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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/383

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BOTANY AS IT MAT BE TAUGHT.

BOTANY AS IT MAY BE TAUGHT.
By BYRON D. HALSTED, Sc.D.,

PROFESSOR OF BOTANY, STATE AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE, AMES, IOWA.

AT the outset, let the reader's mind he free from, any idea that the writer thinks he has found a new or royal road to botanical teaching, or that the method here to be stated is any panacea for the ills which follow as a natural result from the old stereotyped ideas of education. He presents it because it has borne good fruit, and combines some features which he has not known of having been dovetailed together elsewhere. This last reason may only give a wide exposure to his ignorance of the ways of botanical teachers. And yet the fault, if it is a fault, lies in part at the feet of his collaborators in natural history. The thought has often occurred to me that botanists do not say enough about their class-work. There is, of course, a strong incentive to let the labor with students be of secondary importance, and to bend all the energies toward some special end in systematic anatomical or physiological work, and thereby to feel that the space in the journals is only open to things new to science. A person, however, with large classes to carry, which consume the greater part of his time, often wishes that the periodicals contained more hints and suggestions as to the most approved methods of imparting knowledge in a branch of natural history which all advanced teachers agree is passing through the diseases and other dangers and trials incident to childhood. At the present time there are nearly as many ways of carrying a class through a course in botany as there are active teachers in the field. Some experienced teachers begin the study with the unicellular plants, and pass upward to the more complex structures. Others advocate opening the study with the kinds most easily found by the untrained eyes and best illustrating all the parts of a highly organized plant. Still others are quite indifferent to method, and consider the subject nearest at hand as the best to use. There are teachers who cling closely to some text-book, and measure their success by the same yard-stick used by the mathematician. Others go to the opposite extreme, discard all texts, and study only the things themselves. The great end in view in this last method is the teaching of the student to see for himself and to finally become an earnest, thoughtful, conscientious, and independent reader of the great open book of Nature. The writer confesses a strong feeling of preference toward this last view of instruction in botany. He would have his students see and think for themselves, and yet realize that others have gone over the same path and passed far beyond them in every branch of the road they are traveling.