Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/37

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PHYSICS IN GENERAL EDUCATION.

ence of the class-room with the critical knowledge of the scholar. We may import them from Europe, it is true, as we must also our more advanced text-books, but, although in the main vastly superior to our own, they are still not entirely suited to the wants of American schools and American pupils. These books, in the hands of teachers who know little or nothing outside of the books they use, and often falling far short of that, serve to put the instruction in elementary physics in this country in a condition over which no one can grow very enthusiastic; and this, in spite of the prominent place which has been given it and the considerable attention it has received. Unsound doctrines and absurd theories are promulgated because of an inability to distinguish the ring of genuine metal. These become so deeply rooted that it is difficult and often impossible in after-years to clear them away.

I believe it to be possible for this Association to exert a strong influence in favor of an improvement in the character of the instruction in physics in both elementary and higher institutions of learning in America. Much of it at present does us no credit, and must eventually do us much harm. At a meeting of this Association in Nashville, five years ago, a committee was appointed to report upon science-teaching in the public schools. At the Boston meeting, two years ago, this committee presented a report which embodied much thought upon the subject, and was replete with just and keen criticisms of present systems. It is greatly to be regretted that this report can not have found its way into the hands of those whom it would most benefit. A wide distribution ought to have been secured, and I am convinced that it is not yet too late to remedy this error.[1]

The same gentlemen were continued as a committee to report upon the "Best Method of Science-Teaching in Public Schools," and it is to be hoped that a scheme may be presented at no distant day. I will venture the opinion, however, that the best results will not be obtained until this, or a similar, committee shall work in co-operation with representatives of the public schools themselves, and I would suggest the feasibility of securing such co-operation through the National Educational Association.

No such difficulty is in the way of securing an improvement in the teaching of physics in colleges and universities, for those most interested are, in the main, a part of this Association and of this section.

I will not venture to suggest in what manner the Association might best make itself felt in this matter, although I think that would not be difficult to ascertain. I have only endeavored to direct attention to some of the salient features of the problem, and to ask its consideration at the hands of many members of the section who come in almost daily contact with it, and who will, I am convinced, sustain

  1. This report will appear in the next issue of "The Popular Science Monthly. ."