Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/219

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
207
SCIENCE-TEACHING IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

ergy has had one eternity in which to dissipate itself. What one eternity has not sufficed to bring about, will never be consummated. It may be interesting, but it is not essential to the demonstration, to investigate the method by which energy dissipated becomes once more potential. Perhaps the most tenable theory is, that it will be accomplished by the collision of dead worlds with each other, and the resulting mechanical evolution of light and heat. According to this view, attraction is the grand reservoir of the generic energy of the universe, on which all matter may draw when its differentiated force has been dissipated. But, be this as it may, the fruitful union of matter and energy in the infinite past is a stable guarantee that they will never be divorced.

 

SCIENCE-TEACHING IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.[1]

THE repeated appointment, by this body, in successive years, of committees to look into the scientific education of the public schools, must be taken as showing that such an inquiry is regarded as both legitimate and important. Yet the duties of such a committee have not been defined by the Association, nor have any of our predecessors opened the way to a consideration of the subject. It was probably expected that we would furnish a digest of information from many quarters, as to what sciences are taught in the public schools, with what facilities, and to what extent; accompanied by such recommendations regarding the increase of scientific studies as the results might suggest. But our course has not proved to be so clear. We have been arrested at the outset by a question of the quality of the science-teaching in these schools which demands the first consideration. There are certain radical deficiencies in current science-teaching, the nature and extent of which must be understood before any measures of practical improvement can be intelligently taken up. We shall here confine ourselves to this preliminary inquiry.

The investigation has interest from the immense extent and rapidly increasing influence of the American public schools. There are now nearly a hundred and fifty thousand of these schools, supported at an annual expense of probably seventy or eighty million dollars. Maintained by State authority, they are firmly established in the respect and confidence of the community. Under the influence of normal schools, teachers' institutes, systematic superintendence, school boards, regulative legislation, and an extensive literature devoted spe-

  1. Preliminary report of the committee, appointed at the Saratoga meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on "Science-Teaching in the Public Schools," read at the Boston meeting, in August, 1880, and published in the "Transactions" of the Association.