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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/378

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

It seems to me that the time is gone by when we need discuss the direct applicability of teaching in elementary schools; if school training is read to mean education in the true sense of the word, then there is no necessity for asking that a boy and girl should learn at school only those subjects of which they will make direct application as they grow older. Of course, this does not preclude our keeping in mind the relative utility of the various subjects to be taught, but it does—and emphatically—preclude our falling into the error of imagining that a school subject is of educational value only in proportion to its direct and foreseen utility in the application afterward. In other words, education and teaching may be, and often are, very different things.

Now, as I understand it, the nineteenth century has discovered—possibly rediscovered—the truth that you may impart a wondrous amount of information to a boy or girl without awakening those powers of observing and comparing that lie dormant in the minds of most healthy human beings, and especially when young; and that many a brilliant boy grows up without being able to draw correct inferences from the phenomena around him, and therefore less able than he should be to hold his own in the world he awakes in.

The peculiarity of the study of elementary botany, properly understood and pursued, lies especially in the interest it arouses in the child's mind, and the ease with which it may be taught, and I would insist and reinsist on the fact that it stimulates and cultivates just those powers of accurate observation and comparison, and careful conscientious recording of the results, which are so needed by us all; and which, be it understood, moreover, come so naturally to children who are not too much under the baneful influence of the mere instruction—the mere information—system.

What I wish to emphasize is that the educational value of this subject is no more to be measured merely by the number and kind of facts which the child remembers, than is the educational value of history to be measured by the dates learned, and the lists of kings and battles committed to memory. History, reading and writing, arithmetic, and other subjects, have an educational value, if properly taught, quite apart from their value as mere accomplishments, which may be granted; but children are naturally observers, and why this side of their hungry little natures should be starved at the expense of their usefulness in after-life has always been a mystery to me.

To those who allow this, and I am happy to see that their numbers are now many, it should hardly be necessary to point out that the elements of botany afford the cheapest, cleanest, and most