Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/586

This page has been validated.

widely different in all localities, but these differences are multiplied and intensified in great and thickly settled communities. All classes meet in public schools. The schools are large. The grading and classification of pupils are necessarily close and arbitrary. Individuality disappears, and there is small opportunity to bestow special care upon those personal traits of character and genius which in smaller and less mechanical schools are developed and cultivated so advantageously. The exactions and controversies of politics, unfortunately, encroach more upon the administration of school affairs in large places than in small ones. The people are farther removed from the schools, and they manifest less interest in them because they have less responsibility and power in managing and directing them. It not infrequently happens, also, that the law leaves the granting of appropriations for the extension or even the maintenance of a city school system with the Common Council, or some board which, in cither case, was chosen without any reference to the schools, and which seems bound to offset its extravagances in other directions with severe parsimony toward the schools."


Sense of Direction in Insects.—Dr. H. C. McCook has observed a very accurate sense of direction displayed by the "horse-ant" (Formica rufa) of Great Britain, in laying out roads from the ant-hills to points in the surrounding woods. These roads or trails had in places a width of from two to four inches, and were distinctly marked upon the surface of the ground, which was stained a dark brown or black, probably by the formic acid exuded from the insects, and the leaves and grass over which they ran were pressed down and smoothed by the constant passing of innumerable logs. From one large mound three roads ran beneath the tall undergrowth with remarkable directness to different oak-trees in which numerous aphides afforded a food-supply. Road No. 1 was about sixty-five feat in length, and ran in an almost perfectly straight line. No. 2 was about seventy feet long, and varied less than three inches from a direct line measuring from the tree to a point within two feet of the terminal tree. There the trail made a detour of about six inches. No, 3 was a little over one hundred feet in length. A short distance from the nest it touched an old stump which deflected the path at a slight angle, and further on it crossed a foot-path where the travel of the ants was much interfered with by passing human feet. In spite of the difficulties of the track, when the entire trail was staked off, its terminus was found to deviate less than three feet from a straight line drawn from the point of departure.


Australian Message-Sticks.—The descriptions by Mr. A. W. Howitt in the British Association represent a considerable variety as prevailing among the Australian tribes in the use of message-sticks. Some of them are elaborately marked, highly ornamented, and even brightly painted. No messenger known to be such is ever injured. The message-stick is made by the sender and kept by the recipient as a reminder of what he has to do. In one tribe the messenger, for friendly meetings, carries a man's kilt and a woman's apron hung on a reed; but for meetings for hostile purposes, the kilt is hung upon the point of a spear. With a tribe in Victoria, the principal man prepares a message-stick by making certain notches upon it with a knife. The man who is to carry it looks on, and thus learns the connection between the marks on the stick and the message. A notch is made at one end to indicate the sender, and probably notches also for those who join in sending the message. If all the people of a tribe are invited to attend a meeting, the stick is notched from end to end; if part only are invited, only a portion of the stick is notched; and if very few people are invited to meet or referred to in the verbal message, then a notch is made for each person as he is named to the messenger. The messenger carries the stick in a net-bag, and, on arriving at the camp to which he is sent, hands it to the head-man at some place apart from the others, saying, "So-and-so sends you this," and then gives his message, referring, as he does so, to the marks on the message-stick. As a rule, the notches on a message-stick are only reminders to the messenger of the message he is instructed to deliver, and are unintelligible to a man to whom they have not been explained; but certain notches appear to have a definite meaning, and to indicate