Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/688

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
670
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

many Western, and Southern States leads me to say, with considerable certainty, that in none of their primary and grammar schools are science lessons required.

These facts and figures represent the work prescribed, not the work actually done. In how many schools where these lessons are required are they given by the scientific method? is a question of the first importance. In how many schools, on the other hand, where the lessons are not required are they systematically given by progressive teachers? Want of sufficient data compels me to leave these questions unanswered for the present.

The picture has another and somewhat brighter side. It may be stated as an indisputable fact that there never has been a time when the interest in the subject was so wide-spread. Educators all over the country are giving it their thoughtful consideration. The "National School of Methods" has offered an excellent opportunity for the past three years for obtaining valuable information. Twenty-one States,[1] and probably several more, have been represented in the natural history classes.

Teachers of primary, grammar, high, and normal schools have testified to the educational value of nature lessons. Superintendents have expressed their approval of such lessons, and shown an earnest desire to help forward the work. This hearty interest, especially on the part of normal-school teachers, is a guarantee that the growth of the movement will continue to be sure, even though it may be slow. This brings me, in conclusion, to the brief consideration of the causes of this slow growth.

The fundamental cause lies, I believe, in our ignorance of the true value and large possibilities of elementary science work. This ignorance is chargeable in great measure to that one-sided system of education which has long prevailed. Our early training, in fact, unfits us for justly appreciating the objects to be attained. If the great body of teachers in our country to-day could be made to know the full value of natural history lessons in the mental training of the young, I for one do not believe the oft-repeated arguments against this kind of teaching would deter them in the least from undertaking the work. Our primary-school teachers need to know for their own inspiration how much they are helping the grammar-school teachers, and the grammar-school teachers, in their turn, the high-school teachers. When they come into possession of this knowledge, the movement will advance with rapid strides, and the four arguments oftenest urged will be answered by the teachers themselves.

When it is said, "The work is impracticable, because specimens

  1. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nebraska.