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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/777

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logic defective, or that he had misunderstood anything in the lectures) every effort was made to set him right. The examination was really made a pleasant conversation between two friends, in which one constantly endeavored to draw the other out, place him at his ease, and enable him to tell what he knew. Methods of thought and work were the great objects, far more than correctly naming the specimens. In such an examination as this the student was obliged to depend upon his merits. The teacher must have indeed been a poor one if he could not in that hour find out, to a far greater extent than the student dreamed or suspected, what he knew and what his methods of thought and work were. Every effort was made to render the student an independent thinker, to cultivate in him accuracy and quickness of observation and readiness of perception, to lead him to rely upon himself, to weigh evidence, to reason closely, to form an opinion, and give his reasons therefor to see, to be accurate, to reason, to judge, to decide. The time was also improved as a means of getting hold of him and establishing cordial relations with him; as well as to turn him unconsciously in the right direction, and to come into that close personal contact which it is so difficult to bring about in a large university, but which is so precious and valuable. Since these hourly examinations were repeated with each pupil for each group, the chief drawback was the tax upon the instructor's time and strength, as any one can readily realize when he considers that this species of mental gymnastics was kept up from six to ten hours a day, and that there were seven groups requiring from twenty-six to thirty hours in each group. It is to be borne in mind that this work was entirely voluntary on the instructor's part, but it paid in the results to the students, and in many of them it has influenced powerfully their after-life.

The students attending the course comprised freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduates, specials, and scientific school students a perfectly natural result from the extended elective system of Harvard. I am free to confess that, for a course like the one above described, I much prefer freshmen and sophomores to juniors and seniors. The reason is not far to seek. The prime objects of such a course are to cultivate observation and accuracy, train the powers of reasoning and judgment, and above all to beget in the student independence and freedom of thought. The previous training of the upper-class men had usually been such as to cramp and weaken whatever faculties in these directions they might have originally possessed, and hence it was exceedingly difficult to stimulate them to right methods of work and thought. This was strikingly exemplified in the case of those students who were thoroughly conversant with the blow-pipe, from their previous study of chemistry. It was with the greatest difficulty that they could be prevented from taking some one of the numerous artificial blow-pipe keys for the determination of minerals, shutting their eyes to all the physical characters, transforming them-