Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/144

This page has been validated.
134
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the excitement and strain under which they labor, when their fate depends upon the correct answering of ten disconnected questions. It is well known to you that some of the best pupils generally do the poorest work in the confusion that attends such highly-wrought nervous states. How much better, then, it is to take the work of the pupil for the whole year, than the results of one hour, under such adverse conditions! If the teacher really teaches, and faithfully watches the mental growth of her pupils through the work of one or more years, she alone is the best judge of their fitness to do the work of the next grade. The examinations of a superintendent should be to ascertain whether the principals under his charge have the requisite ability and knowledge to organize, teach, and supervise a large school. The examinations of the principal should test the teaching power of his teachers. And, lastly, the teachers should test by examinations the mental growth of their pupils. This is the true economical system of responsibility. First ascertain that superintendent, principal, and teacher can be trusted, and then trust them. The testimony of countless good teachers has been uniform, when asked, "Why don't you do better work? why don't you use the methods learned in normal schools, and educational periodicals, and books?' 'We can not do it. Look at our course of study. In three weeks or months these children will be examined. We have not one moment of time to spend in real teaching.' No wonder that teaching is a trade and not an art! No wonder there is little or no demand for books upon the science and art of teaching!"

 

The Alps in Roman Times.—The ancient Romans, says Professor H. Nissen, of Strasburg, saw in the Alps a kind of a wall completely shutting them out from the people living beyond them, and so for centuries they hesitated to take possession of the mountain-lands, although their legions had subjected all the country at the base of the Alps to the Rhine, and had made demonstrations toward Germany and England. So great was their dread of those unknown heights that they quietly endured the audacity of the rapacious tribes inhabiting them till about fifteen years B.C. Yet Hannibal had crossed them for the first time in September of 218 B.C. This was considered a deed of such magnitude that its success was ascribed by the southern people to the assistance of the heavenly powers. The darkness that rested over the Alps was first illuminated by the historian Polybius, who visited them and described them from his own observations. Roman power was extended over them by Augustus Caesar, B.C. 15. Afterward roads were built over them, fourteen at least, the laying out of which shows that they were made after careful studies of the situation by the engineers. The opening of the mountains to travel was followed by a great streaming of adventurers in search of the riches to be found in the regions beyond, and scenes were enacted very much like those which were witnessed a few years ago in California. At one time gold was found in such abundance that the price of the metal was depreciated thirty-four per cent through all Italy. The treasure-hunters carried vines with them and planted them wherever they settled down; and to this, in part, Germany owes its wealth in vineyards. The forests were laid waste, as a matter of course, just as they are now wherever a new settlement is planted, and with similar results. The Romans had no appreciation of the beauty and grandeur of the mountains, so highly admired by modern taste, but expressed only dread of them and abhorrence of their savage aspect, which they considered well represented in the barbarous names their indwellers gave to them. They entertained the wildest ideas of the height of the mountains, which they exaggerated tremendously. Pliny, who was a native of Como, at their very foot, speaks of one of the peaks as being fifty miles high, or sixteen times as high as Mont Blanc.

 

The Venom of Snakes.—Drs. S. Weir Mitchell and Edward T. Reichert have obtained the venoms from several snakes in the shape of a turbid, yellowish fluid, varying in viscidity, odorless, and having an acid reaction. All the venoms are soluble in water at ordinary temperatures, save for a slight cloudiness which but slowly settles. The poisonous principle of the venom of the moccasin and the rattlesnake appears to reside in two out of three proteids which it