Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/222

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Mr. Everett said, "I will thank any person to show why it is expedient and beneficial in the community to make public provision for teaching the elements of learning, and not expedient or beneficial to make similar provision to aid the learner's progress toward the mastery of the most difficult branches of science and the choicest refinements of literature." Under the influence of such considerations the rudimentary studies rapidly developed into courses of study embracing a variety of subjects. This led to the systematizing of instruction and the grading of schools, so that in nearly all the towns of the United States the public schools have been divided into primaries for the younger pupils and grammar-schools for older pupils; while within twenty-five years a third grade has arisen known as the high-schools for the most advanced students. In each division there are sub-grades, and, wherever improvements in public-school education are attempted, the principle of gradation is fundamental. So essential is it considered, that no aid is granted from the Peabody fund except to graded schools. As regards the plan of studies adopted, there was no guiding principle. All sorts of subjects, and these for all sorts of reasons, were taken up, and among them the sciences which are now regular parts of public-school study. Classes are formed in physics, chemistry, mineralogy, geology, physiology, botany, and zoölogy. There are text-books upon all these branches, graded to the varying capacities of learners. Teachers prepare in them, and in many cases apparatus is provided, and there are lectures with experiments, specimens, maps, and charts for illustrations.

The old ideal of a school is a place where knowledge is got from books by the help of teachers, and our public-school system grew 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 his 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 subject-matter 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