Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/766

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
744
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

of most importance for the great mass of our population, the fault becomes almost a crime, the more that there is no practical difficulty in making good these defects. There really is no reason why drawing should not be universally taught, and it is an admirable training for both eye and hand. Artists are born, not made; but everybody may be taught to draw elevations, plans, and sections; and pots and pans are as good, indeed better, models for this purpose than the Apollo Belvedere. The plant is not expensive; and there is this excellent quality about drawing of the kind indicated, that it can be tested almost as easily and severely as arithmetic. Such drawings are either right or wrong, and if they are wrong the pupil can be made to see that they are wrong. From the industrial point of view, drawing has the further merit that there is hardly any trade in which the power of drawing is not of daily and hourly utility. In the next place, no good reason, except the want of capable teachers, can be assigned why elementary notions of science should not be an element in general instruction. In this case, again, no experience or elaborate apparatus is necessary. The commonest thing—a candle, a boy's squirt, a piece of chalk—in the hands of a teacher who knows his business may be made the starting-points whence children may be led into the regions of science as far as their capacity permits, with efficient exercise of their observational and reasoning faculties on the road. If object lessons often prove trivial failures, it is not the fault of object-lessons, but that of the teacher, who has not found out how much the power of teaching a little depends on knowing a great deal, and that thoroughly; and that he has not made that discovery is not the fault of the teachers, but of the detestable system of training them which is widely prevalent.[1]

As I have said, I do not regard the proposal to add these to the present subjects of universal instruction, as made merely in the interests of industry. Elementary science and drawing are just as needful at Eton (where I am happy to say both are now parts of the regular course) as in the lowest primary school. But their importance in the education of the artisan is enhanced, not merely by the fact that the knowledge and skill thus gained—little as they may amount to—will still be of practical utility to him; but further, because they constitute an introduction to that special training which is commonly called "technical education."

I conceive that our wants in this last direction may be grouped under four heads: (1) Instruction in the principles of those branches of science and of art which are peculiarly applicable to industrial pursuits, which may be called preliminary scientific education. (2) In-

  1. Training in the use of simple tools is no doubt very desirable, on all grounds. From the point of view of "culture," the man whose "fingers are all thumbs" is but a stunted creature. But the practical difficulties in the way of introducing handiwork of this kind into elementary schools appear to me to be considerable.