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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/719

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

Since the years of Darwin's early life much has been done to improve educational methods, and yet more remains to be done. School, college, and university courses are no longer confined to oral instruction, to language learning and book-lore. It is found that the direct study of Nature is quite as valuable as the memorization of printed pages, or the ability to write in Latin or Greek. Natural science is vindicating its claim to discipline the important faculties which the study of mere verbal symbols neglects. To Darwin, the ability to describe a cirripede in seven languages would have been an accomplishment of doubtful value; to find the cirripede's place in Nature was an important and attractive task. He improved his faculty for observation by assiduous exercise until it became of marvelous keenness. His delight was in receiving impressions direct from Nature, not in receiving impressions of impressions, such as words convey. His rending and parting of books in His library, regarding them simply as 60 much material, was thoroughly characteristic.

Darwin's school and university experience emphasizes again the utter inadequacy of any education which makes too much of words—especially the words which only live in lexicons. Because language is a noble faculty, and verbal expression is a power of high importance which can be conspicuous in manifestation, utterance has been vastly overrated in schemes of education. After all, what can be verbally expressed is but a small part of what can be thought, or felt, or done. Who can describe the individualities of tone by which one recognizes a friend's voice, or the peculiarities of feature by which one classifies a face as English or Irish? What successful merchant or banker can fully tell why he expects truth and honesty from one applicant for credit, and the reverse from another? What judge can define wherein the manner of one witness impresses him favorably, and that of another adversely? Who can express in speech the feelings stirred by beholding sublime scenery or the starry sky? Where is set forth in print some detail of how music works its magic—now soothing to reverie, now quickening the pulse, arousing resolve and heroic emotion? In attempting to communicate art and skill, to convey impressions of form and color, language is powerless. Its dominion, though wide, has its strict limits:

"Far out on the deep there are billows
That never shall break on the beach."

Excessive cultivation of powers of verbal expression, excessive addiction to books, cause inevitable neglect of the education of hand, of eye and ear—of the senses which give us, when exercised, full and clear perceptions of the things about us. This neglect, by restricting observation and experiment, robs the reasoning faculty of the material out of which judgments may be rendered and new truth born. When a flower is planted and reared, dissected, classified, and sketched in its natural tints, it is known as it never is known to a mere memorizer of botanical text-books. Iron and sulphur become a student's intimate acquaintances in a laboratory; he learns hundreds of interesting facts about them, and how to recognize them in all disguises. Were he but a text-book scholar, he would know little more of them than their names. It is one thing to learn by rote the distribution in the heavens of the various constellations; it is another and deeper thing to know them as one must to track one's way across wilderness or sea. Progress in manipulative skill has in modern times not only given us truer graphic and plastic arts, it has led to important advances in physics and chemistry, and in surgery made the blind see and the lame walk. Every one who has practiced sketching from Nature has felt the reaction of growing deftness with the pencil upon the powers