully by some particular system.

It is even now considered that by making a boy pass through a long course of mathematics or classics, and then testing his acquired knowledge by an examination, we adopt the best method of obtaining the greatest brain-power. We may derive an advantage, supposing mathematics or classics are requisite in the future career of the boy; but, as a test of brain-power and perseverance, we would much sooner select the boy who could the most rapidly and most certainly solve a three-move chess problem. And, if mathematics are not required in the future career of a boy, it would be equally as unreasonable to devote three years to the solution of chess problems as it is to devote a like period to the solution of the higher branches of mathematics. In both instances, the mental exercise is supposed to be for the purpose of strengthening the mind, and the chess problems are certainly as efficient as the mathematical. It is not unusual to find a profound mathematician who is particularly dull in all other subjects, and who fails to comprehend any simple truth which can not be presented to him in a mathematical form; and, as there are a multitude of truths which can not be treated mathematically, a mere mathematician has but a limited orbit.

A chess-player, again, or a solver of chess problems, has always to deal with pieces of a constant value; thus, the knight, bishop, pawn, etc., are of constant values, so that his combinations are not so very varied. A whist-player, however, has in each hand not only cards which vary in value according to what is trump, but, during the play of the hand, the cards themselves vary in value; thus, a ten may, after one round of a suit, become the best card in that suit. Brainpower independent of stored knowledge is therefore more called into action by a game of whist than it is by mathematics, chess, or classics; consequently, while mathematicians and classical scholars may be found in multitudes, a really first-class whist-player is a rarity; and, if we required an accurate test of relative brain-power, we should be far more likely to obtain correct results by an examination in whist than we should by an examination in mathematics. In the latter, cramming might supply the place of intelligence; in the former, no amount of cramming could guard against one tenth of the conditions. A first-rate mathematician may on other subjects be stupid; a first class whist-player is rarely if ever stupid on original matters requiring judgment.